My exclusive moment with Arsene Wenger

Photo by Richard Austin

ON arriving back at Lyme Regis from photographing a home match at Chelsea FC, I got a call from the Gunners Magazine editor asking me to be back in North London the next morning at 10am sharp as Arsenal were unveiling their new manager.

It was 9.30pm on a Saturday night so just a quick pint and early to bed for a 5am start in the morning.

Arsenal had just come through a spell of sacking and appointing managers like they were going out of fashion. From 1995 to 1996 I photographed managers George Graham, Stuart Houston, Bruce Rioch, Stewart Houston for a second time, Pat Rice and then Arsene Wenger.

I was at the training ground when it was announced that George Graham was leaving the club after nine years as manager; he posed for the last time before driving off in his big black limo.

Eventually Arsenal found the manager they were looking for in Arsene Wenger. So, back to the unveiling of the new manager, I was in the large press room with up to 100 sports writers and other photographers when David Dein, the former vice-chairman of Arsenal Football Club, opened a side door and shouted loudly, “Is the Gunners Magazine photographer here?”.

I put my hand up thinking I was going to be thrown out but he beckoned me over and said, almost as a whisper, “You’ve got one minute for an exclusive picture of Arsene on the top of the terraces”, so I ran up the stairs not really having a clue what he looked like but there he was, waiting for me.

It was literally one minute, a few clicks of a camera and my exclusive moment was over, but it was the first picture of Arsene at Arsenal.

I recall that a few weeks later I was covering the Arsenal match in Cologne, Germany, against Borussia Monchengladbach and Arsene was cup tied and could not have anything to do with the match, but he stood in the tunnel of the worst football ground I have ever worked in and viewed the game from a distance as former player Pat Rice managed the team.

Who could have foreseen that Arsenal would keep their manager for 22 years?

Woodmead Halls

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