By Chris Harris
Don't be surprised if Mark Randall still makes it at Arsenal Football Club.
That's the message from Arsène Wenger, the man who gave Randall his first-team debut four years ago but has yet to entrust him with a regular place in the senior squad.
Randall was just 17 when he came on in a Carling Cup tie at West Brom in October 2006 and has now made 13 appearances, featuring in the Premier League and Champions League too.
But while the likes of Jack Wilshere, Henri Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas have been given opportunities in the first team this season, Randall has been restricted to three Reserve League appearances.
The midfielder joined Rotherham on loan on Wednesday - he has already spent time at Burnley and MK Dons as an Arsenal player - but Wenger insists Randall can still make the grade at Emirates Stadium.
"It's important that he plays first-team games and that he gets regular games," said the Frenchman. "We have plenty of young players who need to play in the Reserves but Mark is now above that step.
"He is a player I like personally because he has all the qualities. At this Club he didn’t get the breakthrough yet but I am sure he will be a late developer because there is so much quality that I refuse to think he will not make it.
"It is an important step of his career and I still believe in him. He has still got a chance here but he needs to gain confidence and play regularly now at the top level in a team and cope with the stress. He has the technical qualities of a great football player."
Randall is not alone when it comes to late development. Anthony Stokes was a prolific goalscorer in Arsenal's youth ranks but only made one first-team appearance before leaving for Sunderland.
His career seemed to have stalled when he joined Hibernian on a free transfer but a summer move to Celtic has rejuvenated Stokes and, at the age of 22, he made his Old Firm derby debut at the weekend.
Wenger likened Randall to the Republic of Ireland striker. "Some players take more time than others [to develop]," he said.
"Sometimes you have the likes of Wilshere and Fabregas and then you have sometimes players like Stokes who develop later. He has made a great career definitely in Scotland.
"I always thought Randall was a late developer and that he has so much technical quality and the qualities of a good attitude as well. I hope it will be beneficial for him."Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source