Throughout Arsene Wenger’s early years as Arsenal manager he was forever linked with former world player of the year George Weah. It came then as a huge surprise in the summer of 1997 when Arsenal signed his cousin Christopher Wreh who would team up again with his former boss at Monaco for around 300,000 pounds.
Hardly the name that the Highbury faithful would have been familiar too, however as he was joining the other strikers at the club of Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp and a young Nickolas Anelka, he would hardly have ever been considered a player that we would have expected much from.
A Liberian international with 11 goals in 36 appearances it would be fair to say that this well traveled journeyman footballer will be remembered for his career defining season which was 1997/98 at Arsenal.
As you will know this was the season that Arsenal not only won the league but followed it up with the FA Cup versus Newcastle, a game in which Wreh started.
In the Premier League, Wreh had scored in the 5-nil wins against Wimbledon and a critical 1-nil win over Bolton bearing in mind we won the league by a solitary point for the first time in 7 years. It became the catalyst to our success in the early Wenger years, so it shows how vital those wins were especially the Bolton result and the contribution he had made.
The game however where I believe he will be most remembered will be in the FA Cup semi-final game against Wolves. Wreh again scored the only goal of the game that was pivotal for Arsenal to win their first FA Cup in 5 years.
He also went on to follow up with a goal in Arsenal’s next domestic silverwear with a goal against Man Utd in the Charity Shield. After the seasons curtain raiser Wreh found it more and more difficult to tie down a first team place and the goal he’d scored in the Charity Shield ended up being his final goal for the club. With the arrival of Davor Suker who had just won the golden boot at the World Cup in France and someone called Thierry Henry (sorry who??) joining Arsenal in 1999, Wreh’s time was pretty much up.
He had subsequent loan spells between 1999-2000 at Greek Side AEK Athens, Dutch side FC Den Bosch (where Ruud Van Nistlerooy started his career) and also with English side Birmingham where he only scored 1 goal against the mighty Grimsby Town. He left Arsenal officially in 2000 having been involved in 46 matches (mostly as a sub) scoring 5 goals. He eventually after a few months without a club signed for Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal. He returned to the UK with Bournemouth and St Mirren, however he was unable to remain at those clubs generally due to weight issues and lack of fitness, and to be fair he always looked like he enjoyed the odd cake or two even at Arsenal.
Wreh did play again in England with lower league sides of Bishop Stortford and Buckingham Town in 2003-04 and then was without a club until 2007 (3 years later) where he moved to play for Indonesian side Perseman Manokwari. He retried in 2010.
For me Wreh was a player who I remember pretty well. I used to have my head in my hands watching him warm up to come on as a sub. Regardless of my thoughts on him (and they were due to what I saw was a clear lack of finesse or ability) he was a hard player not to like. He played the game with a smile on his face, and his heroics in the season of 1997/98 should not be forgotten as who knows without him we may have won nothing that season and also could have changed our fortunes for the coming few seasons.
From 2005 Chris Wreh had a blog that you can still find archives of through the internet called chriswrehwrites, and it is believed that he is now focusing on his music.
Chris, if you are reading let us know where you are. You may not ever make a legend status at our club but you will always have a certain fondness of memories and will forever be in Arsenal folklore.
Where do you think Chris Wreh is?