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'Disciplinary issues': Ex-academy boss says Arsenal staff wanted 'talented player' sold years ago

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Former Arsenal academy boss Andries Jonker has revealed today that many at the club wanted Joe Willock gone because of his poor discipline.

Jonker, who spent close to three years at the club, worked very closely with our most talented youngsters. He helped many kids achieve their dreams of playing for the senior side, and Willock was definitely one of them.

The young English midfielder always had the talent according to Jonker but his disciplinary issues almost cost him his place at the club. The Dutchman stubbornly stuck by him, and that saved Willock’s Arsenal career.

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Jonker: Staff wanted Willock to leave Arsenal

Jonker told TV2: “Joe Willock is a good example. I remember seeing him play in midfield for the U16 team when I had just joined the club. ‘Oh, what a talented player,’ I thought. He had good ball control and a good eye for the game. But at the same time, he had some disciplinary issues. 

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“Nothing worse than being late for some meetings, but it felt like he was involved in things all the time. So I moved him up to the U18 team, hoping that his behaviour would get better, but it did not happen at all. It got to a point where all the other members of the support staff thought he should leave the club.

“I was stubborn and did not agree. We would not have gotten anything for him either if he had left.  I decided to train with him on a two-way basis and got him to work with an endurance trainer. We trained at all hours of the day, and he did all sorts of exercises, including to improve strength and endurance. 

“He enjoyed these sessions and told me he became a better player. I emphasized that he had to show it to his team and that I would take care of him if new problems arose. After that, he always behaved well and has had a nice development since I left the club. 

“I get proud when I think about the way he has fought back and the development he has had.”

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Arsenal Insider’s view:

It really is nice to hear that Willock changed his ways to become the player he is today. If he didn’t he could’ve been forced out of the club a long time ago, but Jonker’s persistence and tutelage changed everything for him.

Willock joined Newcastle United on loan last month. He scored there on his debut and if he can keep that up, he will go on to have a fine career in the Premier League – even if it’s not at Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta is expecting Willock to return to North London at the end of this season. A call on his future will be made then, but irrespective of what happens, he should forever be grateful to Jonker for sticking by him all those years ago.

Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

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