This is a 5 part series which I have decided to write on the life and times of one of the most celebrated managers in the Premiereship, Arsene Wenger right from his playing days to his current reign at Arsenal. I hope you find these articles enjoyable to read.
Arsene Wenger was born on 22nd October 1949 in Strasbourg, France to parents Alphonse and Louis. The family lived in the small village of Duttlenheim. Such is Wenger's current standing in football, it is hard to believe that he was brought up in this sleepy village rather than one of the major cities. Perhaps this worked in his favour though, as he had no choice but to work harder and aim higher.
Visitors to Duttlenheim will find nothing to get excited about, this rural village is the exact opposite of some of the more glamorous lifestyles enjoyed by Premiereship Managers today. It is easy to see that Arsene Wenger was not one to be influenced by the wealthy football circuit today.
Although Wenger's playing days are rarely mentioned, it was not as if he did not have any talent. Max Hild now a well respected coach and a close friend of Wenger's recalls how he first saw Arsene play in a Village Football Game. Max Hild said that Arsene Wenger made quite an impression on him, so much so that he got in touch with Wenger the following year to come and play for semi-professional French Outfit Mulhouse which had a proud and lengthy history.
Arsene's reputation as a player was growing but his loyalties were divided between Football and his studies. That is to say that he was not throwing ever ounce of his effort into his game because he had his education to consider too. That is not to say that Arsene lacked commitment, even today his childhood friends recall Arsene's tendency to shut himself away from all distractions so that he could concentrate on his aims.
When Wenger decided that he needed a fresh challenge, he turned to his trusted friend Max Hild who invited him to play for the club he was managing AS Vauban which was a new club working its way up the league's although it was certainly less prestigious.
Max Hild was a key factor in Arsene Wenger's move to AS Vauban and when Strasbourg head-hunted the AS Vauban boss, Max Hild naturally could not refuse to join the set-up at Strasbourg.
This left Wenger in a very tricky position, his only motivation for joining AS Vauban suddenly gone. But as luck would have had it, Arsene Wenger was called upon to join Max Hild in Strasbourg.
Interestingly, Max Hild delegated the responsibility of managing the Strasbourg Reserves to Arsene Wener essentially making Wenger a player/coach. Max Hild would later recall how he found Wenger's tactical reading of the game out of this world and how he used to tell him to seriously consider coaching when he hung up his boots.
His responsibilities at Strasbourg though were far from straightforward as along with his Reserve Team duties, he would be regularly called up to play for the senior squad.
Arsene Wenger was part of the Strasbourg side that won the French Title in 1979 although his was a very much background role. He also tasted European football when his team competed in the UEFA Cup. However this foray into Europe was certainly a forgettable experience for Wenger, after missing the 0-0 home leg against Duisburg, Arsene was selected in Central Defence for the away leg in Germany and suffered the embarassment of a 4-0 defeat. However the glory of the competition was not lost on Wenger and he vowed to return to the European Stage once again.
His playing opportunites at Strasbourg continued to be limited, he started to think about his future in the game. He was enjoying his work with the Strasbourg Reserves and the idea of taking coaching as a full-time job began to take shape in his mind.
Was this where Arsene Wenger the manager we know today was born?