Ray Parlour: The English lads were drinking, the French lads were smoking…but Arsenal still won the double in 1998

Gunners great lifts the lid on the pre-season tour before historic season

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The Independent Football

Arsenal greats Ray Parlour and Nigel Winterburn have revealed the extent of the infamous drinking culture at the club, which continued into the pre-season of Arsene Wenger's first full season in charge – the season when the Gunners charged to the league and cup double.

“I’ll always remember the first pre-season tour with Arsene Wenger [in 1997],” Parlour told Sportlobster TV. “New French lads had come into the team like Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Gilles Grimandi. We worked our socks off and at the end of the trip Wenger said we could all go out. You know what we were like, we went straight down to the pub and the French lads went to the coffee shop.

“I’ll always remember the moment Steve Bould [now assistant manager at Arsenal] went up to the bar and ordered 35 pints for five of us,” Parlour, who made 466 appearances for the club between 1988 and 2004, said. “After we left the bar we spotted all the French lads in the coffee shop and they were sitting around smoking, I thought how are we going to win the league this year? We’re all drunk and they’re all smoking, and we ended up winning the double that year.”

Before Wenger’s arrival, most of the Arsenal squad notoriously partook in a midweek drinking session, known as the “Tuesday Club”, spearheaded by captain Tony Adams.

“On a Monday, Wednesday and Thursday people were dressed in tracksuits,” Parlour said. “On a Tuesday everyone turned up with their suits on, George [Graham, manager at the time] was trying to work out was going on – but we were obviously going out on the town.”

Former left-back Winterburn, however, said the “Tuesday Club” stopped because of Wenger, who brought a new professional approach to training and preparing for matches around the same time Adams stopped drinking.

“It all stopped really when Arsene Wenger put a ban on drink being served in the lounge, and then Tony [Adams] gave up drinking.”

Parlour added: “I was still having a great time, going out every Tuesday, but by this point I was just by myself sitting in the corner with some old chap.”

In a sign of today’s times, current Gunners’ midfielder Jack Wilshere was recently criticised after being pictured smoking a cigarette outside a nightclub and was forced to apologise for his actions, but Parlour has defended Wilshere and said this would not have been the case during his playing days.

He said: “You look at Jack Wilshere now. Ten or 15 years ago that would never have happened. He probably didn’t even drink that night, he’s only had an odd cigarette and it won’t do him that much damage.

 “I used to go down the pub with all the supporters when we won a game at Highbury. I loved it and it wasn’t a problem.”

Ray Parlour has supported Jack Wilshere after he was caught smoking