Former Arsenal youngster, Jay Bothroyd, has admitted that he only learned how to head a ball when he left Arsenal and that there used to be fights every day in training.
The 35-year-old striker, currently playing for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in the J League, spent his youth career at Arsenal.
He was sold to Coventry for £1m when he was 18 without making a senior first team appearance for the side. He had thrown his shirt at Don Howe, then youth team coach at the club, after he was substituted in the FA Youth Cup final against West Ham in 2000 prompting the club to get rid of him.
“We won the FA Youth Cup in 2000 and all my team-mates then are still my friends now,” Bothroyd told the Sunday Telegraph in an exclusive interview.
“We have a WhatsApp group and meet up every year. We were very fortunate to play total football under Arsene Wenger. We are all technical footballers – I’m 6ft 3in but I didn’t learn how to head the ball until I left Arsenal.
“But there was an edge as well. We had fights every day – arguments, fisticuffs. The first team players as well – Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry. They were having physical confrontations every day. You wanted to win and then people start taking the piss, doing nutmegs, so you get upset.
“That’s why it makes me sad for me to see Wenger in this current situation and people aggressively insulting him. Players get into comfort zone and I think that’s what’s happened unfortunately.”
Bothroyd has two goals and one assist in four J1 League games this season for H.C. Sapporo, a club formed in 1935 on the island of Hokkaido
He was signed as a free agent after leaving Jubilo Iwata, another team in the J League that currently sits five places higher in the division than H.C. Sapporo.
Since leaving Arsenal, Bothroyd has played in England, Italy, Australia and Japan. His most successful spell was with Cardiff where he scored 41 goals in 116 appearances.
Bothroyd did, however, score 35 goals in 56 appearances for Jubilo Iwata and has a total of 10 in 14 for H.C. Sapporo.