Back in May 2009, an all-north London affair in the playoff final of the Premier Academy League saw Arsenal edge out Tottenham to seal a tightly-contested 1-0 victory, thanks to a 49th-minute winner from Rhys Murphy.
That was the first of two back-to-back titles the Gunners lifted at U18 level. But ultimately, success for footballers at such a a young age is secondary to setting them up with the necessary qualities to ensure long and storied careers as senior players.
So, with almost 12 years passing since that fateful final, which club have done the better job of creating future stars of the beautiful game? In order to answer that, GIVEMESPORT look back at Arsenal and Spurs’ 16-man squads and ask a simple question – Where Are They Now?
Those who faded away
Sanchez Watt – Despite a series of solid loan spells in the Football League, the former Gunners forward has spent the last few years in non-league with Hemel Hempstead and Wealdstone.
Sam Cox – The defender’s career has only gone south since his days in Spurs’ youth system, with the exception of representing Guyana 13 times. He now plays for Hampton and Richmond.
Calum Butcher – By way of various stints in the Football League, the former Spurs midfielder now lines up for Dundee United north of the border.
Danny Boateng – After plying his trade in Scotland, Bosnia, Sweden, Poland and Romania, Boateng last turned out for Welling Town – but appears to be without a club currently.
Rhys Murphy – The striker’s career since leaving Arsenal has largely moved along a downward trajectory and he now represents Yeovil in the National League.
Jamie Butler – Spurs’ backup goalie never made the grade and instantly went into non-league football with Bromley after leaving Spurs. Nowadays he turns out for Sutton United.
Jake Nicholson – After small stints with Greenock Morton and Wimbledon, the ex-Spurs youngster moved into non-league. He last played for Walton Casuals but appears to have retired in 2017.
Craig Eastmond – Big things were expected of the Arsenal youngster who even featured for the first team. But he could never quite hack it at senior level and after a spell with Colchester joined non-league Sutton in 2015. He’s still at Gander Green Lane.
Yaser Kasim – With the exception of four solid seasons at Swindon Town, the former Lilywhites midfielder has endured a pretty forgettable career and now plays in the Iraqi Premier League.
Tom Cruise – The ex-Gunner allegedly retired in 2015, after a three-year spell with Torquay United.
Oscar Jansson – Tottenham’s goalkeeper signed for hometown Orebro in 2013 after a series of loan spells in the Football League. He’s just completed a move to fellow Swedish side Norrkoping.
Conor Henderson – One of the most interesting career paths, the ex-Gunner now plies his trade in the second tier of Bulgarian football with Pirin Blagoevgrad.
Dean Parrett – Despite wearing the armband for Spurs and being widely regarded as one of their more promising youngsters, Parrett’s senior career just never took off. After bobbing between League One and League Two he wound up at Wealdstone before signing for Barnet on a short-team deal in January. That has now expired, however, meaning the midfielder is without a club at the age of 29.
Those who’ve had decent careers elsewhere
Nathan Byrne – A solid Football League player who’s spent time at Swindon, Wolves, Wigan and Charlton since leaving Spurs. He’s now on the books at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County and has featured regularly this season.
Kyle Bartley – Hardly got a look-in at Arsenal but is these days the vice-captain at relegation threatened West Brom. He’s struggled to hold down a place in the starting XI this season, however.
Henri Lansbury – Was one of the Championship’s better midfielders during his Nottingham Forest days but currently serves as a backup player to the likes of Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley at Aston Villa.
Emmanuel Frimpong – Made 16 senior appearances for Arsenal but didn’t last long. Never managed more than 28 outings for any of the clubs he later represented and was forced into early retirement due to injury.
John Bostock – Once tipped for the very top, Bostock is now without a club at 28 after leaving Toulouse. He’s at least enjoyed a genuine professional career in football, although most of it has been spent at second-tier level (or lower) in England, France and Belgium.
Gilles Sunu – Hardly a household name in England but the ex-Arsenal youngster has spent most of his career playing in France’s top flight. Currently, however, he’s in Ligue 2 with Chateauroux after a brief stint in Turkey.
Adam Smith – Best known for being Bournemouth’s resident right-back having signed for the Cherries in 2014 after a wealth of loan spells. He’s gone on to make over 250 appearances for them.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas – Arsenal’s captain on the day went on to enjoy a Championship stint with Ipswich and a potent spell in League One at Bristol City, but currently plays for Scottish side Livingston.
James Shea – The goalkeeper dropped right down into the Isthmian Premier League after leaving Arsenal but has worked his way back up to the Championship where he operates as Luton’s No.1.
Cedric Evina – Spent time in the Football League with Charlton, Doncaster, Crawley and Notts County. Signed for Romford last January but quickly rescinded his services and has been without a club ever since.
Jonathan Obika – The striker had more loan spells (eleven) than hot dinners during his Spurs days and then went on to spend three years at Swindon. By way of Oxford United, Obika is now slotting them home for St. Mirren.
Luke Ayling – The former Gunners full-back is a key part of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side and even wears the captain’s armband when Liam Cooper is absent.
Those who made the grade at their clubs
Steven Caulker – Personal demons have stopped Caulker from reaching his true potential, beuut nonetheless playing for both Spurs and Liverpool in the Premier League while being capped by England is something to be proud of. Also captained Cardiff in the top flight but nowadays plays for Alanyaspor.
Wojciech Szczesny – After slowly graduating to No.1 status at Arsenal and then eventually losing it to Petr Cech, the Poland international swapped the Premier League for Serie A. Two seasons on loan at Roma was followed by a permanent switch to Juventus, where he’s won three league titles as well as last term’s Goalkeeper of the Season award.
Andros Townsend – Made 93 appearances for Spurs but ultimately has played his best football elsewhere in the Premier League, chiefly with current club Crystal Palace who he scored the Premier League Goal of the Season for in 2018/19.
Ryan Mason – An unexpected favourite of Mauricio Pochettino’s who eventually made 70 first-team appearances for the Lilywhites. Unfortunately, Mason’s career was cut short after a horrific head injury while playing for Hull City. He’s now on the coaching staff within Tottenham’s academy setup.
Francis Coquelin – Spent several seasons slowly but surely making himself an increasingly important member of Arsenal’s first-team squad and was even hailed as their midfield saviour after a very impressive performance away at Manchester City. The Gunners soon realised he wasn’t quite good enough, however, and sold the combative midfielder to Valencia. He switched La Liga allegiances to Villarreal last summer.
Danny Rose – A key part of Tottenham’s successes under Pochettino and is still on the books at Spurs, but remains completely out of favour after falling out with Jose Mourinho over a lack of playing time – as hilariously documented in All Or Nothing. Could well be on the move this month.
Harry Kane – Needs no introduction. Probably the best centre-forward in the world and England captain. Was ironically released by Arsenal at the age of nine for being too chubby.