Ray Parlour has revealed that he never thought Arsenal could win the league, and definitely not the double in the 1997/98 season.
This is because of how drink-filled their preseason for the campaign was.
A younger Arsene Wenger had allowed his players to have some fun after working hard for much of the preseason campaign.
That was Wenger’s first full season, and expectations were high on the Gunners as he looked to stamp his authority at the club.
The Frenchman developed a reputation for placing his players on strict diets during preseason later on in his managerial career, but that wasn’t the case in 1997.
Parlour said that the players had been on preseason training for 14 days with no drinks or smoking, but on the last day, Wenger praised them for their efforts and allowed them to go out and have some fun.
The players took their time and drank, while some smoked and Parlour thought that was a recipe for having a bad season, but they won the league and cup double in the end.
“I can tell you a story about the time we went on tour with Arsene Wenger in 1997/1998,” Parlour said on TalkSPORT.
“It was his first real season and we ended up winning the double.
“We go on pre-season and there was no drinking for 14 days. Imagine the British guys, we were gagging.
“On the last day, we had a meeting and Arsene Wenger said, ‘you’ve been superb, you can do what you like tonight’.
“We’ve already seen the pub we’re going to.
“There were about five of us who’d seen this pub and couldn’t wait; ‘half-an-hour, be ready in reception and we’ll go’.
“Just before we are going to leave the hotel Gilles Grimandi, one of the French guys, said, ‘can I come out with you guys?’
“I said, ‘Gilles, come out with us, you’ll have a much better time’. I know what the French guys will do. They’ll go to the coffee shop, and talk about football.
“I said, ‘no, no, Gilles; we’re going to the pub and going to have a good time’.
“So he comes along with us.
“Steve Bould was the biggest drinker by a mile… he was always at the front of the queue! He was at the bar and said, ‘hello Gilles, what do you want to drink?’
“He said, ‘can I have a small glass of wine?’ So Steve goes to the barman, ‘can I have 35 pints and one small glass of white wine?’
“We had seven each and the first two didn’t touch the sides.
“Gilles Grimandi is like, ‘how can you drink so much and run around?’
“We walk out of this bar after a quick seven pints, and we’re going to another bar now. And all the French lads were at the coffee bar smoking!
“I thought, ‘how are we going to win the league this year when we’re all drunk and they’re smoking?’
“And we ended winning the double!”