Daniel Boateng On Representing Arsenal, Working With Arsene Wenger And Playing Across Europe

Daniel Boateng On Representing Arsenal, Working With Arsene Wenger And Playing Across Europe

An interview with Daniel Boateng, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You started your career at Arsenal and captained teams within the academy age groups. What are your main memories of being in the academy at the club?

“I was at Arsenal from the age of ten until the age of 21 and I have so many positive memories from my time at the club.

“It was a dream come true for me to earn a professional contract with the club.

“I was able fortunate to have some really good coaches who guided me during my time in the academy such as Steve Leonard and Roy Massey. They were both quality coaches and quality people.

“As I got older, I then worked with Steve Bould in the under-18 team and he was also top class. It was great to learn from someone like him who achieved so much at Arsenal as a player.

“Neil Banfield who is now assistant manager at Rangers worked with me when I was in the reserves and he was a very good coach too so I was fortunate to work with many top people.”

Which players did you play alongside in the academy?

“In my youth team were Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke, Nico Yennaris and Ignasi Miguel to name just a few.

“They all went on to have top careers in their own right which shows you the strength of the youth team we had at the time.”

You trained under Arsene Wenger on many occasions. What was that like for you as a young player?

“It was a great learning experience for me because Arsene Wenger was great with young players like myself.

“He was quiet during training sessions as he liked to observe each training session and speak when he needed to whereas Pat Rice would deliver instructions to the players regularly during training.

“I was able to train alongside players such as Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie and many others over the years. It was great to be able to play with them and learn from them too.

“I have to say that the first-team players were always good with young players. I remember Thomas Vermaelen, Emmanuel Eboue and Johan Djourou being particularly helpful and reassuring whenever I would go to train with the first team under Wenger.”

You made your Arsenal debut under Wenger at the Emirates against Bolton Wanderers in a 2-1 win. How proud were you to represent Arsenal at first-team level?

“Incredibly proud. Thousands of players dream of being able to play for a club like Arsenal but very few are able to do so.

“The whole experience was immaculate because the ground was full, with over 50,000 fans, and I was just a local lad from Tottenham so to be able to be on that pitch as a first-team player was incredible.

“Even if it only happened once, no one can ever take that away from me.”

You had a few loans in the U.K. while at Arsenal but you joined Swedish club Södertälje FK upon leaving the club in 2014. How do you reflect on that move?

“My career got a little bit tricky after that decision in all honesty. I should have stayed in the U.K. whether that was in England or in Scotland because I had loan spells in both countries.

“My last loan spell before I left Arsenal was at Hibernian in Scotland however I wanted a new challenge and that is why I chose Sweden.

“I enjoyed my time in Sweden even if I wish I had stayed in the U.K. after leaving Arsenal.”

You also played football in Poland with Raków Częstochowa and Olimpia Grudziądz. How did Poland compare with Sweden?

“I really enjoyed my time in Polish football because they tried to play a similar style of football to the German style with both countries being so close to each other.

“The quality of football was strong but it was tough off the park for me because things were not as developed in their attitudes towards certain people within society. They were behind the times. Let’s leave it at that.”

After playing in Poland, you played for CS Aerostar Bacău in Romanian football. Was that move even more of a culture shock for you?

“Absolutely. Playing in Romania was the toughest period of my career in so many ways.

“They had similar issues to Poland in terms of their attitude towards certain groups in society but added to that, they did not pay my salary at times which is a horrible experience for any one to go through.

“You live and you learn from your experiences in life and I became stronger for those challenging experiences in Eastern Europe.”

You have played in Scottish football for both Hibernian and Airdrieonians in your career. Did you enjoy your time in Scottish football?

“I really enjoyed it. Hibs was tough because I did not play as much as I would like under Terry Butcher and the club was relegated to the Scottish Championship during my time there.

“However, Edinburgh was a beautiful city to live in and the Hibs fans always backed the team even during difficult moments.

“My time at Airdrieonians was an experience that I enjoyed because I played many games under Kevin McBride when he was in charge of the club.

“We had a good team and we were unlucky not to do better in the playoffs when we reached them and lost to Alloa.

“The only frustrating thing for me in that season was Kevin McBride leaving as manager and being replaced by Mark Wilson who did not play me as much as Kevin did.

“Despite that, playing at Airdrieonians was a good experience.”

You returned to English football during the COVID-19 pandemic to play for Welling United. What was that experience like in the National League South?

“I was set to join a club in Hong Kong which I was excited about but due to the pandemic, I was unable to move there with the travel restrictions that everyone lived under at the time.

“That meant that I needed to find a club to stay sharp during the pandemic which is why I joined Welling United.

“It was also my first experience of playing part-time football which was an eye-opener for me. I played part-time football with a full-time mindset so I had to adapt to my new surroundings which was tough mentally at first.

“Since playing part-time, I have founded my own football coaching business to complement my career called Daring Ballers.

“We train kids of all ages and provide one-to-one sessions or group sessions depending on what is required.

“I enjoy coaching and sharing my experiences with the youngsters who dream of playing the game at professional level one day.”

Finally, Daniel, what are your aims going forward?

“Ideally, I would love to return to full-time football but with my coaching business, I am also open to playing part-time should the opportunity be right for me.

“I would love to play in England or Scotland because I have enjoyed my time playing in both countries and I believe that my experiences abroad have helped me become a better player.

“I had the opportunity to return to Scotland last season but the opportunity was not right for me in the end due to circumstances at the time but I am now ready to go.

“I look forward to getting back playing soon wherever that may be.”