Former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein has apologised to Ashley Cole live on talkSPORT for ‘not doing enough’ to keep him at the club.
Dein, who was a constant at Arsenal between 1983 and 2007, oversaw some of the club’s most glorious title-winning years and their ground-breaking move to the Emirates.
That departure from Highbury in 2006 came before Premier League television rights completely skyrocketed, making matchday far more crucial, and the Gunners having to penny-pinch to get it over the line.
A casualty of that more frugal era in north London was academy product and England international Cole, who went on to be one of the very best left backs of his generation.
City rivals Chelsea poached the defender at the start of their high-spending era in 2006 and the rest was history with him winning a league title and Champions League at Stamford Bridge and becoming an England stalwart.
Dein revealed the inside story behind Cole’s Arsenal departure on talkSPORT – which was decided by an unsuspecting waiter.
“We should never have lost him in my opinion,” Dein said.
“His contract came up for renegotiation and we didn’t offer him the right sort of money and Chelsea did.
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“There was this clandestine meeting, I got a call one day from a journalist from The News of the World and he said we’ve got a hot story off the press that your player is being tapped up by Chelsea, I think you should come and see us.
“So I went down to the offices and they said here’s a signed statement from the waiter in the hotel where Ashley Cole was meeting Chelsea and he was an Arsenal fan – the waiter clearly – and he gave the story to The News of the World and they broke it there and then.
“That really was the end of that there and it was a great shame as Ashely was homegrown, he was an Arsenal boy and I regret we didn’t do enough at the time to keep him at the club.
“It was also when we were talking about building the stadium and finances and tensions were raging about how we were going to finance the new stadium.
“We were watching every penny and consequently we didn’t do enough to keep him and I regret that in hindsight.
“So Ashley if you’re listening I’m sorry.”