A former Premier League manager approached us here at Tales and asked that we publish his diaries, so he could show the public what life is like out of the game. His only request was that he remained anonymous. Below is this week’s entry:
Sometimes, people don’t know what is best for themselves. Despite the stress of their life, the constant, throbbing pain that it causes them every day, they don’t make the simplest change to revolutionise their existence.
In football, the current Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is in this exact situation. The outside world can see that he needs to leave. But the stubborn b****** won’t step down and no one can tell him otherwise. Until now.
I got a call from Steve Bould asking if I was able to attend an intervention. Now that Arsene has hit his lowest ebb, Steve thought that by confronting him head-on, it might wake him up to the terrible reality the manager finds himself in. I’d never taken part in such an event, so I asked Steve what was required.
‘It’ll be a piece of piss mate. We did tonnes in the 90s, you’ll pick it up in no time.’
He told me that he had managed to round up Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell to also take part. We were to wait in Arsene’s office for when he first arrived at work. Once we got him to sit down, we each had to prepare a statement about why he should step down and how his addiction to managing Arsenal had hurt him and those around him.
But I still had one burning question.
‘Why me, Steve?’
‘Alan, your consultancy business is getting so much buzz in the football community,’ he gushed. ‘I thought that there would be no one better equipped to advise Arsene in this difficult time. After all, you’re so good at stepping down from management that you’ve never stepped back up again.’
‘Well, thanks… I’ve been out of management by choice, Steve. Just wanted you to let you know that.’
‘Er, of course.’
There was a moment of silence.
‘Be there at 8 am.’
I arrived at 7.30am (no one likes a latecomer) and made my way into the office at Arsenal’s training ground. I gave the receptionist the codeword that Bouldy had given me (‘salmon lips’) and she let me into Arsene’s office. There, I found the others who had been summoned to help.
Sat on the sofa at the back of the room, his arms stretched out over the back, was Sol Campbell. He was in a complete hunting outfit, but it tweed. Tweed flat cap, tweed blazer and tweed trousers. Looking at his feet, I noticed that he even had tweed shoes.
He bristled as I entered. We have previously had disagreements which I won’t go into here. Suffice to say, he is a total p**** as well as a danger to himself and others. I needed to be alert.
To my right, sat on one of the smaller wooden chairs, was Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry. He was clad in designer wear; jeans, shirt and a cool beret. The beret was a bit much, to be honest. Sometimes I feel fashionable people try too hard. If your head is cold, but a bobble hat on. We all know you’re French and trendy, you don’t have to keep going on about it.
‘Hey, guys,’ I said sheepishly. ‘We all got our statements ready?’
‘Of course, I have,’ stated Sol, folding his arms. ‘I wrote it immediately after Steve rang me. Just flowed out of me. I am so in control of my emotions that at the drop of a hat I can tap into any of them. Sadness, click. Anger, click. Solemnity, click. It’s why I am so level-headed.’
I made a point to ignore him and swivelled on the spot to face Thierry.
‘How about you Thierry?’ I asked.
‘Sorted,’ he said, cooly. Why hadn’t Steve invited an Arsenal player I liked?
Finally, Arsene walked in, still talking over his shoulder to Steve Bould.
‘I…er…don’t understand what you mean, Steve. Why would…er…someone leave cheese and garlic in my office?’
He turned suddenly to see the three of us facing him.
‘What is zis?’
Sol leapt up from his sofa, clutching his statement in his hand.
‘It’s an intervention, boss,’ he said, all too eagerly. ‘We want you to leave Arsenal.’
Arsene turned in an attempt to scamper out of the office but was halted by Steve, who grabbed both his wrists and pushed his arms down towards the ground. Arsene’s legs kept whirling, but the former centre-back held strong. After several minutes, the manager gave up, reluctantly sloping into his office chair.
Steve elected to read his statement out first. He held the sheet of paper up to his face and began to read over the top to Arsene.
‘Boss. You have done a number of very great things at this club. You also gave me my first chance as an assistant manager and for that, I am grateful. However, I feel it is now time for you to leave this great club. You are not only doing harm to the club and your legacy, but to your mental health. I am worried about you. I fear for your future. As your friend, I would like you to retire.’
He then threw the paper to the floor and embraced Arsene. It was incredibly moving. I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear.
‘Cheers, Bouldy,’ said Sol, striding forward and pushing Steve to the side. A total c*** as always.
‘Boss. I always thought it was a good idea for you to sign me. I was one of the greatest centre-backs of my generation. Now, I am attempting to get into management and find several barriers in my way. In times like this, I look to you. Specifically, I look to you and ask that you leave Arsenal, so I can take over. I have no doubt that I will be a-’
But he never got to finish, as Steve had ripped the statement out of his hand.
‘Get…out…’ he growled.
‘How DARE you try to silence me!’ screamed Sol, clearly getting ready to attack.
Using my natural fleet of foot, I skipped behind Sol in a flash and pinched the back of his neck. He went limp and crumpled to the ground. The room stared at me, wide-eyed.
‘Something I picked up from our last confrontation,’ I said. Always nice to get one over such a despicable character. I made sure to lie him down in a comfortable and safe position on the sofa and beckoned Thierry to continue.
‘Boss. During our time together, we achieved a great many things. I became Arsenal’s all-time record goalscorer. Those times meant a lot to me. But now, I see a club getting worse. I tried to defend you for so long, but now it is getting harder. It’s getting increasingly more embarrassing when Jamie Redknapp asks me what’s wrong with Arsenal. Life would be much easier for me if you stepped down.’
There was a pause.
‘Also, I want your job too, like Sol did.’
Steve readied to attack, but before he could move, Thierry had ghosted out of the room. He clearly still had that acceleration over ten yards.
Arsene looked up at me from the chair. His face was a mix of emotions, clearly moved by Steve’s words as well as incensed by Sol and Thierry’s. Our eyes met and at that moment and I didn’t have to say a thing. Manager to manager, our souls met. All the hardships, the ups, the downs, the draws, the mud, the boots, the tactics, the conferences, connected us in the universe. It was as if physics had stopped and we were the only two entities in the universe.
I smiled at him and walked out the door. I couldn’t have said anything to change his mind, he will be Arsenal manager for as long as he wants. Maybe for the rest of his life. As Steve Bould screamed at me and begged me to stay, I wandered back to the car without a care in the world. The intervention had worked. Not in the way Steve intended it, or indeed in the way that would be best for Arsene and Arsenal. But this is the right outcome.