GARY’S CHANCE ENCOUNTER
I was sitting on point on the rank at London City Airport. I’d spent two and a half hours waiting for a job. All the flights had landed and it looked like I was going to blow out on point. But then a man started to walk towards me from the terminal. As he came to my window he said “Can you take me to Hampstead please” I realised it was none other than former Arsenal Centre Back Philippe Senderos.
He sat in the back of my cab and off we went. Then to break the ice I said to him “Mr Senderos” (in the style of Blofeld to James Bond. All I needed was to be stroking a white cat on my lap as I said it) to which he replied “Yes that is me”.
Me: Who are you playing for these days?
PS: “I’m hoping to sign for Rangers” which explained why he’d got off the last flight from Glasgow. The rest of the journey then sort of developed into an off the cuff interview about his time at Arsenal.
Me: I’m an Arsenal fan. How did you enjoy your time at Arsenal?
PS: “I absolutely loved it. I still love Arsenal now”
Me: That’s good to hear. What do you think of Arsene Wenger?
PS: “He’s brilliant. A fantastic manager who brought me to Arsenal when I was 18 and gave me my chance playing me in the first team at 19”
Me: What’s Wenger like as a motivator?
PS: “Great he gets the team playing great football”
Me: What is Wenger like at half time? I’ve heard he doesn’t say much?
PS: “He is excellent. Always says the right things. He doesn’t talk any rubbish. I learnt so much from him”
Me: What did you think of the Emirates & the training ground?
PS: “The training ground is first class and Arsene Wenger designed it. The training was really good as well; The Emirates is a fantastic stadium. One of the best, if not the best and I also loved Highbury.”
Me: With my next question I risked losing any chance of a possible tip. You had a lot of trouble marking Drogba?
PS: “Everybody had a lot of trouble marking Drogba”
Me: Good answer! Who do you think was the best player you played with at Arsenal?
PS: “Probably Thierry Henry. At times he was unplayable. Cesc Fabregas is a great player. Dennis Bergkamp was unbelievable and Robert Pires. There were so many great players there”.
Me: Who was the best player you played against?
PS: “I played against Zidane when he was at Real Madrid and for France when I was playing for Switzerland. I also played with Pirlo and Ronaldinho when I was at AC Milan and they were both great players as well”.
Me: I remember us knocking out Real Madrid and Henry scoring that brilliant goal at the Bernabaeu. You must have enjoyed playing there?
PS: “Yes of course it was a fantastic stadium. We had a great run we beat Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal in the semi-final.”
Me: I remember Lehmann saving a penalty in the semi-final. You went something like ten hours without conceding a goal. It was you, Toure, Flamini and Eboue.
PS: “Lehmann was a madman but a great keeper. I think we set some kind of record for not conceding a goal during that run.”
Me: what are the most intimidating stadia to play in? The Turks and the Greeks are very passionate and fanatical aren’t they?
PS: “Yes I once played a World Cup qualifying match in Turkey. The atmosphere was unbelievable that night. I also played in Greece for Arsenal and they were really loud as well”
By then we were nearing the journey’s end.
Me: Have you always had a place here in Hampstead since your Arsenal days?
PS: “No I moved to South West London when I played for Fulham”
Me: it’s very nice in that area as well and Fulham are a great old club.
PS: It’s very nice area to live. But I love it in Hampstead. A few of the Arsenal players lived here and I know the area like the back of my hand. Fulham was a really good club. I enjoyed my time there. But it was terrible when we were relegated”
By now we had reached our destination. Philippe paid me and I did get a tip. I got away with the Drogba question! The final thing I said to him was “Remember Philippe. Once a Gooner always a Gooner” He smiled and said “Of course I’ll always love Arsenal and my son supports them now as well” I said “Good man. Nice talking to you” he smiled again and with that off he went.
Our thanks once again to regular GT guest Gary Lawrence or as most of you know him @garythegooner1956
A chance encounter indeed but you really must not drive, ask questions and write at the same time 🙂
Started going to Highbury in ’66. Season ticket holder since ’76. Love The Arsenal. Need I say more?