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Like Moses, Arsène Wenger brought miracles before discontent ensued

Things might get better, they might get worse. But life has, undoubtedly, changed forever on the news that the veteran manager will leave after more than 20 years in charge of the Gunners.

    The news of Arsène Wenger's planned departure from Arsenal has left fan Barry Frankfurt devastated (Photo: Getty Images)
    The news of Arsène Wenger's planned departure from Arsenal has left fan Barry Frankfurt devastated (Photo: Getty Images)

    The end, no matter how expected or anticipated, still has the ability to arrive with a surprise.

    And so it was last Friday morning. I had been in an early morning meeting. On arriving back at my desk, I had no sense of what was awaiting. I took a casual glance at my phone, expecting nothing more than the usual set of requests from my wife (“can you just…”).

    Instantly, I knew something had happened. Messages, missed calls and a WhatsApp notification counter that you only usually see when the Year 3 parents are really upset. And there it was.


    In that moment I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. Things might get better, they might get worse. But life (or at least the part of it subsumed by football) has, undoubtedly, changed forever.

    In Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch there is a line that, as I have got older and more responsible, has increased in resonance - and has undoubtedly driven many people close to me, crazy beyond despair.

    “I have measured out my life in Arsenal fixtures, and any event of any significance has a footballing shadow.”

    I completed the week of my wedding with a trip to Villa Park to see the ‘Invincibles’ win 2-0.

    Whenever we celebrate number three’s birthday, I think back to the tackle that almost ended Aaron Ramsey’s career at Stoke at the time she was being born. I could list more, but I don’t want you to think of me as an obsessive…

    Of course there were momentous, euphoric occasions before Wenger and there will hopefully be plenty in the future. But I'm 40 and Wenger's been around for more than half of that time.

    So life's "footballing shadow" has been cast by Arsène's Arsenal. And the fact that that's going to change will take some getting used to.

    Am I being melodramatic? It is after all, only football. Well, consider this. When Wenger joined Arsenal, John Major was still Prime Minister. That’s not just another era, that’s another world.

    In October 1996, I was in my first few weeks at university. I have since graduated, got a job, got married, bought a home, bought my company and had four children. And I don't remember ever feeling how I feel right now.

    Wenger seemed to transcend football. He brought with him an ethos, a vision and a set of ideals that set him apart from those who had gone before. He was, in many ways, a figure cut from Mosaic cloth.

    Seemingly plucked from obscurity. Chosen to lead his people out of their misery and in to a land flowing with domestic milk and European honey. At first there were miracles - and plenty of them. But the miracles begun to dry up and discontent ensued. For Korach’s rebellion read the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade.

    Like Moses, Wenger benefitted from a highly supportive chairman. Yet, there is a point when even the most benevolent employer loses their patience. And so it was for Arsène.

    There would be no final year on the contract and no last shot at redemption. If Premier League titles and Champions League success is the promised land, then Wenger will need to watch on from afar as his successor plots the unlikely path to glory.

    I just hope that history can see past the final years of his reign and afford the cerebral Alsatian the same reverence that was afforded to his biblical predecessor.

    Those that loved him and even those that had begun to loath him, will all miss him when he’s gone.


The value of names

Barry Frankfurt

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The value of names