Two years ago, Arsene Wenger said goodbye to Arsenal after his final match. This was what I wrote at the time…
It’s hard to let go when you still care.
It’s hard to say ‘no more’ when you remember all the good times that you shared, all the dreams you built together and all the memories you crafted over time.
It’s hard to watch someone you love ruin themselves without being able to see what they are doing.
And it’s hard to say goodbye, even when you know it’s for the best for all involved.
On Sunday we said the penultimate ‘goodbye’ to Arsene Wenger.
No more will he lead a team out at the stadium he helped build.
No more will we see him standing in his white shirt and red tie, hands on hips in the glorious May sunshine with the home crowd singing his name behind him.
We’ll move on to the next game and then the last and then he’ll be gone with no second chances, no unlikely reunion when both parties have worked out their own personal issues.
This is final.
This is done.
This is the end.
It’s a strange place to be.
For most of us Arsene Wenger is a man we’ve never met, never mind formed any sort of personal relationship with, yet over the past two decades, that’s exactly what he has cultivated with every single one of us. A personal relationship.
What he means to me is not what he means to you and how he came into my life is not the same as how he entered yours. However you found yourself with Arsene Wenger in your life, he has been there, every day for the past 22 years.
He was reliable and dignified. He reminded us of higher goals in football, of human goals, and saw no reason that both beautiful football and a beautiful, tender approach to life could not be combined.
Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but who is? Who can live with someone for 22 years and not find themselves irritated by some of their habits.
But whatever we feel now, he always had the same goal as us – the best for Arsenal.
So we sit here today thinking about the man we all know so well but don’t know at all.
We think about what life will be like without him and how we will cope with the change.
When relationships come to an end, it is rarely something done in love. But this is. It could be no other way.
We might watch him at another club and hope he succeeds. We will wish him happiness in everything he does, even if he is able to do things he could never do with us.
We’ll feel pangs of regret and ‘what if’ but, ultimately, we will watch him freed from the pressure and able to enjoy life once again and we will smile as we do the same.
Goodbye, Mr. Wenger.