Former Arsenal manager calls for more respect for Arsene Wenger
Ex-boss Terry Neill gives his backing to under-fire Frenchman
Former Arsenal manager Terry Neill has launched an impassioned defence of under-fire Arsene Wenger – calling on the current boss to “get away from it all and think of himself for a change”.
Neill remains incredulous at the criticism that has come the Frenchman’s way after Arsenal’s implosion has seen them win just three times since that soul-destroying Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham on February 28.
Last weekend’s 2-1 home reverse to Aston Villa was met with boos and jeers – the players’ ‘lap of appreciation’ to a virtually empty Emirates Stadium a damning indictment of the mood among many supporters left frustrated at a sixth successive trophyless season.
But while Neill understands that “we all want trophies”, he is also calling on supporters to sit back and appreciate the work Wenger has done for the club.
“I know people aren’t happy, it’s fair enough, but some of the vitriol coming that great man’s way is just ridiculous,” says Neill, who managed the club between 1976 and 1983 before he was given the boot after less than five years without silverware.
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“The last thing Arsene Wenger wants to hear is a broken down manager like me giving him advice but the one thing I will say to the man is get yourself a nice holiday, a fortnight away in the sun, and, for once, don’t think of Arsenal Football Club – just think of yourself.
“My goodness, the work he puts into his job is unbelievable. He is obviously so driven you wouldn’t believe. He has pushed himself and pushed himself to bring more success to Arsenal.
“Any supporter can see he cares so much it is hurting him every bit as much as it is hurting them.
“He is passionate, caring and determined to put things right. And after what he has done for Arsenal he deserves all the respect and patience we have.
“Any reasonable person can surely, surely sees the work he puts in.”
And Neill glances up the Seven Sisters Road to remind fans of exactly where Arsenal are in the footballing hierarchy, despite the astonishing end-of-season slump.
“Tottenham will not have Champions League football next season, but Arsenal almost certainly will. The Gunners have sealed a top four finish – a massive achievement itself in such a tough league – and I have no doubt they will make the Champions League group stages if they do finish fourth instead of third. How many teams would love to be in our position?
“Liverpool would, Tottenham would. Plenty of others too. And financially we’re stable, we’re hardly broke are we, which, as I have said before, will see us come into our own in the future.”
The club would not, says the Ulsterman, who also spent nine years at Highbury as a player in the 1960s, be in that strong financial position had it not been for Arsene Wenger.
“I’ll make no bones about it, I love the guy. And I will support him for as long as he remains at the club, which will hopefully be a very long time.
“As an ex-manager I really appreciate how hard his job is, even more so these days with the money and competition,” adds Neill who also managed Hull City and Tottenham.
“I have so much admiration for the guy, but as I said, I want him to recharge his batteries and think about himself for a few weeks.
“He needs a break, he needs a nice suntan, he needs to get some more meat on his bones – and I say that as someone who is both stick thin and very vain! – and then he can come back fitter, stronger and ready to lead us next season.”
So Neill doesn’t subscribe to some rumours that Sunday’s trip to Fulham for the final game could be his last as Arsenal manager....
“You must be joking,” he says, “I would be flabbergasted if he were not there in August. Of course he will be and rightly so.
“And I say to the fans again; hold on, give this guy all your support, whatever has happened on the pitch over the past few weeks, we can all see the manager really cares.
“Arsene Wenger has earned our support and we should give him it.”