Hector Bellerin injury ‘big blow’ for Arsenal but Ainsley Maitland-Niles can step up says former Gunner Viv Anderson
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EXCLUSIVE: Former Arsenal, Manchester United and England right-back Viv Anderson has been speaking exclusively to the Islington Gazette’s Gunners reporter Layth Yousif. Read on for what his take on the injury to Hector Bellerin and see our website all this week for much more from the popular Viv – who is taking part in Prostate Cancer UK’s ride to Amsterdam this summer.
Anderson is concerned losing the 23-year-old Bellerin to long-term injury is a ‘big blow’ to Unai Emery’s side – but believes the club can still prosper by promoting young talent Ainsley Maitland-Niles to the role.
Nottingham-born defender Anderson, who represented the North London giants for three years between 1984 and 1987, insisted Maitland-Niles is talented enough to play in the position for the rest of the season.
With Emery revealing earlier this month the financially-challenged Gunners are unable to spend money on buying players during the January transfer window, Anderson – who lifted the 1987 Littlewoods Cup at Wembley for Arsenal under the legendary George Graham – is adamant 21-year-old Maitland-Niles is ready to step up.
Speaking exclusively to the Islington Gazette Anderson said: “It’s big blow. Bellerin has come into a bit of form recently under Emery.
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“I watched the injury, I saw it happen and there was nobody around him, he stretched and I saw him go straight for his knee and I thought the worst because there was nobody around him and no contact. Arsenal will badly miss him.
“I think Emery should give Maitland-Niles the opportunity. He’s played this season so I don’t see why he shouldn’t be given the opportunity.”
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Bellerin, the Barcelona-born right-back, 23, was carried off on a stretcher in the 72nd minute of the Gunners comprehensive victory over their London rivals on Saturday.
The innocuous looking injury happened on his first start for five weeks after picking up a calf injury against Southampton in early December.
However, Anderson thinks Mailtand-Niles has the talent and temperament to grab his chance while saving the cash-strapped club having to splash out in the transfer market should they decide to buy a replacement.
He explained: “I’ve seen Maitland-Niles a couple of times and thought he did quite well so it’s an opportunity for him to get in and make the position his own.
“He’s somebody they can rely upon, I don’t think they should go out and buy another one. I think they should give a chance to a younger lad that’s in and out of the squad.” He added: “But I also think you’ve got other people who can play there if need be.
“You’ve got [Stephan] Lichtsteiner whose got a bit of experience, I think you could mix and match the two, play Lichtsteiner in certain games and Maitland-Niles in others because ones a bit older and ones a bit younger so if you mix and match I think it could work.”
Former Highbury star Viv has been speaking ahead of joining the biggest ride in football this summer, as Prostate Cancer UK’s two-million-pound cycling event returns for a seventh year.
The former Nottingham Forest, Arsenal, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Middlesborough defender, who was England’s first black senior international, will saddle up for a fourth time in Prostate Cancer UK’s annual Football to Amsterdam bike ride from June 7 to 9, 2019.
The 62-year-old will pedal from a stadium he knows all too well: Oakwell, the home of Barnsley FC – a side he played for and later went on to manage in 1993 – and finish the 145-mile challenge at Ajax’s Johan Cruijff Arena.
Starting out as a charity challenge with 35 riders in 2013, the Football to Amsterdam bike ride from Prostate Cancer UK smashed an incredible £2 million cumulative fundraising landmark in June 2018, as 400 riders tackled 145 miles to stop prostate cancer being a killer.
Anderson, who has raised more than £6,600 for Prostate Cancer UK and cycled 435 miles over his three bike rides so far, is also one of the charity’s ambassadors for its Stronger Knowing More campaign, which aims to raise awareness of black men’s increased risk of prostate cancer.
While one in eight men will be affected by prostate cancer in their lifetime, that risk heightens to one in four for black men and Anderson, who was the first black man to play for England 40 years ago, is keen to hammer home the message about the most common cancer in men – on and off the bike.
He said: “Football to Amsterdam is a terrific weekend full of camaraderie and laughs, and I’m delighted to be taking part for a fourth year for Prostate Cancer UK in June 2019.
“I’ve been a supporter of Prostate Cancer UK for many years and as a black man, over the age of 60, I’m extremely aware of my increased risk of the disease.
“Despite my friends being of a similar age, ‘health’ is not a subject that tends to come up in conversation. I think we feel too embarrassed to talk about ourselves and so we avoid the subject all together.
“But prostate cancer is something that all men need to be aware of – especially black men. I want to spend as much time as I can with my children and so my health is incredibly important to me. Being aware of your risk of prostate cancer and confronting it could save your life.
“It reinforces why Prostate Cancer UK’s work, and events like Football to Amsterdam, are so important in the fight against this terrible disease.”
Andy Sallnow, Head of Events at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “For the first time, the number of men dying from prostate cancer every year has overtaken the number of women dying from breast cancer, making prostate cancer the third biggest cancer killer in the UK.
“That’s why it’s so important that events like Football to Amsterdam continue to gather momentum and we’re delighted that Viv will again take part and raise vital funds for Prostate Cancer UK.
“One man dies every 45 minutes from prostate cancer, that’s two men during a football match which is simply unacceptable. We need to turn the game around for men and their families and Football to Amsterdam is a brilliant demonstration of fans putting their rivalries aside to fight one common opposition.
“Thanks to the money raised by Viv and the 550 riders taking part, we can fund more ground-breaking research, and it will also help us provide dedicated support and information to men and their families and make prostate cancer a disease the next generation of men need not fear.”
Many people are unaware that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. One man will die from prostate cancer every 45 minutes in the UK. That’s over 11,000 men a year.
For more information about taking part in the 2019 ride, go to prostatecanceruk.org/amsterdam or contact the cycling team by calling 020 3310 7034 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By signing up before Friday February 15, riders can get a £25 discount off the registration fee by entering code TRANSFER25.
To sponsor Viv, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/viv-anderson5.