IT is clear from the start of our conversation that David Dein is still passionate about Arsenal — and about football itself. That is despite an acrimonious departure from the Gunners in 2007, a moment which sent shockwaves through the club and, arguably, has had negative repercussions over the past 15 years at the Emirates Stadium.
On learning that I am a lifelong Manchester United supporter —and that the first United game I attended was a 4-1 defeat of Arsenal in August, 1989 — David reaches for a diary, marked ‘1958’.
He opens it at a page containing the “really serious stuff”, so much so that the words are written in capitals in red ink: “MANCHESTER UNITED IN AIR DISASTER WHEN ON WAY BACK FROM EUROPEAN GAME”.
“I couldn’t believe it — the whole country was shocked, but for me, young as I was, it seemed especially personal,” David told me. “I felt a special attachment to that United side, not least because I’d just watched them play my team.
“I listed all the players who died, those critically injured and the United manager, Matt Busby, being on the danger list. It was just terrible.”
Burnley were the opponents when David was first taken to see Arsenal by his uncle, Israel Waintrub, in 1953.
And David, who served as vice-chairman of Arsenal for nearly 25 years, has recounted his life’s tales and travails in Calling the Shots: How to Win in Football and Life (Constable, £22), which was published this week.
Its foreword is written by Arsène Wenger — and David’s success in recruiting the Frenchman as the Gunners’ manager in 1996 is surely enough to ensure his legacy in Arsenal’s history.
The duo spent the following decade transforming the club and helping it join the elite of European football.
That is not to mention David’s role in bringing in such names as Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell, Cesc Fàbregas and many more.
But it was the events of April, 2007, when he was brutally axed by the Arsenal board after a falling-out with chairman Peter Hill-Wood, director Danny Fiszman and managing director Keith Edelman.
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