Yesterday I posted a tweet saying I wished David Dein was still conducting Arsenal’s transfer affairs. This caused quite a reaction with fans either agreeing or mentioning all the bad things they considered he did to the club. There is no doubt he made plenty of mistakes along the way. However, I think overall the good outweighed the bad.
First and foremost, David Dein is an Arsenal fan. He has followed them since he was a child in the 1950’s. He loves the club and he enjoys talking about our former players be it Derek Tapscott or David Rocastle and the Arsenal players thought a great deal of him. Ian Wright said, “He was like a father figure to us and everybody loved him”.
He first got involved with the club when he paid £292,000 in 1983 to buy a 16.6% share of the club. Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood described Dein as “crazy” to invest his money in the club adding, “to all intents and purposes it’s dead money”. That would not be the last time our Captain Mainwaring of a Chairman uttered a stupid comment! Far from being crazy Dein showed how astute and far thinking he could be.
Dein became Arsenal’s transfer negotiator dealing with all aspects of buying and selling players. Obtaining Ian Wright’s signature was one of his best signings, convincing the Crystal Palace owner Ron Noades one of the toughest and most hard-nosed in the business to deal with to part with their star player.
The other Arsenal directors went against his choice of manager to replace George Graham. Dein wanted Arsene Wenger the others preferred Bruce Rioch and overruled him. Although he did pull off another spectacular signing in Dennis Bergkamp. Dein was ambitious and determined and after one season of Bruce Rioch, he got his way and brought Arsene Wenger to the Highbury as manager. Proving to be a shrewd appointment. Although at the time, it seemed a risky move.
David Dein was also the man behind the formation of the Premier League. Some would say that was a bad thing. Nevertheless, there is no question that the Premier League along with the money from Sky transformed the finances of the top-flight clubs in England and became the envy of the rest of Europe. Dein also became very influential with the G-14, first getting Arsenal elected to it and then becoming G-14 Chairman. He had a book full of contacts like no other and become one of the leading figures in European football. Perhaps his most spectacular piece of business was convincing Tottenham’s Captain Sol Campbell to join The Arsenal. I do not think anybody else could have pulled off that deal.
Dein’s partnership with Arsene Wenger went from strength to strength until Roman Abramovich arrived at Stamford Bridge. David Dein commented. “Roman Abramovich has parked his tank in Arsenal’s front garden and is firing £50 notes at us”. The footballing landscape was changing and Dein was quick to realise that Arsenal needed more money to compete with Chelsea. He made the fatal error of unilaterally introducing Stan Kroenke to the club without informing the rest of the Arsenal board members. David Dein was dramatically dismissed from the club on 18th April 2007. Peter Hill-Wood famously said, “Call me old-fashioned but we don’t need Kroenke’s money and we don’t want his sort. Our objective is to keep Arsenal English, albeit with a lot of foreign players. I don’t know for certain if Kroenke will mount a hostile takeover for our club but we shall resist it with all our might. We are all being seduced that the Americans will ride into town with pots of cash for new players. It simply isn’t the case. They only see an opportunity to make money. They know absolutely nothing about our football and we don’t want these types involved.”
Ironically Hill-Wood along with rest of the Arsenal board did the exact opposite of that and they sold Arsenal and the fans down the river by selling their shares to Kroenke. In fact, Dein’s former friend Danny Fitszman was virtually on his deathbed when he signed his shares over to Stan Kroenke. David Dein, in a last throw of the dice, sold his shares to Alisher Usmanov in an attempt to get back into the Arsenal boardroom. However, it was game over when Nina Bracewell-Smith sold her shares to Kroenke giving the controlling interest of the club to the American. She later admitted she might have sold her shares to the wrong person. I am inclined to agree with her. Though Usmanov has, a very shady past there is no doubt in my mind that Arsenal as a club would be in a far better place now if he owned the club with David Dein back at the club. Dein’s son Darren also infuriated the Arsenal fans by using his inside knowledge to tap up Arsenal’s top players and move them from the club. I must admit there were times when I wished David bathing his infant son Darren for the first time, upon spotting the three sixes on his child’s head had immediately drowned him! (Only joking folks).
However, seriously we have missed out as a club by losing the services of David Dein. We have declined over the last 12 years since he left. He is a crafty bastard there is no doubt about that, but he was our crafty bastard. People say the game has changed and he would not be as effective as he once was. I tell you what he would have run rings around the likes of Dick Law. David was such a smooth operator and I for one am saddened that we lost him at such a crucial point in the club’s destiny.
As usual thanks for reading.
Started going to Highbury in ’66. Season ticket holder since ’76. Love The Arsenal. Need I say more?