Leon Britton has revealed his regret about a decision he made during the early phases of his career, which ultimately shaped his future progression in the game.
The Swansea midfielder was serving as a trainee at Arsenal’s academy aged 16 but turned down the offer of a professional contract from the Gunners to instead join West Ham for £400,000 - a then-record fee paid for a player of his age at that time.
Britton has since now admitted some regrets over his early switch from east to north London, sharing an image of his contract from the Gunners offer on Twitter.
The Swansea midfielder recalled (via Football.London): “I left school and had a choice of where to go, and West Ham was the best option for me at the time because they were great at bringing through young players”.
Britton, though, arrived at the Hammers during a time in which the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and Paulo Di Canio were starring at the club, while the youngster was unable to break into the first team.
“I went there for quite a bit of money in the end”, Britton remembered. “But they wasted it on me, although they got their money’s worth out of Jermain Defoe.
“It was good there. I didn’t play in the first team, but I had good experience of training alongside Defoe, Carrick, Cole and the rest of the first-team players”, a rueful Britton conceded.
“It was a great experience, even though I didn’t make it”.
Britton has since found relative success at Swansea City, where he was initially loaned to from West Ham in 2002, before joining the Welsh club permanently in 2003. Following a short-lived switch to Sheffield United in 2010, Britton returned to the Swans in 2011, and has remained a loyal figure at the club since.
Britton’s regrets at having never taken the chance as a professional at Arsenal does, however, seem to somewhat haunt the Englishman. He took to Twitter to post a picture of the actual contract which was offered to him by Arsenal way back in 1998.
“Throw back to nearly 20 years ago when Arsenal offered me terms as an apprentice and professional”, Britton wrote in the tweet. “Turned it down to join West Ham thinking I would get a better opportunity, that decision worked out well”.
The rueful irony of Britton’s tweet sums up the sentiment of what must feel like a missed opportunity to prove himself at a higher level. The steady success of his Swansea career since then has been admirable and has earned him a great deal of respect for his longevity at the Liberty Stadium.
As for how he would have fared in North London, one can only speculate. Hindsight, though, is a wonderful thing.