Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Dr Paul Wright | A lesson in leaving too late

Published:Tuesday | April 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The manager of Arsenal Football Club in England, Arsene Wenger, has announced that he will step away from the club at the end of the football season later this year.

This came as somewhat as a surprise, even though Arsenal fans have been calling for his head following a series of poor results and consequent poor attendance at games involving the club. It has now been suggested that the manager's announcement came after an ultimatum from the hierarchy of the club (resign or be fired) who, according to some reports, had already been looking for a replacement.

The announcement signals the end of a 22-year reign of a French football 'genius' who led the club to an unbeaten season, while winning one of only three league titles during his reign. His time has come because the team essentially turned against him, and in my opinion, secured his departure after nine years without a league trophy. In modern sports, winning is everything, and fans and owners of sporting organisations will not tolerate losing for too long.

Already, the debate as to whether Arsene overstayed his welcome, or needed more time to rescue the club from another year of no Champions League appearance, is being waged. When one compares the results of Arsenal in the 25 years before Wenger came (1971-1996), it is noted that Arsenal won three league titles and had no titles in the European Cup (Champions League).

In the years 1996 to 2018 (Wenger's reign), Arsenal won three league titles and no titles in the Champions League. However, during his time at the club, Arsenal promised their fans and supporters "next time, next time", too often without delivering on their promise. The manager had a penchant for distilling bad results down to individual incidents, and bad runs of results to individual matches, which is why every time they won a couple of games after a particularly poor result, the cry of "we are turning the corner" became a fan and player staple.


Walk away from humiliation


The lesson from the demise of Arsene Wenger should not be lost on Jamaican sport leaders. As one who agonised over the demise of Muhammad Ali when he refused to retire, it is my hope that local leaders, who have conspicuously similar poor results, and seem to have lost the backing of the teams that they are in charge of, will 'take sleep and mark death' and walk away before the humiliation of being 'forced' to walk away.

Too many of our local sport leaders ignore poor results, player revolts, and fan disgust, with vague promises of 'turning the corner' and 'investing in the future'. Arsene Wenger didn't want himself or his players to be contaminated by strong personalities, and either sidelined or removed anyone who dared to criticise him or his methods publicly. So, armed with weak personalities and yes-men, Arsenal slid down the totem pole of league rankings even though new players were constantly being sought or wooed.

Finally, the results of the recently concluded triangular tournament involving our senior Reggae Girls and teams from Barbados and Cuba should be enough for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to look seriously at assigning a coach for the team with a track record of tactical know-how and experience in getting women to give of their best in competition. It should now be obvious that the Andrew Price experiment is not working. For much too long, our experienced and successful female football coaches are sidelined and those with obvious 'connections' selected. Our women are better than these results suggest.

- Dr Paul Wright is a noted sports medicine specialist and media personality.