Arsenal star Ben White talks swapping curries and punch-ups at Newport for England caps

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Arsenal star Ben White talks swapping curries and punch-ups at Newport for England caps

Just four years ago, a big match for Ben White might start with a curry and end in the pub. With a punch-up at half-time for good measure. But then

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Just four years ago, a big match for Ben White might start with a curry and end in the pub. With a punch-up at half-time for good measure. But then it is a long way from Newport to playing for England at Wembley.

White looks set to win his third cap having played in the two summer friendlies before being selected as a late replacement for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in the Euro 2020 squad without ever getting onto the pitch. Since his £50m move to Arsenal in the summer, he is no longer here to make up the numbers – although the speed of his ascent is remarkable, considering he was on loan in League Two in 2018.

“It was one of the best years of my life at Newport,” White said. “I’d gone from playing in an academy where everything is nice and you have everything you want. Then you go there and everything is completely different.

“You’re having a curry for your pre-match meal! Everything was totally different from what I knew in the academy. And in my first game there was a punch-up at half-time, between our own players in our own dressing room… It was a bit scary to be fair.

“I didn’t want to be the one making any mistakes, that’s for sure. And after the matches? God knows, I can’t actually remember! 

“But no, they were all experiences I had and I think when you go play in those leagues, you see what you should be doing and probably stuff you shouldn’t be doing to get to the next level.”

White continued to climb the rungs with loan spells at Peterborough and Leeds before establishing himself at Brighton in the Premier League. But he very nearly did not even get his foot on the ladder at all when he was binned at 16 by Southampton.

“I was called for a meeting and got told I wasn’t going to get anything,” White recalled. “My mum Carole took me, and our chat was a little bit quiet on the way home. I didn’t know if I wanted to carry on – it was obviously tough, not being wanted. You don’t really know where you go from there because it is kind of out of your control.

“But I didn’t have a back up. There was nothing else I really wanted to do. So I went to Brighton for a trial against Brentford and that was when I first started playing centre-back. They said afterwards to my mum, ‘we want to offer him a scholarship and we need to know by Tuesday.’”

On the plus side, that early knock-back taught him to deal with criticism – not least when he was singled out by Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher after Arsenal lost to Brentford on his debut for the club.

“Yes, I did see it,” White admitted. “It was the first time I’ve actually been singled out. It’s never a nice feeling, it is not very good, but it just gives me more incentive to go out there and do well.

“Obviously they’ve had amazing careers and hopefully one day I could have something like that. But I’m a big boy. I’ve had criticism the full way through. I’m sure I’ll get it again.

“My mum, though, is a really good one to speak to. If I wanted to, she would always be there to talk to.”



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