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Kido Taylor-Hart: Arsenal's 'extraordinary' teenager out to impress Arteta after injury lay-off

09:00 BST 13/04/2022
Kido Taylor-Hart Arsenal
The 19-year-old attacker is hopeful of breaking into the first-team squad after his impressive start to the season was halted by a groin issue

Kido Taylor-Hart was a name on everyone’s lips at Arsenal at the start of the season.

The young attacker had just signed his first professional contract with the Gunners, ending speculation about a potential move away amid interest from several clubs across Europe.

And he had celebrated the occasion in perfect style, too, scoring two late goals against Tottenham in August to inspire Arsenal’s Under-23s to come from behind to win a thrilling north London derby.

The 19-year-old looked set to take off, but - as is often the way in football - Taylor-Hart hit a bump in the road just as things appeared to be running smoothly.

First, a formation change by new Arsenal U23s coach Kevin Betsy saw him struggle for a starting spot, and then a groin injury sustained in December saw the winger’s season grind to a halt just as plans were being put in place for what would have been an invaluable learning experience out on loan.

It has been a frustrating period for a youngster, who has lots of admirers behind the scenes at Arsenal, but one he is now ready to bounce back from.

And for those that have been heavily involved in Taylor-Hart’s journey so far, there is a sense that he is now ready to make his mark at the club he has supported since he was a young boy.

"Kido’s a special talent,” Brian Stapleton, the Arsenal scout who spotted the forward while he was playing for local side Focus Football as a seven-year-old, tells GOAL.

“You might not see him much in a game, but then he’ll come out and do something very special.

“That game against Tottenham earlier in the season was the perfect example. He wasn’t outstanding, but then he pulled something out of the bag and won the game with two goals.

“That’s what good players do.”

Taylor-Hart’s Arsenal journey actually started before he was spotted by Stapleton.

At that point, he already had a connection with the club as he had been spending some time playing football at one of the projects run by Arsenal in the Community.

The club’s community scheme was first set up in 1985, with the aim of delivering sport, social and education programmes to children in and around the local area.

One of those initiatives was the Advanced Development Centre, a hub which was set up at Highgate Wood School, which allowed talented inner-city kids to train and work with qualified coaches.

Taylor-Hart spent some time there under the guidance of Rupen Shah, who was the coach in charge of the U8s.

“Kido had just turned seven and was the youngest one there,” Shah recalls when speaking to GOAL. “He was very shy, but I knew that Kido was something extraordinary.

“There was just no-one at that advanced development centre that had the technical proficiency that he had. He was clearly the best in our group.”

Shah had the chance to work with Taylor-Hart for a few months before he suddenly stopped attending the development centre.

The reason being - and this was unbeknown to Shah at that time - was that Taylor-Hart had just been spotted by Stapleton while playing for Focus Football during the weekends.

Stapleton, who has scouted several players for Arsenal - including Charlie Patino and Daniel Ballard - knew straight away that the young forward had something about him.

“Focus Football is run by a guy called Sean Daley, he’s a very good coach,” says Stapleton. “A lot of academy boys come from there because of the level of coaching Sean gives them.

“And I knew how good Kido’s group were, but he stood out above all of the rest.

“Even at that age he was composed, comfortable on the ball and he had good balance about him. He just used to float around the pitch.

“So I spoke to his father, got an understanding going and then took him into Hale End where he would train on a Friday night.”

That was the moment Taylor-Hart’s journey with Arsenal properly began.

He got stronger and stronger as he progressed through the age groups at Hale End, although he admits that his street-football upbringing meant it took him longer to adjust to the academy set-up than the majority of his team-mates.

“Genuinely, it wasn’t until I was 14 that I started to really gain an understanding of tactics and how to approach certain things in game,” he said, during a recent interview withArsenal.com.

“It’s not like I didn’t like football growing up, I just didn’t watch it and love it in the same way that others did. In terms of my technical and physical ability, I was a very raw player and needed coaching.”

Now 19, Taylor-Hart has developed into an exciting talent and has plenty of admirers at Arsenal.

One of those is Mikel Arteta, who regularly enquired about how the winger’s rehabilitation was progressing during his recent four-month injury lay-off.

Taylor-Hart had started becoming a familiar face at first-team training prior to his injury, and now he is back fully fit, it would be no surprise to see Arteta use him more and more at London Colney as the season starts to come towards a close.

“People have forgotten about Kido a little bit while he’s been out,” says Stapleton. “But he’s a great kid and he’ll soon remind everyone what he’s about.

“It’s been a tough few months for him but he’s very grounded and I know he’ll work hard to get back to where he was.

“Hopefully he can push on now and I do believe he will.”