Arsene Wenger is credited with turning football players into athletes when he arrived at Arsenal in 1996.
The Frenchman did away with junk food and beer, instead making his players consume pasta and other healthy products.
So adamant was Wenger that his players have a balanced diet that he once stopped Ray Parlour from drinking a beer as he celebrated the 2002 FA Cup win.
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Wenger has come under fire for Arsenal’s disappointing season and there are a growing number of fans who want him to quit the club, yet he’ll always be remembered for renovating English football, even if he did ruin Parlour’s fun.
The midfielder scored in the 2-0 win over Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium but Arsenal faced a quick turnaround with a game against Manchester United four days later.
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As a result, the boss was keen for his players to delay their party and threatened Parlour with a £30,000 fine if he disobeyed his instructions.
“We flew back from Cardiff on Saturday evening after the 2002 FA Cup final and as the stewardess walked down the aisle of the plane I asked her for a beer,” Parlous explained in his autobiography, which has been serialised by The Sun.
“I was just about to take a sip when Arsene Wenger appeared and said, ‘No drinking.’
“‘What, Boss? I’ve just scored in the cup final!’
“‘No drinking. Big game Wednesday at Old Trafford.’
“I ended up slipping off to the back of the plane where my mum and dad and my brothers were. I said, ‘Give me one of your beers, Jimmy.’
“I was just about to take a sip, but Arsene, who had walked all the way to the back of the plane, caught me before I got a taste. ‘If I see you drinking, that’s a fine of a week’s wages.’
"Hmmm, £30,000 for one beer? I decided that was a bit much.”
Arsenal had the chance to win the Premier League title at Old Trafford, so it’s no surprise that Wenger wanted his players in peak condition. But he could only keep an eye on Parlour for so long.
“Sunday morning. The day after a game we would have a warm-down,” the former England international added. “I sort of did my stretches, more or less lying around on the mat, stinking of alcohol, and decided to skip the massage.
“On the way home to my mum and dad’s house I went past the Rush Green Social Club and knew my brothers were there, so I thought I would pop in to say hello.
“Next thing I knew I had downed ten pints of Guinness. No word of a lie. I was hammered.
“I played the game at Old Trafford and we all put absolutely everything into it.
“I felt so full of myself, walking back to the dressing room with this champagne, and the next minute Arsene Wenger taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘I want a word with you, Ray.’ I braced myself.
“Arsene pulled me over and said, ‘You were superb, Ray. Do you know what it was that made the difference?’
“‘No, Boss, what was it?’
“‘I stopped you drinking that beer on the plane.’”
Parlour got away with it 14 years ago, but one imagines he would struggle immensely in today’s ultra-vigilant game.
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