With Arsene Wenger on the eve of his 1000th game in charge of Arsenal, Sky Sports News' Adam Craig went to meet David Dein - the man who brought the Frenchman to Highbury.
By Adam Craig. Last Updated: 21/03/14 9:12am
Twenty-five years ago the then vice-chairman of Arsenal coerced a stranger into joining him and his wife at a dinner party. Several hours later the stranger found himself acting out "A Midsummer Night's Dream" during a game of charades.
On Saturday the stranger, who at the time counted English as his third language behind French and German, takes charge of Arsenal for the 1,000th time.
ON SKY SPORTS
"Arsene who?" - a rare insight into Arsene Wenger by the man who brought him to English football is on Sky Sports 1 on Friday at 1800 & 2215 and also available on demand.
"It came to me during that game of charades," recalled David Dein when I sat down with him earlier this week. "It was like a bolt of lightning. Arsene for Arsenal. It was written in the stars. It has to happen one day."
That day came eight years later. Having maintained a close friendship during Wenger's time in charge at Grampus Eight, Dein persuaded the Arsenal board to take a chance on the little known Frenchman.
One national newspaper reported how the Arsenal fans were planning a protest against Dein and the board because of Wenger's appointment.
Dein was adamant it was the right choice: "I did my due diligence. I spoke to my very good friend Gerard Houllier who'd known Arsene since 1983. They were at coaching school together. Gerard told me that he was first rate. I also spoke to Glenn Hoddle. Glenn had played for Arsene in Monaco. So I had his references!"
Wenger has gone on to become the most successful manager in Arsenal's history and his friendship with Dein has endured a quarter of a century, the last seven of which he's spent without Dein at the club.
David Dein talks to Sky Sports
This period has coincided with a lack of trophies and, according to Wenger's critics, a lack of big name signings.
"Arsene will only buy a player if he really thinks it's a player who will improve the squad and is better than who we've got at the moment without frustrating the development of a younger player" says Dein. "It's a balancing act. It's not a lack of willingness to buy players, it's identifying the talent that's right for the club"
During our conversation Dein reveals what persuaded Theo Walcott to sign for Arsenal and what Wenger really thinks about Jose Mourinho's 'specialist in failure' comments. He also addresses Arsenal fans' concerns over the lack of major honours.
"It hurts him. He's a football purist and this is his life. He's still got the fire in his belly. I can understand people being anxious about not winning trophies, but nobody more than Arsene himself."
Past players have been queueing up to pay tribute to their former boss with Thierry Henry - signed as a youth player by Wenger while at Monaco and then reunited with him when he joined the Gunners from Juventus - wishing him all the best.
"I want to wish Arsene many congratulations on this incredible achievement. I have had the privilege and honour to play under him for many years at both Monaco and Arsenal.
WENGER'S BEST XI
Some of the finest footballers to grace the Premier League have played under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. We asked Sky Sports' Alan Smith - who enjoyed many years of success at Highbury - to select the best XI to play for the Frenchman during his 1,000 games in charge of the Gunners. Click here to see who Smith selected.
"To reach 1000 games for one club is a historic achievement, but not a surprising one. He is one of the very best managers in the modern game.
"I have been fortunate to play for some extremely gifted coaches. I had Pep at Barcelona and he has proved he is the best at the moment but Arsene is more than just a great manager to me because he was a father figure and a mentor.
"I will never forget his advice and guidance over the years and without him I wouldn't have achieved half the milestones in my career.
"He deserves all the accolades as he has had a huge impact on Arsenal Football Club and the lives of many players. Long may it continue."
Wenger, meanwhile, insists he is still learning his trade at Arsenal.
"You learn more from the lost games than the games won.
"Certainly because you go into deeper analysis, you question yourself more, you question the players more and you learn basically the most from the higher the level goes up, the more you see the limitations of your team and your players.
"You learn the most in the biggest games when the pressure is there, when the talent is against you and when the pace of the game is at the top, top level. This is where you learn."