'1,000-game Wenger has unfinished business'
Published 21/03/2014 | 02:30
The remarkable longevity of Arsene Wenger will be measured in just about every conceivable metric over the next 48 hours.
John Bruton was still Taoiseach when he first took charge of Arsenal, while Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds had only just been knocked off the top of the UK charts.
Perhaps the most unlikely achievement, however, is not simply reaching tomorrow's landmark of managing the same club for 1,000 games but to have outlasted the man who oversaw his appointment. After all, the previous manager to have worked without a Hill-Wood among the Arsenal directors was James McEwen during the First World War.
For almost a century since, including 71 years in the position of chairman, three generations of the Hill-Wood family have dominated the famous oak-panelled boardroom that has been moved in all its splendour from Highbury to offices overlooking the Emirates.
Peter Hill-Wood, the longest serving of all, stood down last summer after 31 years as chairman. A decade ago, he was cheerfully envisaging that his own successor as chairman would eventually be Wenger. Today, Hill-Wood is instead confidently predicting that Wenger (64) is ready to lead Arsenal to a new era of success.
"He doesn't think his job is finished yet," Hill-Wood says. "I don't think his enthusiasm has diminished at all. I don't see him suddenly deserting and starting again at some other club."
When the time does come, Hill-Wood is "sure Arsene will have some input" in choosing his successor and his description of Everton manager Roberto Martinez as someone who "seems like a good man" may just be prophetic.
Hill-Wood is certainly less enthusiastic about Jose Mourinho, tomorrow's touchline opponent. "I wouldn't find him at all easy," he says. "I think it is most unlikely. Luckily, it is not my decision. It will be extremely difficult. There is nothing obvious."
Ill health means Hill-Wood will not be at Stamford Bridge to see Wenger join Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson as only the third top-flight manager in English football to reach 1,000 games with the same club. So just how does Hill-Wood sum up Wenger's achievements?
"He has transformed the place," he says. "Most importantly really, I think he changed the way football was played in England. He was horrified by our training facilities. We built new facilities to his design.
"I particularly remember him commenting on the height of the bench in the training room. He said, 'That would be all right for Tony Adams but it wouldn't be right for Anders Limpar'. That was the level of detail. Without him and the success he brought to us, we would never have been able to finance the new stadium." (© Daily Telegraph, London)