A Great Send Off For A Great Legend…
Yesterday was a wonderful event – the first game at Arsenal’s new home was the setting for the departure of one of Arsenal’s true legends Dennis Bergkamp.
And it was emotional to see players like David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Martin Keown, Steve Bould, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Edu, Kanu, Marc Overmars, Ray Parlour, Gio and of course Ian Wright.
And even Alex Manninger, Oleg Luzhny and Glenn Helder turned up!
And Thierry took time out from his family holiday in America to pay tribute to Dennis – simply amazing stuff.
Yesterday was everything that was good about football – the passion, the emotion, the respect and the appreciation of a player who was gifted and special, but on top of that was a true professional and a real role model.
You couldn’t ask for anything more from Dennis Bergkamp on or off the pitch.
On the pitch, Bergkamp was outstanding and was for me the greatest ever foreign import in this country.
And when legends like Frank Rikjaard, Japp Stam, Edwin Van Der Sar and the de Boer brothers want to be involved then you know how much of a contribution to the game Bergkamp gave everyone.
Even Spurs player Edgar Davids braved the Emirates Stadium!
And when Johan Cruijff and Marco Van Basten made a surprise appearance on the Emirates turf it must have made Bergkamp’s year!
The great Dutch legend Johan Cruijff was the manager when he gave Dennis Bergkamp his debut at Ajax and Marco Van Basten was the man who Bergkamp eventually replaced.
And they were on the pitch at the same time.
Stuff dreams are made of!
And off the pitch, Bergkamp was an example to others. He kept himself to himself and concentrated on football – refreshing by todays football players.
No signs of celebrity weddings or late night clubbing here then.
And of course, Arsenal Football Club have done another great job making it a special day for Dennis Bergkamp and the Arsenal fans, with the presentations, organisation and even the Dennis Bergkamp T-shirts to give the crowd a great red and white atmosphere.
I recorded the Channel 5 coverage of the testimonial, and when Spurs players and managers such as Paul Robinson, Teddy Sheringham, Jamie Redknapp and Martin Jole pay glowing tributes then you must be a special, special player.
Dennis Bergkamp is an Arsenal legend because of his huge influence over our success over the last 11 years and his unquestionable loyalty to Arsenal Football Club.
We all wish him the very best in the future in whatever he does.
Back to the testimonial, and it was Thierry Henry who scored the first ever Arsenal goal at the Emirates Stadium after 8 minutes of the second half. Bergkamp played it to Dixon on the right, who floated a cross into the area, which Henry coolly controlled and slotted past Van Der Sar.
It felt just like the double winning season of 2001/2002!
And how fitting that Arsenal’s highest ever goalscorer got the first goal of our new home!
Edgar Davids managed to get through the Arsenal defence a few minutes later and chipped the ball over David Seaman and looked certain to score.
But then Gilles Grimandi hacked down the Spurs player and prevented Davids from tapping it in.
Then Ronald De Boer stepped up and blazed the penalty over the bar!
It really was Bergkamp’s day.
Then Kanu made his appearance, and on 80 minutes strolled down the left hand side and his deflected shot crept in at the near post.
He was almost in tears – seemingly overawed by the occassion.
Then Bergkamp was through in the last minute but Menzo saved it!
And at the final whistle Bergkamp made an emotional speech thanking the Arsenal Football Club, the fans and the players. He also thanked Ajax, the club he started at and his family including his mother, father, wife and kids.
He also said goodbye to the Arsenal fans and paid his respects.
Vieira, Henry and Gio got Bergkamp onto their shoulders and lifted him to the centre circle – it was an amazing sight!
A great day for a great player.