In Defining Moments former Arsenal stars select the situations that defined their career with the Gunners. This is a running feature and first appeared in the matchday programme. Ex-player Daniel Karbassiyoon is next to recall his favourites.
NORTH AMERICA TO NORTH LONDON
Playing at Highbury was a privilege – and the realisation of a dream. But – and this may seem an odd thing – despite the offer to come to Arsenal it was still hard for me because back home in the US I was being offered college places.
And education is important to me. I had only ever seen Highbury through pictures online and the first time I actually visited the place I loved it. The pitch was magnificent and I remember the groundsman not letting anyone walk on it.
It was wonderful. I sat up in the Clock End executive boxes and told myself – and my dad – that one day it could be me out there. But I still thought about going to a good college instead.
It was only on my second visit that I decided to move to the UK. It was a Champions League night, and the Champions League music came on, the stadium was packed, it was just breathtaking. I was sat in the Paddock and called my Dad and said: “My mind is made up.”
I played there against Everton and it was just something else. The thing that sticks out for me was that tiny tunnel area. I was stood shoulder to shoulder with these big guys like Thomas Gravesen and Marcus Bent.
I also played at Old Trafford which was the complete opposite – you could drive a tractor down that tunnel. Highbury was pretty unique …
When I came to the Club there was a terrific spirit amongst all of us young kids. I suppose we were all foreign kids in a foreign country but with one goal, one purpose.
"But as a scout it is a strange job where you rarely see the fruits of your labours. So, in a way, it has been a nice defining moment as a scout of ten years, to see the likes of Joel make his debut, get in the first team, and make an impact."
Cesc Fabregas barely spoke any English so I dusted off my best High School Spanish and used it on him. Then there was Philippe Senderos who could speak seven languages!
The night I made my debut – in a League Cup tie at Manchester City in October 2004 – a lot of others were also making theirs. Johan Djourou and Senderos were two. So was Seb Larsson. And a guy called Robin van Persie who went on to score a couple of hundreds goals…
It was a big thing – we could all be terrified together. Van Persie actually scored his first goal for the club that night – and I scored mine too.
I came on as a sub – I always remember Stewart Taylor shouting to me “Go get ‘em, Danny!” – and made a significant impact. There was some play between Quincy and Djourou before it reached Cesc.
Danny Mills – who I had admired as an England international – was marking me but as soon as the ball got to Cesc I made my move and he played a lovely ball behind Mills and I put it away. We won 2-1.
My last ever game for Arsenal was against Southampton reserves and I remember this moment like it was yesterday: I was defending in a one-on-one situation and managed to get the ball. The guy tackled me and I felt my right knee go. It wasn’t the first time.
In fact, I had an operation on my knee when I was just 16. It was only a cartilage issue but it was the beginning of a lot of problems.
This time it only felt like my cartilage again. I signed for Burnley and felt good a few months down the line. But my knee problem persisted – it was very swollen - and the specialist eventually told me that there did not seem to be anything “structurally” wrong with the knee.
That was bad news though because it essentially meant there was joint damage. It couldn’t take professional football anymore, it was not up to par, and I was advised to stop playing. I was 22 and that was that. Even now I have four screws in it.
I recently moved back to London as my girlfriend is finishing her Masters here, but I have been a scout for Arsenal for the best part of a decade. I focus on North America which has been seen in recent years as a new frontier for players. There is a lot of good, untapped talent in the region.
It took me a few good years before I spotted and brought over any players of notable talent, but I am delighted to have had a big hand in getting Gedion Zelalem and Joel Campbell here.
OK, so Joel is actually from Costa Rica – and the region I am in is geographically massive – but I had been tracking Joel for a long time when he was playing for the national team and eventually we made our move.
Gedion was a much different case. While I spotted Joel when he was 18, Gedion was only 13. He was just a kid who had recently moved to the US from Germany.
I suppose the funny thing is I have travelled tens of thousands of miles in my pursuit of new talent, but Gedion lived literally a mile from my apartment in Washington DC. There is still a long way to go with both of them; Gedion is still on loan at Glasgow Rangers and Joel is now making an impact in the first team here at Arsenal.
But as a scout it is a strange job where you rarely see the fruits of your labours. So, in a way, it has been a nice defining moment as a scout of ten years, to see the likes of Joel make his debut, get in the first team, and make an impact.
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