Arsenal Fan: Özil's Home Debut Brought Back Memories Of Bergkamp
I remember when Dennis Bergkamp first played at Highbury.
There was genuine excitement around the ground that we had signed a world class player. A player with creativity, vision and technical ability to make you gasp in awe, and who’s signing lifted the players, the club and the fans.
And despite all the decent (and not so decent) players we have signed in the decades since, nothing comes near to the anticipation, excitement and, dare I say it shock of Arsenal Football Club signing Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for a club record fee of £42.4 million.
I was on a three line whip to visit the mother-in-laws for a family do yesterday. It had been arranged for ages. I even said I would go to keep the peace despite having a season ticket since before Alex Ferguson joined Manchester United. But that was prior to the fixtures coming out. It was certainly before we signed Mesut Ozil.
Much as I try and be a good person, a good dad and partner, my love of Arsenal, football and sport in general always seems to prevent me from achieving those goals fully. I was asked not to go but the fact that Mesut Ozil was making his home debut proved too much for my weak willed nature (or was it my addiction?) and I simply couldn’t help myself.
So at 1.29pm instead of sitting down to a Sunday lunch and a pleasant family chat over a glass or two, I found myself cheering myself hoarse in praise of our German-born midfield schemer, practically frothing at the mouth in excitement.
Well, what you would do? Tell me. Honestly?
I wasn’t disappointed. Within 300 seconds the midfielder with the most assists in Europe over the last five years swept in a free kick from the left. Begovic, only succeeded in pushing the ball out to Aaron Ramsey who smashed the ball into the net before embarking on cathartic run past the away end, joyfully lifting his index finger to his lips. It was as satisfying as it was enjoyable. But that’s a narrative that’s been explored far too often for my liking – yesterday wasn’t a day for argument (not at the ground anyway, at home later from my partner yes, but that’s a different story) it was a day of celebration, a day of savouring a world class talent that had been improbably purchased by our manager with a recent record of extreme caution in the transfer market.
What was instructive for me was something that happened later on in the first half, an action that triggered memories of Bergkamp’s first game. For those of you who can’t recall, Bergkamp’s first game at Highbury wasn’t against Middlesbrough in our first game of the 1995/96 season. Rather, it was against the team he played for until we signed him, namely Inter Milan in a friendly in early August 1995.
Bergkamp himself recalled years later that Inter’s Nicola Berti - a bloke who set himself up as a hard man but was only a pathetic bully who would always be slapped down by genuine hard men during his time at Spurs – gave him a few digs early on in that game as well as verbals that showed no wit or flair (a bit like his play).
What happened then was the Arsenal and England legend that was Tony Adams, upon seeing his new team mate attract this unwanted aggression simply went up to Berti and said: “You f****** touch my mate again and you’ll have me to deal with”, adding for good measure, “You f****** cowardly c***”.
Needless to say Berti didn’t go near Bergkamp again. It was a great example of the espirt de corps that existed at the club during that time. It was also instructive to Bergkamp, unloved and unwanted in Milan, that he was now playing for a club and supporters that cherished him, with teammates that would stand in the trenches with him.
And so it was that Mesut Ozil was eventually clattered by an opposition player yesterday. I don’t care who it was just like I don’t care who we were playing. Yesterday was about The Arsenal and Ozil, nothing else mattered. It was a 'welcome to the Premiership' type of challenge, nothing too malicious just a mild clatter.
But what I loved was the fact that super Jackie Wilshere, and a player who is rapidly growing in stature - not only in terms of his overall contribution but the fact he is increasingly becoming a leader without an armband, and Olivier Giroud came steaming over to tell the opposition to f*** off.
Of course it was handbags, it may not have even been picked up by the cameras. I doubt that many people in the ground even paid much attention - but for me it immediately transported me back to August 1995. It made me smile. It made me proud to be a Gooner. It was an affirmation that Mesut Ozil is one of us, so leave him the f*** alone as Wilshere indicated. It was bloody great to see.
Just like it was great to see Ozil five minutes in, 25 yards out, fire in that low free kick that led to our first goal. He also had a hand in our second, looping in that corner inviting the BFG to head in despite the best intentions of Kos to get the final touch. Not to mention another floated free kick in the second half that allowed Bacary Sagna to head a rare goal and our third.
15 wins, three draws with seven wins on the bounce. Who knows where the season will take us but the fact is things feel far more promising than they did a month ago.
Yet only Piers Morgan could tell the world he always had faith in Ramsey when he spent the last 18 months digging him out. One thing twitter is great for is exposing hypocrisy and bull**** so it was no surprise to find a lot of people exposing Morgan for the shameless hypocrite that he is, whilst also ensuring that any credibility he ever had (none whatsoever in my eyes anyway) is slowly and surely being diminished by his ignorant drivel.
Yesterday was also a celebration of Arsenal being in Islington for a hundred years.
Tales of hundred year old local heroes who served as Gunners during World War Two abounded. There was even a special reproduction of the first ever programme at Highbury (for an extra ten points tell me who our first visitors were?*). It was strangely fitting that a man was making his home debut who could lead us at the start of the next hundred years. I even managed to get a small piece in The Gooner fanzine lauding an Islington institution. It was that sort of day.
The crowd rose as one to acclaim Ozil when he was subbed. I made a point of looking around as he was taken off. The Upper Tiers were on their feet, which is surprising as I wasn’t even sure there were real people up there. Even those in Club Level - who’s lack of knowledge is on par with Morgan’s, come to think of it, it is the natural habitat both physically and metaphorically of idiots like Morgan – rose in acclaim.
“Brilliant. F****** brilliant”, a mate of mine sitting next to me said. And it was.
“Rest assured you will get good football in return for your generous patronage”, said the programme. Except it was the programme reprint from September 1913. One hundred years on not much appears to have changed.
I just don’t expect my partner to appreciate it.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29
*Answer: Leicester Fosse
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