Stillness and Speed
By Dennis Bergkamp and David Winner
Simon & Schuster – £20.00
I’ve always had a mighty keen in interest in Dutch football. Whether or not this is because I’m half Dutch myself, or, more to the point, because those who represent The Netherlands on the football pitch are surely among the finest players to have ever graced the game, remains yet to be clarified.
To be sure, Johan Cruyff may well be the finest football player ever, although those who have followed in his footsteps aren’t bad either. Players such as Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Ruud van Nistlerooy, Marc Overmars, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robin, are names that leap forth nigh immediately when thinking of great Dutch players.
Although the name Dennis Bergkamp conjures up a whole lot more.
During his eleven years at Arsenal for instance – in which he made over 400 appearances – Bergkamp was often referred to as ‘the Dutch Master.’ And it’s utterly understandable as to why. Although if some explanation and definition were required, then get yourself a copy of this book.
Apart from being very readable, exceedingly well reasearched, and somewhat philosophical in approach, Dennis Bergkamp – Stillness and Speed (My Story) sheds oodles of inspired light, not only on the subject, but on the so-called beautiful game as a whole. Which, if nothing else, separates it from the unwarranted plethora of other (mind numbingly dull and what’s more, badly written) football books.
In the thirteenth chapter ‘Driven,’ there’s a great quote from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, which more than substantiates both of these issues: ”It is a spiritual thing. I am convinced of that. I believe you have two kinds of players who play football. Those who want to serve football like you serve God, and they put football so high that everything that is not close to what football should be is a little bit non-acceptable. And then you have those who use football to serve their ego. And sometimes ego can get in the way of the game, because their interest comes before the interest of the game. Sometimes the big ego is linked with what we call strong personalities, charisma. But most of the time, what people call charisma, is just big ego. I believe that Dennis was one of those who had such a high idea of the game and such a respect for the game that he wanted that to be above everything. I believe that the real great players are guided by how football should be played, and not by how football should serve them. If it becomes spiritual, it’s endless, and you’re always driven to going higher, and getting closer to what you think football should be.”
The above, as previously mentioned, is just one instance of what accounts for Stillness and Speed reaching a higher plateau of football writing. Like Bergkamp himself, this book is reflective of the need and the quest for perfection. Along with contributions from an array of his colleagues (the aforementioned Cruyff and Wenger, along with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Ian Wright among others) there’s a number of insights into Bergkamp’s technique and all round approach to the game.
One of the best of these is in the chapter Louis, Louis’: ”We trained meticulously. Every detail, shooting, passing, everything had to improve. And everything became more tactical. Where should you run and why? ”Think, guys,” Van Gaal would say. ”Consider every move you make.” He gave us pointers, but during matches you had to do it yourself. He constantly hammered home that you had to be aware of everything you were doing. Every action had to have a purpose. I focused on what I was good at: being decisive. I thought a lot about tactics, about the position of defenders and about finding the opponent’s weak spots. I began to choose more intelligent positions by communicating more with the players around me. If a midfielder was marking me, I would play as far forward as possible, forcing my man to play between his defenders to make him uncomfortable. And if the player marking me was a defender, I would drop back to the midfield so he would feel out of place. I really loved approaching football that way, analysing my position like that. I was completely obsessed with being decisive. I was always watching my opponents, paying attention to details, observing the situation on the pitch. I constantly watched for opportunities to win the ball. All I needed was the slightest chance and I would rush at it.”
As Ian Wright once said, ”Dennis Bergkamp is the best signing Arsenal have made and ever will make.” And I can’t but help second that emotion.
This is quite possibly one of the finest football orientated books you will ever read.