Two days ago Jon Spurling tweeted “A great stat today from David Dein about the Emirates loan. The club was loaned around £350 million at a time when annual turnover was £150 million. Staggering. The reason? Assurances that
#Wenger would remain boss. #Arsenal fans should always remember that in years to come.”
Spurling, for those who don’t know, is the author of one of my favorite Arsenal books, Rebels for the Cause (Hardcover, $4) which is a must read for anyone who wants to even pretend that they are an Arsenal supporter.
Dein spoke at Cornwallis Academy (Spurling’s school) and there is no transcript of the motivational speech. So, you won’t find this quote in any place other than Spurling’s Twitter timeline. But he’s a reliable reporter and unlikely to put his reputation on the line to make up a story for a few hits on Twitter.
Of course, Dein could have been speaking a little sideways. But let’s assume that he was telling the truth. If so, it’s an incredible revelation and more proof that the Emirates Stadium is the house that Wenger built.
We already know that Wenger signed on* to shepherd Arsenal through the lean years. We know that he oversaw a team that sold off all of its expensive stars and replaced them with promising youth players like Fabregas, Diaby, Senderos, and van Persie. We know that he was shackled in his spend for a long time. And of course we also know that the project eventually fell apart, leaving Wenger to pick up the pieces, to rebuild the team, to nearly win a League title, and win three FA Cups.
I know that Wenger was outright hated by many toward the end of his tenure at Arsenal. He was hated by many for the entirety of his time at Arsenal but toward the end, things got quite ugly. And many of those people are still angry at him.
This undying hatred for a man who gave his whole professional life to Arsenal* reminds me of one of my maxims: do what you do for the people who love you, the people who hate you will never be satisfied.
And that’s how Wenger managed, giving us over 20 years of Champions League football, a record 7 FA Cup wins, and 3 League titles (winning the League at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane). His early successesses set the groundwork for our stadium project.
And no matter whether you think that “any manager” could have done that (maybe they could) the fact remains that Arsene Wenger did that and helped grow a company which went from £150m in turnover to one which generated over £400m in turnover in just 12 years. There is evidence that the club could have done better, though how much the failures with commercial contracts and advertising deals (or even player contracts) should be blamed on Wenger is still a major point of argument.
Regardless of his flaws and even his failures, and in spite of the people who will always hate him, I suspect that one day, not long from now, Arsenal will name one of the stands after him. Because as Spurling’s quote above shows us, beyond just the on-field activities, Wenger was an integral reason for the success of the stadium project. He’s one of the main reasons we even have the stadium. And he deserves to be honored for that along with all of his contributions to the Arsenal.
*He was remunerated well, yadda yadda