Ben White arrived in Newport County in August 2017 with only two professional appearances under his belt and a point to prove. The adolescent centre-back, who has now gone on to become an England international and a £50 million Arsenal transfer, was thrown into the deep end.
“The manager was telling us that we had a young lad coming in who was going to be the next big thing,” says Mark O’Brien, the former Newport defender. “We had high enough expectations for him, but you don’t know how someone’s going to react to League Two when they’re only a youngster.
In the EFL Cup, he made his debut against Southend United. Theo Robinson and Simon Cox formed a streetwise attack combo, but White remained unfazed as Newport won 2-0. He was an automatic starter for Michael Flynn’s team after that.
“You could trust him,” says O’Brien. “Normally, you feel like you have to coach young lads through games and speak to them a lot. But he grew and grew the more he played and started to showcase what he was all about. Ben looked after himself. He became a very good team-mate and a very good friend.”
The Brighton loanee made 51 appearances in all competitions as the Exiles finished in the top half of the table after narrowly avoiding relegation the previous season. He earned multiple Player of the Year accolades, and his character as well as his abilities impressed the judges.
As Newport reached the FA Cup fourth round, White’s name was developing, aided by the exposure he gained for solid displays against Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur. In high-pressure circumstances, he handled Harry Kane and Fernando Llorente admirably.
Source: BBC Sport