Arsene Wenger’s football diet ‘devastated’ Ian Wright: ‘We couldn’t have tea!’

Ian Wright hated his football diet enforced by Arsene Wenger

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Episode four of Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League airs tonight on BBC Two at 9pm. Tonight’s program will detail Wenger’s arrival to English football, and how it sparked Arsenal’s rivalry with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United who had dominated the Premier League era. The Frenchman was dubbed Le Professeur, for his embrace of cutting edge coaching techniques and sports science, which saw Wenger impose a number of dietary requirements on his players.

In the Nineties Arsenal players took part in the Tuesday Club, which was a regular heavy drinking session led by captain Tony Adams and encouraged by manager George Graham to facilitate team bonding.

However, Wenger’s arrival saw drinking bans, and the introduction of vitamins and cutting edge training regimes which many in the squad have widely credited for prolonging their careers.

The dietary changes coupled with the arrival of Europe’s most exciting foreign talent, including Patrick Viera, Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka elevated Arsenal to being one of English football’s most dominant sides.

In his January appearance on the Graham Norton Show, Ian Wright said he was “devastated” by the new diet Wenger implemented.

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He jokingly added: “You’re talking about a black man that needs seasoning on his food.

“No salt, no anything, all we could do was drink water and eat… like the chicken was literally just boiled and it looked just wrong.

“Everything was just for fuel.

“We couldn’t have tea, we couldn’t have anything.”

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Wright was Arsenal’s highest goalscorer of all time, netting on 185 occasions in 288 appearances, before Thierry Henry took his record in October 2005.

Wright, who also earned legendary status in his six-year spell at Crystal Palace, described how he tried to drink tea behind Wenger’s back.

He said: “I remember there was a time I used to share a room with Dennis Bergkamp.

“Dennis was the greatest player I ever played with [but] we were total opposites ‒ chalk and cheese personalities.

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“Once we started doing [the diet] Dennis did it right to the max ‒ if the boss said you drink a quarter pint of water that’s what he’d do [while] I’d drink a pint of water.

“I remember I snuck in some tea bags and I remember Dennis, he was just on the bed because we were sitting watching tele and he said, ‘Is that teabags?’

“I said, ‘Yeah’ [and] he said, ‘Well the boss doesn’t want us to drink tea.’

“I said, ‘Yeah, but he doesn’t know’.

“He said, ‘Okay the whole team is doing it but you’re not going to do it so when we need you most you’re probably going to let us down.’

“So in the end I didn’t have the tea.”

Wright added: “At the end of the day what we went on to do in that team because of [Wenger] is because we all adhered to what he wanted to do.

“He’s an amazing man.”

Arsenal won three league titles under Wenger’s stewardship, with the third triumph in 2004 remarkable for the fact his side went an entire Premier League season unbeaten for the only time in history.

The Frenchman also won the FA Cup on six occasions, and led the Gunners to the Champions League final in 2006, where they lost to Barcelona.

Watch Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League on BBC Two at 9pm.

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