Stringfellow Hawke’s view
AW knew as a club we could not compete with a mere 38,500 capacity stadium, so he encouraged the step up to the Emirates, knowing full well that a few seasons of hands tied on transfer side would ensue, but the overall long-term gain for club was secure.
He agreed to this, confident in his ability to breed a younger, cheaper side and remain competitive.
He succeeded without any shadow of a doubt; I think some struggle with the concept that competitive does not always mean picking up silverware.
AW had hoped the silverware would come as well, but the advent of the chav billions could not have come at a worse time in our history and development.
In the 4 years at the Emirates, we have challenged twice for the title, had a Carling Cup final, and CL and FA cup semis. Not bad at all on the budget.
So in summing up, I think project youth was not entirely forced on him, but it became the almost impossible job due to the 100’s of millions the chavs, the yanks at utd and pool, and the enic crew at spuds have been chucking around since we moved house.
Thankfully, the worst of our reliance on project youth is over and we can now fully compete for big signings, and blend these in with the youth.
The greatest indictment of project youth has obviously been the lack silverware; yet, the conveyor belt of talent that has been established within the football academy is now respectfully talked about all over the world.
Add to that the odd genius (Wilshire anyone) that the academy will produce from time to time and now with the fruits of the Emirates enabling Wenger to go out and add a 30M player to the mix and football utopia is closer than we think my fellow Gooners.
I don’t want to throw cold water on all that optimism especially as I like to think myself an optimist as well. But I do differ, not by much but significantly enough. For example, I don’t believe that Wenger had anything to do with the decision to move to the Emirates. To make my point quickly, I use the crass example that this would be like a manager of McDonalds telling the corporation where they should open the next shop, as hard working as the managers of McDonalds are they have nothing to do with the expansion of that business. Wenger equally would have had nothing to do with the relocation of the ground; those decisions are made exclusively by the board on behalf of the shareholders.
I am equally critical of Wenger’s actual involvement in the construction of the training ground; an accolade credited to him by the board for reason that his elevation suited them at the time. If my memory serves correctly the old training facilities burnt down, naturally Wenger would have been asked by the architects what he would like included in the new build, although, no more than that. But to suggest that Wenger walked in and told the board that he wanted a new training ground and somehow designed it himself simply does not ring true?
If you believe, as I do, that Wenger reluctantly accepted project youth then to my knowledge there can only be two reasons for this decision: firstly as SFH suggests above that he agreed with the board to work on a much tighter budget for the first few years of the new stadium. Or, secondly that it was forced upon him by the arrival of Abramovich. Prior to this it is worth remembering that by today’s standards Wenger used to spend money like a drunken sailor or shore leave – the arrival of the Russian billions changed everything.
The Tevez deal in Manchester will be pointed to in years to come as the symbol of when financial power shifted from one side of town to the other. In our case people will look back at the Wright Phillips deal as the point when financial power shifted in London.
Wright Phillips: playing for City at the time started making noises about wanting to come to London; we showed our usual interest but Abramovich sensing an opportunity to make the point trebled his wages and doubled the signing fee, I exaggerate but not by much; the Russian had made it clear that there was a new financial heavy weight on the block.
David Dein said at the time that it was like having a Russian tank land in your front garden and start firing fifty pound notes. There was simply no point in going after the top players because if we showed an interest Chelsea would go after them just to prove a point in the same way as they did with Wright Phillips. Radical change was required to combat this onslaught – and Project youth was formed.
But once this was started it had to be seen to fruition so for example when Wenger said he didn’t want to crush Alex Song’s confidence by bringing in someone more experienced I for one completely understood and still agree.
With the kind of financial imbalance that remains since the Russian’s arrival it is a miracle to me that Wenger has done as well as he has. Project Youth has been designed to outlast Abramovich’s financial strong arm tactics and by the noises he is making now we may just have done that…….the worm is turning again and we are better placed than most.