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20th Apr 2018

Arsenal legend Bob Wilson offers the most sincere and heartbreaking tribute to Arsene Wenger the man

It's hard to imagine that we'll hear a more sincere salute to Wenger

Matthew Gault

Truly lovely words.

Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest football minds to ever grace the game but he is also a fascinating man. An extremely well-read and cultured individual, Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996 as a Renaissance Man.

The Frenchman, a footballing intellectual who holds economic and engineering degrees, was a jarring continental contrast to his quintessentially British predecessors, Bruce Rioch and George Graham chief among them.

And he wasn’t afraid to throw British culture out the window. His sweeping changes transformed Arsenal, making them a footballing behemoth that challenged Manchester United’s grip on Premier League supremacy.

Not only was Wenger hailed for unearthing exciting new talent and for establishing an effective tactical blueprint, he was lauded for being a genuinely fascinating human being. As a manager, he could be ruthless but, as a man, he was kind-hearted.

Following news that he will step down as Arsenal manager at the end of the season, BBC 5 Live interviewed Arsenal legend Bob Wilson. The former goalkeeper played over 300 games for the Gunners and also served as the goalkeeping coach in Wenger’s early days.

Speaking on the radio, Wilson offered the most heartfelt and moving tribute to Wenger.

“I am in shock,” Wilson said. “I had hoped he leave after winning the cup final last year which was three cup finals in four years – 10 trophies in 20.

“I was there when he arrived, as the goalkeeping coach, and he is without doubt one of the three greatest men I have met in my entire life.

“I am not just talking about his football knowledge and how he changed the game in this country but as a human being through difficult times for my wife and I lost our daughter.

“He was extraordinary. In that time when we went on a pre-season tour to Austria we would finish a training session and got on the coach and Arsene told me to sit next to him and we talked about Anna and then human spirit.

“This is emotional for me,” Wilson said as he broke down in tears.

“He is the greatest manager in Arsenal’s history, even above Herbert Chapman and all the other managers who won trophies. Not only is he the greatest manager in Arsenal’s history but he has also changed the face of the game in this country.

“We had a team who enjoyed a drink but he changed the psychology and rehydration of it and everyone else followed suit.

“When I’m in the director’s box he is always in there 20 minutes before the game kicks off to say hello to people and thank them for being there. I don’t know another manager who does that – it is an insight into his humanity.”

It’s hard to imagine that we’ll hear a more sincere salute to Wenger the man than that.