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Jordan Wynter says he turned down a contract extension at Arsenal because he didn’t see a way into the first team.
Wynter joined the Gunners as an eight-year-old, and signed his first professional deal 10 years later in 2012.
He made seven appearances for the top academy side (then the u21s) and Arsenal offered him a new deal in 2013.
However, the midfielder turned centre-back rejected the deal.
“In a nutshell I didn’t really see a pathway for me into the first-team,” the 24-year-old explained to the Express.
“At the time I felt a bit overlooked compared to other players. There were a few of my friends at that age who were playing first-team football but at a lower division.
“So I sort of had that idea and vision of me dropping down a few levels and trying to get some first-team action that way.”
The Englishman went on to play for six different clubs at senior level, including a couple of Football League clubs. He eventually settled in the National League, with Woking, where he plays in a new position at the back, saying he’s comfortable there now.
“It’s been a weird one to be fair, I didn’t initially plan to play centre-back at all but the opportunity came around and I felt like I’ve been able to take control of that situation,” Wynter explained.
“I feel more confident going into games than I did when I first started playing there. Hopefully I can continue this little bit of consistency and finish the season strong, on a high.”
Overall, a large number of players play for the Arsenal academy every year, but few make the first team.
If they all got senior opportunities, the Gunners would have a whole new line-up coming through each season. But you hope players like Wynter will find a regular starting spot elsewhere, as he has.
On the other hand, you also want your best youth players to see a clear route to the first team. Otherwise there’s no point having an academy at all.
Hopefully not everyone thinks the first-team overlook them. Wenger has given chances to a number of u23s this season, so that should encourage more of them.