Arsenal to say farewell to Wenger
On Saturday 12th October 1996, Burnley travelled to Rotherham United and were beaten 1-0 by the Millers. We got no more than we deserved in what was a dreadful performance from the Clarets, a third defeat in four games that left supporters, those still inside the ground at the end of the game, calling for the head of manager Adrian Heath.
For the record, our team that day was: Marlon Beresford, Gary Parkinson, Gerry Harrison, Vince Overson, Mark Winstanley, David Eyres, Damian Matthew, Nigel Gleghorn, Paul Smith, Paul Barnes, Kurt Nogan.
It wasn’t a good day for East Lancashire clubs. Blackburn Rovers were also beaten. They lost 2-0 at home against Arsenal with both goals scored by future Claret Ian Wright, but that day was a significant one for Arsenal who were under new management.
This was Arsène Wenger’s first game in charge of Arsenal and who could have ever thought this most unlikely of football managers would still be in charge all these years later. He’s for some time been the longest serving manager in English football, almost five years to be exact since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at Manchester United, but his time is up at the Emirates. The breaking news yesterday was so dramatic my phone almost took off with the number of alerts I received.
I tend to write a short article when any club in our division announces a change of manager. I’ve already done so this season when there have been changes at Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Ham, Everton, Swansea, Stoke, Watford, Southampton and most recently, for a second time this season, at West Brom. Writing a few words to announce the pending departure of Wenger just doesn’t seem appropriate.
This is the manager who has introduced some wonderful players into English football over the years, none more so than the likes of Patrick Vieira, who played in that win at Blackburn, Robert Pires and, of course, Thierry Henry. This is the manager whose team went a whole season without defeat, and in doing so robbed us of that record of having gone 30 top flight games without defeat in one season.
I always wanted to draw Arsenal in the FA Cup so I could see his team play in the flesh. I wanted it to be an away tie prior to their move to the Emirates. I hoped we’d get a final trip to Highbury which had been one of my favourite grounds in my earlier years watching Burnley.
It didn’t happen but less than two years after they moved to the Emirates we did draw them in the FA Cup. It was at Turf Moor when they beat us 2-0 and their style of play blew me away. In the following season we played them in both competitions. We beat them 2-0, again at home, in the League Cup but were soundly beaten in the FA Cup at the Emirates. I remember looking round the place and wondering if we’d ever return for a league game. Just one year on and we did; early next month we’ll be playing there in the Premier League for a fourth time.
It will be Wenger’s final home game in charge. We are the chosen ones for this occasion and that pleases our manager Sean Dyche who has always had a good relationship with him, something that certainly isn’t the case with other managers.
Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph yesterday, Dyche said: “He’s a legend of the game. For all the question marks, everyone will reflect on his time there. I’ll be amazed if there’s not documentaries about his time there.”
About our visit, he added: “To have our tiny little piece of it, that is in itself a nice moment to be involved in for such a high profile and legendary manager. He’s always been really open with us to speak to. I’ve heard sometimes he’s not but with us he’s always been open. He invites us in down there, he’s quite inquisitive about our journey here and how we make the finance work and develop players. Likewise he’s been in our managers’ room here which is not always the case.
“It’s interesting when I spoke to him he was as intrigued in us, which at his level of the market was interesting, that he’s still asking me questions about what we do when usually it’s me asking those questions, he’s very open minded about what football is.”
He comes across as stubborn and I didn’t think he would go willingly. That seems to be the case. Suggestions now are that he would have been sacked had he not taken this decision.
Once he’s gone, once a new man is in charge, and good luck to whoever gets landed with replacing him (I don’t think it will be David Moyes or Louis van Gaal), I think his time at Arsenal will be remembered with some affection.
When we pitch up at the Emirates in two weeks time, I hope to see Wenger get the reception in that stadium that he fully deserves. There are already calls for it to be renamed The Arsène Wenger Stadium. Now that would be a fitting tribute to someone who will surely never be forgotten.
I just hope now we can finally get the better of them in a Premier League game and spoil his big day by beating them, even more so if we can do it by getting a dodgy late decision, the kind that he either never seems to see when it suits him or causes him to go into a rant.
I think he’s been brilliant for English football and for so many years I just loved watching his Arsenal teams.Share this page :