Arsenal reject eyeing Wembley glory after 'favouritism' ruined Gunners career

Ex-Arsenal trainee Jordan Gabriel claims his Gunners’ dream was wrecked by favouritism in a damning indictment of their youth system.

Nottingham Forest right-back Gabriel is grafting his way back to the top after being released by Arsenal aged 15.

He will step out at Wembley on Sunday in the League One play-off final against Lincoln for Blackpool on loan.

The quick defender, 22, has caught the eye making 35 appearances to help the League One club to third this term and into the final after beating Oxford.

But he was at Arsenal from the U9s to U15s after being spotted playing for Sunday league team Shelsdon Juniors.

Gabriel was part of a talented squad of 15-20 boys including Joe Willock, Tolaji Bola, Marcus McGuane, Charlie Gilmour, Josh Dasilva and Nathan Tella.

Gabriel shone at Arsenal as a youngster but felt "favouritism" held him back
Gabriel shone at Arsenal as a youngster but felt “favouritism” held him back

But Liam Brady released him and Gabriel reckons Willock and Bola are the only survivors still at Arsenal.

It was a cruel end for the Arsenal-mad youngster and Gabriel has revealed how his dreams turned sour.

He has since got a deal elsewhere like McGuane at Oxford, Gilmour at St Johnstone, Dasilva at Brentford and Tella at Southampton.

But many of their peers ended up out of the professional game as their belief was sucked out of them.

Gabriel, who played as a winger and a midfielder as a kid for the Gunners, reflected: “We were all Arsenal fans in my family.

“My dreams had always been to play for Arsenal and to play at the Emirates, which I eventually did in the U14s.

“The ability our team had was frightening.

“When you went away for tournaments you went with your year group.

“I remember in 2006-2007 we went to Dirinon and won the tournament in France.

“But talent only gets you so far.

Southampton's Nathan Tella was one of the young stars at Arsenal with Gabriel
Southampton’s Nathan Tella was one of the young stars at Arsenal with Gabriel

“If you have staff who want to push players through that helps.

“Not everyone had that.

“Coaches can have their favourites they are going to push, whether they have a bad attitude or not.

“So it is not always a nice atmosphere to be in.

“A lot of the time I didn’t want to be there at Arsenal because of the atmosphere.

“Sometimes I didn’t really want to go to training because you’d get picked on.

“The staff wouldn’t really do anything about it.

“There was more chance of people being rewarded than punished.

“Coming through at a young age , you get a lot of knocks.

“Some people don’t get up from that and they don’t want to go through that.

“They put it aside and drop out of football because they lose belief.

Gabriel doesn't feel Arsenal handled their youngsters well
Gabriel doesn’t feel Arsenal handled their youngsters well

“I remember being released like yesterday.

“I went in with my dad and had the conversation when Liam Brady said: ‘there is potential there and we love having you but I am not quite sure we can see you getting a contract later on’.

“That is when my dad said: ‘It is probably best that we split paths’.

“From that I literally left the office, got in the car and didn’t look back.

“It was massively heart-breaking.

“You felt shock and hurt.

“But as soon as I went from there I felt I would show them what I am capable of.”

Gabriel subsequently joined Southend and then Forest after rejecting Chelsea.

Gabriel will be going for glory at Wembley
Gabriel will be going for glory at Wembley

He ironically made his Forest debut at the Emirates in a 5-0 League Cup loss in September 2019.

Now he aims to be in the Championship next season with Forest to become their latest academy graduate like Joe Worrall and Ryan Yates.

But a return to Blackpool is possible too if he helps them up.

“Promotion would be massive for my CV and massive for Blackpool,” added Gabriel, who is 6ft 1in with a body fat of less than five %.

“I have been to Wembley before on a tour of the stadium but the play-offs will be better.”


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