Kolo Toure is a well-known former professional footballer who played for some of the top teams in England.
After first arriving in England in 2002, Toure played for Arsenal, before going on to Manchester City and Liverpool – in the process picking up a slew of titles.
But prior to Toure’s heights, he was initially a fresh-faced footballer aiming to impress whilst on trial at Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side.
In this article, we recall a well-known tale of what happened during Toure’s trial, where he certainly left his mark on his future club.
Toure on trial
The story of Toure’s trial is a hilarious one, which was later recalled on talkSPORT by Ray Parlour – an Arsenal veteran.
Setting the scene, Parlour began the story by saying that Arsene Wenger would set up a game for any triallists coming through.
Toure had the unenviable task of coping with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp – two all-time Premier League and Arsenal greats. This was the ultimate challenge for any world-class defender, let alone a 20-year-old triallist like Toure.
Toure leaves his mark
Parloir said that within minutes of the start of the match, the ball was rolled into Henry, when Toure out of nowhere “smashed him from behind” in a “terrible, two-footed tackle that would be a red card in a normal game”.
With Henry rolling around in pain, an incensed Wenger shouted to Toure and asked “what are you doing” – instead telling him to stand his ground, rather than launch himself into tackles.
Toure apologised. But on the next attack, Parlour recalled that Bergkamp received the ball and exactly the same thing happened, with Toure lunging in two-footed.
Parlour said the players “were thinking this is unbelievable”, with their two best players left in agony by a young kid. Indeed, Parlour said that it was as if Toure had been “working for someone else” – such was the way he was taking out key players.
Wenger then said “no more tackling” to Toure – seemingly afraid that further injuries were on the way.
Toure initially seemed to take this on board, with Parlour saying that when the next ball came in, Toure made a great tackle and read it perfectly.
However, this wouldn’t last. The ball went up in the air, and with Toure keeping his eyes on the ball the whole way, he went to attack the ball. Yet to the horror of all, manager Wenger was standing exactly where the ball landed, and Toure, in the words of Parlour, “two-footed Arsene Wenger”.
The players reacted in horror. Parlour recalled that Toure was almost in tears – believing that he had blown his chance.
Wenger takes a chance on Toure
Parlour said later about how he went into the medical room to speak to the club’s senior physiotherapist Gary Lewin, and that “Wenger was sat there with a big ice pack on his ankle”.
Pleading the case of Toure, Parlour said how he said to Wenger that “boss, I don’t think he meant to kick you like that”.
Wenger, despite a bulging bruise on his anke, apparently said to Parlour “I know he didn’t mean it, I like his desire and we will sign him tomorrow.” Wenger later praised Toure for his “hunger” and “quality.”
A vindicated decision
This was the start of something special – with Toure being an integral part of the Arsenal team up until his 2009 departure. He was part of the incredible “Invincibles” campaign, where Arsenal went the entire season unbeaten on their way to Premier League glory.
Toure would leave Arsenal in 2009 for Manchester City. He won a further league title in 2012. A spell at Liverpool followed, although there was to be no silverware on this occasion.
Toure moved to Celtic in 2016, where he won a league and cup double before retiring on a high in 2017.
Parlour was full of praise for Toure, calling him “a fantastic player” that was “absolutely brilliant when he came in” to the club.
Toure confirmed the truth of Parlour’s account – reasoning that he wanted to “make a statement”, which he certainly did!
Toure has moved into management in recent years. While he so far has not succeeded in management, there is plenty of time to turn this around – just like he did in his original trial.