Saturday, July 22, 2006

There's only one Dennis Bergkamp...

I wrote a tribute to Dennis in the aftermath in the West Brom game, where he crowned 'Bergkamp day' with a strike that seemed to encapsulate all the joy, class and genius Dennis has brought to the club in his eleven years here. For those of you who missed it, here's an edited version of my original post, some comments people left on Goonerboy about Dennis, and some other Dennis related miscellany. Enjoy.

It seems almost inconceivable now, but Dennis had his fair share of critics when he first arrived at the club. The goals didn't immediately flow, the usual xenophobic 'johnny foreigner' remarks started coming out, and some began to wonder if Inter had done a bit of good business in off-loading him onto us. Then, one glorious late-September afternoon in 1995, Dennis hammered in two against Southampton, and none of us have looked back since. His second, in particular, when he snaked past a couple of defenders and then hammered it in from 30 yards was, for me, a pivotal moment in recent Arsenal history. That we had a player of that quality at the club was surely a potent springboard from which the Wenger era was launched. It's one of my favourite Arsenal goals, and I'll never forget it.

In all the melodrama over Henry's contract some of us may have forgotten that there will be, sadly, but rightly, one contract that definitely won't be renewed this summer. [at least not in a playing role - please stay on as coach Dennis!]

As I said at earlier in the post, I think Dennis's signing was a hugely significant moment in the club's recent moment. The early 90s, the period when I started supporting the club, wern't exactly all fun and games at the club. Mid table finishes, the club's drinking culture, and Georgie G's moment of misjudgement had left the club under a cloud. Now, obviously, Arsene must take the majority of the praise for turning the club round, but Dennis's arrival was a wonderful moment. The way he immediately lit up the club seemed to offer hope for the future, which, combined with Arsene has led to our recent glory years. Yet Dennis's impact stretched beyond Arsenal. One wonders if it wasn't for Dennis's wonderful impact whether foreign players would have come to the Premiership and improved the league in the ways they have. Not just a trailblazer on the pitch, but someone who may have assisted cultural change for the better. Not many players can say that.

A few particularly great moments for me. That piece of skill before threading through Freddie against Juve; those three goals against Leicester; that goal against Newcastle. Or in the unbeaten season when he ran the lenght of Birmingham's pitch, dinked the ball over the keeper, and ran to the fans pointing at the captain's armband. Never a more worthy leader of the Arsenal. Yet Dennis was far more than that. He had an aura of class about him every time he glided around the pitch. He could score, and he did score many great goals for the club, but just his general presence on the pitch seemed to invigorate every team he played in. I know most Dutch people would say the same about his presence in the Dutch team.

He is a true Arsenal legend, and, although I doubt he's reading, I'd just like to say thanks and all the best in the future. You truly made the game beautiful.

Anon on Gb : While his talent and skills on the playing field has left viewers breathless and wanting more, it was also his loyalty and unasumming character that stamped the name 'Dennis Bergkamp'in my heart permanently.

Anon on Gb: Eleven years ago I scarcely ever watched Arsenal. I was depressed by the style of football they played and felt alienated from the heavily male, white, perhaps slightly thugish, perhaps even racist character of the fan base. Then one day on a bus in the Holloway Road I was eavedropping on a young Nigerian couple enthusing about a player Arsenal had recently signed. And I thought: if those nice-seeming people are so excited about Arsenal perhaps I could be as well. The new signing was Bergkamp. I've been an Arsenal fanatic since then.

"If Ryan Giggs is worth £20 million, Bergkamp is worth £100 million."
Marco van Basten

"enn doelpunt van een andrer planeet (It's a goal from another planet)."
Louis Van Gaal, former Ajax coach, describing one of Bergkamp's lobs

"He's one of the best players in the game today but he doesn't get the publicity. It might be because he is quiet off the pitch and does not make dramatic statements to the press and I think he likes it that way."
Arsène Wenger

"Can you not say he is the best player in the world right now? If there is a better one, then I have not seen him."
Wenger speaking at the start of the 1997/98 campaign

"If he were in 'Star Trek', he'd be the best player in whatever solar system he was in."
Bergkamp's former Arsenal strike partner, Ian Wright, speaking in 1997

And Arsene gets the last word:

"Nobody will ever forget Dennis Bergkamp - and everybody who will play in this position for years to come will be compared to Dennis Bergkamp"

So long Dennis, and thanks for everything.

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