As Arsenal prepare to take on Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, Paul Dickov will be casting a keen eye over the contest at Wembley Stadium.
The Scotland striker, who will appear for his country again this summer when they take on eleven other nations at the inaugural Star Sixes tournament at The O2, has fond memories of playing for both the Gunners and City.
Beginning his professional career at Highbury, where he spent six years, he left for Maine Road just as Arsene Wenger arrived in London.
Though he didn’t get to play under the Frenchman, Dickov says that, despite recent criticism with Arsenal sitting outside the Premier League’s top four spots, Wenger has given the club some “wonderful times”, including three titles and six FA Cups.
Now, one step away from the final again, trophy success is something he believes is a must for a club like Arsenal.
“[Arsene] has done an unbelievable job there, things have gone a little bit sour which is not something he deserves after the work that he’s done, the service he’s given the club, and some wonderful times as well,” said the 44-year-old forward.
“As an ex-player it’s quite sad the stick that he’s getting at the minute, but it’s understandable as well.
“Arsenal are a huge club and success for them recently has been finishing in the top four and for the fanbase and stadium they’ve got that’s not been good enough.”
Dickov left London in 1996 and headed north to Championship side Manchester City, where he stayed for six years. At the end of his second season, the club were relegated to the third tier of English football, but quickly returned thanks largely to the Scotsman.
In the 1999 play-off final, with City trailing 2-1 deep into injury time, Dickov popped up to slam home an equaliser and his side eventually won the game on penalties to earn promotion.
Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength, moving to a new ground – which Dickov returned to as a player for City in 2006. But even with so many developments, he says some things are still the same.
“I was a lucky boy to be able to score that goal,” he smiles as he remembers the day he helped City back to the Championship.
“The timing of the goal, what it meant, being at Wembley, it’s something I’m hugely proud of and that will stay with me forever.”
Dickov continued: “To see where the club is now, I’m delighted. When I first went there, there were a lot of people working at Maine Road then who are still working there now. The owners have to get some credit for that, keeping the core of the club that a lot of people don’t see.
“And on the pitch, on any given day, City can beat any team with the players they’ve got.”