During his 24-year tenure at the club, the Gunners won 18 trophies including five league titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups and the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. David was also instrumental in the formation of the Premier League. He was also a former vice-chairman of the Football Association and served on numerous UEFA and FIFA committees.
He said: “Every successful person I’ve ever met in my life over the years, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Alan Sugar, they’ve all had the same three qualities: hard work – you will not get anywhere in life unless you’re prepared to work hard; vision – you’ve got to know where you want to get to in life; and courage – you have got to have the determination to get there.”
David recalled how he grew up watching Arsenal with his uncle on the North Bank at Highbury and would play football three times a week as a teenager. After buying his first share in the club he later sent a handwritten letter with a blank cheque to the board to subscribe for more. He would eventually own a 42 per cent share of the club.
“I knew they would have to answer me, and they did. They invited me to an interview and from there I got onto the board and the rest is history. I live by the motto of the turtle, which is you don’t get anywhere unless you stick your neck out,” he said.
Looking back at his education he was pleased that he’d listened to his A Level French teacher, as in later life he ended up working with Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger and players including Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Viera, Robert Pires and Nicolas Anelka.
He said: “I would’ve loved to have been a professional footballer but very, very few people get to the top and can do it. I’m very pleased that I enjoyed school and very pleased I listened to my teachers. This is a message to all the students – your teachers are there to help you. This is your moment in time to accumulate as much knowledge as you can. It will be the launching pad for your careers, so really take it seriously. Don’t waste this moment, it’s a golden moment of your lives.”
David revealed that when he joined Arsenal in 1983 the club’s turnover was £1.5 million but through his involvement and realisation of the Premier League it was now £450 million. He explained he disliked the words ‘if’ and ‘maybe’ and urged students to be decision-makers. He also told them never be frightened of a challenge and see any problem as an opportunity.
David said: “No matter how successful anyone is today, don’t think they haven’t had reversals. Everybody does. Nothing goes in a straight line. There will always be times when there’s a dip, but in a way that’s nature’s way of saying you’ve got to work harder, think of what you did wrong and go again. Don’t turn your back on it, take it head on. Bring people in with you. It’s very rare anyone can do anything by themselves. If you’re building up an organisation you need people around you and to work as a team. I’ve always tried to assemble a winning team, that’s been my ethos.”
David told students to always look at “going up another rung of the ladder” by thinking about what they can achieve each day and how they are going to make their life better each year. He concluded by giving students his six tips for job and university interviews – be punctual, look smart, make eye contact, give a firm handshake, smile and ask questions.
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