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Friday, July 21, 2006

Dennis Bergkamp: football legend and fantastic contributor to the history of AFC

It is fitting that Dennis Bergkamp's testimonial against Ajax tomorrow afternoon will be the first ever match played at Arsenal's magnificent new 60,000 capacity football stadium. He is a definitive Arsenal legend; a player whose positive impact upon AFC has been simply invaluable.

On the BBC website there is an excellent tribute on Dennis Bergkamp by the former Arsenal right-back, Lee Dixon. It sums up many of the points I want to raise about the awesome impact of Bergkamp on Arsenal's upward trajectory in the last decade to three league championships, four FA cups, one Champions League final, a record breaking unbeaten league run, and the most sublime football any supporter could wish to see.

First, the signing of Dennis Bergkamp in June 1995 signalled for the first time that AFC were in the market for the world's best football talent. I really liked the battling John Jensen and Stefan Schwartz, plus the wizardry of Anders Limpar, but Dennis Bergkamp was an overseas player of the highest repute and set a new standard for the sort of player that Arsenal should try to bring to the club. With Dennis Bergkamp in the team I'm sure it made it easier for Arsene Wenger to tempt the likes of Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Pat Vieira to the club in 1996/1997- and later on the likes of Robert Pires and current captain Thierry Henry.

Signing Bergkamp also showed an intent that Arsenal were ready to attack for the top honours again after a gradual decline in the George Graham era - and to do so by playing a more sophisticated and technical style of game that in time would prove to revolutionise the whole image of AFC. This intent quickly materialised into real success: with Dennis Bergkamp at the attacking fulcrum of a new Arsene Wenger-led Arsenal team, the side rapidly developed to the level of champions in the 1997-1998 season playing a new style of incisive attacking football that gained plaudits from many quarters.

Dennis Bergkamp was the main man of Arsenal's double winning side in 1997-1998. But for me the greatness of Bergkamp is in his sheer longevity at the top of professional football. He was vital to Arsenal's double-winning side in 2001-2002. Then, come 2003-2004 - the unbeatable season - he still was the player in the Arsenal team that every other teammate looked up to get the side playing in a fluent and incisive attacking rhythm. And then there is one of the most memorable and emotional performances I will ever see from a player in February 2005, when Bergkamp rolled back the years to put on a sheer master-class performance in a 4-2 loss to Man Utd. The spirit and mastery of Bergkamp's performance in the twilight of his career is one of the best things I've ever witnessed watching football.

Finally, aside from his enormously positive impact on the fortunes of AFC and the profound mastery of his attacking football, one more factor comes into play to explain why I and many others think that Bergkamp is an Arsenal legend: unmistakable loyalty to the club. He found his footballing home at Arsenal: a home where the fans loved him, the style of play suited him, and where the competitive ambition of the club met his. So - in what amounts to quite an achievement for a top player in the modern era of football - he stayed for eleven consecutive seasons. In this time he conducted himself off the pitch as a meticulous professional plus an honourable family man - and it's great for me that I can respect a guy as much for who he is off the pitch as I can for his footballing ability on the pitch.

There's only one Dennis Bergkamp…. and thanks for your magnificent contribution to the history of Arsenal Football Club!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dennis Bergkamp is my favourite player of all time. Its beginning to hit me that I'll never see him play again. He means so much to me, as I'm sure he does to every fan, not just those of Arsenal. What an amazing player he was. Nearly all his goals were special, some extraordinary and outrageous, his assists were of the highest order and his touch was as good as there has ever been from any footballer. As Van Basten said, 'if giggs is worth 20 million, bergkanp is worth 100 million.' Not that money could tempt him away, as you say his loyalty was never questioned.
What a legend Dennis was. We should cherish all the fabulous memories he gave us because we wont see another like him.

7/21/2006 11:47 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

In a sport where finance is key but not a solo open path to success, and perhaps opening more to well-paid salaries than well-chruned qualities, we may never see one grace with the quality of Bergkamp. He was reliable, skilful, lethal, and at times exceptional. The scourge of England at one time, now the renowned player of the last decade. I've heard it asked who were the three most influential foreigners in our league. Some have said Cantona, Schmeichel mainly, Bergkamp was added too. And the thing is he grew accustomed to Arsenal and had no intentions of turning back. Made it his home until he was no longer a resident, a tenacy that was ended today in some style. His first team, Ajax, fielding Van Basten, Cruyff, Rikjaard, Brian Roy, De Boer, and Arsenal featuring Petit, Overmars, Winterburn, Seaman, Dixon, and of course Henry. A sell-out crowd to a sell-out crowd pleaser.

Dank u, Dennis, en goed geluk


7/22/2006 7:38 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks anon and Redsman (Redsman, your linguistic skills knows no bounds!).

I watched the match yesterday on TV with my brother- and it was great!

First, the stadium looks magnificent and in particular the pitch looks to live up to Arsene Wenger's claim that it will be as good - if not better- than the famous Highbury lawn surface. This is very important for our style of game.

Second, the commentary team kept remarking about the unbelievable acoustics of the stadium- and highlighting that the stadium was built specifically to maximise the acoustic effects of the atmosphere generated by the fans. If this is the case will it mean the end of the amusing 'Highbury Library' accusations levelled against the great Arsenal support!!?

Third, Arsenal unveilved a new potential superstar: left back, Armand Traore. He has an upright running gait similar to Niclas Anelka, and we were told by the commentators that over a 40 yard sprint he is just a touch behind Thierry Henry. I was immensely impressed by Traore- he made constant surges down the left and when he made the byline he didn't cross blindly, but instead looked up and would cut the ball back to an Arsenal forward. If Cole does leave, the 16 year old Traore will be an excellent understudy to Gael Clichy... and long-term will definitely be pushing for a starting place in the side.

Fourth, we loved the formal announcement of each Arsenal legend before the start of the second half: Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Vieira, Bould, Keown, Overmars, Helder (!), Petit, Henry, Grimandi, Wright, Parlour, Kanu, Luzhny, Manninger, and of course Bergkamp himself. Each received a magnificent reception- particularly Vieira who reciprocated in kind to the fans. In the post match interview Arsene Wenger expressed the hope that he would like to see Vieira granted a testimonial match by Arsenal, and I second that.

Fifth, there were many great moments in the second half but a few stand-out. First, Marc Overmars looked fantastic on the left wing and there was amusing discussion in our household that we should sign him up again! Second, the biggest laugh of the match was Grimandi fantastically bringing down Edgar Davids as the ex-Spurs midfielder was just about to have the temerity of scoring an open goal in the first match at the Emirates: this cynical play by Gilles confirmed that he is deserving of cult status in the history of AFC! Third, it was excellent to see Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten grace the new Arsenal pitch for the last tem minuts. Van Basten then displayed two moments of pure skill: one a back-heeled through ball; the other a control and volley which bought a great save from 1997/1998 goalkeeping hero Alex Manninger. And finally, in the last minute Bergkamp received the ball in the box and drilled a shot goal-bound only for the Ajax keeper, Stanley Menzo, not to read the script and launch himself into a fine save. Bergkamp looked up to the heavens with a smile- and Menzo then realised what he had done in depriving Dennis a closing goal and had an embarrassed grin on his face. Not to matter- they smiled and embraced at the final whistle.

The scenes at the end of the match was excellent with Bergkamp lifted onto the shoulders of Vieira and Henry and receiving the applause of every other player and the fans. It was a magnificent finale for Bergkamp, and one well deserved!

7/23/2006 7:23 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

To the player who has brought action, skill and RESPECT to Arsenal FC...thank you Dennis Bergkamp!

The tabloids might try to find all sorts of things...but you would ONLY find the Iceman on the sports pages. A model professional, it is hard to see how youngsters these days can live up to his immaculate attitude towards both playing football and life. Not one to be cowed, he is not officially retiring and being "a little bit selfish" and taking time off, despite obvious requests to give something back in the way of coaching etc at Arsenal or Ajax or plentiful other clubs that would love his experience. I respect that in a player...where money really is no object...but his way is not to show that he is rich and if only the "kids" like Ashley Cole could have picked that up early...and I'm hoping Walcott and co WILL do in the near future. A bit of football intelligence...and true life intelligence is what it takes in my book, and Bergkamp epitomises that.

The many articles in the papers and the excellent comments above really draw out bergkamp's qualities. The memorable goals and touches...he was mesmerising when on top form. My favorite is still his goal against Newcastle...ball one way...player the other...collecting the ball and scoring matter how you thought it was a fluke. His comment on the Centurions video,"I just envisioned the quickest was around...and that was it!" or something to that effect!

So the testimonial was a fitting tribute, and no matter that the football was not enthralling...the occasion certainly was. The absolute quality of those that participated was a great indicator of the respect everyone showed DB10...and no expense was seemingly spared to let him have his day!!!

A great player and I feel a great man. We've not seen the last of Mr. Bergkamp I feel...hopefully he'll be back to do something with the club!

7/24/2006 8:07 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says....As one who can remember so many great players from the past for AFC & others, I feel that I should pay a small but heartfelt tribute to 'our' Dennis.

My pride in my club has no limits, but it surely increased 100% when Dennis signed.
His grace,sportsmanship,brain,balance, confidence, and loyalty were examples to every kid today who thinks he deserves hero worship after a few years of playing only for the money. Indeed if I were a Brit who is looking for greener grass with another team, I would have big doubts that I would be welcomed back like all the greats yesterday. Mind you Glen Helder was a surprise guest as he never really reached his potential for us. WHERE WAS BIG TONY ?

Yes 't' I was about to write to you about Traory & Connolly, but this time you pipped me to the punch. Yes Arsene has done it again, and if we can bolster our midfield with a Patrick like player (or even himself) I can see these two kids coming into the squad very soon. As Cesc proved, if your good enough, your old enough.

Well Dennis, I have tried to think of any UK based player that was almost in your league, but I only came up with the following past gems who may ahve been good enough as understudies. Jimmy Mcilroy, John White, Jimmy Logie, Kenny Dalglish, Liam Brady, Duncan Edwards, Len Shakleton, John Charles, and if I had time Im sure there were many more, but none actually on a par with all your assets that I listed above.

Thanks mate for being the catalist in the AFC revival that has made us Gunners so grateful.

7/24/2006 11:13 am

Anonymous Nturtle said... hit the nail on the head when you mentioned Tony Adams...I was wondering the same thing!! Such an influential guy who must have welcomed Bergkamp as he came on board...but sadly it looks like he didn't make it to give him a good send-off. Well done for reminding us of that sad fact...

7/24/2006 12:52 pm


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