Being the very vocal advocates for youth development that we are, we need to accept all the possible downsides to more and more people embracing the notion of investing in younger players and their development with the belief that this ideology will always afford the beautiful game a solid foundation for growth. With all those positives brought into consideration, it’s not a rarity for one to see many young players succumbing to the heavy expectations paced on them and the media circus that comes with being so gifted in this age of technology and the increased pressure to perform at a level that justifies the increased levels of remuneration, for so many diverse and often bizarre reasons an alarming number of these players ultimately fail to become the super talents that people predicted they would be and thus the common question in the barroom over a pint as the football plays, “what happened to that boi?”
Introduced himself as
A clean faced teenager with bags of pace and the confidence of Vin Diesel in a room full of bored housewives, competent on the ball and solid in the tackle; Kerrea seemed to be the next best defender to come out of Enfield since Ashley Cole burst onto the scene. With Le Prof having a less than admirable record when it comes to scouting, signing and developing good young defenders, Gilbert looked like a bit of a revelation with his versatility seeing him actually break into the side as a left fullback even though he was naturally a right sided fullback. Depth and quality on both flanks during his stay at the Gooners meant that he was always going to be considered a back-up option until he was fully developed; it’s that reality that resulted in the lad being shunted out on loan to continue his development and play football at a level that could help him become a better player in the long run.
Where did it go wrong?
It is no secret that Academy players at Arsenal are implored to go out on loan when they find themselves on the peripherals of the first team squad as the management feels the players would benefit off playing competitive lower league football more than playing reserve league football while trying to prove their first team readiness. The debatable issue when it comes to that policy is that unlike teams like Manchester United and Chelsea, Arsenal tend to loan out the bulk of their players to lower league sides in England, predominantly to League One & below, the lack of continuity in playing culture or playing standard leads to many young lads failing to add that extra dynamic to their game and thus struggling to prove themselves as comparative or better than their foreign counterparts in the first team. Although I liked Ebouè a lot as a fullback, Emmanuel was nowhere near good enough to command a regular starting berth for The Arsenal and a young British lad like Kerrea would have been better off if he was given some of the chances that the Ivorian received and often wasted.
Injuries begun to take their toll on the fitness freak as he fought to ensure that his body was ready to afford him a chance at solidifying his slot in the Premier League once Wenger finally recalled him, although it begun to seem like Le Prof had forgotten about his talented prodigy with lads like Gavin Hoyte and Nico Yennaris coming into the picture. It seemed at the time that Wenger had begun to lose faith in his young British lads as promising players like Jay Simpson, Mark Randall, Henri Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas begun to see their route to the first team blocked by young imports from across the globe; it was that change in recruitment, coupled with career threatening injuries and a few off field issues that truly lead to the unfortunate situation Kerrea finds himself in.
It may seem naïve to rate Kerrea as the best defensive Arsenal Academy graduate since Ashley Cole as his career never materialised into what many expected, yet his potential and natural ability was always undoubted so that title may not be misplaced after all. My personal take of the Gilbert story always ends on a positive note, a young player taught at one of the greatest football development institutions in the entire realm has refused to let his failures define him as he now seeks to make a career for himself as a fully qualified personal trainer after doing his training with Focus Fitness Academy; its humbling to know that sports may have birthed a fitness professional after a promising football career was cut short. Kerrea Gilbert may not be a name that too many outside of the Football Manager realm will remember, but the lad will always be considered something of an Arsenal legend and Bob’s your father’s mirror image twin brother.
Full Name: Kerrea Kuche Gilbert
DoB: February 28th, 1987 (28)
PoB: Willesden, London; England
Caps & Goals: N/A
Position/s: Right/Left Fullback, Wingback
Height: 1, 75m
Current Club: Free Agent
Market Value: € 300 000
Previous Clubs: Arsenal, Cardiff City (Loan), Southend United (Loan), Leicester City (Loan), Peterborough United (Loan), Yeovil Town, Shamrock Rovers, Maidenhead United, St Albans City
Career Club Record: 123 Games, 1 Goal, 2 Assists