Arsène Wenger has always had an unusual relationship with the press, because he’s so different to what they’re used to. A little while back after an away game I had a couple of beers with the ‘Northern Football Correspondent’ for a national tabloid (in my defence he was buying). Anyway, as you would, I questioned him about the media’s relationship with Arsenal and Wenger. He thought it was different to other clubs because with Wenger they all got the same. No favourites, no exclusives. Press conferences for all. Wenger even apparently doesn’t know the journalists as individuals, rarely referring to a reporter by name (deliberately?). It’s this relationship with the forth estate that probably makes Wenger more enigmatic, and therefore harder to fathom, but also provides some amazing quotes.
Oh those quotes. I’m sure you’ve all got your favourites, just as I’m sure the Goven Gob still doesn’t understand half of them! So here’s a really obvious idea. Why not collect the best of those quotes together, put them in a book, and why not even make it a small red book that can be carried around easily like a famous Chinese book. But you didn’t think of it, and neither did I. As with all obvious ideas it takes someone else to think of them first before you realise how obvious it is, so step forward Mr David Manson who was the guy that had the thought, and actually did something about it.
David is a 35 year-old Gooner from Stratford-upon-Avon who started to support Arsenal in 1978. Apparently the boys of class 5 either supported us or Villa and since David’s mate Simon supported Arsenal…
Primarily an armchair Gooner he feels that maybe that made him take special notice of our leaders utterances, and by April he had the idea for the ‘Red Book’. A first draft was ready when the Vieira saga came upon us, which resulted in the chapter ‘Saga’ being added. Ready to go David printed 110 copies of the book, had them bound by a local printer mate (for a not so matey fee!), and set about selling them outside Highbury.
I first saw the book in the 12 Pins a couple of weeks ago at a game. A friend had bought a copy ‘from some guy with a holdall’ and was passing it around. A couple of others in the vicinity actually had copies as well, and soon there were 20-30 people who after the briefest look wanted a copy. So what were we all looking at?
It’s small, a handy size to keep in your pocket a certain Chairman would say. Only 11 x 8 of those new fangled centimetre thingies, with a red cover. On the front is the legend ‘Quotations from the public comments of Arsène Wenger. Manager, Arsenal Football Club’. Nothing else on the outside. But when you open it you get over 300 of Wenger’s quotations from his first week at Highbury to this summer split into 22 chapters. The chapters are superb in splitting things up into subjects and points in time (each chapter coming with an excellent short introduction to set the scene), and each quote is dated with a reference to what happened where appropriate.
All the ones you’re no doubt thinking of are in there, but also lots more that will have slipped from the memory. For every ‘prettiest wife’ there’s a ‘falling asleep watching the Spuds’. Each turn of the page brings another delightful quote, and there are whole chapters dedicated to Arsène’s favourite hobby, that most allowable of blood sports… Fergie baiting. Having read a few pages of Wenger’s replies to the Manc manager it’s amazing the red nosed one dares show his face in public!
When I’m doing a review generally I’ll mark sections I might want to quote as I’m reading it, but on this occasion I could honestly have marked every single page but instead I’ve just picked a couple from Wenger’s first days at Highbury:
“I had a feeling the club needed me, and I wanted to be here.” – 22/09/1996.
“My message to the fans is come here and watch us and be happy.” – 22/09/1996
“I tried to watch the Sp*rs match on television in my hotel yesterday, but I fell asleep.” – 23/09/1996
Pages and pages of absolute genius. And all in a handy pocket size!
OK, you remember how I said there were only 110 copies printed and that they were all gone? Well I’ve got a spare copy of it sat in front of me that we’re going to give away in a competition, so keep your eyes open for and exclusive and (hopefully) fun competition in the next couple of days.
And keep looking back, because this isn’t over. David is now looking for backing to fund a full print run of the book to be made commercially available. He has written to M Wenger asking for his blessing, and has been interviewed by his local press. So if you’re a publisher or want to offer funding, I’m sure David would like to hear from you. You can contact him for any further information via this article or by email at WengerQuotations@aol.com. Let’s be honest, it’s a winner.