Football Features

Where are they now? Arsenal and Liverpool teams from the 2009 FA Youth Cup final

By William Eldridge

Published: 17:47, 26 April 2019

Many footballing talents past and present who actually had a hope of being used by the first-team own an FA Youth Cup winner’s medal.

This season, Liverpool’s youth side won their first FA Youth Cup trophy since 2007 by beating Manchester City on penalties.

The Reds lost out 10 years ago to Arsenal who convincingly beat the Merseysiders across the two legs. A 2-1 win at Anfield was followed up by an emphatic 4-1 victory in front of over 33,000 people at the Emirates.

Since then, certain players from either side have forged successful careers for themselves in the Premier League, while others find themselves scrapping away in the lower leagues or even further afield.

Here is where the 22 starting players can be found now.

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Goalkeeper: James Shea

Shea played a key role in Arsenal’s cup success but found his path blocked to the first-team by a couple of other young goalkeepers in Wojciech Szczesny and Vito Mannone, two names who have enjoyed differing career paths since.

In 2013, Shea was released and he drifted into non-league football by joining Needham Market and Harrow Borough. After impressing for the latter, he earned a move back to the football league with AFC Wimbledon, whom he helped achieve promotion to League One in 2016.

Shea was released by AFC Wimbledon at the end of the 2016-17 season and joined Luton Town that summer, helping them achieve promotion to League One and this season, up into the lofty heights of the Championship.

Right Back: Craig Eastmond

A highly-rated prospect during his time in the Gunners’ academy, Eastmond, who was also an adept central midfielder, made ten appearances for the first-team including four in the Premier League during the 2009-10 season.

Upon his release in 2013, Eastmond took in spells with Colchester United and Yeovil Town in the football league but now plays in the National League with Sutton United.

Centre Back: Kyle Bartley

Bartley’s one-and-only appearance for Arsenal came in a Champions League tie against Olympiacos in 2009. However, he remained on the club’s books until 2012.

The towering defender spent time on loan at Sheffield United and Rangers before signing permanently for Swansea in 2012. He found securing first-team football tough to come by in Wales, though, and is currently playing for West Brom via a semi-successful loan spell with Leeds United in the Championship.

Centre Back: Luke Ayling

Clearly, Ayling enjoyed playing alongside Bartley so much that he jumped at the chance to do so again, signing for Leeds United to link up with his former Arsenal teammate at Elland Road.

Despite Bartley’s departure, Ayling’s move to Leeds has been a successful one, making 36 Championship appearances this campaign as Leeds United do their best to return to the promised lands of the Premier League.

Left Back: Thomas Cruise

Nope, not that one. This Tom Cruise certainly wasn’t a Top Gun (sorry) as he made just a solitary appearance for Arsene Wenger’s side, playing the full 90 minutes in a Champions League game against Olympiacos.

Cruise made three appearances on loan at Carlisle United and then signed permanently for Torquay United in 2012. Following three years there, Cruise left the club but his agent must have his Eyes Wide Shut (I’m really sorry) because he hasn’t played anywhere else since. As a result, the former footballer swapped our favourite sport to train up as an accountant.

Centre Midfield: Emmanuel Frimpong

Tipped to establish himself as a first-team squad member, Frimpong made 16 appearances for the Gunners, including six in the Premier League. The Ghanaian also turned out for Wolves and Fulham in the English top flight.

Frimpong’s career at Arsenal ended in 2013 (just as his music career was starting out, incidentally) when he moved up north to join Barnsley. If that move was slightly surprising, the next step in his career was much more bizarre as he joined FC UFA in Russia prior to joining their domestic rivals, Arsenal Tula, in the summer of 2016.

Frimpong left Arsenal Tula to Swedish Allsvenskan side AFC Eskilstuna in February 2017 and after joining Cypriot side Ermis Aradippou, retired at the early age of 29 due to injury.

Centre Midfield: Francis Coquelin

It had looked as though Francis Coquelin’s chances of making a breakthrough at Arsenal had been dashed when he was allowed to join Charlton Athletic on loan in 2014, following similarly temporary moves to FC Lorient and SC Freiburg.

However, his time in South London proved to be the springboard to his career at Arsenal as upon his return as he formed a decent midfield partnership with Santi Cazorla.

Alas, Coquelin was eventually sold in January 2018 to Spanish La Liga side Valencia for £12m.

Right Midfield: Henri Lansbury

Lansbury was certainly highly rated in north London as they refrained from selling him for a number of years, instead loaning him out to Scunthorpe United, Watford, Norwich City and West Ham.

Eventually, though, the Enfield-born midfielder decided to seek first-team opportunities elsewhere by joining Nottingham Forest in 2012 and four years later he was made captain of the Championship outfit.

Lansbury moved from Nottingham Forest to Villa for around £3m although he has made just one single Championship appearance for Villa this campaign, with a move away from the club expected this summer.

Attacking Midfield: Jack Wilshere

The jewel in the Arsenal crown in 2009, Jack Wilshere certainly made rapid progress following the Youth Cup win by establishing himself in the Arsenal side just over a year later, via a successful loan spell with Bolton Wanderers.

Wilshere made 49 appearances in all competitions during the 2010-11 season and he shot to prominence in particular during a Champions League tie against Barcelona where he went toe-to-toe with Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Since then, though, Wilshere’s career has been compromised by a series of serious injuries and he was on loan at Bournemouth last season after slipping down the midfield pecking order at Arsenal. Injuries have once again forced the England international to watch his latest London side, West Ham, from the stands.

Left Midfield: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas

Arsenal’s skipper in the final, Emmanuel-Thomas failed to bridge the gap from the youth team to the seniors, making only five appearances for Wenger’s team, with just one of those coming in the league.

The versatile attacker has certainly been well-travelled in his career to date, taking in spells at Blackpool, Doncaster Rovers, Cardiff, Ipswich Town, Bristol City, QPR, MK Dons and Gillingham.

Emmanuel-Thomas made the niche move by signing for Thailand side PTT Rayong in January 2019.

Striker: Gilles Sunu

During his two-decade spell as Arsenal manager, Wenger has enjoyed great success when signing talented young French strikers, but it would be fair to say that Sunu doesn’t rank among one of the best.

The powerful frontman made only two appearances for the Gunners and returned to his homeland to sign for Lorient in 2011 where he remained until joining Evian and then Angers in 2015.

These days, he’s in Turkey playing for Büyükşehir Belediye Erzurumspor, whose name we definitely didn’t have to copy and paste.


Goalkeeper: Dean Bouzanis

The Sydney-born shot-stopper was well thought of in his youth. Rafa Benitez once commented that he was the ‘best goalkeeper for his age in the world’ when he moved to Anfield aged 17 in 2007.

Bouzanis has so far struggled to live up to those lofty expectations playing for Sydney FC, Accrington Stanley, Oldham Athletic, Aris FC, Carlisle United, Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City over the past few years. Right now, he’s on loan from the latter with Eredivisie outfit PEC Zwolle.

Right Back: Andre Wisdom

Signed by the Reds in 2008 following four years in Bradford City’s academy, Andre Wisdom graduated to the first-team during Brendan Rodgers’ reign, making 22 appearances in all competitions.

Despite still being contracted to the Merseysiders up till 2017, Wisdom bounced between loan clubs such as Derby County, West Brom and Norwich before linking up with Red Bull Salzburg.

He signed for Championship side Derby County permanently in 2017.

Centre Back: Daniel Ayala

Brought to the club from the highly-acclaimed youth academy at Sevilla, Ayala featured five times in the 2009-10 Premier League season in Benitez’s final term in charge but found himself out of favour following his Spanish compatriot’s departure.

Ayala was loaned out to Hull City and Derby County before transferring permanently to Norwich in 2011. Once again, Ayala found first-team football scarce and following a successful loan stint at Middlesbrough, he joined the Teessiders permanently in 2013.

Centre Back: Joe Kennedy

An intriguing story, this one. Deemed good enough to skipper the Reds in both legs of the final, Kennedy was released that summer and instead of remaining in football, he decided to study a sports science degree at the John Moores University. He was last spotted playing for Bala Town in the Welsh Premier League.

Left Back: Jack Robinson

Liverpool’s youngest-ever debutant in the Premier League when he came on against Hull aged 16 years and 250 days, Robinson struggled to build on his early promise and was loaned to Wolves and Blackpool in the second-tier.

After failing to force his way into first-team contention, Robinson was sold to newly-promoted QPR in 2014 but initially struggled to make much of an impression, largely due to sustaining a serious knee injury while on loan at Huddersfield. He currently plays for Nottingham Forest.

Centre Midfield: Steven Irwin

A versatile performer, equally comfortable at right-back as in central midfield, Steven Irwin was released by the Reds in 2011 and made the unusual step of moving to the Netherlands to sign for Telstar.

Irwin didn’t stay for too long there, though, and moved to FF Jaro in Finland in 2012.

Irwin featured for AaB Fodbold in the Danish Superliga in 2015 before returning to England with Evo-Stik Northern Premier League side Skelmersdale United in February 2017. In August 2017 he signed for Conference North outfit FC United of Manchester before, after joining and leaving Stalybridge Celtic, arriving at current club Marine.

Centre Midfield: Christopher Buchtmann

Snapped up from Borussia Dortmund in 2008, the German midfielder only spent two years at Liverpool before joining Fulham on an 18-month contract in 2010.

A short-lived spell at Craven Cottage was ended later that year when he returned to his homeland to sign for FC Koln but since 2012 he has featured for the cult Bundesliga.2 side St. Pauli, where he has become a key player. Buchtmann recently signed a new contract with the Hamburg based club that will keep him at the club until 2019.

Right Midfield: David Amoo

A Millwall youth product who moved to Anfield in 2007, Amoo made his Liverpool debut against Macedonian side FK Rabotnički in the Europa League in 2010 but that display was his only in a red shirt.

Following loans with Hull City, MK Dons, and Bury, Amoo left permanently in 2012 signing for Preston and since then he has worn the colours of Tranmere Rovers, Carlisle United and Partick Thistle. He signed for League Two Cambridge United in May 2017.

Attacking Midfield: Lauri Dalla Valle

A former Inter Milan youth teamer, Dalla Valle made his one and only appearance for the Reds against FK Rabotnički and was used as a makeweight in the deal to take Paul Konchesky to Anfield from Fulham.

Dalla Valle was unable to make an impact at Fulham, spending loan spells with Bournemouth, Dundee United, Exeter City and Crewe prior to moving to Norwegian side Molde. In 2013-14 he played for Belgian outfit Sint-Truiden before spending a couple of seasons with Crewe Alexandra.

He last played for FK Zemun of the Serbian SuperLiga before being released in November 2017.

Left Midfield: Alexander Kacanaklic

After three years in the Liverpool youth team, Kacaniklic made the same move as Dalla Valle to Fulham as part of the Konchesky deal.

The Swedish winger definitely fared the better of the two, though, making 95 appearances for the Cottagers but these days he can be found charging up the left flank for Hammarby IF in Allsvenskan.

Striker: Tom Ince

Following in the footsteps of his famous father Paul by pulling on the red shirt of Liverpool, Tom Ince left Anfield permanently to join Blackpool in 2011 after being denied first-team chances.

A hugely promising three years at Bloomfield Road followed, which led to speculation that he could rejoin the Reds or even make the move to Inter Milan – another club that Paul played for during his career.

Instead, he opted to move to Hull City but having failed to force his way into the team regularly, he moved to Derby County in 2015. After two years with the Rams Ince joined Premier League newcomers Huddersfield Town but was sold back down a division to Stoke City last summer.

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