When Arsene Wenger took charge of his first game as Arsenal manager on October 12, 1996, he had no idea what lay ahead.
Now, the Frenchman is poised to equal Sir Alex Ferguson’s record of 810 Premier League matches as manager when we take on Crystal Palace on Thursday night.
It is an incredible achievement - and one that he can scarcely believe himself.
"I would have said 'you're absolutely mad, absolutely no chance' [would I take charge of so many games],” Wenger said.
“I remember when I was 33, 34, I thought that to 60, is 25, 26 years and you'll never get there. Because every game is such a gamble. It's Russian roulette, every game. So you think, at some stage the [bullet] will hit you. So that's absolutely unbelievable. You can never predict that."
“I just remember in our first game I banned all the chocolate that the players had before the game. When we drove to Blackburn on the coach, the players chanted, ‘We want our Mars Bars!’
“Now they have their music. It has changed but, overall, it is more the décor that has changed. The core of the game is the same. That means the spirit, quality on the pitch and human beings putting their effort together to achieve something. What has changed is the society. We have gone to more individualism. More individual plan of careers so that is more anxious for the players as well.
“Football has become more important [over the past 21 years],” he added. “We live in a society that is more demanding, that is more opinionated. The overall problem in Europe is that the respect for basic things has been lost or is less strong that it was 20 years ago.
“Basic values are that I respect you. It's as simple as that. You go to a doctor and he is more questioned than he was 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, you go to a doctor, he says you have that, you say ‘OK I will go home and do that’. Today, when you go to see the doctor, you have read before on the internet and he has to convince you that you have not necessarily what you think you have. So that basically means that you are questioned more. In every single job, people are questioned more.
“But as well you have positive things. People are better informed, people are better educated. People have more knowledge of the game and of things. So you have to think of balance.”
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