Song hails Wenger effect
Alex Song admits he will forever be indebted to Arsene Wenger for the way he helped him settle in England.
By Joe Drabble
Last Updated: 18/04/10 12:39pm
Arsenal midfielder Alex Song admits he will forever be indebted to manager Arsene Wenger for the way he helped him adapt to life in England.
The Cameroon star revealed how he used to cry himself to sleep in the early stages of his Arsenal career before Wenger took him under his wing.
His inability to speak English and dislike for the local cuisine made life extremely difficult for Song when he joined the Gunners from Bastia at the end of the 2006 season.
And Song admits he would have struggled to stick it out in England had Wenger not been such a superb man-manager.
"When I arrived at Arsenal I didn't know anyone, could not speak a word of English and hated the food," Song told the News of the World.
"My first two years here were very difficult. I would cry alone in my hotel room. When I finished training I would spend all my time on the phone with my friends in France. I ran up a huge phone bill.
"I was not very confident but Arsene helped me a lot and I want to give him my biggest thanks. He had faith in me, eased my worries and made me feel very welcome.
"The club found me a flat in Enfield - complete with French television channels - and that helped me settle!"
Song also revealed how his main goal when at Corsican club Bastia was to play under Wenger.
And, at 17-years-old, he received a phone call from a coach at the French club that turned his dream into reality.
"He told me Arsene Wenger wanted me to come to Arsenal," recalled Song. "But I didn't believe him. For me, Arsenal was THE team. Everyone at Bastia wanted to play for Arsenal. Not Barcelona, nor Real Madrid, nor Manchester United.
"To play with Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira. But when I got the call I thought it was a joke.
"It was only when we arrived at London Colney and I saw the Arsenal training ground that I believed him.
"Then I met Arsene Wenger. He told me he had seen me play for Bastia and wanted me at Arsenal.
"Then Thierry embraced me and said, in French: 'Welcome to Arsenal.'
"I couldn't believe it. I was 17. Then Dennis tried to talk to me, but I couldn't speak English.
"I was in awe of them. I went on the pre-season tour to Austria and I remember thinking, 'If Arsenal let me go now I will still go home happy'.
"When I got back to the hotel on that first day I rung my friends and all they asked was, 'Get Thierry's shirt for me!' After the Austria trip I went back to Bastia and didn't hear anything for three weeks. I thought I had done something wrong.
"But then Arsene phoned me and said, 'I want you to come to Arsenal.'"