Terry Burton has claimed that Arsenal made a 'big mistake' when they overlooked him to replace Liam Brady as academy manager in favour of Andries Jonker. He also claimed Arsenal's youth academy has fallen way behind that of Chelsea's.
The 62-year-old brought an end to a long association with the Gunners this summer, leaving to become West Brom's technical director. His decision to leave north London was based solely on Ivan Gazidis' decision to appointment Jonker ahead of himself.
Burton had been part of the Arsenal academy during the 1980's and oversaw the development of a number of prominent figures. The likes of Tony Adams, David Rocastle, Michael Thomas, Paul Davis, Paul Merson and Martin Keown were all introduced into the first team under Burton's guardship.
"I think if it wasn’t me, there’s good people out there that they could have put in"
Gazidis held two interviews with Burton before eventually deciding to hire Jonker, Wolfsburg's assistant manager at the time. It is a decision that Burton believes the Arsenal chief executive will live to regret.
“I wasn’t going to stay there without a purpose and I couldn’t see one,” Burton told The Guardian. “I still think they’ve made a big mistake. I think if it wasn’t me, there’s good people out there that they could have put in.
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“It’s a massive job. There’s a lot of work to be done there. Arsenal, with respect, have fallen behind. They just weren’t working hard enough, like Chelsea. They’ve got the best pathway, because they’ve got Arsène Wenger, who gives young players a chance, better than any other club.
"But the processes, and things that had just been missing over a period of years, Chelsea had steamed ahead in their recruitment and all aspects of it really. That gap can close. But it’s too soon to tell. The guy there ... you’ll have a better idea in five years.”
It was a decision that Burton simply could not live with and such was his rage, he confronted Arsene Wenger in hope that the Arsenal manager would share some light on the situation.
Having already made his feelings clear to Gazidis, Burton hoped Wenger would share his views. However, Wenger admitted that the decision to hire Jonker was not his. As Wenger holds a prominent role in all aspects of the club, it is a surprising revelation.
Speaking about Gazidis, Burton said: “I told him: ‘I think you’re mad. I think you’ve got it wrong. If ever you were going to get it right, I was the best person to do it.’ I knew the club, I knew the players that we’d got and didn’t have. I knew from under-12s right the way through.
“I went to see Arsène, and Arsène said he’d had nothing to do with it – he hadn’t signed his contract at that time. I told Arsène in the January that I would leave in the summer. He said: ‘Don’t go, I’d like you to stay’. But I didn’t want to work under someone else. I was prepared to do it because it was Liam Brady, but not someone brought in from outside.”