Bergkamp – Arsenal’s Dutch Master
There’s a statue prominently positioned outside of the Emirates Stadium. It’s a tribute to a player who, not only brought glory and success to the Arsenal Football Club, but was also a key element in a new era of flowing, attacking and entertaining football. Unlike so many other statues in similar situations though, it doesn’t depict a trophy being held aloft, or any kind of celebratory pose. Instead it’s the image of a footballer, stretching acrobatically to control a ball. The player depicted is Dennis Bergkamp and the pose conjures up the Dutchman’s ability to exert his control over a ball, to bring it under his spell, often in the most difficult of circumstances. As representations of footballers’ abilities go, it sums up the player’s time with Arsenal perfectly. Continue reading →
Ray Parlour – The Romford Pelé
Anyone knowingly comparing himself to the legendary Brazilian may initially be perceived as being somewhat ambitious in his self-appraisal. Despite the title of this article being borrowed from the player’s autobiography however, such an assessment of Ray Parlour would be wide of the mark. Not adverse to a slice of self-deprecation, Parlour certainly doesn’t rate his abilities as a footballer as comparable to Pelé. It’s a nom de guerre spoken with tongue firmly in cheek, allegedly gifted to him by Dutch former tam-mate Marc Overmars. Continue reading →
Patrick Vieira – From AC Milan’s Reserves to Premier League Invincible.
After being signed from Cannes, where he debuted for the club at 17, and was captain two years later, Patrick Vieira’s career seemed to be heading into the buffers at AC Milan. He joined the club in the close season of 1995, and twelve months later, he had made just two first team appearances with most of his time being spent with the reserves. Continue reading →
The Ill-fitting Shoe – Dennis Bergkamp at Inter.
Dennis Bergkamp became a legend playing under Arsène Wenger for Arsenal, and a statue of him outside the Emirates confirms such status had there been any doubts. Never the ravenous goal-hungry striker of Ian Wright’s ilk, instead here was a player of infinite grace; a Dutch Master who illuminated the pitch with the artistry of a painter bringing the green sward of a canvas to life with precise brushstrokes. Goals were not his prime currency, although 120 strikes in 423 games is decent fare, his foremost talent was an ability to link, to prompt and promote the strikes of others, whilst still plundering a welcome contribution of his own. Continue reading →
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same.” Arsenal’s testing four days in May 1980.
Using that particular quote from Kipling is a well-trodden path and, to illustrate its relevance, I’ll lean a little on another master of words, Oscar Wilde, whilst at the same time apologising for mangling his famous couplet, ‘to lose one cup final may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.’ Across four testing days in May 1980 however, that’s precisely what happened to Arsenal. Continue reading →
The strange story of Sol Campbell and Notts County.
Sol Campbell was one of the Premier League’s most accomplished defenders in the early years of the 21st century. After a nine-year career at Spurs during which he lifted the League Cup in the 1998-99 season, he took the short – and highly controversial – journey across north London to join Arsenal. It was a move that saw him add two league titles and two FA Cups in five years at Highbury. He also scored in a Champions League Final, albeit when the Gunners lost out to Barcelona. In total, he played over 400 league games across his time with the two North London rivals, and won 73 England caps. In 2007-08 season, he won his third FA Cup, this time under Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth, but just over a year later, he would be involved in one of English football’s most bizarre transfers, moving to League Two club, Notts County. Even stranger than the move itself though, was the fact that his time at Meadow Lane, despite signing a five-year, £40,000 per week deal in August 2009, lasted a mere one game, and that one appearance proved to be embarrassingly bizarre in itself. Continue reading →
Arsenal’s dark day in the Black Country in the greatest FA Cup shock of all time.
Let’s be honest, we all love a bit of giant-killing in the FA Cup, don’t we? That is, of course, so long as it isn’t our particular team on the wrong end of David’s slingshot. Over the years, there have been many famous – or should that be infamous – occasions when the ‘mighty’ have been cut down to size by a team who, on any other day, wouldn’t be on the same pitch as their more illustrious opponents. Who can forget Ronnie Radford’s goal for Hereford United against Newcastle, the outside left wheeling away in celebration, both arms aloft. What about Bobby Crawford rolling back the years to down Don Revie’s Leeds United for Colchester. Even last year, the then non-league side Lincoln City visited Premier League Burnley and came away with a famous victory. All these, plus many more you can probably conjure up from memory, are worthy of a place in the pantheon of momentus cup upsets, but arguably, the greatest ‘turn up for the books’ happened way back in 1933, on a cold January afternoon in the industrial heart of the Black Country in what is now the West Midlands. Continue reading →
“He sat there silent, watching their love expire.” A lament for Arsène Wenger through the prism of Marcel Proust’s ‘À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.’
The title of Proust’s epic seven-volume masterpiece has been variously translated as either “In Search of Lost Times” or “Remembrance of Things Past.” Either seems to broadly fit the theme of the stories it contains, such being a retrospective consideration on the loss of time and lack of meaning to the world as the years pass by with increasing regularity. Perhaps however there are further insights to be taken from the work, and if I can borrow a few of quotations from the various elements of the book, they may help to throw a light on the particularly troubled waters being negotiated by the Arsenal manager currently, and why his endeavours may be fated to fail. Continue reading →
Is frustrated Wenger really lowering his sights to the Europa League?
Nobody likes losing and, as with banging your head against a brick wall, the best thing you can say about it, is that it’s nice when it stops. Like some love-lorn teenage boy returning yet again from the bright lights of the coolest disco in town without having landed a dance with the best-looking girls, Arsene Wenger now appears to be lowering his sights from the Champions League, to the Europa League, the school disco of European club football. Perhaps Arsenal could be belle of the ball there. Some may call it a realistic assessment, Arsenal fans may well have a different description for it. Continue reading →
Bringing young players through? It’s about time, not emotion.
There’s been time for a period of reflection after Greg Dyke’s introspective narrative on the trials and tribulations of the English game, and what needs to change in order to get the national team back in the higher rankings of the world game from our currently lowly status of seventeenth, tucked in behind Chile and the USA.
I’ve heard and read many ideas of how to change the scenario to give young English players a better chance of playing first team football and developing the potential that they have. Some, such as Everton manager Roberto Martinez have declared that there isn’t so much wrong with the ability of players at the early stages of their careers, but unlike in Spain, there isn’t the chance for them to play in many competitive matches, to case-harden their techniques with real game time experience. Continue reading →