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.
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.