A look at Arsene Wenger’s less than successful youth signings during his Arsenal tenure
Christopher Wreh never had as good a season as 1997-98. With a Premiership challenge in full flow, but with Wright and Bergkamp both unavailable, he scored a couple of crucial winners that sparked the long winning streak culminating in the Premiership title returning to Highbury. For good measure, he scored the only goal of the FA Cup semi final against Wolves, before picking up a winners medal against Newcastle a few weeks later.
At 23, he probably expected his career to go from strength to strength, but the opposite happened. After two seasons in and around the first team, the former Monaco striker made three loan switches. The first was a reasonably successful one, to AEK Athens, in 1999, before less enjoyable spells with Birmingham, where Trevor Francis sent him back within weeks, and the Dutch side Den Bosch in 2000.
With his Arsenal career in decline, he left in the summer of 2000 to find regular football. After six months without a club, he moved to oil rich Saudi Arabia to play for Al-Hilal, the home of Saudi legend and top scorer Sami Al-Jaber. Wreh apart, the Saudis were a team made up of home players and he struggled to adapt, leaving at the end of the season after a handful of inauspicious appearances.
In the summer of 2001, Wreh joined Bournemouth on trial, but the south coast side never offered him a contract, and he ended up moving to Scotland to join First Division St Mirren. Thoughts of a career revival were short-lived, as he made only three substitute appearances for the remainder of the season and failed to get on the scoresheet. This was largely due to persistent injuries, despite his continual optimism that he was ‘close to a return’.
St Mirren tried to offload him to ease their financial difficulties, but move after move broke down. Eventually he left at the end of the season, his reputation in tatters, and took a few months leave from the game, before returning in the Ryman Premier League with Bishop’s Stortford. The move was a disaster, and Wreh’s attitude was called into question by manager Martin Hayes after no-showing a game against Enfield:
“Honestly, even if he had turned up for the Enfield game I wouldn’t have put him on the bench, never mind started him. He didn’t turn up for training last Friday and that wasn’t the first time. I can never get hold of him. It’s not on. I have to think of the other lads who do put in the time and effort.”
Incredibly, Wreh’s next step was even further down, to Buckingham Town, but after a few appearances there, decided enough was enough and retired from the game in 2005 to concentrate on a musical project, Soul Rebels.
His football story hadn’t quite ended there, however, because in the summer of 2007 he joined Indonesian side Perseman Manokwari. Six months later, he walked out on his contract and hasn’t joined a club since.
In addition to his seemingly poor attitude, Wreh has been dogged by continual comments about his weight and fitness, something he freely admits to on his blog, now focused mainly on his musical exploits. In the early entries, he confesses that he enjoyed his food far too much to maintain his fitness, and this may one of the reasons his career nosedived so spectacularly.
Ten years ago he was an FA Cup winner. What a demise.