Where are they now? The search for former Gunners: Week Two – Junichi Inamoto

To start this week, I’d just like to thank everyone for
their support of the site over the past fortnight or so. From our writers to
you guys who frantically smash enter on your keyboard with our name in the URL
every day, everyone has got us off to flying start so thank you for that.

I began this blog last week with a look back at a familiar
name in Kevin Campbell, tracking his career from an Arsenal youth player, to
setting up his own security firm. This week, we have a different kind of player
under the Gunners Town spotlight.

Want a clue? He looked (he might still do) like Slim Shady
from the Far East. Another? Ok, he was a star at the 2002 World Cup. More? Ok
last one, he played a ground-breaking number of matches for the Gunners; four.

That’s right, it’s our former Japanese buzzsaw Junichi
Inamoto.

Who? I’ll tell you.

He flew into Highbury in the summer of 2001, and was one of
the quintuplets of transfer who helped secure us the double that season. I’ll
let you guess the others…

Inamoto was one of
the first high-profile transfer involving Japanese and Premier League clubs at
the start of the century, but his career began back in 1992 when he was picked
up by Gamba Osaka in his last year of high school before turning professional
six years later.

The midfielder spent four years in his homeland, scoring 14
goals in 105 games, before becoming the Premier League and Arsenal’s first-ever
Japanese player in 2001. It’s fair to say that at the time of signing, Gooners
were more ecstatic with the capture of brutal centre-back Sol Campbell from
arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur, as opposed to this nipper; I know I certainly
was.

Saying that, Inamoto was unveiled at the club’s London
Colney training ground, with interest so intense that over 100 media men from
the Far East were there to witness the event; a total which made the televised
unveilings of Campbell and Thierry Henry look small fry. He cost Arsene Wenger
a slender £3.5m that was meant to bank the club around £100m in merchandise
from awe-inspired teens back in Asia.

Even at 21 years old, Inamoto had certainly been around for
long enough to impress Le Prof during Wenger’s days of plying his trade in the
J-League, although Inamoto certainly did his best to stand out from the crowd
with his lightbulb appearance.

Inamoto said: “Blondes
are supposed to stand out and that is why I have my hair this colour. I want to
stand out on the pitch.”

However, that’s about as
bright as things got for Inamoto during his time in North London, even after
his new boss had the following kind words to say about him.

Wenger said: “I have seen a
lot of Inamoto to know that he has the ability to become a very strong player
and a real force in the Premiership.”

Like I said last week,
Wenger, for all the gems he discovers doesn’t half buy and talk some nonsense
as well.

Inamoto began his dazzling
Gunners career with a colossal curtain-raising debut…in the League Cup
against Grimsby Town.

Yes, as you don’t need me to
tell you, he made quite an impact; so much so that he earned a second start in
the next round of the competition in a mouth-watering crunch tie with Blackburn
Rovers.

The Jap would go on to double his total appearances for
Arsenal, turning out in the red and white on another two occasions, both in the
Champions League, including a cameo during that memorable night when we spanked
Bayer Leverkusen 4-1  at Highbury.

However, that was as good as it got for Inamoto as he was
released early on in the summer at the conclusion of our triumphant Premier
League and FA Cup campaign….before going on to become one of the shining
lights at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and Korea; crazy I know. He even
scored this beauty below.

After becoming a small hero for the host nation at the
tournament, Inamoto returned to England when he moved back to London to join up
with Fulham, who decided to take a chance on the player on a long-term loan
deal. He rose like a sun with the Cottagers and bagged a hattrick in one of his
first games for the club during the prestigious Intertoto Cup.

Inamoto, to his credit, made a very good start with Fulham
and became a cult hero at Craven Cottage, becoming known as a defensive-minded midfielder
man with an eye for a wonder goal. He netted against Tottenham Hotspur and
Manchester United during his time there, his time at Fulham came to an abrupt
end after fracturing his tibia during an international friendly against
England.

He eventually recovered from his injury hell and decided
that he was keen on another move to England, joining West Bromwich Albion for
two years for just £200,000. After spending a short period of time with Cardiff
City at the end of his penultimate campaign under the ownership of the Baggies,
Inamoto returned to the Hawthorns to help Albion achieve the great escape in
2006.

Following this feat, Inamoto became the first West Brom
player for 20 years to feature at a World Cup tournament, when he was called up
to the Japan squad for the 2006 spectacle in Germany.

However, he had played his final match in England and was
snapped up by Galatasaray at the end of the competition. He opted to then move
to Eintracht Frankfurt the following year for two seasons, before deciding to join
French-outfit Rennes in 2009.

Inamoto finally made his eagerly-awaited return to Japan in
2010, when he was snapped by Kawasaki Frontale. At the time of writing, Inamoto
currently holds 83 caps for his country, with five goals to boot.

However, who needs a successful football career at Arsenal,
when you can earn a bomb (maybe) being the face of Suzuki!

And now you know.

Matt Cotton

, , ,

2 Responses to Where are they now? The search for former Gunners: Week Two – Junichi Inamoto

  1. plasticspam May 13, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    He was SOOOOOOO poor…..I remember his 2 minute no show against Bayern Leverskeusen…….bought for npthing more than shirt sales

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Where are they now? The search for former Gunners: Week Three – Christopher Wreh 1268 Gunners Town - October 9, 2013

    […] Premier League career at a whole host of clubs. And then last week we rediscovered the tenure of Junichi Inamoto at Highbury and just what on earth went right and wrong for the league’s debuting Japanese […]

Leave a Reply