Former Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo has not had it easy when it comes to his 11-year career as a professional footballer.
Rarely part of Arsene Wenger’s plans at Arsenal, the 28-year-old Frenchman is hoping his time at Huddersfield Town proves to be more fruitful than his four years in the capital.
Stemming from the same Paris-based youth team that once boasted Thierry Henry, many of the Arsenal faithful had high hopes for Sanogo when he was recruited by Wenger in 2013. Unfortunately, 21 appearances, two goals and three loan spells later – Arsenal called time on his stay, allowing the forward to return to France with Ligue 2 outfit Toulouse in 2017.
But 16 goals in 70 appearances for Toulouse was enough to attract the interest of Championship side Huddersfield Town, with the Terriers signing him earlier this year to allow Sanogo to fulfil his dreams of returning to England.
Speaking exclusively to YorkshireLive, Sanogo explained why he wanted to make the trip across the Channel again.
“Many clubs wanted me, but my goal was to come back to England,” he said.
“I think England is the best league in the world. The intensity of the league is very high if you compare it to other leagues.”
Sanogo is not shy in admitting he was a man in demand in the summer, but was keen to bide his time until the right project presented itself as he spent the first half of the season without a club.
But he explained how traits such as optimism and motivation are important for any free-agent.
Sanogo said: “In that situation the most important thing is to stay healthy and stay fit.
“You need to stay very strong in your head because you don’t know when a club might phone and say ‘we want you to sign’.
“You need to keep going, keep working hard for yourself. If you train by yourself you need to work hard, if you’re working with a club you need to stay fit. That’s hard for all of the players in this situation.”
Much of Sanogo’s career has been blighted with hardship and overcoming struggles, after his career was jeopardised as early as 17 when he broke his leg playing for Auxerre.
“When I was very young, at 17, I broke my leg. Some defender kicked my leg and it stunted my progression. When you have been injured very young it’s hard because you have lost some time, especially at that age – between 17 and 20 you learn so quickly, so you lose a lot if you’re out for a year or two.
“After two years out, I started playing and scoring again and went to Arsenal, but you know, in the head, that situation was hard. You forget about everything because you need to take care of yourself, you know?
“When I had the surgery the doctor who did it said to me ‘you need to stop football because of the state of your leg’. He said it would be hard to come back and play at a high level. I said to him ‘we will see’, and he said he didn’t know how long it would take for me to back on the pitch but he wasn’t positive. But I said ‘yeah, we will see’.
“I knew in my head that it would always be hard. It stopped my progression and my progression was high.
“It stops everything. It stopped everything. The game is like that, you know.
“When I came back, I signed for Arsenal because I believed in myself, but the doctor said to me it was very serious because when you get injured at that age it’s very hard.
“The doctor said to me ‘everything will change’. It changes your body, your posture. But I came back and I kept working hard and that’s my mentality.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries in my past, but now that is the past. My past is my past, and it’s happened. Some players have injuries and they come back, and that was my mentality: come back, work hard, believe in yourself and you’ll see the effort you put in every day. That’s my mentality and I’m strong in my head.
“I don’t know if anybody knows about these injuries [in England] because it was in France and I never explained it to anybody.”
Though at the time of his arrival at Arsenal he had just been part of a triumphant France Under-20’s side who had won the World Cup, he struggled to make the grade for a side vying for Champions League football every season.
But Sanogo admits that he still looks back at his time with the Gunners fondly.
“I still look for their results every week, I don’t know many of the current squad. Most of the ones I played with have left I think. I know Hector Bellerin, and then after that it’s young players like [Eddie] Nketiah and [Joe] Willock – they were young when I was there.”
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Sanogo is now fully focused on his duties as a Huddersfield Town player though, conceding he is desperate for minutes at his new side.
He was quick to dampen any claims he may be playing with something to prove to his critics though.
“I want to prove to myself and work hard,” he said.
“When you work hard and keep it going everything will be good. When you work hard, you will see the results of your effort.”