Soccer - Carling Cup - Third Round - Arsenal v Shrewsbury Town - Emirates Stadium. Emmanuel Frimpong, Arsenal

7 former Arsenal wonderkids that left the game completely: Frimpong, Cruise…

The likes of Jack Wilshere and David Bentley burned brightly after graduating from Arsenal’s academy, but they aren’t the only Hale End graduates that called time on their playing career early.

Football is a famously precarious industry and many careers don’t quite pan out as expected – be it through injury or any number of other factors. In fact, only a small proportion of much-hyped wonderkids ever quite go on to reach the elite heights expected, while others have to do something else entirely.

We’ve taken a closer look at seven Arsenal academy graduates that hung up their boots early.

Stefan O’Connor

Croydon-born O’Connor was earmarked as one to watch from a young age at Hale End.

The defender represented England at Under-17 level and racked up lots of experience in the Gunners youth ranks before making his first-team debut as a late substitute in a 4-1 Champions League victory over Galatasaray in December 2014.

However, that was his only senior appearance and his career never took off from there. O’Connor made a handful of appearances on loan at York City and MVV Maastricht before joining Newcastle in 2017, but his career was cut short by an ACL injury.

The 26-year-old has since set up his own sports management and talent agency and can be found on LinkedIn.

Jordan Brown

After spending eight years on Arsenal’s books, Brown joined West Ham’s youth set-up in 2015. The forward was handed his Hammers debut in a Europa League qualifying defeat to FC Astra Giurgiu in 2015, but further opportunities weren’t forthcoming.

It’s been a classic journeyman story since then, with nine further clubs represented, from Germany (Hannover 96) to the Czech Republic (Znojmo), Iceland (Fylkir) and – most recently – Canada (Pacific FC).

The 26-year-old may still have a future in the game, but he hasn’t represented a club since terminating his contract with Pacific last year.

Leander Siemann

No, not David Seaman’s non-union German equivalent, centre-back Leander Siemann represented the Gunners in the FA Youth Cup, UEFA Youth League and Premier League 2 between the years of 2011 and 2014, featuring alongside the likes of Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Chuba Akpom.

The defender joined Porto in 2014 but his career took a serious hit when he was handed a one-year suspension for using banned substances the following year.

Siemann, 27, returned to feature for FC Koln’s reserves and lower-league side Berliner AK 07 but he hasn’t played professionally since representing SC Verl in 2021.

Thomas Cruise

“For me, there is only one Tom Cruise and he is the one who plays for Arsenal Football Club,” Wenger told reporters after confirming that the Hale End academy graduate would be handed his debut in a Champions League dead rubber against Olympiakos in December 2009.

Fellow youngsters Aaron Ramsey, Kyle Bartley and Jack Wilshere also started for Wenger’s young Gunners in a 1-0 defeat in Athens that night.

Cruise never made another appearance for Arsenal. He later turned out for Carlisle and Torquay United but hung up his boots in 2015 and subsequently became an accountant.

Emmanuel Frimpong

Born in Ghana but raised in north London, Frimpong fulfilled his dream of representing his boyhood club. But he didn’t have it easy and was sent off on just his second Premier League appearance.

“After the game, everybody came into the changing room and Arsene [Wenger] was quiet, you know. He didn’t talk, and then Nasri basically stood up in front of everybody and said we lost the game because of me,” Frimpong told The Athletic.

“Ok, I can understand that, but I was thinking, ‘Why would somebody – especially me playing, I think that was like my second game – why would any professional do that to a young player in that kind of moment?’”

The midfielder made 16 appearances for the Gunners in all competitions, but was loaned out three times and had to forge his path elsewhere.

After a short and unsuccessful stint with Barnsley, Frimpong spent his latter years turning out in Russia and Sweden but called time on his career at the age of 27 after persistent knee problems.

Nowadays he can be found on Twitter musing about his former club.

Daniel Boateng

Having often captained Arsenal’s youth teams, Boateng was awarded his senior debut in a 2-1 League Cup victory over Bolton in 2011.

The centre-back went on to play in Sweden, Scotland, Poland and Romania after being released by Arsenal in 2014.

Boateng, 30, is currently unattached and was most recently seen turning out out for non-league Haringey Borough.

Conor Henderson

The midfielder represented both England and the Republic of Ireland at youth level and featured alongside the likes of Luke Ayling, Francis Coquelin, Henri Lansbury and Wilshere in Arsenal’s 2008-09 FA Youth Cup triumph.

Henderson’s one appearance for the first team was playing 90 minutes in a 5-0 FA Cup victory over Leyton Orient, but his progress from there was stunted by a serious knee ligament injury.

After many years of turning out in the lower reaches of the English football pyramid, the 30-year-old called time on his playing career last year after a second stint out in Bulgaria with Pirin Blagoevgrad.

READ NEXT: Ranking Arsenal’s 25 weirdest Premier League signings

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Arsenal’s top 30 goalscorers in Premier League history?