Arsenal signing wins praise from former coach at St Albans school
PUBLISHED: 08:10 04 February 2016 | UPDATED: 08:10 04 February 2016
Arsenal's recent signing of a St Albans schoolboy has not surprised his former coach who reckons his "amazing speed and footwork" will take the teenager far.
Tolaji Bola may have just signed his first professional contract with Arsenal but he has maintained strong links with St Albans School at Abbey Gateway.
According to the club, which has training grounds in London Colney, the 17-year-old defender has impressed with his composure and tough tackling while playing for the Gunners’ under-18s over the past two seasons.
David Forbes-Whitehead, who has coached him at St Albans School at various stages, said: “From an early age, Tolaji’s football skills were evident, and we knew he brought something special to the sport.
“Tolaji had a strong physical ability from the time he joined St Albans School at 11, and it was during one of his first matches for the school that his talent stood out, when he managed to score the winning goal during extra time, displaying amazing speed and footwork.
“Despite his ability and passion for football, Tolaji did not neglect his schoolwork, and always demonstrated a fantastic attitude.”
David said that Tolaji was strong in whatever sport he took part in at school - particularly football - but also athletics and rugby.
He was the Herts district 100m sprint champion for two years running, from the ages of 12-14.
But his physical side showed through in football, and he “stood out as a player as he has an ability to read the game, and knew where he needed to be”.
David said Tolaji’s strengths were his perseverance and determination, adding, “He is very much a team player. Tolaji has an ethos of ‘it isn’t about you, you are only as good as the other members of your team’ - it is a positive ethos.
“He has an ability to lead – Tolaji is a very level-headed, grounded young man.”
Tolaji impressed the school because despite his commitments to Arsenal – he has been with the club since he was an under-nine - he still took part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
He managed both of his expeditions, finishing skill and physical sections as part of his silver DofE, thus almost completing his silver and was just short of getting this award.
David added: “Everyone is really pleased for him, to be offered a professional contract, as so many don’t make the grade, so it is a credit to him, and it is all down to Arsenal [training him].”
The teen, who was also a member of the cadet force, has maintained strong links with St Albans School and is doing his A-level practical PE there.
He was first spotted by Arsenal scouts while playing for his Sunday side Parkfield in Harrow, at a tournament.