Dennis Bergkamp: how the abuse of the moron fans nearly destroyed the greatest player

by Tony Attwood

With Remi Garde in charge at Lyon we also now have Dennis Bergkamp as assistant manager at Ajax.

I want to write a little about Dennis, but before I do I would like to consider who else from the Arsenal ranks is currently in senior management.  I must admit my mind has gone blank for the moment.  Pat Rice at Arsenal of course.  Martin Hayes at Dover Athletic.   And…

Dumb, I know, and I am sure there are some really famous ex-players now in senior management, so if you can write in to jog my memory please do.  Maybe there should be a full article on the subject, and we should follow them either here or on Untold to see how they and their teams are doing.

Anyway, Dennis….

He was in charge of the Ajax youth system, but has been promoted by Frank De Boer.  Both men came through the youth system at Ajax.  Dennis is now 42 and retired from playing in 2006.

Apart from the fact it is Dennis, there is the point that earlier this year Mr Wenger suggested that Dennis might have a place at Arsenal.  So maybe as with Remi Garde, this is just the starter. How about both Remi Garde and Dennis working in the management team at Arsenal?

In 2009 Dennis said

‘I wouldn’t rule out working for Arsenal.  I really love this club and the country and I love working here.  I would advise everyone to work in England, as a player or a coach, it just breathes football. It is fantastic for the game.’

So about Dennis…

He started as a pro player under Johan Cruyff in 1986 and was a sub in the 1987 Cup Winners Cup final that Ajax won and went on to be Dutch player of the year twice.  Then he went to Inter for £12m – the second highest transfer in the world at the time.

What happened then should be a lesson to the under 10s who run many of the Arsenal blogs.  The word went around that Dennis was no good after his scoring rate went down.  The press and the fans united in tormenting him.   The fans, aided by the media who always jump on these things, created the  “Bergkamp of the Week” award for the worst player in the top division that week.  His form declined – what a surprise.

Fortunately Arsenal could see a bargain when it was sitting there, and two seasons on from the move to Inter, Dennis came to Highbury (June 1995) for £7.5m.

For seven games he didn’t score – but then he did against Southampton (I can still remember the way he took it, and then turned around in pure and absolute relief).     He played next to Wright, and even people like Alan Hansen came to see him as a great player.

Then along came Arsène Wenger and the combination was perfect.  He become PFA Player of the Year and in September 97 he  became the first and (I think)  the only player to have come first, second and third in a goal of the month competition on the BBC.   And just to show he could do it anywhere he played for the Netherlands who came fourth in the 1998 World Cup.

But if you want an Arsenal memory it is the goal of the season during 2001/02 campaign, against Newcastle.   Again I was honoured to be there and can almost give it all to you from memory.

3 March 2002.   Pires to Bergkamp on the edge of the penalty box, back to goal.  Flick with the inside of he left, the ball goes one way round the defender and Dennis goes the other way, collects the ball and scores.   Bergkamp of the Week, Month, Year.

He played right up to the end of our time at Highbury, he had Dennis Bergkamp day, his friendly match on 22 July 2006 was the opening game at the Ems, and in 2008 he was voted second greatest Arsenal player of all time, just behind Henry.

As I have intimated, it was a great honour to watch Dennis play, and it is for me desperately sad as well as extraordinary that he should have suffered such abuse in Italy.  It almost destroyed him, and certainly there were those who had their doubts about him during those first games, thinking that the abuse had actually destroyed his talent.   It just shows what can happen if the fans turn against a player – no matter how great that player is.   I wonder what Inter fans think of it all now.

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14 Replies to “Dennis Bergkamp: how the abuse of the moron fans nearly destroyed the greatest player”

  1. Their loss was our gain of that there can be no doubt. Dennis was absolute class and with Thierry too the perfect combination. He also had a bit of an edginess that made him a real winner. I see the same in RVP. Just a little mean streak without being too nasty. Walking in a bergkamp wonderland.

  2. This should be published on all those U10 Arsenal blogs. A player that feels nu support from the supporters will not perform. Are you listening out there?

    Great article Tony. Great memories… Dennis what a player… And to think that at the start of his career it was thanks to a piece of genius from Johann Cruyff that he became such a good player.

    After a few not that good performances at Ajax and because Cruyff thought Dennis was too soft when he played he put him on the field as a right back. To make him defend, to make him tackle, to make him harder. And it worked….

    I even remember the people from NOS Studio sport talking about it and expressing their surprise on that move those days…

    Would love to see him back at the Arsenal one day

  3. yeh he was just brilliant, he played at the time i started supporting and watching football, ian wright was a lethal goal scorer and dennis bergkamp was just pure class, they were my 2 fav players back, but along came henry14 and gave many fine years, the good old days 🙂

  4. Tony Adams at Gabala – does that count?
    John Jensen assistant at Blackburn.

    Sure there’re plenty more but those two spring to mind…

  5. good historical article. That was a really spectacular transfer deal pulled off by Bruce rioch and the management of arsenal.We could certainly do with signings of that calibre and value.

  6. Tony,
    The story of the abuse levelled at Bergkamp in Italy is a sobering one. It is also a warning to those brave souls at the Emirates who continually abused Denilson last season. Every player at his home ground is entitled to 100% support at all times and Denilson never got it. The abuse of home fans can destroy a player and Bergkamp was lucky to leave Italy and have a new lease of life with Arsenal.
    I only hope Denilson will be as fortunate.

  7. “How about both Remi Garde and Dennis working in the management team at Arsenal?

    – Depends if the are good at management to be honest. A good player doesn’t necessarily make a good manager, in fact most of the top managers were mediocre players in their day!

  8. Only difference is the players that are suffering abuse from the Arsenal fans have brought it upon themselves, e.g Denilson for saying ‘I’m a winner’ but hasn’t provided any proof of that in the years he’s been here and another one is Bendtner the self proclaimed ‘best striker in the world’ who has the ego but not the talent to live up to his claims. Then you get Diaby the proud owner of a Tottenham shirt, now tell me that’s not asking for it. Huge difference between Bergkamp and this mediocre bunch is, Dennis was humble and did his talking on the pitch a true master of the beautiful game.

  9. A note to those bashing Arshavin. An extraordinary player who’s been burdened with heaps of criticism. I tell you, if he makes his way back to Russia he’ll once again flourish.

  10. Rankk1, how can you condone abuse against Diaby in the last seasons for something nobody knew until recently???
    And even then I really cannot boo him for this. It was a gift from a personal friend who plays for the spuds. If you have a spuds friend and he gives you something will you throw it away?
    I think Diaby will have lots of shirts from other teams but is this a reason to boo a player? Maybe Kaboul has an Arsenal shirt from Diaby…
    Those players do have a private live outside football and meet each other. As long as he produces on the pitch and does his best when playing, he can have a dozen tottenham shirts for my part

  11. I belive arshavin is a complete player and his off the field exploits are nice( he is a writer ) any arsenal fan that boos him should kit up and go to the field, if i watch u play and see that u are better… Then u can keep on booing

  12. @Daniel

    Arshavin is not the complete player. Not many are. He has gone now….
    We bought a player on the wane….he had his moments. Lets move on.

    ps…he is an intelligent and that is the mystery of it all. I still remember his first interview outside the em’s on transfer deadline day, in the snow, and him saying that he is a GOONER now!! ho HUM

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