Congratulations to Arsene Wenger on 20 years at Arsenal.
20 years at the same club, in top flight football, is a remarkable feat and one that I don’t think will be repeated.
He’s taken all of us on and journey of some wonderful highs. 3 Premier League wins including 2 Doubles in 97-98 & 01-02. The Invincible season, 6 FA Cups and a Champions League final. He has not only placed Arsenal on the footballing world map but changed English football as a whole.
Let’s take a nostalgic look back to what life was like 20 years ago.
When he first came to Arsenal from Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1996 I’m confident that many would have never heard of him, Arsene Who? Was the headlines. The internet was still a baby, the video game FIFA ‘96 was available on the SNES, the Megadrive and the Playstation (one). Even Football Manager back in its original format of “Champ Man” (Championship Manager) you could only manage in England, Scotland and Italy. Sticking with the computing theme Command & Conquer – Red Alert was a month away and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame was only 12!
When officially announced by Arsenal on 22 September 1996 the Fugees topped the UK singles chart with ‘Ready or not’. Kula Shaker were number 1 in the UK Albums chart with ‘K’. Another notable albums back then entering in the charts were Jamiroquai’s travelling without Moving and REM’s New Adventure’s in High-Fi.
Although using CD’s I was listening to most of my music on my portable MiniDisc player and creating mix discs. Apple were only known as making Macintosh computers a long way off making an MP3 player (Ipod) and later turning into mobile phone. Madness if you ask me! Speaking of which most of us were walking around with Motorola’s or early Nokia’s. Text messages was a new functionality but you could only send a message to someone on the same network.
In the Cinema’s that month Adam Sandler featured in Bulletproof and Feeling Minnesota featuring a star studded cast of Keanu Reeves, Cameron Diaz, Dan Aykroyd and Courtney Love.
Also in 1996:
• In Eastenders Cindy Beale hired a hit man to kill her husband Ian before fleeing to Paris.
• 2 days before Wenger is announced Willy Carson is badly injured after being kicked by a horse at Newbury.
• The Prince and Princess of Wales complete their divorce proceedings after 15 years of marriage. 2 months prior the Duke and Duchess of York completed their divorce proceedings.
• Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave win GB’s only Gold in the Atlanta Olympics.
• Thomas Hamilton kills 16 children, their teacher and himself at a primary school in the Dunblane massacre.
• The European Union prohibits exports of British beef as a result of the BSE (mad cow disease) crisis.
• Take That split.
Football resumed off the back of the memorable European Championships held in England which saw Germany as winners. Manchester United were the current double winner of the Premier League and FA Cup. Utd would be the only English team to play in the Champions league as back then only the actual ‘Champions’ entered. Liverpool as the FA Cup runners up entered the Cup winners Cup and Newcastle, Villa and Arsenal qualified for the UEFA Cup. Alan Shearer was last year’s Premier League highest scorer with 31 goals for Blackburn and in the summer transferred for a world record fee of £15m to Newcastle. Ruud Gullit replaced Glen Hoddle as Chelsea manager as the latter took the vacated England job. Manchester City would be kicking off their 1996-97 season in Division One (Now Championship) after relegation from the Previous year. Sunderland, Derby & Martin O’Neil’s Leicester City would be the Premier League new comers. Palace, Stoke & West Brom were stuck in the Division one and Watford were relegated into Division two to join Bournemouth. Hull & Swansea following relegation would start their campaigns in the English third division.
Outside of England Milan were Champions of Serie A and Ajax were the Champions League winners. In 1996 no one tended to interested or knowledgeable in leagues outside of the UK and Italy!
Most importantly what was life like at Arsenal in the summer before Wenger was appointed? Back at the Marble Halls of Highbury and sponsored by JVC (The perfect match!) and shirt sponsor Nike. John Lukic returned to the club on a free early on. Although not yet officially manager yet both Patrick Vieira and Remi Garde signed on 14th August. The only departure at the time was Paul Dickov leaving for £1m to Manchester City.
Goalkeepers: David Seaman, John Lukic & Lee Harper.
Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Steve Bould, Tony Adams, Andy Linighan, Martin Keown, David Hillier, Steve Morrow, Rémi Garde, Scott Marshall, Gavin McGowan &
Midfielders: Patrick Vieira, David Platt, Glenn Helder, Ray Parlour, Ian Selley & Stephen Hughes.
Forwards: Ian Wright, Paul Merson, Dennis Bergkamp, John Hartson & Paul Shaw.
One thing in the 2 decades that hasn’t changed in Arsene Wenger’s reign is that Tottenham Hotspur have always finished below The Arsenal.
Mr Wenger, thanks for the memories.