‘It was a bit scary’ – Arsenal’s Ben White recalls pre-match curries and half-time brawls en route to England

BEN WHITE has been hardened for the Premier League with pre-game curries and smacks in the dressing room.

Although it seemed at the time that Pilau was the only rice he would come close to, the defender has proven to be a £50m success at Arsenal after moving from Brighton in the summer.

Ben White joined Arsenal for £50million in the summer


Ben White joined Arsenal for £50million in the summerCredit: REX FEATURES
The central defender played for Newport County as a youth


The central defender played for Newport County as a youthCredit: GETTY

White, who is preparing for tomorrow’s sell-out friendly against Switzerland at Wembley Stadium, is certain to now be a player as well as an integral part of Gareth Southgate’s squad West Ham star Declan Rice on the way to the World Cup in Qatar.

The centre-back left the comfortable surroundings of Brighton’s academy during the 2017/18 season for a year-long loan at League Two’s Newport.

After being outsourced to Peterborough and Leeds, aged 24 White played on the south coast last season and has now become an integral part of Mikel Arteta’s side at the Emirates.

White smiled when asked about life in Wales, explaining: “I don’t think I ever thought about playing for England at the time.

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“I just thought I have to be good enough to play in the second division.

“I think I’ve managed to prove every year that I’m good enough to play at the level I played at.

“Newport was one of the best years of my life.

“I went from an academy where everything is beautiful and you have everything you want – and then you go there and everything is very different.


“You eat a curry for your pre-game meal.

“Everything was very different from what I knew at the academy.

“In my first game there was a tussle at half-time – between our own players in our own dressing room.

“It was a bit scary, to be fair. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, that’s clear.

White says Mark O'Brien got me


White says Mark O’Brien “helped me massively” despite taking his place on Newport’s teamCredit: REX FEATURES

“I think that happens in every dressing room. We are all very passionate about this game and nobody wants to lose.

“There was a player in Newport called Mark O’Brien. I actually took his place. I played all season and he was always on the bench.

“But he was the best man you could have and he helped me massively even though I took his place on the team.”

Returning to the topic of curry, which is very unusual to say the least, White added: “I think when you play in these leagues you see what you should be doing and probably things you shouldn’t be doing to get onto those.” next level.

White in action against Tottenham's son


White in action against Tottenham’s sonCredit: GETTY

“In England, pasta is all I have, really.”

Would he suggest Southgate a madras or a bhuna for the Three Lions before a game?

White, a quiet and thoughtful boy, grinned and said, “I’m not sure he’d like that very much.”

The defender played for England at Euro 2020 Warm-up games against Austria and Romania last June, but despite being in the squad, he didn’t make it to the tournament.

White featured in England's warm-up games for Euro 2020


White featured in England’s warm-up games for Euro 2020Credit: GETTY

Southgate also failed to pick the player, who was sacked by Southampton as a youngster, for any of their World Cup qualifiers during the three international windows earlier in the season.

But his Arsenal form made him a certificate for the two Wembley games against the Swiss on Saturday and then against the Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

White added: “The re-appointment shows that what I’ve done this season is really paying off.

“The last time I was called up I was straight into a tournament so it’s a really nice feeling to come back in and be back.”

White after England's Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy


White after England’s Euro 2020 final defeat by ItalyCredit: GETTY

In a season that is proving encouraging for the Gunners, White has led by example with a series of safe performances after a difficult start.

Arsenal lost their first three Prem games there 9-0 on aggregate, starting with a 2-0 opening-day loss to newcomers Brentford and ending with a 5-0 win over Manchester City.

White admitted: “I didn’t really have any expectations for the course of the season.

“I was at a new club and I wanted to start well, but that didn’t happen.

White's Arsenal career got off to a bad start against Brentford


White’s Arsenal career got off to a bad start against BrentfordCredit: GETTY

“I’m going from game to game and playing the best I can for Arsenal and will see what happens with England.

“If you don’t play well, it’s a big problem for everyone, but there are much bigger problems in the world.

“As long as my family is safe and everyone is healthy, that’s a much bigger problem than not playing so well.”

When asked if there are similarities between Arsenal and England in terms of a young, dynamic squad, White agreed.

White wants to book his seat on the plane to Qatar for this November


White wants to book his seat on the plane to Qatar for this NovemberCredit: GETTY

He added: “Definitely. Before you go anywhere it’s like a new school and you don’t know what they’re going to be like.

“As soon as I came to Arsenal it felt like home and it was so easy to get to know everyone. I felt so welcome.

“It’s the same here. You don’t have to worry about anything else. You just do your best.” ‘It was a bit scary’ – Arsenal’s Ben White recalls pre-match curries and half-time brawls en route to England


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