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'Worth 75p?' - It's hard to believe how Bergkamp was viewed in his early Arsenal days

While the shadow of the shock West Ham result makes it hard to appreciate (as football writer Phi...

'Worth 75p?' - It'...

'Worth 75p?' - It's hard to believe how Bergkamp was viewed in his early Arsenal days

While the shadow of the shock West Ham result makes it hard to appreciate (as football writer Philippe Auclair tried to comprehend on Off The Ball), the last 20 years at Arsenal have been excellent in terms of consistency - particularly the period between 1998 and 2006.

Champions League perennials, stylish football and a world class stadium are just some of the changes that the club have undergone.

On today's episode of Team 33, we'll be chatting to Footballistically Arsenal podcast host Boyd Hilton about the need to appreciate George Graham's achievements at Arsenal pre-1995. All that is to come later today on the show and podcast.

But as part of our Newstalk series looking back at the 1995-96 season (we started with the mid-90s Middlesbrough team last week), I want to look at the initial media reaction to Dennis Bergkamp as he struggled to make a mark after signing for Arsenal in June 1995.

The Dutchman would, of course, go on to become an Arsenal and Premier League legend, scoring over 100 goals and creating so many more. But it wasn't until the seventh game of the season against Southampton in September '95 that he finally found the net at league level, marking that appearance with a double:

But two days before in the Daily Mirror, BBC pundit and former Liverpool and Ireland defender Mark Lawrenson had this to say:

"DENNIS BERGKAMP is a £7.5million striker playing like someone who cost 75p. Now he needs a Bruce Rioch rocket to make him get his finger out.

"The Dutch superstar has been the biggest disappointment of the season so far and he's got to learn that if you're not prepared to work hard in English football you've got no chance of succeeding.

"Bergkamp has the ability to take the Premiership by storm, but we've only seen about 40 per cent of it so far because he's playing in the comfort zone."

Lawrenson, who at least saw potential, added that Bergkamp should try to learn from his then striker partner Ian Wright who was banging in the goals.

In the same newspaper, in an article published by Nigel Clarke three days before Lawro's, the mood of premature judging had already been in full swing:

"THE JOKES are already starting to fly around about goal-shy Gunner Dennis Bergkamp.

"Like what do Dick Whittington and Bergkamp have in common? They both wear boots for no apparent reason.
The £7.5 million Dutch star is nicknamed Beavis, after the American cartoon character. But how long will it be before he becomes Butthead, his misguided little mate in the comic strip?

"His record so far in six games for Arsenal is no goals, and in this match two misses - one so glaring that it overshadowed Julian Dicks' ninth sending off that followed his 52nd career booking."

Of course, the Daily Mirror were not the only paper unimpressed with Bergkamp. Try this from The Times after a 3-0 win over Hartlepool in the League Cup ...

"Alarmingly for Bruce Rioch, the Arsenal manager, the abiding images of this Coca-Cola Cup second-round, first-leg tie are of Bergkamp dropping too deep, drifting offside and failing to challenge McGuckin in the air or tackle. Even after Brian Horne, the Hartlepool goalkeeper, had been sent off for handling outside his area in the sixtieth minute, the forward failed to muster a serious shot at goal, miscuing his sole half-chance."

Of course, none of these people were operating with the benefit of hindsight. But it just goes to show that we should not judge players too early and in fairness, we've all been guilty of it at some point - except the Arsenal fans who saw Andre Santos for what he was straight away or Eric Djemba Djemba at Man United.

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