Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was captaining Arsenal’s u18s when he was just 16 and big things were expected of the teenage giant, but it didn’t quite work out for him at Arsenal, so where is he now?
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is now 30 with 12 clubs on his footballing CV but the man from Forest Gate in London seems to have found a home in Scotland, signing this week on a two-year deal with Aberdeen.
The best player I have played with has to be Cesc Fabregas
The forward has found the net 90 times in his career so far, with 57 assists in 339 appearances, and he will be hoping to build on the nine goals and three assists he registered for Livingston which prompted The Dons to sign him on a free contract.
“It feels great to be an Aberdeen player,” JET said. “I have heard a lot about Aberdeen over the years and in Scottish football Aberdeen is always one of the clubs that people have spoken about. To be involved with such a big club is a great feeling.
“I have walked around Cormack Park and it is a great facility. It is going to be a place where I will enjoy doing my day-to-day work.
“I have played Aberdeen three times since I have been in Scotland and watching the style of play and know what the set up is like. Since speaking to the manager, I know what he wants to do, and it is something that I wanted to be involved with.
“The potential of Aberdeen and playing in Europe and having played against Aberdeen I know the ability the team posses and I wanted to be a part of that.
“My year at Livingston was a good time. I thank them for bringing me into the club and welcoming me to the Scottish league and giving me the chance to showcase my abilities. It turned out well and I am hopeful that they can continue on their journey.
“I played a lot of football at Livingston, we reached the cup final, we had a lot of fixtures and it kept me ticking over. It brought back a good level of sharpness for myself, I finished the season in good form and hoping to bring that into this upcoming season.
“When you play in the Scottish league you realise that there is a good quality of players in the league. Some of the games are really big and the only thing that has been missing has been the fans.
“I have moved about in my career. I was at Arsenal and had various loan moves when I was younger. I have enjoyed playing for different clubs at different levels and have experienced playing in different parts of the country. It has been one of the best things in my career to say that I have played with certain players. The best player I have played with has to be Cesc Fabregas. When I made my professional debut, he was the maestro in midfield. My Premier League debut was against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and there were some top players on the other team as well!
“Everyone that I played with in my youth cup winning team at Arsenal has gone onto stay in the professional game which is incredible. I played with some big players during my youth days at Arsenal. It was great to be involved with and I still stay in contact with a lot of them.
“My main strengths that I bring to the team are creating and finish chances. I have got a good eye for a pass; I know I have good feet and I can beat defenders in numerous areas.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas at Arsenal
While at Arsenal, JET played just six times for the first team without scoring a goal or registering assist.
Emmanuel-Thomas’s hulking size meant he was a youth player who always stuck in the minds of fans. His 13 goals in 13 games for the Arsenal u23s and helping the youngsters win the FA Youth League and Cup Double didn’t hurt, either.
His raw power, pace and close control spoke of a player just waiting to burst free and he was handed his first-team debut against Stoke in 2010 in an FA Cup game Arsenal lost. He had just turned 19.
Just one of Emmanuel-Thomas’s appearances for Arsenal came in a Premier League match (nine minutes against Chelsea) but he also played in the Champions League, Arsene Wenger handing him eight minutes against Shakhtar Donetsk.
By that stage, JET had already spent time on loan with Blackpool, making 12 appearances and scoring 1, and loans would become the main feature of his remaining time at the club he joined when he was just eight-years-old.
He went to Doncaster (14 appearances, 5 goals, 4 assists) and Cardiff (16 appearances, 2 goals, 3 assists) before being sold to Ipswich for £1.13m in 2011.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas after leaving Arsenal
Since leaving Arsenal, JET has not spent more than two years at any one club. From Ipswich he went to Bristol City, then Cardiff, MK Dons, and Gillingham before heading to Thailand to play for PTT Rayong where he managed just one goal and three assists in 12 games.
The former Arsenal youngster then spent over a year without a club before signing for Livingston in September on a short-term deal that saw him net nine and assist three in 31 games (averaging 60 minutes per game).
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was perhaps one of the most gifted from the 2009 crew but he never quite hit the heights we all thought he was capable of. The rangy attacking midfielder was blessed with skill, stamina, pace and an unusual versatility that saw him play in a variety of positions from centre back to centre forward.
With a few years left in his legs yet, let’s hope he can bring plenty of joy to Aberdeen fans as he still looks to turn all that potential into something more people remember.