Thierry Henry flat track bully used to pull up trees and make Spurs fans spit dummies

Usmanov and Lady Nina pen first episode of board room soap opera, ClockEnders

The present is always and has always been a conversation with the past. For Arsenal fans, Ramsey’s game is measured by the yard stick of our memories of the battles Ray Parlour and Patrick Vieira won in midfield; every through ball to Gervinho instantly invokes the image of Thierry Henry coolly latching onto the ball, and delicately dribbling around several defenders before placing a shot under Paul Robinson’s outstretched arms; and every header by Thomas Vermaelen stands in Sol Campbell’s rather ample shadow. It is no surprise then that Alisher Usmanov invoked two of the three men mentioned above in one brief interview yesterday as an opening salvo in a boardroom tussle for power at Arsenal.

There are a few Arsenal players whom I am in contact with and my favourite is probably Thierry Henry. Thierry should already be a part of the club but not as a player. He has another role to play, a more important role. Take the example of Patrick Vieira at Manchester City. He is also a symbol of Arsenal but he is helping another club. We have to avoid that happening with Thierry. The presence of a champion can radically change the feel of a team. That is what Thierry Henry showed last year when he came back to Arsenal. But I think that a comeback only succeeds once. That is why the decision whether to come back to Arsenal will only be made by Thierry himself.

The loss of Patrick Vieira to Manchester City is one which I felt most acutely because Vieira was and is my footballing hero. Yet as much as it hurt to see him sucked into their corporate shell I’ve come to grips with the fact that his signing for Man City was no more than a symbolic gesture on City’s part, it was something they needed to do because they don’t have any history. They needed a player of Patrick’s stature to add legitimacy to their championship aspirations.

That’s why Usmanov’s fumbling attempt to ingratiate himself with the Arsenal fans is so weird. Arsenal don’t need Henry at the club to give Arsenal the “presence of a champion” because the manager is a champion. Arsene Wenger was the mastermind of the Invincibles, what does Usmanov suppose Henry to do, come in to the changing room, smack some asses and say “see that guy? Arsene? You should listen to him, you should fight for him, you should sweat blood on the pitch for him. He went an entire season unbeaten. Now go out there and win one for the Gipper!”

Even if you were to say “other than Arsene Wenger” Arsenal already have the presence of champions. Go to any event, you’re likely to find Ray Parlour, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, and Martin Keown. Take a stadium tour, you can have Charlie George tell you all about the history of the club. That’s what makes Arsenal a special club, every present moment is a conversation with a past filled with silverware, champions, unbeatable records, and parades. And most of those who lived through that past are still at the club in one way or another.

But as much as I am making fun of Usmanov’s statement, I don’t disagree with the sentiment and have said as much here on this blog. I want Henry back at the club. Most of us want Henry back at Arsenal. I want him to get his 229th goal or even better 233 goals (another prime number). I want him to go to dinners and help Arsenal tap up some player. I want him in the locker room telling these snot-nosed brats that they should sweat blood for Arsene. And in my fantasy world, I want him to drill Gervinho and Cazorla on how to score goals.

Elliot... ow...

I think the main difference is that my desire to see Henry back at Arsenal comes from being a massive fan of Henry and Arsenal. Whereas Usmanov’s statement comes across more like the opening salvo in a public relations war to wrest control of the board from Stan Kroenke. It’s probably no coincidence that Usmanov’s interview with L’Equipe hit the papers on the same day that Lady Nina took to twitter to have a conversation with her own history and admit regret that she sold her shares to Stan Kroenke.

It was an amazing several hours on twitter last night. I had a hard time getting any work done as Arsenal, a club once renown for beautiful football, soiled herself with a soap opera tale of boardroom intrigue.

If you don’t already know, the Arsenal boardroom has been highly dysfunctional for about a decade. And apparently, the original fallout was between Dein and the man he brought to Arsenal, Danny Fiszman. Whatever happened between the two it was a highly charged personal fallout. Not about the direction of the club, or about whether Arsenal would play at Wembley as I have supposed in the past, but rather something personal. The board sided with Fiszman, Dein was sacked, and Lady Nina was kicked off the board as well later when she became “difficult” to deal with (read: disagreed with Fiszman).

But oddly, despite being sacked by Fiszman’s board, Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith sided with them when the moment of truth presented itself and became the kingmaker. Her shares were the deciding factor in Stan Kroenke’s takeover of Arsenal when she not only decided to sell them but also to eschew further enrichment (to the not insubstantial tune of around £13m) and refuse to sell to Alisher Usmanov. It’s important to remember that when Kroenke launched the takeover none of the shareholders were forced to sell. They chose to do so of their own volition. Lady Nina pocketed £116m in the transaction for shares she inherited, the inclusion of that fact will now have me accused of being “anti-rich people.”

And now, Lady Nina regrets selling her shares and has taken to basically calling Stan Kroenke “not the right sort of owner” saying that he’s only in it for the money and that he doesn’t love Arsenal. You can read the tweets on her timeline. It’s an extraordinary conversation with her past self, opened for the world to see.

But her regrets don’t change anything and they ring hollow and self-serving. She is claiming that Kroenke sold her some vision of the club and has now reneged on that promise. Perhaps, though we won’t know for sure unless she tells us specifically what the promises were and why she sold to him when she didn’t need to (she claims it wasn’t about the money, they she was wealthy enough). And she has had a while to mull it over and now cries crocodile tears over the lost plurality of Arsenal’s ownership.

All of which she leaked on twitter, of all places. It was a 140 character “hea culpa” backed with no facts and no new real information.

The Arsenal soap opera trundles on, written by a ham-fisted Uzbek and his Lady in London. Stay tuned to find out whether Alisher and Lady Nina have a secret love-child and if they will name him Henry. Also, does Wenger get the heart transplant he needs? Find out next week on ClockEnders* (sponsored by twitter!).


*HT to @thesquidboylike for the title.

30 thoughts on “Usmanov and Lady Nina pen first episode of board room soap opera, ClockEnders

  1. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    Usmanov would be a vainglorious, pompous, dismissive, distant owner who would ignore the AST, dismantle fanshare, alienate and isolate journalists, and generally ignore the will of fans.

    Stanley Kroenke is a pompous, dismissive, distant owner who ignores the AST, wants to dismantle fanshare, alienates and isolates journalists, and gleefully ignores the will of fans.

    Alisher Usmanov invests in Facebook, Groupon, and views social media as being at the upward thrust of capital development in the early 21st century.

    Stan Kroenke buys clubs and develops real estate around them, and he thinks he can get Arsenal fans to pony up per person in his closed-circuit broadband scheme, the essence of his interest in Arsenal.

    Alisher Usmanov was jailed by the Soviet Union.

    Wal Mart forced millions of families to cut short their Thanksgivings at the threat of being fired should they not, and generally pays a minimum wage that requires the US government to subsidize its workers with welfare and food stamps, simply to be able to live.

    Alisher Usmanov is a trophy collecting, vulgar, self-preoccupied man. He views Arsenal as a prestige device. He is willing to lose hundreds of millions of pounds to pump up this club like Chelsea, and City. At the cost of our soul.

    Stan Kroenke is a vulgar, self-preoccupied man. He views Arsenal as a stadium and a brand in the EPL. He wants to extract hundreds of millions of pounds from this club at the expense of Chelsea, and City. At the cost of our soul.

    Alisher Usmanov wants fans to think that he cares about Arsenal as something more than an opportunity to aggrandize his ego at the cost of his wallet. he doesn’t.

    Stan Kroenke wants fans to think he cares about Arsenal as something more to enlarge his wallet at the cost of the results on the pitch, the supporters’ hopes, the intelligence of the followers. he doesn’t.

    Lady Nina cashed in, like they all did, and gave the club to Kroenke, and is now on Twitter whining about it, at the same time it emerges that Henry is nesting with Usmanov. Somebody has gotten better at PR, and as the Denver Nuggets had no stomach in the fight to keep Carmelo Anthony, it will be interesting to see how much obduracy one side will be able to muster in what will become a very contentious saga in Arsenal history. This story has legs.

  2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells

    Why is David Dein so quiet? Surely a man with so much love for the club, and so much love from the fans, would take advantage of his current position? Why doesn’t he say a word?
    Is he fully aware of how much this inaction ingratiates him to the fans?
    Is he biding his time, seeing the perfect moment coming into view just beyond the horizon…?
    He can’t really be that busy with the FA, can he..?
    The man lives in Totteridge, for christ’s sake.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    I was sympathetic to Bracewell-Smith during her bust up with Fizman because they seemed very dismissive of her status at the club. She sold to Kroenke which at the time seemed the right thing to do if you were anti-Usmanov. Now she should just shut up unless she has some grand plan in mind for the club. She’s really attacking the club’s business is our first priority and football the handmaiden model.

    Usmanov now looks like that aged lion being observed with pity by his night vision goggled prey who tell him to try vegan. We are not Little Red Riding Hood Usmanov.

  4. +7 Vote -1 Vote +1Denver Gunner


    I am surprised you view Patrick in such a positive light. I view him as a player who never loved Arsenal and was just a brilliant player collecting a check. He danced with Madrid, Juve, or Manu and held the supporters and the club hostage every summer. When he finally left I felt he betrayed the club and the fans.

    I think to add him to the collections of legends is a mistake. His leaving for Juve can be forgiven, his acceptance of a position at Man City, and his roll in recruiting Arsenal players north an slap in the face to many Gooners.

    I would prefer his name be replaced “player wearing 4″ in all Arsenal records. I think their has been no one person more responsible for taking advantage of the situation at Arsenal than Patrick Viera.

    He is scum.

  5. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    Permit me to ask this question without attracting bile and abuse, because truly, I wonder. Honest answers are much appreciated.

    Now, I’m no fan of Silent Stan, but neither am I a critic*. I know he’s not been perfect, but I struggle to see what he’s done so wrong in his role as owner. To my knowledge:

    - he hasn’t taken any money out of the club (yet)
    - he hasn’t interfered with the team – picking the team, picking out transfer targets, etc.
    - he hasn’t made LESS money available than before – without looking at the numbers, I don’t think our net transfer spend is less than before he came

    In short, he seems like he’s come in and done nothing at all. Now forgive me, but all the fears we had pre-Kroenke were that we’d get an owner who comes in and messes the club up. That hasn’t happened – he doesn’t seem to have done a damn thing. Isn’t that perfect? Leave the running of the club to those who know how to do it. What more do we want? So he doesn’t communicate so much, so what? At least he’s not interfering in something he knows nothing about.

    So can someone tell me why people are getting on his back? Yes, perhaps he could put more pressure on Wenger to spend, on the board to focus on the football side, but is that really what we want? I’d rather an owner who stayed out of it than one who got involved. Let Wenger, Gazidis (whos’ job is to make Arsenal an all-round success, not just do commercial deals), and the board (who’s job it is to oversee the work of the CEO and give him his targets and goals) be in charge with the running of the club.

    A final word on Gazidis and the board. Yes, AFC is a business, but the role of any business is not JUST to be profitable. It is to delivery a product in line with customer expectations, to have a happy customer. In this case, it is football – Wenger, Gazidis and Co. are charged with delivering a quality product (since we’re more Bentley than Proton, I assume). Now, you can argue about the definition of a quality product in this case – trophies? Sexy football? Just being competitive year on year? Whatever it is, these men are charged with more than just growing balance sheets.

    So the argument that AFC is just a business and it’s all about money does not hold. Apple doesn’t ‘just’ make phones. The iPhone isn’t as popular as it is because Apple cuts corners and maximizes revenue from that. Much as I dislike the iPhone**, I acknowledge it’s market position because it’s a damn good product.

    * For the record I am deeply suspicious of Usmanov, because he seems the type who may bring us short term success by pumping money in, but that’s not how a business can possibly operate in the longer term. In this sense, the board’s rhetoric rings true to me (not the hyperbole about spending more than Abu Dhabi’s GDP though, that is of course nonsense – there is much middle ground between those two extremes).

    ** The Samsung Galaxy SIII is a thing of beauty.

  6. -3 Vote -1 Vote +1silentstan

    an incredible article and some incredible posts. there, got your attention? The article slags of Usi then bloody agrees with him. Jaymin slags everyone with no alternative.ctpa struggles to put a coherent sentence together.
    so USi is no good, SK is no good. TH is not wanted but TH is wanted. and Someone cant understand that as an FA employee DD cant go around pontificating on the AFC. I shall pop in again some otehr time to see if you yanks know anything about football

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

      I originally intended to say that as an Englishman your grammar and punctuation was terrible. Thinking about it though, it was so horrible, you can not be English.

      My apologies for mistaking your origins.

    2. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      Apparently, you failed at basic reading comprehension. Oh well, I don’t write for guys like you.

      Oh and one last thing: the vast majority of my readers are not American.

      But like all casual racists you wear your ignorance on your sleeve.

    3. Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells

      Funny man!

      You raise no good points, you show no knowledge or opinions of your own but feel at liberty to blanket criticise everyone else who (sometimes) add value to the conversation. Glad you implied how important your birthplace is in regard to knowledge of football. I wish I had the ability to command respect as well as you. (notice no americanised spellings, by the way. muppet)

      Don’t get me wrong. I reckon you should feel free to share comments like these. Humour is a good distraction from what’s going on the pitch these days

    4. Vote -1 Vote +1ClockEndRider

      Re your point on Jaymin : what part of what he writes is incorrect? You seem to fall into the trap of requiring a view to be held that one must be preferable to the other. In which case, can you tell me whether you would rather eat a poo sandwich or drink a bucket of cold sick?
      Try to think of nuance rather than simplistic back and white terms. Otherwise you are nothing more than media cannon fodder.

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    I like her name: Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith. It is so quintessentially under the cross of St. George. She’s sure to have English roses on her best china.

    Kroenke meanwhile, clearly has other to fish to fry and I doubt whether he spends as much time thinking about Arsenal that the average commenter on this blog, at least right now:

    He will continue to be an arms-length owner, which is not necessarily a negative. Any direct involvement with Arsenal seems pretty high on the nuisance scale for him.

    He’ll only give a s%!t if his investment sours and it won’t be good for anybody if he actually starts to stick his nose into the day-to-day running of the club. So the less he does, the better the situation of the club as far as I’m concerned.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

      They went from a 200 million loss to a 100 million loss year-to-ear which is remarkable. But with no Champion’s League money next year it is improbable that their losses will shrink as much again.

      No doubt they will argue the trend line as a huge positive as well as apply for allowable exemptions as the article suggests, UEFA is unlikely to take a hard line out of the gate.

      I am taking the long view and hoping that the new operating environment will eventually hold to the benefit of Arsenal. It’s either that or believe Gervinho and the return of Bendtner will take us to the promised land!

  8. -8 Vote -1 Vote +1In Arsene We Rust

    Sack this fool Wenger. He no longer is a good manager. Playing Gervinho as striker when Podolski is a world class centre forward. Playing a central midfielder Ramsey who at the momen has low confidence on the right wing. Why pay Squillaci and Chamakh £60k a week? Even Mata gets £57k a week. Why didn’t this fool buy Mata? Also why Giroud? He’s terrible, some one like Ba would have got us the goals.
    Also all you guys who claim to be Arsenal ‘fans’ then go round saying Kroenke is the perfect owner should go support Spurs instead because if you like mediocrity and mid table that much don’t support Arsenal. We are the 3rd/4th richest club in the world, one of the most successful clubs in England, we won’t accept mediocrity and at the same time pay the highest tickets in Europe to watch Santos Gervinho Squillaci Djourou and Ramsey. You guys probably have never attended a match that’s why you guys aren’t bothered about Kroenke and Gazidis milking the club. Usmanov is the man to take Arsenal forward. The best thing is that a huge number of Gooners are now saying they want Usmanov in. So as it looks like Kroenke is bored of Arsenal already, it’s only a matter of time until Usmanov offers a huge sum, Kroenke sells up and gets lost for good. Just thought I’d remind you guys, Usmanov brought a private jet and boat for £350m, half of what Kroenke spent on all his Arsenal shares.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

      Firstly. A combination of poisoning the well and conjecture, based on insufficient/non-existent evidence and a single external perspective.

      Secondly, were is your source for Mata’s wage. By source I mean, a legitimate source, not a speculation or the words of a blogger.

      Thirdly, a false dilemma. Giroud = crap or Ba = amazing-best-ever. If not Giroud, therefore Ba. When in actuality both propositions could be wrong. Consider, Giroud has 8 goals this season, while Ba has 16 (in all competitions). Could you deduce that Ba is twice the player that Giroud is? Not necessarily no, you must account for differences in team play style, type of goals scored, shot-to-goal ratio, etc. Plus a consideration for Ba’s dodgy knee.

      Fourthly, strawman. Who is saying Kroenke is a perfect owner?

      Fifthly, an odd combination of Dicto Simpliciter, one-sidedness and Non Causa Pro Causa. Because it is possible that any number of the readership of this blog has or has not attended a match it is therefore inferable that said readership is content with a “milking” of the club that in actuality may or may not be occurring. Interesting.

      Sixthly, ad populum, anecdotal fallacy, conjecture and, the cherry on top, a red herring. As jaymin highlighted, these billionaires are remote and across many attributes and personality traits, substitutable and arbitrary. Can we reasonably infer the situation at the club would be better with a different owner? Is there any evidence for “boredom” on the part of Kroenke or more likely is that the perception of a man or group of people? Consider we what we know of Kroenke’s franchises in the US, can we infer he will have Arsenal run in a similar way? Consider the methods of Mansour and Abramovich, is this the model of ownership prefered by the Usmanov? It is irrelevant. As the American holds all the cards, and anything Usmanov does, as it currently stands, is nothing but PR guff and posturing. Your appeal to popular opinion is particularly amusing. Many (an unknown, unnamed and unaccounted for number) of Gooners say they want Usmanov in charge? Consider the number of people who smoke, millions right? If millions of people do it it can’t be wrong!

      Have a nice day. And keep your fallacious littering to a minimum in future please.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        Pfft. Do you have anything of substance to add besides some rote learning from a sophomore rhetorical theory class? You’re a bore. Next time, try to avoid pseudo-intellectual waffle? Cheers.

      2. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

        You’ve summed up my favourite rebuttal used against logical argument, i.e. “You haven’t made any outlandish statements, all you’ve done is show how where and why I am wrong! No fair!” In the words of John Mill:

        “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”

        I was going to leave my response to the initial one-liner, but this bloke’s rhetoric irked me. I blame many years of refuting and arguing with religious persons ( not any tertiary education). =)

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1Highbury Diva

    Kroenke has been a big mistake. The boardroom is full of those old men you see in the theatre box in the Muppet show. It’s still as dysfunctional as ever. Have a pop at Lady Nina all you like. Maybe she was duped into that decision to sell.Paint Usmanov as the devil all you want, but Stan ain’t the angel either.This club is going nowhere but down under this regime. A blinkered, increasingly panicked manager backed by a spineless board.And all these back room problems manifest themselves on the pitch. What a shame for the fans.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

      Again, what has Kroenke done – or not done, even – which disappoints you? What do you expect of him, as the owner of AFC? What do you want from him? Would you prefer him to be an active, hands-on owner ala Abramovic? A sugar-daddy ala Mansour? I’m genuinely curious.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bull

        I think inactivity is enough. If we continue on the current course we will end up like Liverpool. Actually scrap that we are like them and will be below them more than likely today. I’m afraid I don’t have the answers and even if I did there’s nothing that Kroenke would do about it as you quite correctly point out, he is doing nothing.

  10. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1dano328

    The reason for supporting Kronke seems to be his “hands off” approach and that he hasn’t yet taken money out of the club. He leaves the football to the football men. But the football men are faltering at a rapid pace.

    Usamonov is passionate about the club. He will interfere. Would we be willing to trade our problems for Chelsea’s? Interference for spending and a better chance at silverware. It may be a moot point if there is no chance of Kronke selling. But given the choice I’ll take Usamonov and his meddling over Stan’s indifference. The current path will lead to a Liverpool situation.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1Steve

    When DD went behind the then boards back to woo SK to Arsenal what did he think SK would do differently to what he has done so far at Arsenal?

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