HEAD COACH David Wagner says an added benefit of Huddersfield Town securing Premier League survival with a game to spare is tomorrow’s final day can be largely about Arsene Wenger.
Arguably the last of the great statesman managers will depart English football tomorrow as Wenger’s near 22-year reign at Arsenal comes to an end.
The John Smith’s Stadium will not have been the Frenchman’s choice of venue at which to bid farewell. He wanted to go out with the Gunners tackling Marseille in next Wednesday’s Europa League final in Lyon.
Nevertheless, Huddersfield plan to make a fuss of the man credited with revolutionising the game in this country following his arrival as a relative unknown in September, 1996.
“I am so happy that we are able to host his last Premier League game,” Wagner told The Yorkshire Post, “and that we are able to really give Arsene Wenger all the attention that he deserves.
“That is possible after our last result on Wednesday against Chelsea.
“We as a football club have huge respect for what he has done. I can’t imagine this will happen again (that someone manages a club for so long) and that shows that he has done something extraordinary. Words can’t describe what he has done for his club and for football in this country.”
Wagner and his Huddersfield players plan to give Wenger a guard of honour before kick-off.
The club will also hand over a present to the Frenchman in recognition of his time in England.
Tomorrow, though, will not all be about the departing Gunners manager.
I am so happy that we are able to host his last Premier League game and that we are able to really give Arsene Wenger all the attention that he deserves.David Wagner
Town have plenty of reasons to celebrate themselves after securing top-flight status for another year via this week’s back-to-back draws at champions Manchester City and Chelsea.
Since then Wagner’s players have been partying hard and it would be hugely ironic if post-party Town should sign off the season by beating an Arsenal side managed by someone credited with revolutionising the refuelling habits of English football.
Out went the booze and fatty foods that had been the staple diet of even the top players before Wenger’s arrival and in came balanced diets and new training plans.
Three league titles followed, along with a losing appearance in the 2006 Champions League final, as the North London club prospered sufficiently to make leaving their old home at Highbury a necessity.
The magnificent Emirates Stadium, where Town have lost twice in as many visits, is a monument to Wenger even if latter years have seen an element of the Gunners’ support turn on their manager as he proved unable to repeat that early success.
Wagner added: “There will be a big celebration party for Huddersfield Town after Sunday’s game.
“That makes me very happy as the supporters have been a big part of what we have achieved.
“As for the players, if anyone deserves to celebrate like they have done this week it is this football club’s players.”
Even amid the planned celebrations for tomorrow the focus is inevitably already turning to next season.
Wagner, linked with a host of jobs over the past 18 months, plans to sit down with chairman Dean Hoyle next week to thrash out a way forward for the club.
“We will sit down together,” added the 46-year-old, who will add Dean Whitehead to his coaching staff next season after the veteran midfielder yesterday called time on his playing career.
“That is what we planned six months ago and it is what we usually do: business as usual.
“Like always we will have to discuss a lot of things. Not only transfers, but improvements to the facilities.
“This club is anything but ready to be (regarded) as a Premier League club. But we are an ambitious club and we have space to improve. This is also a club that likes to improve.
“Now it is all about discussing the next steps. There are a lot of steps for this club and that is what the discussions will be about.
“Everything we have done in the past as a club, and all we have achieved, we have shown that we are able to take the next step. I am pretty sure it is possible to take further steps.
“How big those steps are going to be and how quick we take them no one can predict.
“Even if you make everything right as a club and everything as good as possible something different can happen. But we will try to take those steps.”
Wenger’s White Rose battles: Page 3