Of all the items to forget, of all the slips of the mind, it had to be that one. "I appear to have one more resolution," said Peter Hill-Wood, Arsenal's old-money, straw-man chairman, performing a swift about-turn after a surreptitious word from a suited apparatchik. "It is resolution five. All those in favour of re-electing Stan Kroenke to the board?"
Hill-Wood, it is fair to say, was the only person among the 300 in the Emirates Stadium's Woolwich Suite whose thoughts strayed from the moustachioed American seated to his left at any point during Arsenal's hour-long Annual General Meeting yesterday.
This was the moment the club had waited four years to see, four years of gradual accumulation of shares, of winks and nudges and pleas and pontification. This was the moment when Silent Stan (above right) would speak.
"Hey," he said, in his grits-and-corn Missouri drawl, laconic, laid-back, far more at ease than his reputation for taciturnity would suggest. "It's great to be here. We just got in a few hours ago. What a wonderful club. I have been asked to say a few things. I'm not quite sure why."
Because this is a club whose fate lies in his hands, of course. Because this is a club that has been run with dignity for decades by the well-meaning blue-bloods sitting around him on that raised dais, men and women with morals and stiff upper lips and names like Sir Chips Keswick, but one that now needs dynamism and decisiveness if it is to retain its place among the elite.
It was too much to ask that Kroenke, in his first public utterances at his fourth appearance at an AGM, would outline his plans for his newest sporting acquisition, the asset which he has slowly bought 66 per cent of in recent years. That is not to say his appearance did not enhance Arsenal's understanding of its benefactor. He is, he assured listeners, "in it for the long haul".
"We are glad to be here, we love London, so you had better get used to seeing us," he said. So far, so platitudinous. It was only when the position of Hill-Wood was called into question by one interlocutor – demanding his removal and the appointment of former vice-chairman David Dein in his stead – that Kroenke, a man with more than a hint of Ron Burgundy and Donald Sutherland about him, felt moved to speak.
Arsenal's brave decision not to cherry-pick only the softest of the pre-selected questions meant that Kroenke now has first-hand experience of the disaffection. A demand for Hill-Wood to resign, calls for Dein's reinstatement and complaints over sky-high ticket prices subsidising a minimal net transfer spend. This is not a happy place.Reuse content