Peter Hill-Wood

The Big Interview - Peter Hill-Wood

When Peter Hill-Wood stepped down as chairman of Arsenal, following serious health issues, it marked the end of 83 years during which the Hill-Wood family had been instrumental in the smooth running of the Club.

During the summer, we spoke to Peter about his time as chairman and the many significant moments of his tenure. The full interview will be published across the first two matchday programmes of the 2013/14 but you can read a brief extract here:

"It was quite serious - in fact the surgeon said he was surprised I survived, which was comforting!"

Peter, it was last December when you suffered a major heart attack, what were the circumstances?
Well I had no idea I had any heart problems, I just didn’t feel very well and my wife took me to the doctors. The doctor tested me and said, ‘you’re going to hospital’ I said, ‘oh really, when?’ and he replied, ‘now, I’m just calling the ambulance!’ I ended up by having one valve removed and a quintuple bypass.

It was quite serious - in fact the surgeon said he was surprised I survived, which was comforting! I was six weeks in the hospital, which really knocks you out. I’m getting much better now but there’s no way I could stay on as chairman unfortunately.

You know the new chairman, Sir Chips Keswick, extremely well.
We couldn’t have a better man at the helm than Chips, he’s absolutely first-class. I’ve known him for years, he was actually my boss at Hambros Bank. I was delighted when he came on the board, he’s been a fan of the Club since he was in short trousers.

There are huge sums of money involved in football now and Chips certainly understands the world of finances better than most - he was a director of the Bank of England and has worked in finance all his life. He has a very good grasp.

You became chairman in 1982 and immediately had to make some very big decisions.
It didn’t work out with Terry Neill eventually, and then Don Howe for a brief period, who was an outstanding coach but it didn’t really translate to management. Sacking those two managers were two decisions I had to make early in my time as chairman and it was difficult.

But I’d remembered some advice once given to me from a colleague at Hambros and that was when you’ve thought long and hard about a decision, make the actual conversation as brief as possible, don’t allow people to try and explain the reasons you shouldn’t make a decision, be sure of yourself. I think it was good advice.

It’s testimony to the Club though, and the way we deal with people respectfully, that we still have excellent relations with Terry and Don and the vast majority of our former managers, players and staff.

The story goes that on that famous night at Anfield in 1989, Ken Friar turned around to you and you took a puff on your cigar and said: ‘Never in doubt’!
Yes, I believe I did say that, but believe me I was not calm inside during that game! Like a lot of people, I really remember the final few minutes and how the Liverpool players’ body language suggested they thought they’d won it, but then Alan Smith played that ball to Mickey Thomas and we all know what happened.

I also recall being very keen to get a glass of champagne and initially there was none available, everyone from Liverpool was very glum. I have to say though that eventually they were very good and even took champagne into our dressing room. Another unforgettable day at the football club.

Matchday Programme

Read part one of the interview in the Aston Villa edition

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