Bob Wilson has fond memories of Arsene Wenger, not just as a manager, but as a true gentleman who has helped him through some tough times in recent years. He thought he had seen it all at Arsenal when he won the double back in 1971 as a player, but his mind soon changed when Arsene took over in 1996.
Wilson said, “If you’d said when he arrived that I would see the best football Arsenal has ever played and some of the greatest players the world has ever seen, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had said I would go on to watch us play in the Champions League for the next 15 years, win three titles, five FA Cups, get to three Carling Cup finals and the final of the Champions League, my reply would have ended in ‘off’.”
How true, and what a pleasure it is to actually hear someone give praise at these difficult times. Wilson also said, “People still talk about Herbert Chapman and what he achieved, and it will be the same with Arsene in many years’ time. When it comes to an end, only then will people realise what this academic brought to Arsenal.”
So much of football, and sport in general is all about the here and now and some will say what has gone in the past counts for nothing. Ask a Spurs fan if they would have been happy acheiving what Arsenal have done in the last 15 years. They would bite your hand off for success on that level I bet.
Wilson was a goalkeeping coach at Highbury 15 years ago when Arsene Wenger arrived at the club, and he owes the Frenchman a great deal of thanks for helping him through some of the most difficult times he ever had to experience. Wilson said, “I was in turmoil when he arrived. My daughter had been living with cancer and on December 1, 1998 she died. The times I was struggling to keep it together, he was brilliant for me. I needed someone to understand where I was at for five years of my life, as it was a horrible roller coaster, and Arsene saw how my wife needed to do something to keep her life on track and had to follow Anna’s orders, who was a nurse, to keep our work going. We then set up the Willow Foundation and by turning up at events, Arsene has helped raise about £250,000.”
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People outside of the club do not realise what goes on away from the football. You do not often hear stories like this and people should be told more in my opinion what great work people like Arsene Wenger, and other players and managers, do outside of the game.
Wilson realises that it will not be easy to sustain the success of previous years after the poor start of the first few games has left Arsenal playing catch up. He went on to say, “It is quite clear this is going to be the most traumatic season for us. What’s happening is not good. I have more sleepless nights now than ever, but I’m going to Tottenham on Sunday and must hope for the best. The toughest moment was at Manchester United, when they had nine players out and two about to leave. I thought they’d lose 6-0, not 8-2. I admire Arsene for not shutting up shop but it was hard to see the pain on his face.”
Join the club Bob. Everyone connected with Arsenal suffered that day, but it must have been a result that hurt the manager the most. Wilson finished off by saying, “It also saddens me that many other Premier League managers don’t like him. It’s because he doesn’t go for a drink, he is shy and different. But he can laugh at himself and, above all, he is a fantastic manager.”
Shoot me down in flames if you want, but I am not an Arsene Wenger hater. The man should be commended for all that he has done at this football club and Bob Wilson hit the nail on the head by saying “he is a fantastic manager.” Notice the term of the present tense in is, not was.
Some of you are probably too young to remember Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United being one game from the sack back in the 80’s. Thanks to Mark Robins scoring a goal at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Fergie was saved and the rest is history as they say. Here’s to the next 15 years Arsene.