By Nik Brumsack
Kwame Ampadu believes his playing days at Arsenal were the perfect grounding for his career.
Ampadu spent three years at the Club between 1988 and 1991, making two first-team appearances. He went on to enjoy spells at West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City, Leyton Orient and Exeter City - where he became a coach.
Now 41, Ampadu believes that his time spent at Highbury under coach Pat Rice was crucial to his development.
“I think the fact that I had a long-ish career, about 18 years as a professional, probably stems from the grounding that I had here [Arsenal] from Pat,” he told Arsenal Player.
“His values were hard work, not feeling sorry for yourself on bad days, working hard to be part of a team. All those values followed me around throughout my career and definitely held me in good stead.”
Ampadu’s time at Arsenal coincided with the Gunners winning two titles, which made first-team appearances hard to come by.
“It was extremely difficult, because you were trying to break into the team that were the champions of England,” he said.
“The biggest name to come out [of the youth system] was probably Andy Cole. We played in the youth team together. Then there were other boys such as Kevin Campbell, David Hillier and Neil Heaney.
“Then we had younger lads - Ray Parlour and Mark Flatts. There were a lot of players that came out of those two or three years.
“Now the bar’s been raised again for young players. They have to be extra special to get into the team.”
Despite only representing the first team twice, Ampadu still looks back fondly at both appearances.
“The first game was at the Baseball Ground at Derby County,” he recalled. “There were only two substitutes in those days, and they were myself and David O’Leary. I can remember warming up with him, and David getting a bit of abuse off the crowd. They didn’t know who I was, so he was getting the abuse. Coming on went by in a blur.
“I remember my debut at Highbury - that was against Everton. I was so emotionally charged that day. I left the ground, got back to my digs and just fell asleep. I don’t think I woke up until Sunday night. I was absolutely drained and I think it was only a five-minute appearance. It was a real highlight for me. It was fantastic.
“There was an amazing atmosphere around the club at the time, because I remember Liverpool were the dominant team of the eighties, with fantastic players such as John Barnes. But Arsenal came along and were the team that broke Liverpool’s dominance.”
Watch the second part of our interview with Kwame on Arsenal Player