Ainsley Maitland-Niles has worked his way up to the Arsenal first team, but it wasn’t always plain sailing.
The 20-year-old has become a Premier League regular now and is a full member of the first team squad. The way he’s slotted in so naturally suggests he was always destined to be there.
However, the path to the first team wasn’t without its challenges.
One such challenge was his own family. His mother, Jule Niles, was certainly passionate about her son’s career, but was something of a disruptive influence during his early years as a professional.
Back in 2015, Jule Niles was banned from watching Arsenal’s youth games at London Colney after a dispute with coaching staff. Before then, she had had a confrontation with the club’s former negotiator, Dick Law, over her son’s contract. The police were called to deal with the situation on both occasions.
Despite those incidents, Maitland-Niles continued to progress and got his first real taste of first team life on loan at Ipswich during the 2015/16 season.
Things were going well for him as he made regular appearances, until he was abruptly dropped from the first team in February.
In April 2016, Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy explained that he was simply taking a look at other options in anticipation of Maitland-Niles’ return to Arsenal.
“He (Maitland-Niles) is in the squad all the time,” McCarthy said, as reported by the East Anglian Daily Times.
“There has been a thought, with the play-offs gone – mathematically we can still get in them but I am not holding any hope on that one – that we have players that I need to have a look at.
“He is still involved and may still be involved in terms of playing.”
“We will have a chat (with Maitland-Niles), I am not sure that will happen, but he will be a much better player for the 12 months he has had here, with everything that he has enjoyed, endured and experienced in a Championship season.
“Wherever he ends up, I don’t think it will be here, he will be a better player certainly.”
However, a report from the S*n indicated that there was more to it than that.
His mother had allegedly left a “poisonous” voicemail for McCarthy over a conflict between Maitland-Niles’ international and club responsibilities.
He had been asked to attend an England kit launch by the FA, but McCarthy wanted him at Ipswich training instead.
The language was apparently so abusive that McCarthy had no choice to leave Maitland-Niles out.
There have been no reported incidents since then.
At the very least, it seems nothing has happened to dissuade Wenger from using Maitland-Niles in the first team, something Wenger admitted himself.
Injury has disrupted a season that was going very well for him. He was getting regular minutes with the first team, achieving international honours with the England youth teams and has been earmarked for a very bright future at the club.
Fingers crossed that there are no more disruptions in his career.