To start with the Arsenal can almost certainly boast one of the best under 21 squads in the world. To support this claim I offer you in no particular order the following fifteen players who have now all had first team experience: Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Jose Reyes, Robin Van Persie, Daniel Karbassiyoon, Justin Hoyte, David Bentley, Sebastian Larsson, Patrick Cregg, Johan Djourou, Ryan Smith, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Arturo Lupoli. You might well argue that this is all well and good but the League Cup counts for absolutely nothing. A fair point, so I'll also advise you that nine of these youngsters have already appeared in the Premiership or the Champions League.
Also of course, thanks to our youth policy, we still have Jeremie Aliadiere and Ashley Cole, neither of whom are exactly over the hill. Additionally, still on the books are; Craig Holloway who is on loan to Southend; Sebastian Svard on loan to Brondby and Graham Stack on loan to Millwall. While Stuart Taylor is back at Arsenal again after a loan spell with Leicester.
Elsewhere a brief scan around the Premiership throws up a number of ex-Gunners who were in Arsenal's youth teams not too long ago. There is Jay Bothroyd currently on loan at Blackburn from Pergia. Jermaine Pennant who will probably never return from Birmingham. Moritz Volz at Fulham, Julian Gray at Birmingham, Jerome Thomas at Charlton, Tommy Black at Crystal Palace and Matthew Upson at Birmingham all spring to mind. Then of course there's Rohan Ricketts plying his trade with Tottenham's stiffs while a more celebrated old boy, Ray Parlour, is still going strong.
Recently another 'old boy' Ade Akinbiyi was seen at Highbury in our Cup tie against Stoke along with fellow ex-Gunner John Halls, but these two players are not unique. The rest of the Leagues have also benefited either at home or abroad from Arsenal's youth policy. Other recent Arsenal not-so-old boys include Nicholas Anelka whose club of the week is Fenerbahce. David Livermore has been a Millwall regular for a while now and has already played in a Cup Final. Leon Britton is at Swansea; Graham Barrett at Coventry and Steven Sidwell is doing very well at Reading. Liam Chilvers – Northampton, Alex Bailey – Chesterfield, Adam Birchall – Wycombe, Jermaine Brown – was at Colchester, Michael Black – was last seen at Southend, Ben Chorley – Milton Keynes, Lee Canoville was at Torquay, Peter Clark – Stockport County, Jason Crowe – Grimsby and Lee Doherty was at Brighton.
The list doesn't end there though, Keith Fahey was last seen at Aston Villa, Jordan Fowler is on loan to Chesterfield I think. Stephen Hughes cost Everton getting on for £3,000,000 before going on to Watford, Charlton and now Coventry(?) Richard Hughes was at one time at Grimsby. James Harper is doing well at Reading. Juan was on a loan spell to Millwall but I've no idea where he is now. Greg Lincoln was last seen at Northampton. Isaiah Rankin is currently at Brentford but has done the rounds at Birmingham, Bradford, Bolton, Barnsley and Grimsby. Nicky Nicolau is I believe still with Southend, while Brian McGovern went to Ipswich and was last seen at Peterborough.
I don't know who Jehad Muntasser plays for, but I do know he became a full Libyan International. Also overseas; Guillaume Norbert went to French 1st division side Lorient and Stathis Tavlaridis also went to a French 1st. Division team. Although Omar Riza was sold to West Ham I believe he is now with Denizlispor. While north of the boarder Dean Shiels is at Hibernian and Stephen Bradley is at Dumfermline.
Further down the food chain Allan McLeod was at Grays, Bernard Narada is now with Farnborough. Greg Oates was at one time with Margate. David Noble, after a move to West Ham finished up at Boston United. Jamie Day is at Crawley and Andrew Douglas was at Grays.
To keep this accurate I've attempted to include only those players who were with us in the Wenger era. I don't believe this list is comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination and things change quickly in football so it's probably far from being 100%. However I think you'll agree that if a joker like Gordon Taylor chooses to decry Arsenal for the low number of first team players who've come through the ranks he just isn't living in the real world and doesn't appreciate Arsenal's contribution to developing young footballers. Very few youngsters who join any professional football club go on to make a living from the game, but as you can clearly see quite a few of those who learn their trade at Arsenal do now make a living from football.
I could of course go on to slag the PFA Chief Executive off for being just a tad on the racist side at a time when the beautiful game is doing it's best to encompass and encourage all creeds, nationalities and races, but that, along with UEFA's ridiculous proposals are another story all together.