Arsenal teammates and Bergkamp himself discuss the Dutchman's love for pranks.
Martin Keown describes Bergkamp’s often mischievous sense of humour in the dressing room: ‘Dennis was, shall we say, the clothes manager. If you came in and what you were wearing wasn’t to his liking then he would be hanging it up twenty foot in the air somewhere and you’d have to go and get step ladders and all sorts to go and reach it. I’d be furious: “Fucking Bergkamp, he’s done it again!”
Bergkamp: “Martin wanted to look nice, and he really made an effort. But sometimes he did things which were just not good enough in our opinion. Once he had a black leather jacket and we took some tape and I put T-Birds on the back, like John Travolta in Grease. It was fantastic.”
Bergkamp congratulates Freddie Ljungberg, after seeing the Swede’s revealing posters for Calvin Klein: ‘Freddie we’re all really proud of you. But I hope you didn’t forget about the lads. Could you get us all a pair of those Calvin Kleins? (..) We want the special ones like yours. The ones with a sock down the front.’
Bergkamp on the famous Ray Parlour incident: ‘We were playing pre-season in Austria in a training ground with a little stand. There were always Arsenal fans travelling with us, so there were about twenty or thirty people watching. I was doing Arsenal TV, I think, and while they’re filming, Ray comes up from behind me and pulls my shorts down. Luckily I always have my underwear on. All the people were laughing in the stand. And Ray’s laughing and I was like: “OK, I’ll take that. No worries. Hold my hands up. Very funny.” But I remember it. Three or four days later we’re playing again, somewhere nearby. It’s a friendly game with a lot of fans and the main stand is full. Ten minutes before the end we get up to go and walk past the stand and some fans stop us for autographs. Ray is doing autographs and I’m behind him and I think: “This is my moment.” Wooosh! The shorts are gone, and there’s nothing underneath. I was so happy.’
An equally hilarious moment happened with kitman Vic Akers. Bergkamp: “Vic’s got this big tummy and dodgy knees and he always wears shorts. At the training centre there’s a big room next to the canteen with sliding doors. It’s for media and meetings and stuff, and one lunchtime there’s an event to sell grooming products to the players. There are sales girls in there and Vic is leaning on the door, chatting and flirting. He’s leaning like this, arms crossed and one leg over the other, standing like this, very casual and looking very funny. And the players, we come in for lunch. So we’re eating and watching Vic chatting up the girls. And I can’t resist. I sneak up to him, and…woosh!... The shorts are straight down! [laughs] And the reaction! Vic lurches forward to cover himself, and all the guys are still having lunch and they’re all in tears because it took Vic ages to lean down to pull up his shorts. The girls are all laughing, too. People were laughing about it for weeks afterwards. You know, I’ve won some trophies. And I’ve scored some nice goals. But this may be the highlight of my career.’
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Patrick Vieira: ‘Dennis thought about things other players couldn’t even imagine.’
Thierry Henry: ‘For me Dennis was and always will be The Master’.
Tony Adams: ‘For me, he (Bergkamp) was ten times the player Thierry was.’
Dutch teammate Wim Jonk: ‘We were all good players, but he had such exceptional class that he was at another level. The other players found that beautiful.’
Sol Campbell on Bergkamp’s nasty side as an opponent: “He was quite naughty sometimes. I mean, if he wanted to be naughty he could be naughty. Like putting the foot in… Big time! When he put his foot in, he put his foot in.’
Ray Parlour on first inviting Bergkamp to play golf: “We weren’t very good ourselves at the time, so we’re a bit worried. We’re thinking, he must be good, he’s good at everything.’
His philosophy at Ajax: ‘The only team that needs to win trophies is the first team. The youth teams don’t need to win, they just need to make their players better. So what does the individual need at a certain age? Should you talk tactics to a player before the age of fourteen? At that age it goes in one ear and out the other. It really doesn’t mean anything. So we start with that now after fourteen. Before fourteen, it’s just playful skills and everything. And we have new ways of measuring and developing those skills, and developing good habits, like controlling the ball, and passing and positions, and we’re also thinking a lot about the mental side. So in the end you have not just a complete football player but a person who is good for others, who means something in the world. He’s not just a stupid football player, but someone with a good story to tell, who is outgoing; someone who is genuinely interested in helping or changing the world, for example, not just interested in girls and cars. A more intelligent person so everyone says: “Yes, that’s an Ajax player!” That’s the philosophy’.
Johan Cruyff on Bergkamp’s role at Ajax: ‘You could call him a Jack of all trades, but I prefer to call him the playmaker within the technical heart.’
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