the voice of the South African punter

Wednesday, 15 March 2017 18:23

Terry Talks about Wenger

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I suppose we all know how fickle fans of all sports are, but football supporters really do seem to outclass all others.

It seems that whenever a team maintains success over a reasonable number of seasons supporters develop a sense of complete injustice if ever the success band wagon slows down, or even comes off the rails!

I never fail to be slightly amazed by the way fans of consistently successful teams in the English Premier League take it for granted that it is their achievement and that they are in some way responsible for how well their team does. They swagger around and boast about how good “we“ are and take delight in belittling supporters of smaller, less successful clubs, clearly believing that their team’s status means they too have a superior standing. In reality all they do, like supporters of all clubs at all levels, is pay their money for the entertainment provided.

Those same supporters are usually quick to turn when things start to go wrong on the pitch. They conveniently overlook the fact that for every winning team there’s one that loses and that for every league winner at the end of the season there has to be a team at the bottom. Neither sets of supporters are either superior or inferior,  but sadly the winners don’t seem to grasp this concept.  Then when their team hits a bad patch, and remember success and failure are key factors in making football the unpredictable, on-going attraction that it is, they immediately start criticizing the very same players and managers they had previously lauded to the skies.

A classic example of this just now is Arsenal. The incredible long-lasting success the club has enjoyed since Arsene Wenger, who is now 67 years old, became their manager in October 1996 is, in a football context, almost unbelievable. He has become the Club’s longest serving manager and certainly the most successful in terms of major titles won. In addition, most true football experts give him credit for doing so much to revolutionise the game in England through his introduction of changes in training methods and players’ diet.

Two years after Wenger arrived at Arsenal the Club completed an impressive League and FA Cup double.  They did the “double” again in in 2002 and won the Cup yet again in 2003. In 2004 Wenger led Arsenal to a remarkable, undefeated League season! In an even more amazing 2003-04 season Arsenal won the Premier League without a single defeat, to become known as “The Invincibles”. Following nine comparatively fallow years by their standards, Wenger’s Arsenal clicked back into Cup form, winning the FA Cup in 2014 and 2015.

In his 20 years as manager of Arsenal, Wenger has never failed to make it into the top four of the Premier League and so ensure European competition the following season. So, for twenty years he has delivered a consistent record of outstanding success of an incredible level that most clubs, including the so-called “big boys” of the Premier League, can only dream about. It should also be remembered that whilst all this was going on the Club, thanks to Wenger’s constant success and his skilled financial sense, was able to finance and build the superb Emirates Stadium.

And yet now Wenger is under intense pressure from an aggressive, unsavoury fans’ lobby, demanding that he must be sacked! It is remarkable how short their memories are. My view is that those success-sated fans should be careful what they wish for. It’s hard to think of a manager they could attract and appoint who is likely to come remotely near Wenger’s unprecedented record of success.

Talking about Arsenal brings me to Lincoln City and their amazing Cup run. The financial rewards alone surely mean that things will never be the same for this well-run, well-managed Non League club. I don’t know exactly how the sums add up but the prize money for the winners of Round 1 right through to losers in the Quarter Finals is £360,000. Then on top of that there is the income from television for each game screened. This starts at £67,500 for Round 1, goes to £72,000 (Round 2) on to £144,000 for each of Rounds 3 and 4, then £247,500 (Round 5, £247,500 (Round 6). This is shared between the clubs involved. I’m not sure how many of Lincoln’s games were screened live but certainly several were and so the sums add up pretty quickly.

Then, of course there’s the gate money. Unfortunately, I don’t know the total gate revenues but nowadays the FA system is that both home and away teams for every tie get 45% of the gate money. The other 10% goes to the FA. Bearing in mind that Arsenal ticket prices are among the highest in the land, we can only guess how much a 59,454 crowd at the Emirates generates.

Then there’s the other items such as increased shirt sponsorship income, arena advertising, replica kit sales… all adds up to an astonishing sum for a Non League Club. Incidentally, I think both teams showed real class after the game. For Lincoln a sign of the Club’s responsible attitude was when their players asked the Arsenal management for a vacuum cleaner so they could clean and tidy there dressing rooms. “We always do that wherever we play”, explained Manager Dean Cowley. Then Dan and his Assistant Manager, his brother Nick, were surprised and delighted when Arsene Wenger invited them into his office after the match for a 90 minute chat.

Mind you, it is looking a bit tough for Arsenal right now. They are 5th in the League with a trip to West Bromwich and a home game against Manchester City lined up next. But they have two games in hand over 4th placed Liverpool and with Wenger’s well proven record of making that top four, would you bet against them getting into Europe for an amazing 21 successive time?

However, if he should leave then it could be very different. As I said earlier: Arsenal fans should be very careful what they wish for! Meanwhile the FA cup quarter finals are done and dusted and as expected all the favourites Man City Arsenal Chelsea and Spurs all progressed to what has become one of the most mouth-watering semi-finals that I can remember for a long time.  For all you punters who have backed Chelsea for the double, FA cup and Premier league you must be rubbing your hands in anticipation and it’s not too late to climb on board if you fancy a bet as the semis are not until April the 22nd– and 23rd respectively, certainly Chelsea v Spurs and Man city v Arsenal should produce some competitive prices. The English Premiership returns in full this weekend, with very competitive games ahead making selections difficult. My selections are, Crystal Palace to beat Watford Everton to beat Hull City Man Utd to win at Middlesbrough, in the Championship I like Fulham to Beat Wolves and QPR to beat struggling Rotherham Utd.

Happy Punting.




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