Kaylen Hinds interview: Former Arsenal youngster on why he traded hometown club for Wolfsburg and Bundesliga

Joe Hall
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Arsenal v Manchester City: FA Youth Cup Semi-Final Second Leg
Kaylen Hinds followed former Arsenal academy manager Andries Jonker to Wolfsburg (Source: Getty)

In 1983 England striker Luther Blissett traded Watford for a life in the foothills of the Alps when he joined European giants AC Milan.

His impression of the city renowned for its envied art collection, imposing cathedrals and high fashion?

“No matter how much money you have here, you can’t seem to get Rice Krispies,” Blissett reflected.

The oft-repeated quote has come to symbolise the parochialism that is perceived to have put off English footballers from even contemplating, let alone making a success of, a move overseas.

Transfers abroad came to be the preserve of only the English game’s very best: Glenn Hoddle at Monaco, Gary Lineker at Barcelona, David Beckham or Laurie Cunningham at Real Madrid.

This summer, however, 12 young Englishman have already hopped across the channel to seek new opportunities in Europe – six of them on permanent deals.

Read more: Southampton and Leeds United named best academies in English football for producing high earning players

Islington-raised Kaylen Hinds, for example, gave up a position that would make most fellow teenage boys in the borough green with envy when he traded a place on Arsenal’s books for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.

The 19-year-old, who has 10 goals in 15 appearances for England in various youth levels, was persuaded to up sticks by a familiar face in manager Andries Jonker, who left his position as Arsenal’s academy manager at the end of last season for the Wolfsburg hotseat.

England v Italy: U17 International
Hinds has scored 10 goals in 15 appearances for England age group teams (Source: Getty)

Having seen Hinds star for Arsenal’s development teams during his two-year tenure overseeing their youth set-up, Jonker convinced Hinds – and the Dutch coach's No2, Freddie Ljungberg – to join him.

“He [Jonker] knows how I play and wants me to improve on both the things I’m good at and the things I’m not so good at,” Hinds told City A.M.

“At Arsenal he always had my back, he’s always looked on improving me. Coming here and working with him is a good thing for me.”

Hinds may be the only Arsenal player to follow Jonker to his next destination, but he wasn’t the only teenager to head for the exit door this summer.

Read more: Arsenal and Manchester United academies best in the Premier League for graduates playing in the first team

Fellow 19-year-olds Dan Crowley and Chris Willock left on permanent deals for Willem II in the Dutch Eredivisie and Portuguese champions Benfica respectively.

Player Age From To Country Fee
Chris Willock 19 Arsenal Benfica Portugal Free
Kaylen Hinds 19 Arsenal Wolfsburg Germany £2m
Dan Crowley 19 Arsenal Willem II Holland Undisc.
Reece Oxford 18 West Ham Borussia Monchengladbach Germany Loan
George Dobson 19 West Ham Sparta Rotterdam Holland Undisc.
James Horsfield 21 Man City NAC Breda Holland Undisc.
Isaac Buckley-Richards 19 Man City FC Twente Holland Loan
Todd Kane 23 Chelsea FC Groningen Holland Loan
Charlie Colkett 20 Chelsea Vitesse Holland Loan
Mukhtar Ali 19 Chelsea Vitesse Holland Undisc.
Fankaty Dabo 21 Chelsea Vitesse Holland Loan
Mason Mount 18 Chelsea Vitesse Holland Loan

Elsewhere, 19-year-old George Dobson traded boyhood club West Ham for Sparta Rotterdam, while 21-year-old James Horsfield similarly opted to leave Manchester City on a permanent basis by joining NAC Breda.

“I’ve noticed it,” says Hinds when asked about his fellow English youngsters moving abroad.

“I think it’s a good move for us because other foreigners come to England, so now it’s our chance to go over there and prove what we can do.”

According to a Uefa study published earlier this year, the Premier League features the highest percentage of foreign players — 69.2 per cent — of any division in Europe. In the Bundesliga, Hinds is in the minority as a foreign player with the same Uefa report finding 51 per cent of players in the division hailing from Germany.

Furthermore, a report from the CIES Football Observatory found that in the opening months of the season, just four clubs gave over half of the available minutes game time to home-grown players. For top clubs it was less than a quarter — Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea gave 23 per cent, 17 per cent and 16 per cent of minutes to home-grown players.

Even the most confident young English players are having to reckon with the fact that opportunities are dwindling in the Premier League.

“Yeah, that was in my mind,” says Hinds. “As a young player I can get good experience in the Bundesliga.

“I think playing in a different country, in a different style will improve my game. It will be good experience. I’ve played in the Youth Premier League but that’s been more building my game. Whereas in the Bundesliga you’re fighting against top teams.”

After largely being limited to lining alongside players his own age, Hinds is now linking up with seasoned luminaries such as Germany striker Mario Gomez.

“Gomez is a big player," says the teenager. "I’m learning off him and hopefully one day I’ll be like him.”

An international goalscorer with a Champions League winners’ medal? Perhaps missing out on Rice Krispies is a price worth paying after all.

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