Inside Hale End – What an Arsenal Film!

“Inside Hale End”, one of the best sport documentaries I’ve ever seen!

“Style and Content”

As an Arsenal fan, never more proud of the club he supports than on the days when yet another Hale End graduate finally makes it to the first-team’s starting XI, there was very little chance such a film would put me off, but the first thing that blew me away was the purely “cinematographic” quality of it.

The film-makers have built up a thrilling narrative, alternating between interviews (coaches, players, parents, …), sequences of games magnified by the voice-over, subtle strokes of personal information about the characters – the kids – which make us empathize with them, elegant moments when we are made to feel the first-team’s managers/players’ presence, as a dream so real for the kids you understand they’d never want to wake up from it, something so close they can touch it, and yet so far away it might end up vanishing as suddenly as a mirage in a desert, for those who will be left behind. These film-makers are also shrewd story-tellers, who bring us along with them to the end and/or beginning of all proper teenage-movie – Graduation Day, and I’m pretty sure they had the “genre” in mind, when they wrote and filmed the documentary.

They must have taken all the time needed for a proper prep work too, since they obviously ended up making the presence of the camera forgotten enough, so much so that none of the people in the film looks like acting; on the contrary, all of them feel confident, relaxed … true.

“The adults”

I have to admit what role Per played in the club wasn’t exactly clear to me – I didn’t spend too much time searching, tbh. After watching this, you understand how central he actually is. He’s the heart of the club, pumping new, refreshed and cleansed blood out of the arteries of Hale End into the veins and tissues of Colney, and he does it in both a very “Germanic”, professional, and yet so humane way, with the help of Chris Thurston, the “Academy Player Care Manager”.

The central characters are our wonderkids, of course, but to me the heroes are the coaches, the two “Adam”, Birchall (U16) and Pilling (U15). For someone who played at a decent level in one of the (bullied by coaches – with a few exceptions) 1970’s youth teams of a professional club, the way they deal with these extraordinarily-gifted kids is jaw-dropping. No shouting, no obsession with results, always a smile on their faces, always a personal, gentle word ready for the lad who is about to “lose it” in one way or another. You can feel the love they have for each and every one of the boys, but also for the beautiful game, after all these years – to me, the most exhilarating illustration of this was when Steve Leonard’s finding, Maldini Kacurri, had his trial, and the beaming smile Birchall had on his face when he realized what a proper, no bullshit defender Steve had gifted him with. At the end of the film, you feel like buying them “1 or 3” rounds, just to football-chat the night away with them.

That’s the former teacher speaking now, but I also wanted to tip my hat to the way they remain (oh, so) demanding – repeating, insisting on, the knowledge, the survival-kit skills the kids will need in the jungle of professional football. They do so without over-complicating things, they control their speeches in order for them to picture out only positive thoughts in the minds of the boys, and if – very rarely – failure is evoked, they always take the precaution to remind the youngsters that not achieving success in football won’t be what will define them; on the contrary what’ll define them will be the hard work they put in, and how they’ve been improved by it. Hats off to them, really.

The parents are given the recognition they deserve; we all know it, but the film highlights how important their support is for a boy to make it all the way to Colney. Whether they be Luis Brown’s, Alexei Rojas’s, or Romari Forde’s parents, you end up in bewildered awe of their dedication to the happiness – not the success at any cost – of their kids.

“The boys”

What to say? Their talent is mesmerizing; I think it’s great the film-makers chose to edit out the showy stuff they must have witnessed in training sessions, and to have us focused on the images of what the lads can deliver in competitive games – some of their opponents catch the eye as well, some Everton boys in particular. They’re so gifted you can’t help wondering what it is they lack not to make it to top-level, but you always feel that way after watching this kind of film; after all that’s what the “originator” (“Hoop Dreams”) of this “genre” was all about.

Eventually, “IHA” might go down in history as the first time when the talent of Ethan Nwaneri was brought into light, but – mark my words – we might hear of Myles Lewis-Kelly sooner than later, too.

All of them are so mature, talented, funny, … intelligent too, that thinking so few will eventually fulfill their Arsenal dream, is truly heartbreaking; but one thing you know for sure is each and every one of them will always be Arsenal through-and-through.

What a film.

By Le Gall

37 thoughts on “Inside Hale End – What an Arsenal Film!

  • Wow, Le Gall this is a beautiful and passionate read. I must go and watch it soon.

    I am glad I asked you to write something about it as your writing skills are fabulous.

    Good to hear Per is making a real impact behind the scenes, and that he is being helped by great people.

  • Wow I never see anything interesting on the .com always fluff and publicity pieces. I have to check it out. Also I find it frustrating to navigate the site. It must be me.

  • Must be “you”, Jync. Arsenal has won the most friendly, content driven, easily navigated club site for so many years running. 😂😂

  • Great stuff, LeGall. I shall be sure to finish viewing the film. I did start but couldn’t go through a full episode.

    Happy for Bukayo Saka. He’s deserved it after going through that nasty experience with some irresponsible England fans. This award is the absolute “how d’ya like me now”! Hope it spurs him on to greater things.

  • Thanks a lot, TA
    You posted the link to the “Red Song” the day after I mailed you the text, and I couldn’t help thinking then, how dedicated and supportive yourself and your Mrs. must have been, for your baby girl to have been able to find her own voice like this.

  • That’s true, Kev. All the episodes. It is the ladies’ North London Derby today; a dress rehearsal for the October 1 clash.

    Come on, gals! Take them to the cleaners.

  • Eris, You Tube is also good for watching highlights for the U21’s and U18’s, I saw our 3-1 win at Burnley yesterday, put up on the Burnley website, saw Idaho score two really good goals.

  • Thank you Le Gall. My daughter is a strong self starter and driver but we have always worked hard to provide a safe and involved environment to grow up in.

  • Kieran Tierney seems to have copped another injury, on international duty. He was taken off in the first half of the clash with Eire.

    Partey has returned to London after, reportedly, picking up an injury in training with the Ghana national team.
    Hopefully, for both players, it is only precautionary.

  • LeG, do you know, that if Arsenal had not retained William Saliba (yeah, seems like madness now) but if we’d had a brain fart and sold him to Marseilles that this would have been the first season since 1996 that Arsenal did not have a Frenchman on its books! Mon Dieu….

  • Thanks, Kev!!
    One other thing which isn’t said often enough about Big Bill imo, is that he has been remarkably looked after by the club, that all the right choices (Nice, Marseille) have been made, and that he was made to start for us only when he was in the very best of conditions to do it.
    It’d feel strange indeed not to have at least one “Bleu” in the Arsenal XI, but the thing is the competition has never been fiercer for being the ones who end up signing one (or more) of them. The best examples imo are Tchouameni-Camavinga; they’ll be the “Bleus” engine room for the many years to come – but you can’t put up a fight with Real when they … “Really” want a player. You also have the attacker Mathys Tel, who’s already been lured to Munich after shining in the 2022 U17 Euro which the “Bleuets” won after delivering eye-catching performances.
    Every time I have the opportunity, I try to watch the most promising French youngsters. The most interesting at the moment seem to be Lyon’s right-back Gusto, Monaco’s left-CB Badiashile (who started for France last Thursday, and excelled), PSG’s playmaker Zaïre-Emery (among the U17 Euro winners too), as for Lorient’s 22-y-o midfielder Le Fée he’s so gifted he makes me think of Santi, sometimes, no less.
    Then there are a few older players, for whom making it to Colney would be a big step forward, and who haven’t been abducted by one of the fat cats yet. I like Leipzig’s 24-y-o Nkunku a lot, he can be made to play in any of the 3 positions upfront, technically he’s perfect, he always looks like he has seen everything a fraction of seconds before everyone else. Another favourite of mine is Rennes’s 25-y-o Terrier, he’s at his best when used as a right-footed, goal-scoring LW – a bit like Gakpo, actually. One thing I like about him is that he has never stopped improving since he started for Lille in Ligue 1 six years ago – he must be a hell of a hard worker. Both Nkunku and Terrier can be lethal, cold-blooded goal-scorers – I think it was the great Johan C. who used to say “a goalless attacker is like a sunless summer day” – (or something approaching), correct me if I’m wrong, TA.
    Well, Edu Gaspar, if you read this … but let’s not forget the wonderkids we have in store at Colney, and … Hale End, as well as on loan – finding better players than Charlie P., Folarin, Walters, Cozier-Duberry, Lewis-Kelly, Sousa, … Nwaneri of course won’t be an easy task indeed, or so I think anyway.

  • LeG, Arsene gave Arsenal a definite head start back in the late 90’s with his knowledge of the French market and those talented Frenchies who would blossom in the English game, it made Arsenal arguably the 2nd team of every French Le Foot fan.

    French players, well a lot of them, wanted to play for Wenger, to live in London and experience what Patrick, Bobby and Thierry we’re experiencing, but that was a long time ago and although I’m sure that Arsenal are still viewed fondly by the top French players, we are no longer choice numbre un.

  • There has been a change for sure at Arsenal, not deliberate I’m sure just circumstantial andwe are now less Gallic and more Latino. Edu’s knowledge of the Brazilian and Portuguese market mirrors Arsene and his French connection. There was amazing value in the French market 25 years ago but not anymore and Arsenal have to shop very sensibly these days after a succession of expensive mistakes. I’m all for the current policy of value for money allied to a certain age profile an£ then as you rightly say we have our Hale Enders, that’s the future, build from within I& the quality is there.

  • Good comments from the two channel BKers.

    Le Gall, I didn’t know that Cruijff quote, but it sounds like him. I think this goes in particular for Martinelli. That boy needs sunshine.

  • Thanks for the excellent post, LG, I’m halfway thru the Hale End doco and do appreciate you bringing it to our attention. The academy looks a great set up with a healthy balance of the professional and the pastoral. I appreciated Per’s words about why Arsene signed Mikel and himself on the same day, to bring mature leadership to the player group. I remember that transfer window as one of Arsene’s best (and he had some good ones). When we look at the present benefits of Per and Mikel’s involvement with the club we can appreciate more deeply the great mans legacy.
    I tend to steer clear of fly on the wall productions as I find they can be a little too voyeuristic. I have yet to watch the Amazon doco, as I have a, perhaps, old fashioned sentiment that what is said in the changing room should remain there.
    In saying that I was very moved by the scene in the Hale End series where the father has his capacity for speech sealed up due to his loving pride of his sons achievements. The great dream of my young life was to play for Arsenal. As a ten year old in 1971 I wrote to the club from my home in New Zealand asking how I could achieve this. I received a very kind reply with an enclosed booklet entitled “Heading for Arsenal”. It had black and white photos of various personalities from the club at the time, Denis Hill Wood, Bertie Mee, Fred Street, players… I don’t know what happened to my copy, lost somewhere in the passage of life. But the dream has never been lost. Even at 62 I am still ready for the call…

  • Watch out for Jesper Lindstrom if he enter the fray, he looks a really interesting player with a hint of the Tomas Rosicky’s about him.

  • I started watching seconds before the 1st goal (I watched the Amsterdam game before, but it was a little bit too uneventful for me, and Gakpo-Malacia-De Ligt on the bench I don’t really get)
    It looks like one of France’s bumpiest ride in years indeed

  • Le gall it’s indeed a good documentary. I am watching it from yesterday and have finished two episodes. Nice article

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