‘Incredible, incredible. It’s a dream come true. I can’t believe that I’m here already.
I played a game at Birmingham City on a Monday. Then on the Tuesday, I was made redundant from Bentley Motors and on the Wednesday, Arsenal came in’
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has spoken out for the minor leagues after signing 20-year-old left-back Cohen Bramall, a former car factory worker, from unheralded Hednesford Town.
Hednesford play in the Northern League Premier Division, six tiers below the Premier League.
Wenger told the Arsenal website yesterday that players who came from such depths had shown they had the mental strength and hunger to succeed.
“It’s a mental test — do you love football enough?” he said. “Are you ready enough to fight (to show) that you are above this level and that you absolutely want to come back? Players like Giroud and Koscielny have had that test. They are similar to that. Once they get up, they really mean it.”
Arsenal’s French international Olivier Giroud started out in French lower league football. Compatriot Laurent Koscielny also spent time in the French second and third tiers early in his career.
Arsenal last year tried to sign England striker Jamie Vardy, who has entered soccer lore with his rise to glory at champions Leicester City from non-league Stocksbridge Park Steels and FC Halifax via Fleetwood Town.
Wenger described Bramall, who will join the club’s under-23 squad, as a player with “tremendous pace, a good left foot, a great desire to do well. Overall, he’s a very exciting prospect.”
The youngster was working in a Bentley car factory in Crewe until last month, when he heard he was being made redundant. “When they told me I was thinking I needed to sort something else quick, I needed more money coming in,” he told Sky Sports television. “But the next day I got a phone call saying Arsenal wanted me to come down for a trial.”
Bramall signed for Arsenal just a week after being made redundant from his factory job with luxury carmakers Bentley. The 20-year-old defender—who had previously failed to convince Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday to take him on after trials with them—signed for a reported fee of £40,000 (46,000 euros, $48,500) from non league side Hednesford Town.
“Incredible, incredible. It’s a dream come true. I can’t believe that I’m here already,” he said. “I played a game at Birmingham City on a Monday. Then on the Tuesday, I was made redundant from Bentley Motors and on the Wednesday, Arsenal came in.
“I was gobsmacked and took the chance with both hands. I drove down on the Wednesday and trained with the first team on Thursday and Friday. Then they offered me a deal.”
Wenger said last week that Bramall reminded him of Gunners defending great Ashley Cole.
Bramall—who may end up crossing swords with another former Hednesford product in Wales captain and central defender Ashley Williams who is at Everton—will first get a taste of Under-23 action and faces competition to make the senior first team from Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs.
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