David Squires’ new book is a delight. Here is an extract hand-picked by the man himself for Football365…
At least once a season, Dennis Bergkamp would do something so outrageous that you would think he was playing a different game to everyone else. In a way, Bergkamp’s Arsenal teammate Jérémie Aliadière could create this illusion too.
At the outset of his career, Bergkamp played alongside Marco van Basten in Johan Cruyff’s Ajax team. His exquisite touch, balance and finishing skills earned him a move to Inter, but he endured a difficult couple of seasons in the world’s toughest league. Arsenal manager Bruce Rioch came to his rescue in the summer of 1995, with a £7.5 million transfer; a move Bergkamp found out about via Ceefax. Rioch, Ceefax, Serie A being good: it was a scenario that couldn’t have been more typically ‘nineties’ if the transfer was negotiated with Pogs.
Bergkamp didn’t score in his first seven games for Arsenal, but broke his duck with two against Southampton; from there on in, he was flying. Or rather, he wasn’t. Bergkamp was famously aviophobic; and unlike the rest of us, was unable to deal with his anxieties about falling from the sky in a burning cylinder of screaming tourists with a large dose of Valium and six pints in the airport bar. This made those long European away trips a literal pain in the buttocks.
Despite his on-field persona as an ice-cool assassin, according to teammate Ray Parlour Bergkamp was a dressing-room prankster whose favourite stunt was to yank down the trousers and pants of his unsuspecting colleagues. A good way of seeing whether you have achieved the god-like status of Dennis Bergkamp is to try this manoeuvre in your own workplace.
Bergkamp was also adept at pulling down the pants of even the best defences. His most celebrated goal probably came when he was playing for the Netherlands against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the 1998 World Cup. You’ve seen it. The long flat pass from Frank de Boer. The touch to kill the ball dead. The second touch to take it past Roberto Ayala. The finish with the outside of the right boot, past the outstretched hand of Carlos Roa, his shorts metaphorically tangled round his ankles, smooth white bottom and genitals exposed to an astonished global audience. Dennis had struck again.
The Illustrated History of Football: Hall of Fame by David Squires is published by Century, priced £14.99.