‘Football’s Unsung Heroes’ – Arsenal’s Neil Banfield

Neil Banfield is a name who most football fans will be pretty unfamiliar with. Despite this, Banfield has been a key part of Arsene Wenger’s backroom staff at Arsenal for over a decade and has played a crucial part in the footballing eduation of Arsenal’s young guns. Banfield, who is the reserve team manager at Arsenal, alongside youth coach Liam Brady and Under 18’s manager Steve Bould play a crucial role at Arsenal as it is they who mould the youngsters in preparation for Arsene Wenger’s squad and teach them the Arsenal way of playing.

Banfield had an unspectacular playing career in football, he played for Crystal Palace and Leyton Orient with a spell at Australian side Adelaide City sandwiched in between. In 1997 he became part of Arsenal’s staff as he became their youth manager. Banfield spent seven years in charge of one of the most talented youth set-ups in the country and enjoyed plenty of success with the young gunners, winning two FA Youth Cups, an Academy League Under 17 title and an Academy League Under 19 title before replacing Eddie Niedzwiecki as the reserve manager where he has remained to this day.

Possessing a friendly disposition but filled with determination to prepare his players for greatness, Banfield has proven a fantastic reserve coach and a great judge of talent, regularly taking on the academy’s best players and recommending his stars to Wenger when he believes they’re ready to make the step up to the first team. It is he who looks after the many talented names that usually impress in the Carling Cup and he, along with the youth coaches, prepare the Arsenal youngsters for playing the Arsenal way with Banfield being a subscriber to the pass-and-move style of playing that the first team is lauded for playing. Banfield regularly leads the reserves to a high placed finish despite possessing one of the younger squads in the reserve league due to his preference for playing younger talents. This willingness to younger players readily has led to the early progression and development of the likes of Jack Wilshere who is already knocking on the door of the first team ,with Banfield happily recommending him and some team-mates to Wenger.

Backroom staff teams rarely get the credit they deserve as they take a backseat as the manager of the first team gets the praise. Praise for the staff at Arsenal of all clubs should be warranted given how their development of youngsters continues to lead for top prospects arriving in the first team with a bang. Bould, Brady and Banfield have all played their part in this development and thus are much more important than those who’ve barely heard of them could possibly realise. The additions of new staff members often result in a turnaround of fortunes for top clubs and the fact that Banfield has been kept at Arsenal for so long shows how highly Arsene Wenger rates the coach. The youngsters who he’s brought through will all be appreciative of his efforts too, and so should the fans be.

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