Dennis Bergkamp – “would you fly if you could walk on water?”

Morning all. Yesterday, irishgunner wrote this fantastic post about Dennis Bergkamp which unfortunately NewsNow didn’t pick up until early evening. As many of our regular readers might have missed it, we have decided to keep it up for a while longer and so have published it this morning under a different title. Apologies to those of you who are experiencing deja-vu, it’s that good, reading it twice won’t be a hardship.

Watching the World Cup always brings out the romantic in me. By that I mean it makes me think of the greats that I as a young one wasn’t around (and thus lucky enough) to see play. Those type of players who I feel are better than any that play nowadays.

A lot here could name them better than me, but I’ll throw out a few: Pele, Alfredo di Stefano, Zico, Bobby Charlton, Franz Beckenbauer, Liam Brady, Johnny Giles, Ferenc Puskas, Gianni Rivera, George Best and Teofilo Cubillas among others.

In my head, they are perhaps twice as good as they were on the field. I feel like I have missed out on something and the grainy footage that plays on my DVD player doesn’t do them justice. Last night after Germany demolished a static Australia, I sat down and instead of pining to “have seen Brady play at Highbury just once” I actually thought how lucky I was to have seen some of the players I have seen over the years.

I was born in 1986, got caught up in the football fever that swept Ireland during Italia 90 before becoming a Gooner in 1994. During that time I’ve seen some wonderful players: Maradona still had a bit left in his legs during the early 90s. There was that wonderful AC Milan team of Rossi, Baresi, Maldini, Rijkaard and Weah and the insane skills of Zidane, Raul, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) in their prime.

At Arsenal we had some of our own players who were above others on the field. One stands head and shoulders above the rest – the Iceman, DB10!

Dennis Bergkamp’s arrival in London in 1995 saw the beginning of a new dawn at Arsenal as the club began to look to Europe for more talent. Some say that it was Wenger who gave the go-ahead for Bergkamp’s signature, others claim it was David Dein but lets give the credit to Bruce Rioch. He was manager, he was there when Bergkamp first held aloft the wonderful red and white.

The Dutchman came to us under a cloud. At the time he was the second most expensive signing in the world after Inter Milan paid Ajax £12million for his services in 1993. He flattered to deceive in Italy and just two years on arrived in North London for £7.5million. During the very early days, many claimed that Arsenal had wasted what was then a decent sum of money – now it is seen as one of the biggest bargains in football history.

It took Bergkamp seven games to score his first goal for the Gunners (against Southampton) and during this time he went through a tough transitional period, but then he got going, oh how he got going! He got going so much after that there was literally no stopping him.

In 423 games he scored 120 goals and I have enough confidence to say that NOT ONE of them were run of the mill tap-ins. Bergkamp didn’t do run of the mill, he did majestic, he did magical, he did genius. I have studied English Literature in college, read the greats like Byron, Keats, Shakespeare and Joyce, yet I still struggle to find a superlative to do justice to the Iceman. It seems utterly useless to even try now, so I’ll go through some of the goals he scored and you can try and put an adjective on them in your own head.

1. September 1997. His hat-trick against Leicester is voted as the first, second and third best goal of the month on Match of the Day.

2. 1998 World Cup. Long ball by Frank de Boer, Bergkamp controls it with one touch – dismissing the Argentine defender Ayala in the process – then smashes home.

3. March 2002. With his back to goal Bergkamp receives the ball from Pires, he sends the ball one way before he twists the other, rounds the dumbfounded Nikos Dabizas of Newcastle and slots the ball past Shay Given.

I remember watching the Newcastle game live on television. When Bergkamp did what he did my jaw dropped and hit off the ground – I only managed to get it back up last week. Yes, it was THAT good!

But just talking about Bergkamp’s goals is like just talking about Michael Jackson’s dancing. They are merely the icing on the proverbial cake. Michael Jackson was much more than an extremely talented dancer – he was a songwriter, a singer, an entertainer. Likewise Bergkamp was more than a goalscorer – he was the songwriter, singer and entertainer in our pack. Some of the passes he tried to play were ridiculous – to even think of attempting these passes was madness but it was crazy that he could actually carry them off. He created goals and found space for teammates like it was going out of fashion.

And for 11 years, ELEVEN YEARS it was Arsenal fans and Arsenal FC who benefited from his genius. It was US who got to watch him week in and week out while everyone else just wished they would have taken a punt on the man who nobody in Italy wanted. Nobody else got him after us either – we had all Bergkamp’s wonder to ourselves. So never, ever forget just how lucky we were to see that.

Dream of Puskas, Pele and Maradona, wonder now at Messi, Kaka and Torres but remember that once upon a time everyone else was doing the wishing. Dennis Bergkamp is the most technically gifted player to ever ply his trade in English football and he did so at the home of football. Some say his career was marred by the fact he wouldn’t fly and thus missed out on some vital European games. Well let me end this by asking you a simple question: would you fly if you could walk on water?

55 Responses to Dennis Bergkamp – “would you fly if you could walk on water?”

  1. Livers says:

    Morning all….

    Little picky I know, but Bergkamps 1,2,3 in the MOTD goal of the month wasn’t all from the Leicester game, one was from Southampton away 🙂

    Feel guilty about picking up on this as it’s a great post

  2. charybdis1966 says:

    It’s a pity if Sol really is off to Jocko-land as I believe he would have had so much to offer, still it’s not a done deal with Celtic yet.

  3. Livers says:

    I think he’ll play every game with Celtic though whilst 15-20 with us… still, he resurrected the huddle and the teams fortunes for a while……until TV got injured

  4. mangetout says:

    I think it’s kind of pointless trying to pick the best player of ALL time. Was DiStefano better than Maradonna for example or vice versa? Pointless argument. But there is a small group of players who collectively form an all time greatest club. In my lifetime these would be Pele, Best, Cruyff, Maradonna, Bergkamp. Head and shoulders above anyone else who played after 1969.

  5. London says:

    Morning all

    With the return of Djourou and the signing of a new CB, if Gallas goes, then I reckon Sol would be lucky to get 15 games never mind 20.

  6. rc says:


    get your facts right ,it was the leicester match and it finished 3-3, he has NOT scored a hat trick aginst southampton, so a little TOO PICKY i say

  7. London says:

    Morning Livers

    Looks like you just got an early morning slap on the wrist. You have gotta laugh.

  8. Ati says:

    Great post, a fitting tribute.

    The top three goals were from the Leicester game, the guy’s got it right.

  9. Livers says:

    Hmmm RC. I corrected the 1,2,3 MOTD not the hat-trick.

    2 of the goals came from the Leicester game and 1 from the Southampton away.

    That is a fact. He scored 2 against Southampton of which one was in the 1,2,3 MOTD..

    Why do I bother

  10. Rasp says:

    Thanks for your comments mangetout and rc,

    Maybe it’s not perfect, but a lot better than the fevered transfer speculation and Arsenal/Arsène bashing that is taking place in the blog world at the moment don’t you think?

  11. charybdis1966 says:

    Hi London, I have to disagree, with Djorou’s poor injury record I’m pretty certain Sol would get at least 15 games a season – in the 6 seasons our number 20 has been with us he’s managed 78 appearances(including 11 subs) so he averages just approximately 11 starts a season.
    So scratch that, Sol would get 20 games a season.

  12. London says:

    I don’t go to many away games, never did but I am so glad I made the effort, on my own, to go to that mid-week game at Leicester as well as that Saturday game in Southampton. Because I can now show off and say……I was there when Bergkamp scored two of the best goals of his career.

  13. London says:

    Morning Chary

    I know you have your doubts about Djourou and that you would not want to go through the whole season relying on him; the thing is I don’t disagree enough to get in a tangle with you over this one. I suspect our common ground is that we both hope Djourou finally shines this season. Just to clarify on the Sol thing, I, of course, like you hope he stays but I would understand if he choses to leave.

  14. Simon says:

    How did you get caught up in football fever at the age of 4? You wouldn’t have even known what was going on. You started supporting Arsenal at the age of 8? Really? Was you dad an Arsenal supporter? Or are you just trying to make it seem like you didn’t just jump on the Wenger glory day’s after 96?

    I’m sorry that’s not very nice of me really. I just found it funny imagining a 4 year old getting “swept up” by Italia 90 and following Arsenal games cross channel at the age of 8.

    Also , the reverance those players of yesteryear are held in is something that grates with me. It’s simply not true. It’s like Pele , Maradona and the rest are on this unreacheable pedistle. It’s complete bull! If anything players are better now than they ever were. The bar of physical and technical excellence is raised every year.

    It’s like when people say , “Oh they don’t make them like they use to”. It’s a human nostalgic condition which makes us pine for the past as we get older. We then believe that everything was much better when we were young or “in the good old days”.

    Trust me when I say , we are living in the presence of some footballing legends to be right now. The unfortunate thing is that they will never be recognised as such , because of the ever present shadows cast by Pele , Maradona and the like.

  15. London says:

    Morning Simon

    Which part of being 8 and following Arsenal are you having trouble understanding, my Dad was a season ticket holder as was my Grand Dad. I first started going to Arsenal when I was 5 and by 8 I was obsessed.

  16. London says:

    Still am

  17. Livers says:

    For those who didn’t believe me the whole top 10 goals from August 97.

    3 from Bergy, 2 from the Leicester game and 1 from Saints 😉

  18. SharkeySure says:

    Say it ain’t so Bob !!

    “If the right kind of club expresses an interest, I have no problem going over and doing a pre-season so they can have a closer look at me,” said Pires.

    There’s obviously a few big English teams chasing me. I’m told Leicester and Birmingham have made serious enquiries.”

    I pray that he doesn’t come back to the UK other than for friendlies or testimonials. It’d be ashame to see him sat on the bench at some lowly club.

    I really hope he gets a decent offer from Qatar or the US, something like that.

  19. charybdis1966 says:

    You’ve kind of tumbled me there London, deep down I don’t feel Djourou is the answer – for a youngster he has had a succession of injuries during a period of his playing career when normally you are pretty free from injury. I would dearly love him to get 30 games plus in next season, but for the life of me I can’t see it happening and I have lost patience with him (yes, my bad)on the injury side of things.
    In summary he shouldn’t be a first choice centre back – only back up; hopefully this Koscielny is the preferred starter with the Verminator.

  20. kelsey says:

    Morning Simon,

    I echo London’s comments. I also started going to Arsenal when i was 8, a safe environment as well.
    One can’t compare the game of 30 or 40 years ago,when players wore real boots, footballs were rock solid leather, the pitches had no undersoil heating, and IMO it was a lot harder to stand out as a “great” compared to nowadays.

    The bar has been raised in that each player has his own personal trainer, special diet and so on, but these are now the new pin up boys on astronomical wages, and give me the old days every time.

    Of course one can admire talent nowadays, but did we have cheating and diving and simulating injuries in those past days.
    Bergkamp was a true exception,as far as arsenal are concerned in the latter days, a true gent who gave us 11 years of pleasure.I wonder if any current player on our or anyone else’s books will give such one club service,ever again.

  21. SharkeySure says:

    Even without being able to see whatever graphic you have there Livers, I make you right. My memory does not recall a 1-2-3 from the same game.

  22. jake says:

    It doesn’t matter whether he flew……
    I flew to across the attlantic to watch his game…
    Marvelous tribute to well deserved talent..

    I believe there is genius which no Ronaldo… or Messi…or Rooney can ever be….
    No charlton….No gullits, No Lauther,…..can ever match

    The neatness in front of the goal mouth…..

  23. jake says:

    For those stubborn ass…who still dont remember the 123 pls go to the link…

  24. dandan says:

    Morning all….Kelsey dont forget Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes both great one club men, mancs or not,

    Peaches stuck a new post in draft.

  25. aaron says:

    A truly beautiful post worthy of the great man.

  26. Rasp says:

    Hi Jake and aaron, welcome,

    I think TH14 was a phenomenon, but DB was a genius. Henry’s brilliance was obvious and awesome whereas Bergkamps was subtle, artistic and at times incomprehensible. I think it is summed up by the fact that we fans just used to sing “We’ve got Dennis Bergkamp” as if to say, we have the greatest jewel in football crown.

  27. Simon says:

    My problem with being 8 and supporting Arsenal was more directed specifically at the author , not at the majority of you who would be from North London , London or England. The author is Irish and as such wouldn’t have been taken to highbury or following in his fathers footsteps……or anything else that would trigger a passionate support at such a young age.

  28. Rasp says:

    Hi Simon,

    Thanks for your comments. I don’t quite understand why you are concentrating on this minor aspect of such an excellent article.

    I have been to games at The Emirates with irish. She is a passionate supporter (to the point of obsession and beyond!) and has the broadest knowledge of footballing matters of any blogger I know. She also writes for the Bleacher report and other sites and is a highly respected journalist who submits articles not for profit, but because of her love of Arsenal.

    If she says she has supoported Arsenal from the age of 8, she will have supported Arsenal from the age of 8 – not in the manner of a 30 year old, but in the manner of an 8 year old… you know, posters on the wall etc! I Hope this settles your concerns.

  29. Simon says:

    It was not intended to be my main focus ……it just became the focus after other people’s comments. I simply found it funny to imagine a 4 year old even know what was going on during the Italia 90 world cup……let alone be “swept up” in the emotion.

    My main focus was actually on people’s irrational high regard for the greats of the past. Pele ,Maradona etc. I was making the point that it’s human nature to pine for the past as you get older , and consider everything of that past better than what we have now. Footballer’s included.

    Sometimes I hear people say ,”I would have given anything to see Brady play at highbury” and I’m thinknng , “Are you mad , you’ve seen and infinately better player play at highbury for the last 11 years…..BERGKAMP!!!”

    Maybe I should have complemented the positive parts of the article before being critical……but I just didn’t feel like it really. I don’t really need anyone to let me know how lucky I was to have watched Bergkamp at highbury in the flesh……or to realise just how great he really was. Bergkamp is my absolute footballing idol. The pinnacle of footballing genius for me.

  30. Big Raddy says:

    Simon. Therein lies the problem,. Many on here have seen both players at Highbury – you have not had that pleasure. To say that you have seen an “infinitely better player than Brady” is patent nonsense.

    What is clear to me is that great players transcend their contemporaries, Brady and DB10 both did that and so did Best, Maradonna etc.

    Of today’s players the only man who can come close is Messi, and he is half the player Pele was (stats prove it WC winner at 17, scored , 1000+ goals etc).

    My guess is that when you are in your more mature years you will be saying to your kids “he may be good but he is nothing compared to DB10” and they will look at you and think it is the rose coloured spectacles of age talking ….. whereas you on the other hand will know.

    Just as we do……

  31. Rasp says:

    OK Simon,

    To paraphrase your comment, you were just feeling a bit arsey and didn’t need our article to tell you how lucky you were to support Arsenal in the ‘Bergkamp era’ ….. but he was your absolute footballing idol?

    We publish articles of this nature at this particular time to get away from the hysteria surrounding the WC and transfer window and to remind ourselves that Arsenal is a great club. The cathartic therapy that sites like ours offer bloggers is a forum to have a rant and let off steam, so I hope you have found the experience beneficial.

  32. Simon says:

    Mmmm , well first off……I think my children will have the benefit of a much richer archive of footage in which to watch the legends of my time. Something that I never had. True , I have never seen Brady at Highbury …..but from what I have seen of him ……DB10 was on another level. Don’t get me wrong ….Brady was an amazing player but Bergkamp had so much more to his game for me. They also played in different position’s.

    I would also like to add that Stats in fact prove very little. The fact that Pele won the world cup at 17 means very little. Brazil won the world cup …..not Pele. I could also start to point out a long list of distictly ordinary players who have won the world cup……but I’d bore myself.

    On your “Pele was twice the player Messi is” statement , I would ask……how many games did you watch Pele play that were not in the world cup? I myself have seen very little outside of classic world cup games. I can only base my opinion on what I have seen. For me Messi is better than Pele……far better. Every player Messi faces in todays game is a Primed athlete performing at the best he possibly can. Monitored and measured , tactically aware and astute , and worth more than a champion thouroughbred. Messi makes them all look like the cloggers Pele used to face in his day.

    Years ago before the internet and other lightning quick forms of media , the only time you could see some of the worlds best was in a world cup. It added to the magic and the excitment. Hence the reason why certain players were so hyped and put on hugely inaccurate pedistles. Now we are treated to images of every league around the world whenever we want. We see all the great players…..but we also see their flaws…..and thus they can never measure up to the one or two perfect Knock out tournaments enjoyed by the likes of Pele and co.

  33. Rasp says:

    Has the Spanish manager been taking tips off Domenech? – Spain are 1 nil down with 20 minutes to go and Fabgregas is still on the bench……..

  34. London says:

    The World Cup has started at last, now that was funny.

  35. SharkeySure says:

    My thoughts exactly Rasp. Spain seem to do that to Fab, they only turn to him when they get desperate. Today they didn’t even turn to him. Shocking

    He’s saved ther arses in both the 2006 and 2008 tournaments, coming off the bench to turn games on their head, before cementing a starting berth

  36. Rasp says:

    Hi Sharkey,

    I can now see why Barca are only offering £35m for Cesc – they don’t realise how good he is 😉

  37. SharkeySure says:

    If they don’t get Fab off the bench soon, they may just go out of this tournament.

    Chile are no mugs, and the Swiss will feel that they have only small hillocks left to climb, having already conquered the mountain that was Spain.

  38. dandan says:

    One wonders how these heroes of Simons would survive the kind of treatment handed out on a daily basis to the likes of Pele and Brady, Today they fall over if someone farts in the back of the stadium, They would also have had to play with a football and not the beach balls that today’s players use.

    Not withstanding that Messi and co are great players, but all this super fit bull leavers me cold, several of us on here walked on the pitch that Geordie Armstrong ran up and down all night when we won the Fairs Cup and It was his centres that led to two goals. The mud was so deep it went over the tops of our shoes and gave us boot fulls, Today’s players would say it was unplayable.

    Simon a lifetime watching football shows us that today’s product is consistantly the best we have ever seen, but not necessarily because of the players good as thay are, but more the pristine pitches and light balls and boots and soft refs are the main differences.

  39. Big Raddy says:

    DD “Someone farts in the back of the stadium”. Classic.

    Simon makes some good points but ultimately I only have my personal experience to guide me. There is much film of Pele, not just WC’s. & I saw Cruyff, Maradona, Best, Brady,Charlton , Beckenbauer, Moore etc live.

    For me Messi has it to prove, he is brilliant now but let us see over a 15 year career like Pele and Maradona.

    Further to DD’s comment – the level of fitness and the dietary regimes are totally different. I have a pic of Jimmy Greaves smoking a fag at the half-time team talk!!

  40. dandan says:

    Don’T tell Arsene Raddy but Peter Simpson the best defender never to play for England always had a fag at halftime.

  41. London says:

    Today’s match reminded me of a Blackburn Arsenal game with the final score of 2-1 to them. Neither, Ramos, Xavi, Inesta or any of those other midfield light weights have had experience in such games……….and the one player the has a PHD in matches like that was left on the bench……still if they get knocked out Cesc will have a longer rest.

  42. London says:

    Alex Song is the new Peter Simpson, but I am too young to remember that…..a non smoking version of course, I mean, does Alex looks like he smokes………anything?

  43. kelsey says:

    Ian Ure used to stop the train on away matches so he could have a bet at the local bookies, something i witnessed on the way up to OT. no coaches in those days just normal trains.

    By the way i missed most of the spain game so, what happened to senderos,why wasn’t djorou in the squad and was cesc only named as a sub for an emergency as he is not fully fit.

    Alex song looks like a smoker of some sorts as do Girls Aloud including Cheryl as they are all very partial to a sniff or two.Link Sandown racecourse last July.

  44. irishgunner says:

    “How did you get caught up in football fever at the age of 4? You wouldn’t have even known what was going on.” – Ahh, yes I did. I started school at 4, if I could count to a 100 and do my A,B,C’s why is it so hard to believe I started watching football at 4? Everyone was watching Ireland play at Italia ’90, just because you might not have been the brightest crayon in the box at 4, don’t tell me I might not have known what was going on.

    “You started supporting Arsenal at the age of 8? Really? Was you dad an Arsenal supporter? Or are you just trying to make it seem like you didn’t just jump on the Wenger glory day’s after 96?” – Man, you have issues. Why would my “dad” need to support Arsenal for me to start following them? He’s a Roy Keane fan actually so horror I should really be a Manc. I actually used to follow AC Milan (see the whole Italian theme here) but everyone at primary school was following an English team and I got pressurized into watching it and fell in love with Ian Wright playing, that was my reason. I have a picture of my first Arsenal kit with “Platt 7” on the back – I got it when him and Bergkamp came BEFORE Wenger if you need pictorial proof.

    “I’m sorry that’s not very nice of me really. I just found it funny imagining a 4 year old getting “swept up” by Italia 90 and following Arsenal games cross channel at the age of 8.” – Again, not my fault if you were a slow learner as a child.

    “Also , the reverance those players of yesteryear are held in is something that grates with me. It’s simply not true. It’s like Pele , Maradona and the rest are on this unreacheable pedistle. It’s complete bull! If anything players are better now than they ever were. The bar of physical and technical excellence is raised every year.” – I don’t agree that players are better now but that was my whole point. Why am I thinking players of yesteryear are better than what we have now? Your powers of deduction are badly lacking.

    “It’s like when people say , “Oh they don’t make them like they use to”. It’s a human nostalgic condition which makes us pine for the past as we get older. We then believe that everything was much better when we were young or “in the good old days”.” – See last point.

    Now, I’ve answered every point you made. You came on here and attack me and basically said everything that I wrote was somehow made up just because I got into football at a young age. Are you just a narky little man with nothing better to do or do you have other issues?

    Rasp – thanks for having my back earlier 😉

  45. Big Raddy says:

    Kelsey. You are a fund of gossip!!

    Here’s one….. I heard it on a podcast by the editor of Heat magazine (whatever that is!)

    According to him, at the 2006 WC England players were allowed to have their families in the hotel. He said that there are two major Chav style scummy families – one from the North of England and one from London. The mother of the player from London was caught shagging the brother of the Northerner in the hotel lift. There is a video from the hotel security cameras. The two players are still not talking to each other!!

    No wonder the families and WAG’s have been banned.

  46. Big Raddy says:

    As to the Spain game. It would be harsh to deride the Spanish, they were just very unlucky and the Swiss defence was heroic.

    I thought Spain played very well, and tried all sorts of ways to open up the defence; from the flanks, playing through the middle, shooting from distance, playing the ball around midfield in an effort to pull the Swiss MF’s forward. Nothing worked.

    MotM was def. the Swiss GK. Sign him up….

  47. irishgunner says:

    ” My problem with being 8 and supporting Arsenal was more directed specifically at the author , not at the majority of you who would be from North London , London or England. The author is Irish and as such wouldn’t have been taken to highbury or following in his fathers footsteps……or anything else that would trigger a passionate support at such a young age.” – Where did I say I was obsessed with Arsenal at 8? Jaysus glad Rasp has a rational head on his shoulders, at 8 having a jersey, a sticker album and poster is supporting a club. I wouldn’t have known the nuances of the club until much later but someone with any sense of rationale would appreciate that.

    I just think you are having a larky today so go to bed and hopefully tomorrow will be a better one.

    Now, time for South Africa vs Uruguay.

    I only caught the second half of Spain vs the Swiss 0 why when Iniesta come off did he go with Pedro? Cesc can’t be 100%.

  48. kelsey says:

    Oh, not her again, baden baden bertha 🙂

  49. irishgunner says:

    BR – Alonso’s shot that wacked the woodwork deserved a goal too – most under control volley I’ve seen with the new ball. What do you make of the ball issue?

  50. kelsey says:

    not you irish 🙂 that was for BR

    ready for the game, earplugs in and away we go.

  51. irishgunner says:

    Evening Kelsey.

    I’ve got used to the vuvuzelas a bit now – they only come to my attention when someone walks into the living room and draws my attention to them.

  52. irishgunner says:

    Nice goal – took a deflection but nice all the same.

  53. Big Raddy says:

    Best team won. Will any African teams get to the next round?

  54. Benwell says:

    DB10 was the best, I loved Brady,George,Nicholas, Wrighty, Pires and TH14 but he was without doubt the master! Wrighty & TH both said he was the best partner they ever played with and that’s good enough for me!

    As for Spain the tippy tappy on its own didn’t work, unfortunatly, ring any bells??

  55. Rasp says:

    New Post ……

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