Joe Willock admits leaving Arsenal 'hurt'

Joe Willock admits that his departure from Arsenal ‘hurt’ and stresses that he ‘didn’t feel valued any more’ by the Gunners before his permanent switch to Newcastle

  • Joe Willock says that his permanent departure from Arsenal in 2021 ‘hurt’
  • The Arsenal academy product admitted he ‘didn’t feel valued’ by the club 
  • Willock has established himself as an important player for Newcastle this term

Joe Willock has revealed that leaving Arsenal ‘hurt’ and has admitted he was unsure over whether to join Newcastle permanently in 2021.

Willock joined Arsenal’s academy at the age of four and went on to make 78 senior appearances for the club.

However, he joined Newcastle on loan in January 2021 and made a major impact, scoring eight times in 14 games.  

That led to a permanent departure for the midfielder, who is now a key player for the Magpies. 

Willock told The Telegraph: ‘I remember that summer going back to Arsenal and I didn’t know what to do. I’d enjoyed the loan but to make it permanent was a big call. 

Joe Willock has revealed that his permanent departure from Arsenal in August 2021 ‘hurt’

Willock joined Arsenal aged four and progressed through the ranks to reach the first-team

‘I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave Arsenal. I probably thought I was going to go back and things would be the same. I’d be working to break into the first team again and everything would be familiar and comfortable.’

Willock revealed that Steve Bruce, who managed Newcastle at the time, was influential in helping him decide to make the permanent switch to St James’ Park. 

He said: ‘When the talk of a permanent move started I wasn’t sure, you know. The fans probably made that decision easier but also Steve Bruce. 

‘He really fought to bring me here, he was great for me. We had loads of conversations on the phone that summer. I wasn’t valued at Arsenal, that became clear.

‘When I had a meeting with them, it was obvious they wanted me to go. Yeah, it hurt. I would probably have drifted for another year had I stayed. I’d been there since I was four-and-a-half years old. I’d given my life to Arsenal. 

‘At that meeting it just felt like my time was up. I didn’t feel valued anymore and that was it, I was going to sign for Newcastle after that.’

Willock’s decision to sign for Newcastle permanently has certainly been justified, with the 23-year-old having thrived under the guidance of Eddie Howe.

With Newcastle in third place in the Premier League, there is a possibility that Willock could be playing in the Champions League next season, while if he continues to make impressive progress then a first senior England call-up may not be too far away.

Willock celebrates Arsenal’s FA Cup success in 2020 with Bukayo Saka (left), Eddie Nketiah (second right) and Reiss Nelson (right)

Although he faced a tough decision to leave, Willock’s move to Newcastle has been justified

The midfielder says Steve Bruce, who was Newcastle boss at the time, convinced him to join 

Willock also discussed the difficulty of leaving Arsenal and London behind after such a long time at the club. 

He said: ‘At the time, it was overwhelming. Leaving London, leaving Arsenal and coming into the unknown really, it was hard but it was the right time. I’d never been this far north before, I’d never visited Newcastle. 

‘I was also joining a team that was fighting relegation. It was all new to me. It was a tough experience, because I’d been so sheltered at Arsenal. But it was also an amazing one. 

Willock faced his former club last weekend and made some dangerous runs, but Arsenal ended up winning 2-0. 

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