Discussion in 'Arsenal Talk' started by RocktheCasbah, Sep 28, 2005.
Yeah, you and the entire Arsenal supporting population of Great Britain.. :wink:
His last game will be at Highbury no idea when
Good luck in getting ticket for that game
not to mention the Arsenal supporting population around the world
Yeah, them too...
its good that you guys remember us.(Asia) Bergkamp is the first Arsenal player i know(though he probably dont know me :wink: ) and is my 2nd favourite player at Arsenal.(Bobby is the first) I would rob a bank to watch his testimonial but bank dont sell tickets so......
*waves hand from Canada* *waves again from Hong Kong occasionally*
ya i'd give a lot to be there, but... *sigh* haven't even been to GB before despite having been in a British International school in Hong Kong and doing my GCSE and Alevels.
i so wish i could be at highbury just ONCE before it gets torn down
I doubt his last game will be at Highbury. i can't remember when or where...but I think I read on arsenal.com that his testimonial will be at Ashburton Grove...
it should be there.. lets honour the man by having him officiate the new ground.. we might have his charms then..
This is a good read about our Dennis, apologies for the length but I believe this is behind registration and you can't read it unless you are a subscriber. Enjoy!
November 14, 2004
The Big Interview: Dennis Bergkamp
Arsenal’s talismanic playmaker tells Joe Lovejoy how adding a streetwise edge to his sublime ability has enabled him to survive 10 seasons in the Premiership
Arsenal boast more stars than the London Planetarium, but even the biggest egos show due deference to one man, and not just because he has been around longer than the rest. Dennis Bergkamp is the senior professional at Highbury, the only player to pre-date Arsène Wenger, but the enormous respect he commands in the dressing room is based on sublime talent, rather than longevity.
Among Arsenal fans he is a living legend, even more popular than Thierry Henry, and teammates and supporters alike are encouraging him to stay on for at least another year, which would make him the Premiership’s first big overseas import to qualify for a testimonial. This season is Bergkamp’s 10th with Arsenal, and the hope at the club is that the historic first game at their new stadium in 2006 will be the Dutchman’s benefit match. With the exception of a certain Glaswegian misery guts in Manchester, just about everybody in English football, which he has graced since 1995, would like to see him make it.
Bergkamp will be 36 in May, but feels so good at the moment that his inclination is to go on for two more years. During that time he is eager to fulfil his one remaining ambition by winning the European Cup. Whatever they may say at Old Trafford, Arsenal have a deserved reputation for doing most things in style, and the latest addition to their state-of- the-art training headquarters is a unique suite of individual interview rooms for the media.
It was here, in No 17, complete with blackboard for educative purposes (mine, not his), that we were deep in conversation about the mean edge to his game and his endless capacity for getting up Sir Alex Ferguson’s nose (he enjoys both), when Patrick Vieira poked his head round the door to tell him that somebody was on the phone. In my experience, 99% of players would have taken the call, but this was the exception. Bergkamp, smiling, said:
“Go away, go home, you’re annoying.” The captain went, without another word.
As Manchester United will testify, Amsterdam’s finest is no longer the shy, effete character whose diffidence so nearly led Ajax to terminate his career before it had begun.
DENNIS NICOLAAS BERGKAMP was born on May 10, 1969, the youngest of four brothers fathered by Wim Bergkamp, a football-daft electrician who brought up his family in a working-class Amsterdam suburb with middle-class aspirations. Wim was a decent inside-forward, as attacking midfielders were once described. He played as an amateur in Holland’s lower leagues, as did Dennis’s siblings. Unusually, in view of subsequent events, the youngest brother never appeared to be a better prospect than the rest, and was concentrating on his homework (his favourite subject was maths, which may be where those slide- rule passes come from) at the age when professional clubs were taking their pick from the junior schools.
There were overtures from Ajax, but his dad, a Feyenoord supporter, would have none of it at first. He had already prevailed upon another of his sons, Ronald, to turn down an invitation from the most celebrated Dutch club of them all. Dennis takes up the story: “It was different at Ajax in those days. The set-up was a bit snobby, and our family were far from that. We were down-to- earth people and didn’t like that sort of thing, which was alien to our culture. Ronald decided not to go, and the same thing happened when they came for me, when I was nine. It was another two years before I joined them.”
From the age of 11, he had the benefit of the finest education football had to offer. The syllabus laid down by the visionary Rinus Michels, much copied since, had two basic tenets: 1) young players should learn the game from A to Z, and maximise their potential by trying every outfield position before settling in the one that suited them best, and; 2) every age group at the club, from the under-nines upwards, should play in the same style and formation as the first team — namely 3-4-3 — so that individuals could slot in seamlessly as they moved up the pyramid.
This enlightened upbringing was at the root of Bergkamp’s peerless technique. “I played in every position apart from goalie,” he said. “At that age, it’s a good idea to play right-footed players on the left side, to force them to use their left foot more. And the experience of playing as a defender helps a forward to know how they think and how to beat them.”
Remarkably, until the age of 17 he was deemed a borderline case, in no way outstanding, and there were good grounds for his fears that he wouldn’t make the grade. His skinny physique and passive attitude counted against him. “The club had real doubts about me,” he admitted. “Under the youth system at Ajax, there is a selection process every year, to decide whether you go on or have to leave. Going through the years, I would always hear: ‘
You have to be physically stronger and more determined, otherwise it’s going to be difficult for you to make it’. The attitude was: ‘OK, he’s not a bad player, but can he cope with the physical side?’ ” Two things coincided to tip the scales in his favour: he started to fill out, and Johan Cruyff became his mentor. “When I joined Ajax, Cruyff was still a player there,” he said. “I used to go to the first-team games and watch and learn from him. Then he left the club for a year and came back as coach. He would always encourage the youth players, and would take our training sessions sometimes. We all loved that, of course. He was a legend — he still is — and the way he approached the game, with the emphasis on technique and attack, was something new and fresh.”
Bergkamp’s breakthrough came at 17. Cruyff had been keeping his eye on him, and made it plain to sceptics on his coaching staff that he liked what he saw.
“I was always hearing rumours that he was a fan of the way I played my football, but that I was a bit too nice. Then one Saturday I was playing for the A juniors, which in Holland is the last of the age groups, and I was taken off at half-time. I’d been doing well, so straightaway I thought: ‘Something’s happening here’, and the coach, Cor van der Haart, told me: ‘You’re with the first team tomorrow’. Basically, that’s when it all started.”
Bergkamp made his debut as a substitute, against Roda JC. “I came on as a right-winger. That was my first position, and I played there for the next three years.” The match that first marked out the newcomer as worthy of note came that first season, in the quarter-finals of the old Cup Winners’ Cup, when he took on and destroyed Malmo’s renowned defender Tobias Persson. “We played the away leg first, and I travelled there straight after taking one of my school exams. We lost there 1-0, and in the return I played from the start and we won 3-1. That’s the game everybody in Holland remembers as the one that made my name. I was up against their best-known player, who had been there for years — the big man of the team — but it was my day. A marvellous European debut.”
Ajax won the Cup Winners’ Cup that season, Bergkamp contributing four goals from the right wing, and reached the final again the next year. It was a time, and a team, of fond memory. The names tripped off the tongue: Rijkaard, Van Basten, Muhren, Wouters, Blind. “It was fantastic to play with them.” Eventually switching from the flank to settle in the hole behind the main strikers, he made 239 appearances for Ajax, scoring 122 goals. There were international caps (his debut for Holland was in 1990), championships and cups galore, and two Dutch Footballer of the Year awards before, in 1993, he embarked on what became a sorry sojourn in Italy. The move to Internazionale, for £12.5m, turned sour almost at once when undertakings the club had given proved worthless. Smiling ruefully at the memory, he said: “A lot of promises were made during the contract talks. They said they wanted to play the Dutch way — the way I played football. They drew this attacking formation on the tablecloth and said: ‘We want to change from the old Italian style, which is too defensive’. We tried it for a month and it didn’t work out immediately, so we went straight back to the bad old ways.”
It was not only Inter’s catenaccio style that was anathema; his attacking partner, Uruguay’s Ruben Sosa, also left a lot to be desired. “He was very selfish. Coming from Ajax, where everything was based on one-touch football and supporting each other, it all seemed so strange. The two strikers were left in no doubt that they were on their own. If the two of us had worked together, we might have had a chance, but Sosa was interested only in himself. We somehow managed to win the Uefa Cup, which was a positive, but I can’t think of many others.”
IT IS A murky grey area, upon which none of the principals is prepared to shed light, whether Bruce Rioch, who was Arsenal’s manager at the time, or David Dein, their mover and shaker behind the scenes, was responsible for their best piece of transfer business in modern times. The £7.5m that Bergkamp cost them was deemed to be a lot in June 1995 (Inter president Massimo Moratti chortled: “Arsenal will be lucky if he scores 10 goals this season”) but it looks like daylight robbery now. “It all happened very quickly — within a week,” the player said. “I was able to have talks over the phone with Bruce Rioch and David Dein. Straight away I had a totally different, warm feeling to what I’d been used to at Inter, and although I knew English football was a gamble, I thought: ‘Yeah, let’s do it’.”
Bergkamp enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Ian Wright, and throughout his career he has generally been content to play second fiddle to more prolific strikers such as Marco van Basten, Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry. “When I first came here, Ian was the goalscorer, and I played around him. The name he had in English football helped me. He was the marked man, all the attention on the field was on him, and I had a bit more space to do what I wanted. Apart from Sosa, I ’ve been lucky with the strikers I’ve played with.”
Arsenal did the Double in 1998, when Bergkamp was at his coruscating best, his 21 goals helping to make him the Players’ Player of the Year. Wenger’s men repeated the feat in 2002, but it was only last season that they felt they had won their 15-year battle with Manchester United for domestic supremacy. “We had been building towards it, growing and growing as a team, and finally all the pieces fell together. The players were at the right age, and the whole thing just worked out perfectly. Every game we went without losing seemed to make us stronger. Going through a whole season unbeaten is so difficult that I don’t think it will ever be done again.”
The ending of the sequence, after 49 games, was a psychological blow, all the more damaging mentally because that first defeat came against United. “It definitely affected us. You think the run can go on and on, and when it stops, it’s a reminder that if you don’t play well enough, you can still be punished. It can happen against teams like Man United, especially on their ground if decisions don’t go your way, and that did knock us back.” After their 2-0 loss at Old Trafford, the Arsenal players expected their great rivals to go on a barnstorming charge up the table, and were pleasantly surprised when it didn’t materialise. “We thought that result could really turn their season around, but their form dipped again the next week.”
Arsenal, too, have staggered, with successive draws against Southampton, Panathinaikos and Crystal Palace; it is if the two heavyweights have punched themselves out. Metaphorically speaking, of course. “We know where we’re going wrong, but we’re struggling to put it right. The pace is too slow, we need a higher tempo — to be quicker and slicker with our passing and movement. Our confidence has taken a bit of a knock, and we need to get it back. It will come in time, but until it does, it’s important not to drop too many points.”
Recent history suggests that there is real enmity between Ferguson and Wenger and their charges. The United manager badmouths Bergkamp more than any other player. How would Ferguson’s bête noire describe relations between the teams? “Normal,” he said, smiling. “It’s normal that the two big rivals in any league will always have a go at each other. I found it in Italy, when Milan played Inter, and in Holland, between Ajax and Feyenoord. It’s going to be the same between Man U and Chelsea.”
Not yet; the on-the-field animosity between United and Arsenal is unique in English football. “Yes,” Bergkamp conceded, “but that’s a natural thing, because the two of us have been fighting it out at the top for so long. They’ve been the main team for many years, and we want to take over. We know we can’t match them just by playing football. First of all we have to win the physical fight, in the sporting sense of the word.”
In fairness to Ferguson, Bergkamp is no stranger to skulduggery, a far cry from the young wannabe whose appetite for the fray was questioned in his formative years at Ajax. The transformation occurred in Italy. “A lot of people there try to hurt you, not just physically but mentally as well, and coming from the easygoing culture in Holland, I had to adopt a tougher approach. There, it was a case of two strikers up against four or five hard defenders who would stop at nothing.
“They used everything, fair means and foul. I had to learn to look after myself, and I found it came naturally to me. Now, defending myself helps me to play my game, and when I get criticised for it, it doesn’t bother me. It’s something that’s part of me, something psychological or philosophical, whatever. It’s part of my game. I can do the brilliant things, but I’ve got that physical edge as well, and maybe if I give that up, I’ll lose both. Most of the time the aggression comes from frustration. Maybe I want to break away and an opponent is holding me back, so I lash out. It’s not the right thing to do, but it’s an instinct I have: ‘Get away from me’. It’s just frustration, rather than the desire to hurt anybody.”
Peter Schmeichel, who knows both players well, describes Bergkamp and Ruud van Nistelrooy as peas in a pod, in terms of personality. “Maybe,” Bergkamp reflected. “A lot of Dutch players have brilliant ability, and can win a game in one move, but we also have a nasty side. Van Basten had it: I’ve seen him elbow someone in European games. I could give you loads of examples, and in that way I see what Schmeichel means. We like to play fair, and we like nice football, but we also have a darker side.”
On the subject of his countrymen, Bergkamp is a big admirer of Arjen Robben, the winger United let slip through their fingers to join Chelsea from PSV Eindhoven. “He’s got that freshness about him, that eager movement and the urge to go forward. He’s similar to Ryan Giggs. Robben could have been his replacement.”
Mention of PSV comes as a reminder that they are Arsenal’s next opponents in the Champions League, and that victory in Eindhoven in 10 days’ time would see Wenger’s team safely through to the knockout stage. The non-flying Dutchman will not be on the plane, of course, but will he be making the trip by car, as he did two years ago? “If the manager wants me to go, yes.” He has flown in the service of his previous clubs, but stopped because his fear of doing so undermined him, psychologically and physically. “I would spend days beforehand dreading the flight, and I’d play the game thinking about the journey back. It was affecting not just my form but my life.”
When the team flies to matches in England, such as at Newcastle, Bergkamp is chauffeured by the kit man. Their playmaker’s absence from away games in Europe may not be seen as a problem, but Arsenal’s underachievement in the Champions League — where they have never done themselves justice — certainly is. There is a danger, he says, of it becoming a mental block. “The results are starting to worry us, so we don’t take as many risks as we do in the Premiership. For some reason, that inhibition creeps in whenever we play a European tie, at home as well, which is strange, because we should be able to dominate those teams here.
“Nobody in this country is better than us at attacking on the break, which is the classic way to play in Europe, but somehow we just don’t do it in the Champions League. When a break is on, we hold back. We seem to be a bit scared, and it is worrying, because if we want to succeed in Europe, this is the time to do it. We have a great team at the moment; maybe it will be not so great in two or three years’ time.”
In terms of Arsenal’s domestic supremacy, Chelsea are now seen as the biggest threat. “They look like our main challengers. They are picking up the little one-nils here and there, there’s a lot of quality in their squad, but it’s a long season. There’s too much talent here for us not to be confident.” United are in transition. “They are in the process of creating a new team. That fantastic band of young players who came through and could find each other all the time aren’t so young any more, and it’s a matter of getting new faces in and getting them to gel.”
We have talked so long that the cleaners are getting restless. Bergkamp is off home to millionaires’ row in Hadley Wood (he has just been named Holland’s richest footballer, with an estimated fortune of £40m) to check on the price of his Arsenal shares with his wife, Henrita, also a shareholder, and three children, and maybe to give some thought to that testimonial. “Perhaps I’ll ask Man United to provide the opposition,” he said, smiling, fully aware that Ferguson would rather have red-hot needles stuck in his eyes.
ok, I didnt read that one....anyone else?
Nice read, kinda old though. Thanks anyway.
Bergkamp said that Wenger promised him his testimonial will be at the new stadium.
To be honest, I wouldn't like that. I hope the bye-bye to Highbury is the bye-bye to Dennis Bergkamp as well.
To be honest, I was thinking the other day, where's the sense in having Dennis' lkast game at a ground that only holds 38,000 when it could be held at a 60,000 capacity stadium that Dennis' displays have helped build?
Added to the emotion of saying bye bye to Highbury, to have to say it at the same game to Dennis, people would be crying for a week!
I would also say there is loads of non arsenal fans that would like to see Dennis last game! he has been amazing for arsenal! the goals have been out of this world! I still can't get the goal against newcastle out of my head! love him!
You're not wrong Rock...
This raises an important point.....Does anyone know whats the first game at Ashburton grove ?
It's gonna be one emotional farewell..
He's been my favourite Arsenal player ever since he joined.
Man dennis was the reason that I became a football fan and a arsenal fan in the first place. Got a size M shirt and a scarf from my uncle and I have been wearing that since that for every arsenal game I watch. Bougth one new a couple of years ago but arsenal seem to loose when I wear that one
Im sure i have read somewhere that he was actually a Sp**s fan as a boy. anyone heard this before? and i believe he was also named after denis law.
thats wat ive read, no sources so apologies if its bollox.
I think I read somewhere Dennis loved Sp**s, when he was younger
me too, become an arsenal fan because of the great dutch master! i am crying already just thinking that this will be his last season :cry:
from what i know, he is not a Sp**s fan, but a glenn hoddle fan. and he is named after denis law.
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