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Review of David Dein’s ‘Calling The Shots’ – A Visionary who changed Arsenal forever

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It’s that time of the year when my Xmas stocking is filled with various Arsenal memorabilia.

As an early gift I was given ‘Calling The Shots, David Dein’ to read.

I know we had a JustArsenal regular lucky enough to be in the crowd for an evening with Mr Dein and guests, to promote the book.

I just thought I would share my observations.

The issue with a lot of Autobiographies is, you wouldn’t be reading about the subject if you didn’t already have knowledge about him or her.

It takes a lot for me then to find out information that I don’t already know.

That’s why I recommend this book to all Gooners, because even if you think you heard the information before, the actual details behind the stories are fascinating.

Here are Things I learnt from ‘Calling The Shots, David Dein’…

The Visionary

It’s funny to view the sport in 2022 and hear resistance in the late 80’s and early 90’s to so many things we now take for granted.

A fan of American sports, Dein noticed how in the US the whole match day experience was an event and entertainment.

Yet his peers resisted any kind of change.

Names and numbers on shirts? The issue was more work for the launderette.

An extra sub? That means an extra hotel room.

Then of course there’s the idea of the Premiership.

The saddest part of the book is Mr Dein meeting parents who lost two children in the Hillsborough disaster.

You think you have an understanding of how much contempt the 97 and their families were treated with. Then you read this chapter and it’s chilling.

He inspires Dein to make football better

Destiny –

I have the word tattooed on my arm.

Destiny can be the only word used to describe the circumstances that led to Mr Dein meeting Arsene Wenger.

In the early nineties, the then manager of Monaco was travelling back from a scouting trip which involved getting a connection in London, his flight out scheduled for the next day.

So, Mr Wenger had a day to himself in the Capital City of England.

Not surprisingly for a man obsessed with the sport, he asked Glen Hoddle’s agent to help sort him out any football tickets in the area.

He nearly attended fixtures at Millwall and QPR but settled on viewing the North London Derby at Highbury.

At half time in one of the lounges, a lady sees Mr Wenger smoking in the corner and happens to ask for a light.

This lady?

The wife of David Dein!

Hearing the Frenchman’s passion for football she tells her husband there is a gentleman it might be worth introducing himself too.

The Vice Chairman invites, essentially this stranger, to a dinner party that evening, where he’s won over by Mr Wenger’s charisma when playing charades.

The two kept in contact, hard to do when one lives in the UK and his new friend is moving to Japan.

Years before social media, they may never have met again if not for Mr Dein owning a boat in the South of France, meaning the two would socialise.

Just think about that for a moment.

If Mr Wenger picked another London stadium to visit that day or the Gunners were away.

If Mr Dein’s wife had stayed home that afternoon.

If she was too shy to ask for a light.

If it never crosses her mind to introduce Mr Wenger to Mr Dein, the two never meet, Mr Wenger never manages us, and our history (and his) looks very different.

Destiny!

18th April 2007 – 5-00 pm

It’s a date and time Mr Dein will always remember and can’t forget, and you sense still hurts him.

That was the day he was essentially forced out of the club he had essentially run for 24 years.

His account was there was zero explanation, not a thank you … Just a letter saying the board were unanimous he should leave, a severance offer of 250,000 (which he said the club could keep), told to clear his desk and his phone cut off before he even left the car park.

He details that Mr Wenger was treated with the same coldness when he was forced out.

That’s why I don’t sympathise with clubs anymore when they preach loyalty.

When they want an asset to stay, they will manipulate their fan base into thinking the player is being disloyal.

Yet when they want a talent to leave and that talent refuses, they use the same supporters to accuse that player of greed.

In reality the club themselves are just as motivated by money, lack just as much loyalty, and put their own self-interest first.

This story proves that.

Predicts the Future

So, what did Mr Dein do to alienate the board so much?

When building the Emirates, different members were designated various departments to oversee.

Given his success with Mr Wenger in the market, David Dein remained responsible for what went on on the pitch, with his priority to maintain a winning team.

He quickly realised that the cost of building the Emirates was impacting on any funds he could have for transfers.

Sponsors were paying money up front just to appease banks.

Collectively Arsenal had a group of wealthy men and women owning shares, but they didn’t have a Roman Abramovich

Seeing what was happening at Chelsea, Mr Dein enquired would there be any billionaire who would like to buy some shares and inject some funds into the club.

He even met the group who would buy Man City.

Dein maintains this was no different to him building up a relationship with Mr Wenger.

He was putting feeders out, but wouldn’t do anything without discussing things with his peers.

Mr Kroenke

There’s such an irony to Mr Dein’s relationship with Mr Kroenke.

Dein was the man who introduced the American to the club and opened the doors for shares to be bought.

Yet once kicked out and ready to sell his shares, Mr Dein was hurt that the Kroenke Family were not willing to pay their own asking price.

Essentially Dein was being lowballed, the assumption being he had no one else to sell too.

Emails and phone calls not returned; this was when Mr Dein realised where the nickname ‘Silent Stan’ came from.

He also realised that Mr Kroenke had no interest of investing like at Stamford Bridge and instead believed In a self-sustained model.

Dein, shares my observation that the Kroenke Family have essentially had control of the club since 2011, not only for a few years like Josh would have you believe, and that we have regressed in that time.

I think he sums it up brilliantly,

‘Kroenke had what he wanted, full control but only partial commitment.’

He owns the LA Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids and Arsenal. And that’s the point there ….and Arsenal. That says everything.

In my time on the board, Arsenal was our whole train set, in his case it’s a carriage on his train.

Whereas I gave it loving tender care, he is an absentee owner who gets others to run it.

Arsenal is not in his blood or his first priority

Arsene Builds A Defence

One of the biggest myths is Mr Wenger was simply lucky to inherit our famous back 5, and didn’t know how to build his own defence.

Yet when Mr Dein details each member of the Invincible squad, something stands out.

I already knew it was his own back 4 but I never focused on how little they cost..

Cole – academy

Campbell – free agent

Touré – 500,000

Lauren – 6 million.

Just think about that, a defence that doesn’t lose a league game all seasons cost approx. 6.5 million

Cashley Cole

Ashley Cole was never going to get to much sympathy when he wrote he nearly crashed his car when his agent informed him Arsenal were ‘only’ offering him 60,000 pound a week to extend his contract. Hardly something the average fan is going to relate too.

Dein defends Cole though, saying the left back was only asking for 5 grand more to sign a new deal.

He puts the blame in Arsenal’s corner, saying that the club could have and should have found the money.

It was the first example of the departments in charge of managing the cost of building the stadium willing to hurt what was going on, on the pitch.

Transfer Stories

Not too many, but an example of thinking you already know the story but being fascinated by how it actually happens, is Anelka.

Anelka walks in with his brothers and keeps his head down while his siblings inform Mr Dein that Anelka is leaving and won’t be playing for us again.

Out of shame he won’t look Mr Wenger in the eye as his brothers ignore reminders about breach of contract, etc.

We would use the Anelka money to buy a certain Thierry Henry and build a state-of-the-art training facility.

One of my favourites stories was David Dein hearing Petit was having a medical at Spurs.

Dein contacted Petit’s agent and asked him not to sign anything till they had spoken.

Alan Sugar paid for the players taxi, the Spurs owner not realising he was paying for Petit’s journey to Arsenal!

Petit or Arsenal never did pay Mr Sugar back.

Sven

As part of his role on the FA, Mr Dein pushed for Sven Goran Eriksson to be England’s first overseas manager.

Asking someone for one of the Swede’s weaknesses.

Dein was informed ‘women’ …….

Let’s just say this is the funniest chapter of the book

2018 World Cup Bid

The company line in the last couple of weeks is anyone who thinks the World Cup shouldn’t be held in a country who can only provide stadiums by unlawful labour resulting in deaths, can’t say that because their country isn’t squeaky clean.

Or if you see a contradiction in FIFA saying discrimination is against the rules for any Association then hosting a World Cup in a country that …. discriminate…….that’s you not respecting a culture.

So, I’ll leave it to David Dein to share his views on Russia and Qatar both hosting the last two World Cups

Dein was part of England’s 2018 World Cup bidding team that included Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham travelling the world for votes.

England got 2 out of 22 votes.

One of those votes would have been from the FA themselves so only one nation voted for us.

To their face, England had been promised more backing.

Experts made us favourites due to a bid which had readymade stadiums, accommodation and transport links.

This wasn’t the English being a bad loser, like some would have you believe, to lose by that margin went against what they had been told.

Dein tells on more than one occasion the bid would be praised followed by the questions, ‘and what’s in the bag’.

He knew what that meant.

He also knew that the timing of a Panorama interview accusing FIFA of corruption wasn’t ideal, with leaked minutes from a meeting saying Sepp Blatter said FIFA need to stand up to the British press and show loyalty.

Ever the professional, Dein and the rest of the committee bit their tongue.

On 27 May 2015, several of FIFA officials were arrested by Swiss authorities, who were launching a simultaneous but separate criminal investigation into how the organization awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Many officials were suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee including Sepp Blatter.

Together with the chairman, 11 of 13 committee members were removed.

Calling The Shots is available now

Dan


 

 

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