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MY favourite player

Following Tim's cracking piece on our twinkle-toed swede of Days gone by, Anders Limpar, I cannot let this moment go without honouring the man who I consider to be the finest player to pull on an Arsenal shirt (at least during my time on this earth).

There've been many-a-fine player to play for Arsenal, Tim's namechecking pretty much covered it.

For me, one man stands head and shoulders above the rest for the way he would inspire dreams, make your jaw drop, and leave you wishing you could do something like that over the park during a kickabout with your mates, let alone in the heat of a Premiership battle.

I take you back to 1995. Following the 'bung' scandal, for which George Graham paid with his job, Arsenal were managed by Bruce Rioch. Rioch, whose time at Arsenal would be short, nonetheless, left his mark on the history of our great club by shelling out £7.5m on a player who had become something of a misfit during two seasons in Italy (there is some uncertainty as to whether or not Rioch actually made this signing, or if it was made at the behest of someone else at the club, or a certain Frenchman who was yet to arrive on the Arsenal scene, but I will give the Credit to Rioch...). Unable to find happiness in the Italian game, Highbury, and indeed the whole of English football, was left more than a little shocked when, one day in June 1995, Arsenal announced to the world that they had completed the signing from Inter Milan of one Dennis Bergkamp. In a parting shot, Inter Milan's chairman, Massimo Moratti, declared, Arsenal will be lucky if Bergkamp scores 10 goals this season.

The Dutchman, named after Legendary Scottish striker Denis Law, had put pen to paper with The Gunners, and with that signature came a love affair in North London that, despite the two parties no longer seeing each other anymore on a regular basis, remains overpowering and heartfelt to this very day. Some things are meant to be, and The Arsenal and Dennis were meant to be together. Together, they blossomed. And, like all the best love affairs, there was a mutual respect for each other, undimmable beauty, and plenty of passion (that would sometimes boil over to reveal the fiery temper that lurks beneath the surface...).

Dennis made his debut for Arsenal against Middlesbrough on the 19th of August. Despite glimpses of what he could do, Highbury waited and waited for the dutchman to open his account. No doubt some became concerned that we had bought a dud, and that the guy couldn't hack it. Those concerns were blown away the day when Southampton were the visitors at Highbury - Arsenal's dutchman registering his name on the scoresheet not once, but twice. With the monkey off his back, Dennis ended the season with 11 goals to his name.

The following season, Rioch having been removed from his post, Arsene Wenger was instated in the Highbury hotseat. And it was under the stewardship of Arsene that Dennis really began to reveal the true beauty of his game.

The statement 'a scorer of great goals, not a great scorer of goals' never rang truer than it did with Dennis. The magic wasn't just in the boots. It certainly wasn't in his pace (though he was never a slouch). Dennis Bergkamp didn't have to rely on such physical traits to prove his ability. Where Dennis' magic truly lay was in his mind. He was blessed with a vision and speed of thought that was truly second to none, and knowing that he had the technique that could enable to make the most audacious seem nonchalant, this enabled him to score magnificent goals, and if the Premier League want to release another 'greatest goals' compilation, they may as well just stuff it full of DB10 goals from start to finish.

As if to prove this, Dennis became the only player (so far) to notch a 1-2-3 in Match of the day's 'Goal of the Month' competition, for his treble scored away at Leicester City in September 1997.

Picking out you favourite Dennis Bergkamp goal is like trying to pick who out of Robbie Savage, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole you would wallop first - you want to choose them all. Yet, if I had to choose one, well, it couldn't be done. I have to pick two (and one of them wasn't scored for Arsenal).

The first goal would have to be the truly awe-inspiring receive-flick-swivel-finish delivered against Newcastle United at St James' Park in 2002. Receiving A Bob Pires pass with his back to goal some 20 yards out, nothing seemed on. Dennis had other ideas. With Nikos Dabizas right up his harris, Dennis' first touch sent the ball spinning round and behind him to his right, whilst immediately after the flick, Dennis span to the left, around Dabizas, who by this time was wondering where the player he had been marking had just disappeared to. Dennis and the ball instantly became re-acquainted, and having held off Dabizas, The Iceman coolly slotted the ball past Shay Given. Pandemonium amongst Gooners everywhere would have set in, but we were all still trying to digest what we had just seen. A truly mesmeric goal.

The second, was the goal scored for the Netherlands in the France 98 World Cup. Facing Argentina in the quarters, and with time fast running out, Dennis took a long pass from (I think) Frank de Boer 15 yards out from goal, on the right hand side of the area. taking the ball out of the air as if it were a feather with his right foot, he flicked the ball round the defender, before passing the ball past the Argentinian 'keeper, to knock the Argies home early.

But of course, Dennis wasn't just a goalscorer. Of equal, if not greater importance, was his ability to forge partnerships with the striker playing up front with him, and enable them to get the best out of themselves, and benefit vastly from the vision of Arsenal's artist-among-artists. Without doubt, neither Ian Wright nor Thierry Henry would have accumulated as many goals as the did in their Arsenal careers were it not for the Iceman. Indeed, allow me to let the two men speak for themselves. Here's Ian Wright on Dennis:

He's the messiah. We told him to get us into Europe when he joined and that's exactly what he did.

And TH14 put it rather well too, when he said:

Dennis is the best player I have ever played with as a partner. It is a dream for a striker to have him in the team with you.

A gentleman off the pitch, he could also have a nasty streak on it, not taking over-the-top fouls lightly, and sometimes he would respond outside the laws of the game. But those bursts of anger only served to endear him further to us Gooners.

As the years began to take their toll, Dennis forays for Arsenal became fewer and father between. In what was possibly the first example of it's kind of Arsene Wenger's favouring of youth over experience, Dennis' last couple of years at Arsenal were on one year contract extensions. Seeing Dennis having to wait to see if he could secure another year at the end of those seasons always left me a little sad, as you could sense it troubled him deeply, and that he never wanted to play anywhere else after Arsenal. Yet, even though age caught up with him, those moments of magic still shone through - the most notable being the 7-0 demolition of Everton, which left the Highbury crowd united as one, imploring Wenger to give Bergkamp 'One More Year!!!'.

April 15th 2006 saw Highbury honour it's adopted Dutch son, as the match against West Brom was designated 'Dennis Bergkamp Day', and Dennis duly came on as a second half sub, to set up Bobby Pires for the winning goal, to a rapturous reception. He would then go on to score a third himself, which proved to be his last goal for Arsenal.

Dennis would officially retire from the game after the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona. He left behind him a record that reads 121 goals in 424 appearances, and 166 assists. Also a plethora of dizzy defenders, with neck-aches.

Dennis will always be a Gooner, and as far as I can recall, I think I remember reading that his son is a died-in-the-wool Gooner too. After losing to Manchester United in the FA Cup semi Final at Villa Park, I remember reading about Dennis going home and having to comfort his son, who was in floods of tears saying 'Daddy, why did we have to lose?'. I have been unable to locate the quote, but definitely remember reading it. How great would it be to see another Bergkamp proudly wearing the red and white in a few years?

Having brought so much joy to us Arsenal fans, it was with great pleasure that Dennis got the testimonial he so richly deserved. I only wish I had been able to attend the match, but I was in Italy at that time. My mate went, and proudly had the t-shirt given out that day. How dearly I would love one, and to have paid my tribute to Dennis. He's quite simply my favourite player ever. If I could choose to have played like any footballer, ever, i would always, always choose the ice-cool demeanour and exquisite artistry of DB10.

In my eyes, there is, and only ever could be, 'One Dennis Bergkamp'.

Wingers






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The Journalist

Writer: Wingston Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday January 16 2008

Time: 9:46PM

Your Comments

Greatest footballer of all time, Maradono who? Seriously though what a legend, I just recently got a copy of his '100 goals' DVD and I could watch that daily some of them are that aesthetically pleasing.
Ozi Gooner
Being from Oz, I only have seen the Gunners in live action once getting tickets to Martin Keown's testimonial in 2004. My lasting memory from that day was watching the great dutchman, at that point past his prime, basically standing in the centre circle and tearing apart the defence with perfectly weighted slide-rule passes for the youngsters to run onto. Aliadiere had a field day getting on the end of his through balls. That day showed me the genious of the man, his vision and command of the game.
Simmy Haitch
Fantastic piece Wingers! I didn't see the "One More Year" chanting but it must have been a really moving moment. Throws me into deep regret about how long I had ignored football until so late that I missed the best part of Dennis' career. And yeah Ozi, I need to get a copy of that DVD too.
Lou the Gunneress
It is a great DVD. What surprised me was that the Newcastle goal isn't DB's favorite one. His, and Arsene's, favorite goal was the one that finished off his hat trick against Leicester where he knocks the ball both sides of the defender before curling it bpast the keeper.
Ozi Gooner
Oh yeah, the Leicester one is marvellous too! Can't decide, can't decide...
Lou the Gunneress
Oh speaking of DVD's, do you guys have the Arsene XI one that the club launched to celebrate the manager's 11th anniversary at the club? It went out of stock earlier and is back on the shelf now. I'm just wondering whether to get that one too. It features the Highest Appearances XI in Arsene's reign, not necessarily the best ones per se, but still interesting.
Lou the Gunneress
Spot on Wingston - He was a footballing genius in every sense.
Cesky
gave me goosebumps readin the article, to quote marco van basten: "if ryan giggs is worth 20mil dennis is worth a 100mil" pure class and as you said a true gentleman. miss him..
Wenger_Knows
Good choice, he is a true legend at Arsenal.
AB_Arsenal
Off topic, but quite funny - when I visited the Emirates, the stadium tour guide brought us to a great part of the stand. A guy from Spain (I still remember his son's wearing a No.4 shirt with "Fabregas" on his back) who didn't speak good English asked the guide "I heard David Beckham got a box here?" in a Spanglish but enthusiastic way. The guide kept his smile gentle and polite and said, "I'm not sure about him. But our very own legend, Dennis Bergkamp, has a box here indeed." The Spaniard kept nodding, "Si, si, I meant Bergkamp, legend, yes!" :)
Lou the Gunneress
One that sticks in my mind is the goal he scored against sunderland. He did a zidane like turn before curling it beautifuly in to the top corner. The celebration of him, Winterburn, Merson and Hughes hand over mouth as if to say "oh my god, what a goal" sums it all up really.
paul_ownz
Keegan back at Newcastle..... Fans are confident that they will now see some silverware. On his arrival at the ground for last nights game against Stoke, Keegan says: I have made it my first priority to get some silverware into this club. New cutlery will be ordered first thing in the morning!!!
KBGoon
Top player. A credit to the game.
storagematt
What always struck me about that goal against Newcastle was not so much the execution, but the thought process. Put yourself in that place, the ball comes at you pretty quickly with your back to goal, in that millisecond before the ball arrives, how on earth do you think of that? Let alone achieve it! The thing I always loved about DB10 is summed up by a phrase from Andy Gray after Bergkamp scored in our 4-2 reverse to United a couple of seasons back, he leathered the ball as hard as he could and Gray said, "exactly what was required." And that was it with Bergkamp, his skills were never performative, if the situation required him to wallop it, he did. If it meant two stepovers a pirouhette and a delicate chip (see assist versus Juve) he would. I don't think there's a football fan out there who saw his goal against West Brom on 'Dennis Bergkamp Day' and didn't think "you deserved that." Just like I have to pay deference to the famous Cantona celebration after his sumptuous chip against Sunderland
Little Dutch
an immense player. magic. one of those players that can be in a tricky situation and think that he will loose the ball, but then look closer and think "oh, its Dennis, we'll be OK". Sensational... best of DB10's magic for me is first the obvious one VS Newcastle, LD hassummed up my feelings with that one and also the other one LD mentioned that assist vs Juve. Dennis saw Freddie's run from a mile away and held up two defenders with all those skills as if he was alone, before that impossibly precice chip. EXQUISITE!!!
ArsenalRob
signing bergkamp,was the reason why i bought my clockend season ticket
fran merida
Almost as good as darius vassell. Never scored a bad goal, and it's not like ha never scored, what a player. Always *that* goal against Newcastle for me.
Carlosio
The chip against Leverkussen did it for me, though saying that, I really liked his goal in the following, not because it was spectacular, but because of the circumstances:- http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/fa_cup/1780997.stm
flv
What makes me chuckle is that Bergy was a sp*rs fan as a kid, the fools even had the chance to sign him and passed it over, (who was their talent scout then Mr Magoo??) so he came to us and the rest is legend, take it you mean dyed in the wool there Wingers! ;) not death by sheep coat!
nikolaijns
i would like to share my experience with you guys. i was in uk over at my cousin's place in 1995 when DB just signed for us. we were watching tv when my cousin got a call from his mate telling him that Arsenal have just signed Dennis Bergkamp from Inter. and as soon my cousins heard the news, he screamt at my uncle and broke the news and they all went nuts, it was mental, the way they were shouting and rejoicing, and i was 9 years old back then and i just sat on the sofa thinking whats the deal about it. i wasn't into football back then. coming from india, football was never so famous in our part of the world, cricket was the only sport here, so i didn't know a thing about this beautiful game, let alone Arsenal. so i asked my cousin what's the big deal, who is this Dennis Bergkamp? and he was in a state of shock, had a blank look on his face for a few seconds, and then he took me straight to his room, and showed me DB's picutre and he had a few goals of DB's Ajax days on a video cassette then and for the next half an hour i didn't say a word and was quietly watching the tape, and some of the goals he scored took my breath away. and this from a kid who had never seen football in his entire life. and then he told me "this is dennis bergkamp, the biggest overseas superstar to play for Arsenal FC". and then for two years, my cousin would sent me video cassette's of the Arsenal games and DB made me fall in love with our great club. and then in the 97-98 season, espn started the live broadcast of the premier league in india, and since that day till now, i haven't missed a single Arsenal game that has been shown on tv in our part of the world. i've missed so many things to watch Arsenal play, even got dumped by my first girl because i missed her birthday to watch the Arsenal-Valencia game in 2001, but it's all been worth it. And all this wouldn't have happened if this God wouldn't have come to our club. and i hope one day, i'll meet DB in person, and thank him for giving me the privilige to watch the greatest ever player to play the game for 11 glorious years, and more importantly, thank him for making me a GUNNER. you're simply the best DB, there will never ever be anyone like you..
luckys_10
nah niko, DB was never a spuddie fan, he was only a fan of glenn hoddle. and hoddle was never that great a player that DB is to convert him into a spuddie :p..
luckys_10
fantastic player...if i remember correctly in his goal against against argentina, the player he beat with 2 beautifull touches was Pablo Aimar...to me thats his best ever goal.
number14
ah, yes Niko, yo're quite right - dyed-in-the-wool woudl be the phrase that I meant :) »»Arsene Knows««
Wingston75
Main thing was that I was a big fan of Glenn Hoddle. When you wanted to see Hoddle play you watched Tottenham. People often assume I'm a Spurs fan but it's not true. I was a fan of Glenn Hoddle, not of Spurs. .....You're spot on Luckys - my bad.
nikolaijns
heard that another dutchman, rvp injured again and will be sideline for several weeks..a bummer dont you think
my_gunners
wt *****, where did yu hear about rvp's injury?
luckys_10
just read, wenger says for a few weeks, how many weeks though? this is so frustrating, rest him till a week before the milan game and then unleash him on the italians. ************, whats wrong wid rvp..
luckys_10
Fine article indeed sir, and one which perfectly echos my own sentiments about the great man... Euro 96 was the tournament that re-ignited my passion for football, despite suffering derision from all and sundry for insisting on supporting Holland and not England (well i am half dutch...) The end me the tournament pay me craving more, and i decided i needed to support a club team. Given i was living in Crouch End at the time, it was a straight choice between Arsenal or the spuds... The fact one Dennis Bergkamp ( and Mr. Adams) was a gooner made the choice an incredibly easy one... Plus i do have taste... Oh and that goal v the geordies... Never fails to give me goosebumps, despite having seen it countless times... DB10 absolute legend. Now someone do TA6...
KaoTeK
oops...i meant Ayalla
number14
In my opinion the best player ever to grace the Arsenal shirt. Just an amazing player who scaored amazing goals. The goal he scored against Argentina continues to send shivers down my spine and I rate it up there with any goal Australia scored at the world cup (I feel obliged to as an Aussie). Does anyone know where I can get a copy of his '100 goals' DVD mentioned in this article?
Aussie Gooner
Bergkampppppppppppppppppppppppppppp all the way ;)
CoastarianGooner
 

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