LIFTING THE LID: With Deadline Day fast approaching, we sat down with Emmanuel Frimpong to hear the inside story behind his last minute move from Arsenal to Barnsley.
“It can be tough moving clubs in January. When you do, I feel like the move isn’t really meant to happen…”
Ahead of another frantic January transfer deadline day, former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong is discussing the pitfalls of a last-minute move mid-season for a player.
“From the club’s point of view, it’s usually only because they are lacking in players that they make the transfer in January (rather than having planned it properly),” Frimpong tells BETDAQ. “I think generally it’s not the ideal time to buy players. For a player like me that was coming from Arsenal and then having to go last-minute to Barnsley at the bottom of the Championship, it was very difficult at the time…”
More specifically, Frimpong is looking back on his own January transfer deadline day move in 2014 from boyhood club Arsenal to Championship strugglers Barnsley.
After coming through the Gunners’ youth system there were high hopes for the midfielder, only for a persistent knee injury to damage his progress at the club. Two-and-a-half years after making his Arsenal debut, Frimpong found himself sealing an 11th hour move to Barnsley to resurrect his career.
“I only found out about the move the day before!” Frimpong recalls. “My agent called me and told me about the proposal to go to Barnsley – and the next day I’d signed. I didn’t have a lot of options at the time so I spoke to the Barnsley manager, who really wanted me to come. He liked me and wanted somebody in to strengthen their midfield, so I felt it was the right opportunity for me at the time.”
Less than a day after finding out about the move, Frimpong was at Barnsley quickly dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to ensure the move was finalised ahead of the looming deadline.
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“At the time I was really stressed about the move and getting it done,” Frimpong says. “I had to travel to Barnsley with my agent on deadline day, but luckily we had enough time to get everything done before the deadline as we’d agreed things quickly the day before.
“I still also had to undergo a medical. It wasn’t a full-on medical like I’d been used to at Arsenal given the timeframe, it was just a quick one! Barnsley knew about my injuries, they knew I’d had an ACL. They just checked my knee, they checked one or two things, like my heart, and everything was fine – so then I was ready to sign!”
Frimpong added: “It was all very rushed but it was the best decision as it would have been difficult to stay at Arsenal for another six months. It was a hard decision for me at the time. Barnsley were struggling, but I just felt that I needed to leave Arsenal to get some games under my belt as Arsene Wenger didn’t fancy me.”
Frimpong, Barnsley and Arsenal had managed to get the deal over the line ahead of the deadline, but it was a bittersweet moment for the Ghana international to leave his boyhood club, where he had become something of a cult hero among the fans.
“I had a great relationship with the fans, even up to today. I still get messages from fans telling me how much they miss me,” Frimpong says.
“I support Arsenal, I’d been there since I was nine years old, so you become part of the club and want them to do well. It was great to play under Arsene Wenger. He was like a father figure and it was an honour to play for him. I had a great experience and everything I have today is because of Arsenal – they gave me the opportunity to play in the first team. In life you obviously have good days and bad days and I wanted to stay longer, but everything happens for a reason and I had to leave.”
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Frimpong added: “There’s so many funny stories from my time there. I remember my first game in the Champions League. I got called into the squad so I got on the bus and Alex Song was there eating chicken nuggets at the back of the bus! Which I thought was strange and weird but it was one of his pre-game arrangements to eat chicken nuggets before games… I thought that was very funny.”
There were less memorable moments at Barnsley, however, with things not going to plan for Frimpong, who was sent off half an hour into his Tykes debut, with the club eventually going on to get relegated that season.
“Barnsley was very difficult,” Frimpong says. “The living arrangements, the club itself, the professionalism. I didn’t have a very good time there. Footballing-wise, I didn’t play well at the time. I was in and out of the team, the club was struggling. I didn’t have a good time there and in the end things just didn’t go according to plan.”
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Eight months after arriving at Barnsley Frimpong had left the club, with spells in Russia, Sweden and Cyprus soon following, before he regrettably had to call time on his career in 2019 due to his injury problems.
“The injuries were very frustrating as I was picking them up when I was doing really well. Nobody can explain these things,” Frimpong says. “When I look at my friend Jack Wilshere – he’s still young, a very talented player, but injuries have taken their toll on him. Unfortunately, these things happen to certain players. You can’t explain why, but it’s part of life. Sometimes it’s just not supposed to happen.”
Frimpong added: “Looking back, it was sad to leave Arsenal. It was probably the saddest day of my football career because I’d been at Arsenal for so long. I had a good bond with the fans, the fans liked me. I loved being at Arsenal, I loved playing for Arsenal. So it was a difficult decision for me to realise I was never going to play for Arsenal again, but in life you can’t have something forever.
“I was never going to stay at Arsenal and play there all my life, there was always going to be a time when I had to leave. Leaving was difficult for me mentally. Even up to this day I miss Arsenal. I miss being around the players, I miss being around the club and hopefully one day I can go back.”
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