"Essential for fans of the beautiful game, and readers who love autobiographies filled with passion, honour, and a sense of remembering who you are, what you are, and what you represent."
There’s no question that the beautiful game owes much to David Dein. Famously responsible for transforming England’s football landscape by bringing Arsène Wenger to Arsenal, beyond that Dein has been a trailblazing visionary throughout his career, as revealed by his consummately engaging memoir. Being a charming raconteur, Calling the Shots is un-put-down-able, with Wenger’s introduction eloquently encapsulating their friendship of a lifetime, and their shared lifelong devotion to “sleeping in red and white and waking up in red and white.”
Born into a family of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Dein was a working-class boy who rose to the upper echelons of the “Bank of England” club and global football, making a fortune through sugar trading, before falling victim to a swindle that saw him lose millions. An Arsenal fan since childhood, Dein used an eclectic range of mottos to position himself at the heart of his beloved club, from following “the maxim of the turtle - you don’t get anywhere unless you stick your neck out”, to taking wisdom from Leonard Cohen’s lyric: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
After sticking his neck out and entering the world of football through a crack of light, a poignant personal connection to young Hillsborough victims set Dein on a path to “make football a better environment”. His commitment to improving the status quo continues today with the Twinning Project, an initiative that sees the prison and probation service partner with professional football clubs to deliver lifechanging football-based programmes.
Alongside the legendary story of his wife Barbara’s “serendipitous smoke” with Arsène Wenger in Highbury’s cocktail lounge, and an extensive account of the coming together of Arsenal’s first-class Invincibles team on a basic budget, Arsenal fans will be especially interested in new details about how Dein was forced to leave the club he loved, and his thoughts on Arsène being “thrown out into the wilderness”. Then there’s the fascinating story of Dein’s meetings with billionaires Kroenke and Usmanov, with Dein hoping to be reinstated at Arsenal no matter which one of them bought his shares, and the club.
While Dein’s jury is still out on Kroenke (“Whereas I gave it tender loving care, he is an absentee owner who gets other people to run it…Good people have gone”), his love for Arsenal remains, as does his commitment to improving football and making it a force for good, all of which means Calling the Shots is an absolute must-read for fans of the game.