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Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK
Kingmaker: David Dein
David Dein
Dein has been at Arsenal for 19 years

Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein has declared Arsene Wenger can have a job for life at the club.

Dein credits Wenger for Arsenal's revival and says the Frenchman will be asked to join the board or become technical director when he steps down as boss.

Welcome news for Gunners fans - but who is really responsible for Arsenal's resurgence?

You could be forgiven if you pointed to Wenger, who has led the team to the Double on two separate occasions.

But arguably Dein has been just as influential at Highbury over the last decade.

It was Dein who recruited Wenger when the Frenchman was an unknown in England and when foreign coaches were a rare breed in the Premiership.

Yes, Wenger selects the team and devises the tactic that have led to the re-stocking of Arsenal's trophy cabinet.

But it was Dein who had the foresight to install Wenger as Bruce Rioch's replacement at a time when a distinctly average Arsenal were desperate for a pioneering hand.

David Dein

And though Wenger has moulded the current team into possibly the greatest ever assembled at Highbury, Dein is the driving force shaping the future of the whole club.

Dein, 59, first bought into Arsenal in 1983 when he paid 290,250 for 1,161 unissued Arsenal shares - then 16.6% of the club - and became a director.

Football was struggling with a poor image, a seemingly unshakable hooligan element and inadequate stadia.

Then-chairman Peter Hill-Wood said at the time: "Some rich men like to buy fast cars, yachts or racehorses.

"But David is more interested in Arsenal. I'm delighted he is - but I still think he's crazy. To all intents and purposes, it's dead money.'

No-one could have predicted the wealth he would accumulate through his seemingly affection-driven investment. Dein's 13,000-plus stake is worth almost 35m.

US influence

Football - both as a sport and a business - was about to change dramatically. And Dein was a major influence.

Dein was instrumental in the birth and development of the Premier League, which would re-shape the structure and finances of English football.

He was determined to help football's metamorphosis from struggling sport into multi-million pound industry.

"I felt football was really a sleeping giant and had a long way to go," Dein said.

"After seeing how the Americans operated their sport, particularly American football and baseball and basketball, I felt we were light years behind.

"We had so much more to give as an attraction."

Dein has realised many of those ambitions.

Arsenal required an overhaul of the running of the club, particularly in the manner that player transfers were negotiated.

Since the "bung" scandal which led to the sacking of manager George Graham in February 1995, all transfers have been conducted by Dein.

He also tackled the issue of rebuilding Highbury, although his bond scheme was initially ill-received by the fans.

Now he is set to drive through the new 400m stadium in nearby Ashburton Grove.

Dein's rise to become one of the most influential and powerful men in British football has not been exclusively in an Arsenal guise.

Dein is a member of Uefa's executive committee, vice-chairman of the Football Association and is widely tipped to become chairman in the near future.

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01 Oct 02 | Football
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