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Arsenal 2-1 Ajax – 22/07/06 – (Bergkamp Testimonial) 23 July, 2006

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If I had to sum up the day in one word it would be ‘strange’. It was strange not going to Highbury, it was strange seeing about 30 different players play in the game per side and it will be strange never seeing Bergkamp play for us again. The day was started by Wenger doing this shitty, cheesy opening of ‘Emirates’ event. He was handed a toy plane from this bloke from Emirates and then he kicked a giant football which was remote controled and was meant to be steered into the North Bank Goal, but it hit the bar. It really was a game of two halfs, we had the reserves in the first 45 and the legends in the other. The reseves idea was just crap, they should of just scrapped it. If thats what I wanted to see I would’ve gone to a reserve game, not at the first ever game at Emirates. Also it didn’t help build the atmosphere because nobody knew who the fuck was playing. Bergkamp did start both halfs though which was a bit stange, also his dad kicked off the match.

We did see some good young talent in the first half like Traore had a good game but this was not what I wanted to see on the day. They should have played the Legends all game. It was a bit risky playing the reserves because Ajax came close a couple of times to scoring the first ever goal at Ashburton Grove. Then at about 25 minutes played (I say about because there was no clock inside the stadium which was the most annoying thing, sort it out Arsenal) the teams made about 7 changes each, no way am i going to list them all but Bergkamp came off to get ready for the first half, Poom came on for Almunia, Bentner came on and looked poor and there was some other people…Then Ajax did score which really annoyed me, the first goal at Ashburton Grove was by Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Oh Goody. Then a few minutes before half time we made a load more subs and then soon after the half time whistle went so I don’t understand what the point in that was…

In the concourse at half time is as quite busy and I didnt either bother trying to queue up for a drink, however there was loads of toilets which was good, no queues. Then Bob Wilson came on at half time to Introduce the Legends teams which included fo Ajax: Frank and Ronald de Boer, Frank Rijkaard, Stefan Pettersson, Edwin Van der Sar and Edgar Davids who both obviously got booed and with every touch of the ball got booed too. For Arsenal we had David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Steve Bould, Gilles Grimandi, Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Edu, Ray Parlour, Ian Wright, Oleg Luzhny, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Alex Manninger, Patrick Vieira, Glenn Helder, Kanu and a suprise apearance from Thierry Henry.

This was more like it this is what I came to see today We lined up with: Seaman, Dixon, Bould, Grimandi, Winderburn, Overmars, Edu, Petit, Parlour, Henry and Bergkamp. I’ve never been to a testimonial before so I really enjoyed it, seeing all the old players and singing all the old songs. Especially Seaman who was playing with the crowd, there was a round of “Seaman, do the twist. Seaman Seaman do the twist!” and he did. And also “England’s number one. England’s Enlgand’s number one!” The acoustics of the stadium were very nice and it did get quite loud at times, I can’t wait untill the proper season starts where the games have meaning, it’s going to be a great atmosphere in there. 8 mins into the second half we equalised. Bergkamp gave it to Dixon who was out on the right wing, who crossed into Henry who controlled it and shot past Van der Sar. 1-1, Arsenal’s first goal at Ashburton Grove scored by who else but Thierry Henry. I have no doubt that we’ll see plenty more of them. After the goal we were on top and were playing well and Overmars looked as if he was 25 again running down the left flank, we had a few chances but to no result.

Then Tottenham scum Davids who I don’t think realised it was a testimonial game managed to burst through our elderly defence and flicked it passed Seaman and had an open goal. Then Gilles Grimandi had a flash of genius and clipped the foot of Davids to trip him up in the box and not score the goal, the crowd went mad and I’m sure there was a few Grimandi shirts sold in the Armoury afterwards. A truely legendary moment. From the resulting penalty Ronald de Boer blasted the ball over the bar I’m not sure whether it was on purpose or not but we were happy none the less. There was a few subs in the second half too, Edu came off for Vieira who got an amazing reception, maybe the loudest out of everyone, I had goosebumps all over me. Also Luzhny, van Bronckhorst, Manninger, Helder, Kanu and Ian Wright came on who as you would expect got a massive cheer.

Manninger made a great save down on the floor to stop Ajax taking the lead and then collected the spilled ball quickly. Then 10 minutes before full-time the crowd were treated to two true legends of the game – Johan Cryuff and Marco van Basten. The crowd gave them a deserved cheer and they showed they still had a bit of they’re magic left in them with van Basten flicking the ball over Stevie Bould at the near post Alex Manninger making another great one-handed save. In the final 10 minutes we had lots of chances and we seemed to play the rest of the game in their half, Ian Wright hit the side-netting coming agonisingly close to scoring the winner. However, not long after Kanu got an eye of goal and struck the ball which took a massive deflection off Jaap Stam to beat keeper Stanley Menzo at the near post for the winning goal. A chorus of “Noooooooooo” went around the stadium as it had a few years ago in Highbury. There was nearly a fairy-tale finish with Bergkamp through on goal with a bit of an angle, he shot to the far post but Menzo denied Dennis the perfect end to an amazing 11 years.

After the game there were some presentations, a few words to say from the great man himself and then a lap of honour before being lifted on the shoulders of Vieira and Henry before the 54,000 Arsenal faithful. And with fireworks off the stadium roof that was the end and for the last time we saw the Bergkamp 10 shirt walking down the tunnel. It was a special day a the perfect way to open Ashburton Grove which looked magnificent with everyone wearing red, white and orange t-shirts.

So that’s the end of Dennis Bergkamp. One of Arsenal’s greatest players, for whom the word ‘legend’ isn’t really fitting enough.

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