The Henry Norris Hour

Henry Norris is the ancient football correspondent of the Bugle newspaper and an ardent Arsenal supporter to boot. He has had somewhat of a sabbatical but he is back in business. Each week he’ll bring you his forthright views on all things AFC…please be advised, it is not for the faint-hearted! And, yes, he DOES hit the bottle early…

Arsene Wenger is fighting tooth and nail to keep Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal and time will tell if he succeeds in persuading the explosive striker to stay with the Gunners. Sanchez, 28, has one year remaining on his current contract and has been linked with a number of clubs, including Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Chelsea.

But regardless of his decision on his future, Wenger and Arsenal can count themselves lucky to have enjoyed three years of his services, I can reveal. For the South American fire-cracking net-buster was almost lost to the Beautiful Game after being offered professional terms as a synchronised swimmer as a teenager.

It’s all a far cry from tonight’s Confederation Cup semi-final showdown between Portugal and Chile, in which great things are expected of the North London hero.

Wide-eyed Sanchez was seconds away from penning a money-an-object deal with Toco Aqua Shape Squad, based in his home town, when he was persuaded to eschew a career of formation prancing in the pool and instead sign for Cobreloa, a significant football team a couple of hours inland from the Pacific port city Tocopilla.

The revelation came to light as I chatted with renowned football historian Ruben les Français over a bagel and an espresso at his coffee shop (French Pasties and more…) just a few miles from where he has a controlling interest in a local non-league side, Pagham FC, who ply their trade in the Southern Combination Football League.

Les Français, a one-time outstanding table tennis player with the UK’s only professional blindfolded team, the Rose Green Cufflinks, was unaware that the content unfolding during our tete-a-tete was of such a revelatory nature.

He assumed (to assume is to make and ass out of me and you, of course) that this information was already in the public domain. It isn’t. Or rather it wasn’t…until now, that is.

Les Français sucked hard on his One Direction-themed vape device, peered over his fake Ray Bans then winked as he disclosed: “Oh yes, the little man was an excellent synchronised swimmer. Some say even better than the ‘English fish’, Len Fisdark (universally agreed to be the greatest performer of the sport), at a comparable age.

‘I’ve seen footage of his bent knee surface arch and it was near perfect, and don’t talk to me about his front pike position.

“But, thankfully, some of these Chilean chaps knocked some sense into him and he chose football. He didn’t look back, moved to Udinese in Italy and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Arsenal may lose Sanchez this summer. Football still has him, though.

Pip pip!