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My view on PHW Interview.

September 6, 2012

Hi Gooners lend me your eyes.

Only three games into the new season yet it has been an improvement on last year that is for sure. 

Will Gooners ever be satisfied? I am not trying to say supporters should not have a view on Arsenal, of course they should have. Some sections of the support see things wrong and feel the club can improve on them and it’s right that these views should be heard and viewed. This is great so long as the views both vocal and written are constructive and founded, yet some of what I read or hear, I personally think is well over the top.

I feel some sections of supporters (of all clubs, not just Arsenal)  attack boards/managers/players, almost everything for the bloody sake of doing it. Social networking (Twitter/Facebook), comment pages on daily newspapers websites and radio phone-ins like Talkshite, which has the good cop/bad cop routine to follow, try to wind up supporters of clubs just to get them to call in and give them a platform to do it.

What made me write this blog was what was an article in the media by Peter Hill-Wood the other day and how quickly some Arsenal fans attacked him.  I read the article and quite frankly I could not see that much wrong in what he was saying. The guy is getting on and yes he has made himself look a bit foolish in the past and maybe PHW is not the best man to be putting points on Arsenal across on behalf of the board, but I did not think this article was that out-of-order.

It looked to me that it was a case of sections of Arsenal support saying, oh Look, PHW has written an article, I do not need to read it as it complete load of old tosh and even though I have not read it, I will dig the soppy old bugger out anyway. What did he say? Well I took a look and these are my thoughts. Please take a look. Remember of course PHW was interviewed by a Spud fan Mihir Bose.

Q. Bose – “Arsenal’s victory at Liverpool may go some way to reassuring restive fans that this campaign will not be a repeat of last season. Then, after suffering their worst start in nearly 60 years, Arsenal just edged Tottenham in the race for the Champions League, largely due to the collapse of their bitter north London rivals”

Me – Did  it happen as Bose puts it? The collapse of Spurs? What if Arsenal’s early season collapse along with the one in early January had not happened, Spurs would have been left well behind. Why does Bose think is it alright to mention Spurs collapse and yet not see how Arsenal had two collapses of their own during the season that allowed Spurs to challenge Arsenal for 4th spot. A season is over 38 games and during those 38 games teams have poor runs and results, whether they be at the beginning, middle or end of season.  

PHW

“We have a pretty good chance of challenging for the Premiership,” he said. “I don’t see why we cannot win it this year.”

Me – PHW is a board member. Would fans be happier if he said we had no chance? What’s the point of supporting your team if you don’t hold out hope of winning the title. Heads might say no, but hearts surely must say yes, until it’s impossible. Sometimes I wonder if for some fans what the media say is gospel and every word has to be believed. What the club say would always have some doubt to it.

PHW

“It is not a worry to the board that we haven’t won a trophy since 2005.” “It would be lovely to win but it’s not that easy. Liverpool haven’t won the title for 20-odd years. We’re very ambitious and want to win but, if you don’t have billions of petro-dollars to throw around, you’re going to have to do it some other way. That’s what we’re trying to do — with skilful selection of players. As for Walcott, he did not accept our offer so nothing is happening.

Me – It should be a worry not winning things, when you Arsenal FC one of the worlds biggest clubs. Yet there are mitigating circumstances. The board have kept faith in the manager Arsene Wenger, why shouldn’t they he has kept Arsenal going for 16 seasons and a few of the seasons since 2005, we have challenged. We reached the Champions league final in 2006 and league Cup finals in 2007 and 2010. Arsenal were challenging in the league for  a couple of those seasons right up to the death. Arsenal cannot compete with the money at Chelsea and Man City. To think otherwise is just daft. Arsenal do have to find other ways for now. I would be much more bothered and annoyed if both Chelsea and City did not have the petro-dollars and were still ahead of us. At least then we would be on competing terms and have something to worry about as to why we are not winning trophies.

Q. Bose – “Fans expected the club to do more in the close season with some £60million available to manager Arsene Wenger. But the transfer window saw Arsenal make a profit on their dealings”

PHW

“Arsene has money to spend but there’s a limit. We can’t spend £50m on one player.

Me – I feel the £50m PHW mentioned is player inc wages. Supporters will say, we’re not asking you to spend £50m. It’s not just the transfer fee, as both a £50m fee and wages would more than likely hit £75m over four years and he is quite right to say Arsenal cannot afford these sums. Personally I would hope Arsenal never pay these crazy sums.

PHW

“At a certain level, we can’t compete. I don’t think Stan Kroenke is going to put the sort of dollars in that Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour are putting into Chelsea or Manchester City. That’s not the way he thinks clubs should be run.

“Luckily, Arsene understands that. He got an economics degree from Strasbourg University so he’s certainly no fool. He knows how a club should be run. That annoys a lot of people but clubs have to be sustainable. We’re not going to go bankrupt in the way one or two other well-known clubs have.

“The Glasgow Rangers example is something we’ve all got to guard against. They spent far more money than they could afford. We’re ambitious enough but we’re not going to end in the same plight as Rangers. That is a fact of life. So my advice is don’t get miserable about it.”

Me – All the above points are good points. Remember this is coming from a board member who not only, like us supporters, supports the club, but also has to see over the running of club and it’s future. The board has to make sure the club is  still there as one of the World’s biggest clubs for many years to come, so when our Sons and Daughters grow up supporting Arsenal, they can see Arsenal playing at the top table.

Q. Bose

“Not all fans are willing to accept that advice and, last season, at many home games, some 5,000 did not turn up despite having paid for their tickets. Given the cheapest season ticket cost £1,000, that was some statement. And, for the first time Emirates heard the chant, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing”

Me – Once again I feel this is slanted by his support of Tottenham or the media trying to make a good story. They are showing the facts as they should. Ok some matches last season did not look full, but like me, I would say many supporters cannot make certain matches. You buy your season ticket, in my case two and then Sky and ESPN change the dates games onto days and times where you just cannot attend. Sometimes it not because you don’t want to go, it’s because suddenly the match you want to go to, like Wigan and Newcastle are moved to Monday night. 

Not sure I heard that much “you don’t know what you’re doing”. Might have been in one match, maybe two.  Also a lot is made of the cost of Arsenal’s season ticket, such as £1000 for the cheapest ticket. However at Arsenal that gets you 26 games (many clubs season tickets only include league matches) and Arsenal’s £1000 season tickets work out at £38 per match over 26 games, now that is not bad in today’s football world, when clubs like Chelsea, Spurs and QPR charge you close or above £50 for an away ticket. You also get to watch in the super Ashburton Grove, with wider, cushioned seats and mainly get to see a lot of entertaining football.

Q. Bose – Hill-Wood could not hide his contempt for such behaviour when supporters shout ‘You don’t know what you’re doing”:

PHW

“What those fans shouted did not influence me one little bit. I was disgusted to hear them because Arsene’s been absolutely outstanding. He is still outstanding.”

Me – Being a board member at a football club I would imagine you have to be able to take what supporters say or chant at matches, but the board should also be allowed a view and at times I feel today’s supporter simply does not like hearing what the board members have to say if it not fit in with what they want to hear. Arsene has been outstanding. This does not mean he should not be criticised, so long as it’s again constructive and not just a stick to beat from frustrated fans.

Q. Bose – The summer brought talk of Wenger managing France but Hill-Wood saw no reason why his manager should leave.

PHW

“You occasionally hear rumours of him going somewhere. I do not think that is likely to happen. He’s very happy where he is. He has a very good job in that we don’t interfere with him. We agree with most of the things he says and he agrees with most of the things we say. I have seen some really successful Arsenal managers but Arsene has revolutionised the club.

“I would say he has been a bigger influence than Alex Ferguson on Manchester United in the way he has changed the traditions of the club and the outlook of the Premiership.”

Me – I cannot see why Arsene would not be happy, the £7m yearly salary figure banded about makes it a job well worth while. I think the club had a £20m turnover when Arsene arrived, now it’s £200m. Now while football for me not about money, this is impressive and has helped the club build Ashburton Grove, where 60k and not 38k can attend and watch. It’s good that the club has a good rapport between board and manager. Do we want what many other clubs have and chop and change managers every other year. Just how many managers would have kept Arsenal where they are? Not sure about bigger than Fergie though with influence, though I suppose he might have a point on how Arsene has changed Arsenal.

Q. Bose – Arsenal fans would argue that Wenger has not been the same man since his good friend David Dein was sacked as vice-chairman in 2007 but Hill-Wood refused to accept that.

PHW – “I don’t think David Dein’s departure has impacted on Arsene at all,” he said. “Arsene has a very good relationship with Ivan [Gazidis, the chief executive reportedly on £2m a year] and it’s very businesslike. He and Arsene get on very well.”

Me – I think this is also a stick for some sections of the support to bash the club with. Not signing players and losing players makes people think that if Dein were still at the club all these deals would somehow have been different. players we were linked to would have come in and players like the so-called “DEADWOOD” would never have been brought. Well Dein sold his shares and made something like £73m smackers. Did he invest any of that back in the club, like Lady Nina who also made over a £100m and both rode off into the sunset with the loot. Both could have left 25%-50% to the club they and their families loved. Things can always seem they would have been better, however would they? We’ll never know.

Q. Bose – And, unlike Ferguson, who has regularly refreshed his backroom team since his arrival in 1986, Wenger has worked with the staff he inherited, apart from coach Boro Primorac who came with him. Normally managers come with their own team but, recalled Hill-Wood:

PHW

“I asked Arsene whether he wanted to do that and he said, ‘No thank you, I’m very happy’. “He’s appointed  Steve Bould to succeed Pat Rice I very much agree with that. To me, it reflects Arsene’s confidence.”

Me – I think this is the way clubs should run. Promoting from within. Maybe Pat Rice stayed a bit too long and Stevie Bould should have been promoted last season. Consistency at all levels of the club is good.

Q. Bose – Hill-Wood’s own confidence in Arsenal’s future may stem from the fact that the club have long solved their ground problems with the move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium. This is in sharp contrast with many of their London rivals — Chelsea, West Ham, QPR and particularly Tottenham — all struggling to find new homes. He saw this as a hindrance for their neighbours.

PHW

“I do not see Spurs posing a problem for us this season,” he said. “Their new manager [Andre Villas-Boas] may be a great success but they have to find a stadium. That’s going to be very difficult. Finding a site and financing it is a major problem which we know all about.”

Me – Spurs a problem? Twice in recent years (say 20) they have threatened to finish above us, where it’s gone down to the last game. Who can forget Wigan 4-2, Lasagnegate and last season away to WBA.  I have some Spurs mates and have said to them many times, Spurs would be more of threat the day they stop focussing both eyes on Arsenal and more on doing their own thing, so obsessed about finishing above AFC. A run of what 18 years since they came above Arsenal. Always in our Shadow. PHW is right Spuds, like Liverpool and Chelsea have to build new stadia yet, if they ever do. Today’s prices are about £400m to built a stadium. That will surely have an effect on player purchase and salaries. Chelsea could build a 60k seater stadium and not even charge fans to watch, but they have difficulty finding land to build one.

Q. Bose – Now that Emirates has proved a success, Hill-Wood happily confessed:

PHW

“I was very nervous and didn’t see how the hell we could finance a new stadium. It’s worked out very well. “Quite a lot of equity went into it and payments from Nike and Emirates helped enormously. We’ve got a stadium debt of around £230m now, which is a 25-year bond at a fixed rate of 5.5 per cent. “The success of the stadium is due to Danny Fiszman [the deceased director] and Ken Friar [a long-term director], who did a spectacular job. Danny was a genius and I don’t think we’d have achieved what we have without him.”

Me – We surely can all see how much of a success Ashburton Grove has been. Arsenal could never have stayed at Highbury and been serious contenders with all the new money around, staying in the Champions League season in season out. The problem came when we moved to a bigger stadium to raise more revenue organically, the goal posts changed when Roman the sugar daddy turned up in Kings Road and then Sheikh YourMoney landed in Manchester. I doubt when the plans were drawn to move to a new stadium the Arsenal board thought this would happen. I doubt any of us did. The debt is controllable as PHW says and is not going to impact too much on the club. It’s City and Chelsea, maybe even PSG that impact now. Also the un-balanced Spanish league where Real and Barca can dominate their TV rights. Even man Utd are self-financing and rely on their own money, yet have huge debt.

Q. Bose – The stadium development was driven through despite the opposition of Dein, who wanted Arsenal to share Wembley, an option that appalled Hill-Wood.

PHW

“It would’ve been crazy to have gone to Wembley,” he said. “I hate Wembley anyway. It’s a bloody long way away. And I would absolutely not have wanted to be a tenant of the Football Association.”

Me – I could not agree more… Wembley is terrible place to have a stadium, I think the national stadium should be around Birmingham. I’ve been to Wembley many times and went to four of the six games when we played our Champions League games and many finals and England games and it was awful. Getting there is awful. Arsenal are based and always should be based in Islington.  Being tenants of the FA, do me a favour.

Q. Bose – He was just as implacably opposed to having Alisher Usmanov, who owns 29.9 per cent of Arsenal, on the board. The Uzbeck billionaire has questioned the ambitions of the club and the board members’ ability to ensure Arsenal can again challenge for the top table. Usmanov cleverly timed his four-page open letter to the board to arrive the day after Van Persie made it clear he would not sign a new contract. The letter raised questions about the board, whose average age is around 73, and many of whom have made millions selling their shares to Kroenke. Although Hill-Wood once said investing in football was “dead money” the last lot of shares he sold yielded £5.5m. He explained the gains by saying,

PHW

“You wouldn’t say no to it,” and of Usmanov’s letter, he told me: “He’s said that before. It was nothing new and I didn’t think it was particularly relevant.”

Me – Do we really want to go down the Chelsea and City sugar Daddy road? The same road many supporters have complained how City & Chelsea buy trophies and let’s face it, they are. Football should be organic. I don’t like the fact that PHW sold his shares and made a profit on the club. If you love the club put some of the money made back into the club.

Usmanov published his open letter solely to get attention and the hope that the fans would put pressure on the club to let him come aboard. I do think that the club could let become a board member and maybe use his money to pay off the stadium debt, but that’s all. This would Leave us debt free from now on and having that extra £25m a season to use on players if needed. Better still reduce prices, even if it was just the lower level. I think FFPR’s allow for this?

Q. Bose – Hill-Wood, who joined the board in 1962 and succeeded his father as chairman 20 years later, has no plans to retire.

PHW

“I’m going to carry on until I get completely senile and then my colleagues will say, ‘It’s time you went’. But, at the moment, they haven’t got to that stage. I’m not indicating that I’m complacent but, generally speaking, the club are on a very sure footing and the potential is there.”

Me – Ha! ha! Funny old bugger is PHW… Many will agree he is senile old fool. However, I find it quite amusing that he can come out with some of the things he says. His family has been with the club since Samuel (his Grandfather) was on board in 1929 and Dennis (his Father) since 1962 and have been there through many of Arsenal’s successful and not so successful years. I can’t imagine the family would be there that long if they were not huge,  even bigger supporters of the club than you or I? They may be the football posh brigade, but they still are supporters and they must hurt as much as you or I when we lose.

Q. Bose – The Liverpool result has further fortified this optimism but, for many fans, the jury will remain out until Wenger regains his trophy touch.

Me – The Liverpool result was just what was needed at the right time. There is a lot of work to be done. Right now the good old days seem a long time ago. However absence makes the heart grown fonder and when we do win that next piece of silverware it’s going to be awesome. Right now the supporters (I feel) should concentrate more on getting behind the club. It takes all of us to be in it together and make Ashburton Grove a cauldron as it was in some of the games in the second half of last season. It’s not going to be easy and maybe we will have to be patient a little longer till the new sponsorship deals, stadium naming rights and kit are in place in 2014 and the FFPR’s kick in.

Some Supporters may agree with my views and some will not. Please feel free to comment.

Cheers

@harlowgooner

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Nico permalink
    September 6, 2012 13:33

    Steve, Kroenke could also make a statement by offering to pay off the debt, but this would involve him in cooperating with Usmanov (because I believe 75% of the shares need to agree on a refinancing), and we know they won’t cooperate. More’s the pity as I’d far rather they cooperated than either of them owned the Club exclusively. But I’m just a mere fan, so what do I know?? Nice blog, by the way, and I agree with the basic tenor of it. Nico

    • September 6, 2012 15:04

      Co-operation would be very good between the two main shareholders. personally I can’t see why they don’t. Usmanov says he does not want to own the club. However, I still would rather we were successful organically. As mentioned I think the FFPR’s allow for money to be put in for building or renovating stadia and things like setting up youth acadamies… Surely paying off the stadium debt would be best. yes it might involve fee’s for early payment, but what is £10m to someone like Usmanov? I doubt Kronke would ever offer to pay off the debt. Still whatever option the club seem to have it under control.

      Thanks for the like.

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