Ben White: England snub shines light on Arsenal 'warrior' loved in north London

Ben White: England snub shines light on Arsenal 'warrior' loved in north London

For a man who does not crave attention, Ben White had to contend with spending time in the spotlight on Thursday.

The day began with news of his new four-year contract at Arsenal, but that was swiftly overtaken by the revelation the defender has made himself unavailable for England.

White has not played for his country since leaving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to “personal reasons”, and last week Arsenal’s sporting director, Edu, contacted the FA’s technical director, John McDermott, to inform him the 26-year-old did not want to be called up ahead of this month’s friendlies with Brazil and Belgium.

No one has ever disclosed what happened in Qatar, but Gareth Southgate was quick to stress there was no issue between White and his assistant, Steve Holland, amid reports of a bust-up during the World Cup.

Plenty of people will have their opinions on White, but at Arsenal he is regarded as one of the most professional players in the squad.

As part of a video for his contract announcement, White’s team-mates were asked to describe him and they repeatedly said: “Warrior.”

Ben White left England’s World Cup squad due to personal reasons (AP)
Ben White left England’s World Cup squad due to personal reasons (AP)

The word “mysterious” was also used, though, and many today will be asking: who is the real Ben White? “He’s one of the guys who cares the most about the team, about his team-mates,” says Gunners captain Martin Odegaard.

White is extremely competitive and manager Mikel Arteta has described him as someone who “trains like he’s playing the Champions League Final”.

Arsenal’s coaching staff view White as a fighter and some believe that is partly born out of his childhood, where he battled a string of illnesses and was in and out of hospital.

There is a common misconception that White does not like football. The truth is he does not like watching football, but he loves playing it.

He has been known to mask injuries in training so he can play at the weekend. That was the case in November, when Arsenal were due to play Burnley, but staff spotted that White was not 100 per cent and he was left out of the squad.

White is an intense character when training and playing, but away from the pitch he is relaxed. You will not find him watching football on television. In fact, he does not watch much television at all.

Instead, White likes to spend his time walking his dogs. He is a dog-lover and for the interview he did for his contract announcement, he conducted it while walking Arsenal’s club dog, Win, around the training ground.

As well as walking his dogs, White likes playing games with his wife, Milly; Uno is one of their favourites. He enjoys being active and, when he was playing at Brighton, he took up surfing.

That could, perhaps, explain what happened in Qatar. Given what we know about White, the idea of him not playing and spending much of his spare time watching football does not sound like a match made in heaven.

Until the reasons behind White’s England exile are revealed, people will continue to have a view on the defender.

White, however, will focus on what those at Arsenal think, and as part of his contract announcement yesterday, he was shown the video of what his team-mates said about him.

“If your team-mates are saying it and the manager as well, that’s all that matters,” said White. “Everyone’s going to have an opinion on everything that you do daily, so I think they’re the most important ones that you need.”