By Tony Attwood
To often as we trace players who have come through Arsenal’s youth system in recent years, but then not quite made it, we find them slipping away to lower league clubs, and never quite living up to the promise that we saw in their earlier days at Arsenal.
But it looks like one of our ex-players is indeed shining gloriously in his post-Arsenal life, and that player is Benik Afobe.
Benik was born on 12 February 1993, and joined Arsenal aged six, on 1 May 2001. His story is one of those wonderful ones you hear about in terms of youngsters. By the time he was playing for the under 16s he was knocking in 40 goals a season. He signed a professional contract with Arsenal in February 2010, with Barcelona sneaking around him at the time.
He started his loan tour in December 2010 going to Huddersfield – a run which led to four man of the match awards in succession.
He next played in the 2011 Emirates Cup, and was playing in the reserves that season before going on loan to Reading at the end of the season, and winning the championship with them.
But of course not every move was a success. The next loan with Bolton did not work out for some reason, and then after moving to Millwall, he got a serious knee injury, and was out for eight months. He returned with a loan to Sheffield Wednesday.
Then came the loan that really made us all aware of him: with MK Dons. Benik scored two goals against Man U in the League Cup second round, and two more in the next round as they beat Bradford City. On 29 November 2014 he scored a hat trick in a win over Colchester, and his total during his time with the Dons was 19.
Many of us thought this run might bring him into the Arsenal team, but no – on 14 January 2015 Benik Afobe signed permanently with Wolverhampton for a fee said to be around £2m. He scored on his debut.
So here’s his record – no league games for Arsenal but some impressive stats elsewhere.
|Huddersfield Town (loan)
|Bolton Wanderers (loan)
|Sheffield Wednesday (loan)
|Milton Keynes Dons (loan)
In the last few days the BBC has highlighted Benik’s performances at Wolverhampton and claimed him as the country’s leading goalscorer, pointing out that he had scored more goals this season than Harry Kane.
It is really good to see an ex-Arsenal youngster doing so well. Let’s wish him all the best for the future – as long as he’s not playing against us.