Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood today unveiled three commemorative busts at Emirates Stadium which honour legends from the Club’s history.
The busts, two of which were synonymous with the Gunners’ old stadium, Highbury, commemorate three great figures who have helped shape the history of Arsenal Football Club – Herbert Chapman, Denis Hill-Wood and Arsène Wenger.
The three busts, which were unveiled after the Club’s Annual General Meeting, are all positioned in the Directors’ Entrance at Emirates Stadium and will greet the thousands of guests which visit the stadium each year. As well as being a VIP entrance on matchdays, the Directors’ Entrance is also the start point for all of Emirates Stadium’s popular official tours.
The bust of Herbert Chapman at Emirates Stadium is an exact replica of the bust which graced Highbury’s famous Marble Halls for so many years. The original bust remains at Highbury and will form part of the concierge entrance in the Grade II-Listed East Stand to the Highbury Square development when it reaches completion in summer 2009.
Herbert Chapman is regarded by many as the greatest visionary the game of football has ever seen. As well as guiding Huddersfield Town and then Arsenal to great successes in the late 1920s to early 1930s, Chapman is also seen as responsible for introducing many changes to the game, including the numbering on playing shirts; proposing floodlit matches and the ten-yard penalty semi-circle. Also, in 1932 through lobbying, Chapman managed to change the name of the local underground station from Gillespie Road to Arsenal, which to this day is still the only London Underground station to be named after a football club.
Sadly, Chapman’s life was tragically cut short on the morning of January 6, 1934 when he died suddenly from pneumonia, aged just 55. Soon after his death, Arsenal Football Club commissioned a bust of Chapman which was positioned in Highbury’s famous Marble Halls until the Club moved to Emirates Stadium in 2006.
The bust of Denis Hill-Wood, now positioned at Emirates Stadium, had previously been located on the Directors’ Landing of the East Stand at Highbury for many years before the Club moved to Emirates Stadium in 2006.
Three generations of the Hill-Wood family have maintained an association with Arsenal Football Club, which stretches back to the 1920s. Denis Hill-Wood was the Club’s Chairman for 20 years and was viewed with great affection and respect by the world of football, and was a guiding force in the Club’s continuing ethos of traditional values and doing things ‘the Arsenal way’.
On his death in May 1982, Denis was succeeded as Arsenal Chairman by his son Peter who is still the Club’s Chairman to this day, and who fittingly unveiled his father’s bust in its new location.
The third sculpture unveiled by Peter Hill-Wood at Emirates Stadium was the recently commissioned bust of the Club’s current manager Arsène Wenger.
The bust of Wenger, which is cast in bronze, was created by figurative sculptor Etienne Millner, who painstakingly worked on the piece for over six months.
Arsène Wenger is Arsenal Football Club’s most successful manager and has taken charge of more Arsenal matches than any other previous manager in the Club’s history.
His honours as Arsenal Manager include three League titles, four FA Cups and four Charity/Community Shields, including two League and Cup ‘doubles’ in 1998 and 2002. He is the only Arsenal manager to have won the FA Cup more than once and the only manager to take the Club to a UEFA Champions League Final, while he was also the first manager in English League history to complete an entire 38-match season unbeaten in 2003/04.
Wenger has also been decorated with an honorary OBE in 2003 and France’s highest civil honour, the Legion d’Honneur, in 2002. He also received the Freedom of Islington in 2004.
After unveiling the busts, Peter Hill-Wood said: "We are delighted to be unveiling these three busts here in the Directors’ Entrance at Emirates Stadium, which is an appropriate place of honour for these pieces.
“Herbert Chapman, Denis Hill-Wood and Arsène Wenger are three cornerstones in the history of Arsenal Football Club, each playing their part in shaping the Club as we know it today.
“Herbert Chapman guided the Club to unprecedented success in the 1930s and was a leader of his time. Under Chapman, Arsenal won its first major honours and his contribution towards football as a whole was immense.
“My Father, Denis Hill-Wood was a true Arsenal man and guided this Club as Chairman for over 20 years with dignity, passion and with great leadership.
“And last but no means least, the bust of Arsène Wenger is in recognition of the truly fantastic job which our current manager has done at this Club. Under Arsène’s management, we have experienced fantastic success and witnessed his teams demonstrate such an exhilarating brand of football. Arsène is the Club’s most successful manager and we are proud to have him here at Arsenal Football Club.”
Today’s unveiling ceremony was attended by the Arsenal Board of Directors and a small group of guests.