Saturday, 20 June 2015

My Arsenal scrapbook 20 years on. Part 2: we’ve got Dennis Bergkamp

The Sun, June 21, 1995 (click to enlarge)
It still feels a bit weird seeing Dennis Bergkamp in our beloved red and white for the first time, even knowing full well that he turned into an Arsenal legend.  Imagine then, if you need to, or cast your mind back if you can remember that far, what it was like when it actually happened.

Truly astonishing would be my verdict.

The two signings made prior to Dennis, in the winter of 94/95, typified the calibre of player we had been buying: John Hartson from Luton Town and Chris Kiwomya from Ipswich Town. No offence to them but hardly inspiring. Beyond that, the most recent exotic purchases had been John Jensen and Stefan Schwarz: full internationals but the sort of classic midfield workhorses adored by George Graham.

Enter Dennis Bergkamp. A bona fide world superstar. Someone who every football fan knew about after scoring of ludicrous goals like thisagainst England at Wembley. And crucial ones like this in the return fixture. Or in a World Cup quarter-final just a year earlier.

The rumour mill started relatively late to signing day, with confident whispers only appearing on June 19, the day before the deal was done.

As we all know, tabloid rumours are not always the most reliable. And like the true pessimist that I am, I refused to build my hopes up that it could be true, even though there were quotes from both Dennis and Bruce Rioch.

Daily Mirror, June 19, 1995 (click to enlarge)

The Daily Mirror, June 19, 1995 (click to enlarge)
The difference between Arsenal and the neighbours up the road was made clear in this story, with the capture of Chris Armstrong and Dennis highlighting our different ambitions.

Evening Standard, June 19, 1995

The following day’s papers contained even more reports it was happening, and this time even from a broadsheet. Cue just a smidgen of optimism.

Daily Telegraph, June 20, 1995 (click to enlarge)
Meanwhile, he might not always be remembered for his clarity of thought but George Best showed some pretty sound judgement in suggesting Dennis would be worth every penny (also note how we were also getting linked with a certain Dutch teenager by the name of Clarence ‘Seedors’).

Daily Mirror, June 20, 1995 (click to enlarge)

And then later that day, it finally happened. We’ve all read about how Dennis himself was amazed to see him appearing as the top story onCeefax. Well it was nothing compared to how amazed I was, Dennis, as my scrapbook entry proves:
My scrapbook
The thrust of most coverage is around how mental the money had become, with Peter Hill Wood describing it as ‘madness’ but, in fairness, acknowledging that now was the time to cough up or miss the boat completely.

The Sun, June 21, 1995 (click to enlarge)

Daily Mail, June 21, 1995 (click to enlarge)
Sunday Times, June 25, 1995 (click to enlarge)

The other main angle was whether DB10 would be another one season wonder like a certain German who had plied his trade up the Seven Sisters the previous year. The short answer: no chance.

The Sun, June 21, 1995 (click to enlarge)
And showing an uncharacteristically strong grip on reality, this Spurs fan admitted they were coming second best in the transfer market.
The Sun, June 21, 1995 (click to enlarge)

Finally, Louis Van Gaal had his say on DB10 arriving on our shores and confidently predicted he would enjoy his time here if he was played in the right system.

Daily Mail, June 21, 1995
An incredible few days that would turn out to be some of the most important in the Club’s history. As we’ll see in the next post, there was another big name signing to come in the shape of David Platt but nothing could ever match the jaw dropping nature of Dennis joining.

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