Interview: Arsenal historian Iain Cook

The Emirates Stadium
© PA Photos
Sports Mole speaks with Arsenal's historian Iain Cook to discuss the Gunners both past and present.

Quite often a lot of supporters only see the 11 players that take to the pitch for their football club every Saturday afternoon.

However, behind the scenes a large number of people keep the club functioning on a day-to-basis, including historians.

With this in mind, Sports Mole caught up with Arsenal's historian Iain Cook to discuss his association with the Gunners, as well as the club's past and present players.

How did you get this role at Arsenal?
"I've been here a long time. I've worked for the club for around 30 years now. I joined in 1979 and started off in the ticket office and spent about 13 years working in there. They asked me to help make up the museum at the old North Bank and although I thought it was only going to be a one off thing, I thought 'why not?' I then became museum curator. We then started doing stadium tours and that started getting really busy towards the end of our time at Highbury, and again when we came to the new stadium. But the old legs are not quite what they used to be, which means I cannot get around like I used to! As a result I'm much more office-based now as the historian."

So what does your role entail on a daily basis?
"I'm still attached to stadium tours but also deal with plenty of other enquiries, which are quite often pretty obscure. We have people asking about the grandfathers or great grandfathers who may have played for the club to someone who played as a musician at Highbury. We find out some pretty interesting things about people that may have only played once for the club, even if it was for the youth team. On match days I work in the executive box, which is really good."

As an Arsenal supporter you've got pretty much the dream job, haven't you?
"When I was a kid I used to keep records like many do. Now I get paid to do it! So it would be fair to say I have no complaints."

How much contact do you have with the players and manager Arsene Wenger?
"Apart from match days we don't really see them or Arsene Wenger to be honest. They tend to do the majority of their work over at London Colney. That's been like that since the old days because they like to keep the pitch in pristine condition. That's the way football is now. Most clubs have impressive training centres. That's part of the deal with footballers now - they are totally focused on match days, which is only right."

Talking of Wenger, how much credit does he deserve for the way the club is today?
"He designed quite a lot of the dressing room area at the Emirates and had quite a big input at Colney. When he first came to English football he had quite a lot of new ideas, particularly in nutrition and stretching. In those days it wasn't the norm. Quite a few of our elder players from that era probably had two or three years added to their careers as a result of being more supple and eating better. Of course everyone else has now taken that up. Arsene's also always played stylish football and people love watching us play. Obviously he has been incredibly successful as well."

Of course he managed 'The Invincibles'. How was it working for the club at that time?
"It became almost unbelievable. You knew it had to end at some time but it was just one of those amazing things. We did get lucky in a couple of matches and concede a few goals but we had such firepower up the other end that we usually scored three or four. On the few occasions that we were under a bit of pressure, the guys came through incredibly well."

Who has been your favourite player to wear the red shirt of Arsenal?
"When I was a kid it was guy called Malcolm Macdonald. Malcolm was a great goalscorer who was only really with us for three years and was injured for one of those. He was quite a charismatic guy. In my working time here the best player I have seen is Bergkamp. Dennis was from another planet and we were all very lucky to see him. He didn't really score many normal goals. He didn't have the best of times in Italy but we certainly saw the best of him."

Finally, do you think today's side will write a new chapter of history this season by winning the club's first trophy since 2005?
"It's obviously getting more and more difficult to win trophies these days because there are quite a few contenders there now. It used to be us and Manchester United but now there is Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Getting to the top is not easy and staying there is less so. It would be great. Hopefully we'll get close this year. It's all about getting yourself into a position and then advancing on from there. As Chelsea showed in the cups last year, sometimes it is just down to luck. A lot of the time it is all about getting a result when you're not playing well. Manchester United have done it a lot over the years. Certainly we've got the players and management in place. Perhaps we just need that little bit of luck."

You can get behind the scenes at one of Europe's most recognised football clubs with the new interactive Arsenal Stadium Tour. Find out more at www.arsenal.com/tours.

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