One of the truly great things about Arsenal Football Club is its history. All the way back to 1886 you can cruise through the story of the Club and pick from an endless selection of moments and people that make you proud to be a supporter.

But it is the players from Arsenal's past that provide the most treasured memories. And in some cases players have stuck around to do great things at Arsenal years after they hung their boots.

Sentimental or tactical? We asked our panel what it all means to them.

Question: How important is to you as a fan to have former players involved in the running of the Club?

Morgan Rubes
  Morgan Rubes
  Arsenal Canada

As a fan it is important that players are involved with the club, but not necessarily in key roles. I always hope that players share the same love for the club that I do -- I was raised on the thought that Arsenal is a family. When players take on roles such as pundits, stadium guides, ambassadors and assistant coaches (like Mart Poom did for goalkeeping) I feel that they truly care about the club and share my passion. Players who take on key roles such as scouts, first team coaches, academy directors, and managers also care a ton about the club; that said, I feel that those roles need more than just passion to succeed. Those roles are integral to success on the field and appointments to those roles must be merit based.

I think that Arsenal has done a great job incorporating former players into the managerial, coaching and scouting ranks. George Male found Charlie George, which is a great story in itself; Gilles Grimandi, Peter Clarke and Danny Karbassiyoon are all scouting tons of bright talent in France, Germany, Netherlands and North America. Steve Bould's work with the youth setup definitely is merit to be involved with the first team. Right now several names have been mentioned in the media to be involved in the academy with Liam Brady moving on, Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams, and Jens Lehmann (who is working on his coaching badges).

As a club that prides itself on player development and has such a large academy setup, the role of Academy Director is one of the most important positions the club has to offer. While many of the candidates that have been listed bring a lot to the table, are they right for the job? Possibly, but not probably. Personally, I would like to see Arsenal attract an academy director from a club like Southampton or another academy director with a proven track record.

In the current football climate Arsenal fans are desperate for success. While I would love to see Dennis Bergkamp, big Tone, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry come back to the club, trophies are what everyone wants. This is a debate that right now where the more popular side favour winning, and the slightly less popular side favours bringing back club legends to take charge. I want desperately to have both, and at least on that I think we all agree.

Tim Bostelle
  Tim Bostelle
 As Morgan pointed out above, for reasons of both sentiment and competency it's crucial that Arsenal keep great players active in club life long after their career on the pitch has faded. Dennis Bergkamp, for example, is a proven winner with an astute football mind. Having him take over the youth academy for the retiring Liam Brady would send a message that Arsenal are hiring not only one of the best for the job but also one of the greatest players to ever play in red and white.
But it goes deeper than just winning or having your face emblazoned on the Emirates wall, it's about what Arsène Wenger calls "transmitting a culture" to young players about what it means to be Arsenal both in how the players play and in how they represent the club off the field.
Wenger once said, that the Arsenal academy "represents the real culture and style of the club, because that’s where we try to bring in the way we want to play football, the way we want to behave and the way we want to represent the club. That all comes from the youth team. I believe it is very important there is a transmission and a common culture inside the club." And who better to transmit that culture and style than someone like Dennis Bergkamp?
Having players like Bergkamp, Henry, and Adams around in the club is critical for the development of young players in terms of both the style of football that we want to play but also in order to instill what it means to be an Arsenal player.

Joel McNamara
  Joel McNamara
  Arsenal Review USA
 I certainly agree with Morgan that when it comes to who is involved in key roles at Arsenal Football Club, there needs to be a balance between employing specialists in a particular field and those who have experienced club tradition first-hand and will therefore endeavor to preserve it for others.
You could probably say the roles at the club fall into two categories: those who are primarily called to be ambassadors for the club, and those who are responsible for ensuring the club is successful on the pitch. When it comes to ambassadors, there’s no doubt in my mind that the people best equipped to present the history and culture of Arsenal to those unfamiliar are those who have most closely experienced it themselves, and in many cases those are former players. Former players are usually going to have a greater affinity to the club they’ve served and experienced success at, and that typically manifests itself in a greater level of pride and dedication to their particular role in presenting the club.
When it comes to those who directly contribute to the club’s success on the pitch, obviously there are former players who will be equipped to bring a level of expertise through their own playing experience and also apply an understanding of the inner workings of the game that’s uniquely Arsenal to their job, but I think the club as well needs to carefully weigh the benefits of having someone who -- besides of course being a specialist and one of the best qualified candidates in his role -- brings new ideas to his particular function at the club and doesn’t necessarily seek to maintain a traditionally Arsenal interpretation of his role.
It’s important to remember that the modern Arsenal we know is the product of a revolution of ideas and practices that seemed alien to English football at the time of their introduction. In order for Arsenal to remain competitive with a host of European clubs that have since adapted these philosophies and shaped the modern footballing landscape with practices of their own, it’s essential that the club continues to cultivate forward thinking through the personnel they bring in. If the contributions necessary to keep Arsenal competitive with other clubs across Europe come from a former player, than that’s an added plus.

Zara Bashir
  Zara Bashir
  LPG Podcast

I think it is important to keep ties with our former players and legends. Their involvements in club matters bring a sense of history and tradition to the club. Having successful ex-players around this and future Arsenal sides would be especially beneficial. None of them have won significant trophies as Arsenal players and rubbing shoulders with former legends on a daily basis can be nothing but inspirational.

Legends can bring a unique perspective to developing players and to the current squad and be a daily reminder of the ‘riches’ hard work and perseverance can bring. It’s clear to see how having club legends like Thierry Henry, Sol Campbell, Jens Lehmann and Robert Pires have re-invigorated the squad with their returns at the club in recent history. The younger players seemed especially excited by the presence of their childhood heroes at the training grounds.

As much as I admire the great work former players have done at clubs such as Ajax and Barcelona and indeed at Arsenal, I do not think that all players are cut out to become managers or coaches. I would love to see our former greats more involved in club matters, however, and they can do so in various capacities, as ambassadors of the club, scouts, development and even some representation in the board (Bob Wilson perhaps?). The work carried out by Zidane and Vieira at Real Madrid and Manchester City are especially interesting. Although they have not been able to be involved in actually coaching players, their presence at those clubs has been key in attracting (young) talent especially in City’s case.

Josh Ellis
  Josh Ellis
  Sports communications

As a fan, first and foremost I’d like to see the team succeed. If that means bringing back former players to have a role with the club, then great, if not, that’s fine with me as well. Like Morgan said, if the player is right for the job, then look from within, but if not, then I’d prefer the club look outside of the family to fill important positions within the club.

One example is the United States Men’s National Team. For nearly a decade, Bruce Arena was at the helm of the United States National Team and they realized some of their most successful results to date. In 2006, the U.S. looked from within and hired Bob Bradley as his successor and five years later, the United States were on the hunt for another manager. This time, the U.S. took a global search to find German-born star Jürgen Klinsmann. While the book is still out on Klinsmann, he has brought something new to the team, recruited a lot of new players and managed the first squad to go to Mexico and leave with a victory in 75 years. If nothing else, the U.S. will know they left no stone unturned with their search and attempted to find the best person in the world for the job.

Brett Chase
  Brett Chase
  NYC Arsenal Supporters

I would be lying if I said it wasn't enjoyable seeing Thierry Henry and Bob Pires training with the club, both for the sake of nostalgia for players and days gone by, and because I can't help but think that some of our players might learn a thing or two and hopefully appreciate Arsenal more because of these stars' long associations with the club. Indeed, it's also lovely to know that former players like Charlie George and Perry Groves are still around, doing stadium tours and the like, and heartening to see Jens Lehmann getting his coaching badges at Arsenal and the number of former players in scouting roles for the club.

But what Arsenal need may not be what tugs on fans' heartstrings. The vacuum caused by Liam Brady's impending resignation is massive, both in that he is a club legend and that he has an eye for talent. But when one looks at the number of players who have come through the ranks, the much-vaunted Arsenal academy compares less than favorably with the likes of La Masia or the Southampton academy. Of the six young British players who recently tied their futures to Arsenal with long-term contracts (or not so long-term in Theo's case), only two, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, came through the Arsenal academy. Two others (Chamberlain and Theo) were bought from Southampton and came straight into the Arsenal first team, with similar tracks for Ramsey and Jenkinson from Cardiff and Charlton, respectively. Yet we've seen many of the bright academy lights who have fizzled on the main stage (JET, Bentley, Pennant, et al) and ended up as footnotes in the club's history.

It's perhaps simplistic to say that Arsenal hiring Southampton's academy director will make them the Saints' equal in youth development, but such a hire would certainly come with experience in the role. Then again, it is not outside the realm of possibility that someone like Dennis Bergkamp would be a splendid appointment... Wherein lies the rub. Arsenal's bottom line – where the fans are concerned anyway – is winning trophies. Does bringing in former players preclude us from doing so? Of course not. Bob Wilson was goalkeeping coach under many trophy-winning sides, and George Graham had a successful tenure as Arsenal manager.

What we must bear in mind as fans is that it is important to retain the familial identity of Arsenal Football Club, but not at the risk of the success of the club itself.

The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Kevin Mooney 19 Feb 2013