by Jim Bann*
|CHRIS COFFEY (Junior) has not only returned home to Newry but has also made a welcome return to Newry Showgrounds where, prior to his departure to Arsenal three years ago, he played for both the youth and reserve teams. He was spotted by an Arsenal scout while playing for the Northern Ireland Schoolboys against the Republic of Ireland Schoolboys three years ago and was offered the chance of joining the 'Gunners' as an apprentice.|
Now obviously an offer of that magnitude can be understandably overwhelming for a sixteen year old football crazy youngster but in a very level-headed way he asked for some time to think things over and went off to talk matters over with his family. Those connected with Newry will know Chris Coffey (senior) very well as he was at the Showgrounds for a number of years , being involved firstly with the youth team then as reserve team manager and then of course as coach to the first team. So young Chris was advised by his father and the rest of the family to make up his own mind and he would receive the full support of his family irrespective of what he decided. He decided therefore to sign for Arsenal as an apprentice for two years.
When Chris arrived in London he stayed in 'digs' with a couple in the capital. At Highbury he played for the Arsenal Youth Team in the South East Counties League which he says was of a very high and competitive standard. He trained each day of the week with the youth teams and with the Arsenal first team. They all trained together, there was no segregation. Chris said that the first team players were very friendly towards the younger players but he struck up a good friendship with fellow countryman Stephen Morrow who was a source of great support to him. Of course the scale of everything at Highbury impressed him greatly, it was thoroughly professional in every aspect and in his particular role at the club it was hard work but very enjoyable.
It was with great regret that after his two year apprenticeship had ended he decided to move on. He wasn't discarded by Arsenal and was offered a professional contract but he felt that his chances of first team football in the foreseeable future and beyond were not very good. So he left Highbury and signed for Crewe on a one year professional contract. Crewe is situated about fifteen miles from Stoke in the English midlands and was a far cry from London. The football club, recalled Chris, was the proverbial 'million miles' from Arsenal and needless to say he couldn't settle and when his contract was up he decided to return home.
Soon afterwards he had signed for Newry Town and was back at the Showgrounds. To date during his time with Newry Town he has detected a good positive atmosphere. He's looking forward to playing with what he describes as a good squad of players which he thinks and hopes can win the Irish League First Division. Now the Showgrounds may be a far cry from Highbury but young Coffey would be thrilled if his first season back at Newry Town culminated in promotion to the Irish League Premier Division.
*Source: Talk of the Town 30 July 1997