Our under-18s go for glory in the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday night, aiming to lift the trophy for the eighth time in our history and the first since 2009.
Back then, our youngsters overcame Liverpool 6-2 on aggregate to claim the silverware at Anfield, with 12 players going on to make it into our first-team while others enjoyed careers further down the Football League pyramid and are still going strong today at home and abroad.
We've taken a look at how the careers of those players who played their part in the final panned out:
Our goalkeeper went on two loan spells before leaving permanently in 2013. After short stints at Needham Market and Harrow Borough in non-league, he joined AFC Wimbledon and made 112 appearances across the lower EFL divisions, before switching to League One side Luton Town and achieving promotion to the Championship. He’s still part of the squad at Kenilworth Road.
Craig would make 10 first-team appearances for us before moving to Colchester United in 2013, and has since played hundreds of matches in the EFL and National League. Fast-forward to the present day, he’s playing his football at Sutton United, where he’s made 267 appearances over eight years. In between, he represented Colchester, Wycombe Wanderers, Millwall and Yeovil Town.
Thomas played the entirety of our 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage match against Olympiakos in his one and only senior appearance for the club. In 2012 he began a three-year spell at Torquay United, where he played 64 times. He also made eight appearances for Carlisle United. Following his retirement from the game in 2016, Thomas kickstarted a new career as an accountant.
Kyle's only game also came against Olympiakos in December 2009 but he would enjoy a successful career across the top leagues in England and Scotland. During his time in N5, he went on loan to Sheffield United and Rangers before joining Swansea City in 2012. After loans at Birmingham City and Leeds United, Kyle settled at West Bromwich Albion, where he has played over 150 times across the Premier League and Championship.
Cedric started both games against Liverpool from the bench, and although he didn’t manage to make an appearance for our senior side, he did go on to have a solid career in the EFL which included promotion to the Championship with Charlton Athletic in 2012. He also featured for Oldham Athletic, Doncaster Rovers, Crawley Town and Notts County.
Francis had already debuted for our first-team before the Youth Cup win, and he went on to have season-long loan spells with Lorient, SC Freiburg and Charlton before becoming a regular starter in Arsene Wenger’s squad - going on to make 160 appearances for the Gunners.
He helped us win the FA Cup in 2015 and 2017, as well as our 2015 Community Shield triumph, before leaving the club after 10 years to join Valencia. There he won a Copa Del Rey title before switching allegiances to Villarreal - where he still plays today - and became a UEFA Europa League champion in 2021.
Despite never pulling on our colours for firstoteam duty, Luke is now a regular face in the opposition line-up at Emirates Stadium when he visits with Leeds United. He joined the then-Championship side from Bristol City in 2016 and has made 246 appearances since, with nearly 100 of those coming in the top-flight after he helped the club achieve promotion alongside Ben White in 2020.
Henri featured for the first-team eight times - including four before the Youth Cup success - before leaving the club in 2012 following a string of loan spells. First, he joined Nottingham Forest where he made 150 appearances in five years between 2012 and 2017 before arriving at Aston Villa. After four years he joined Bristol City on a short-term contract, before swiftly moving on to Luton Town where he currently plays with James Shea.
Regarded as one of the finest English talents of his generation, Jack earned 34 caps for England during his 10 years as a player at Emirates Stadium, which saw him play 197 times for us under Wenger’s stewardship. He was the club’s youngest debutant at 16 years and 256 days old until Ethan Nwaneri - a player Jack now coaches - broke his record earlier this season.
He was a part of the side that won the FA Cup in both 2014 and 2015 before departing the club in 2018 to join West Ham United. Unfortunately, Jack struggled with injuries and called time on his playing days aged 30, but returned to the club last year as under-18s head coach, and has guided his side to the final on his first campaign.
Oguzhan is one of 10 of our Youth Cup winners that went on to play for their country; representing Turkey during a decade-long spell at Besiktas, which spanned 310 appearances and yield three league titles. Having featured twice for our first-team, he won his first of 43 caps in 2013 and was an integral part of their Euro 2016 squad. He has captained Turkey six times and currently plays for Fortuna Sittard in the Eredivisie.
The Ghanaian international played for our first-team 16 times and represented us in the Premier League and Champions League. He went on loan spells to Wolves, Charlton Athletic and Fulham before he left us permanently to join Barnsley in 2014. Two years later, he was featuring for Arsenal again - but not us. He joined FC Arsenal Tula during a one-year spell in Russia, before going on to play in Sweden and Cyprus.
Conor was with us until 2013 and made a solitary first-team appearance against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup, but spent the majority of his time out on loan. He had permanent spells at Hull City, Crawley Town, Grimsby Town and Eastbourne before joining Pirin Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria in 2017. He briefly played in the Romanian league in 2019 but returned to Bulgaria where he settled until 2022.
After playing twice for our first-team, Gilles is one of the few players that ventured abroad following his separation from the club in 2011 and joined Lorient. He stuck with France after parting ways with them and played for Evian and Angers before moving to Turkish club Erzurumspor. He later returned to France, where he still plays now representing hometown team Chateauroux in the third tier.
On our way to victory in 2009, Sanchez scored a brace in the semi-final before netting in both legs of the final against Liverpool. A promising young talent, he scored against West Bromwich Albion on his Arsenal debut in one of three League Cup appearances before going on to represent nine clubs in the wake of his Gunners career. That included two years at Colchester United, a spell at Crawley Town, and most recently Wealdstone, where he retired in 2020.
Jay captained the 2009 Youth Cup side at 16 years old, scoring in every round of the competition. He made his first-team debut in an FA Cup third-round tie against Stoke City in 2010, before leaving for Ipswich Town a year later. He made 71 appearances there before joining Bristol City, where he helped the club secure promotion to the Championship.
After netting 33 goals in 103 games for the Robins, a transfer to QPR followed. In 2019, he moved to Thailand where he played for PTT Rayong, before a two-year stint in Scotland for Livingston and Aberdeen, until he relocated to India where he currently represents Jamshedpur.
Rhys had a goal controversially ruled out during our first leg at Anfield, but luckily it wouldn’t affect the outcome. He left north London in 2012 and has played for 14 clubs since, including Brentford, Dagenham & Redbridge, Chelmsford City and Telstar in Holland. Rhys currently plays for Southend United in the National League.
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