BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Former Arsenal and Holland striker Dennis Bergkamp was a guest of Palace boss Patrick Vieira on Saturday at Selhurst Park, where he witnessed his former team-mate guide the Eagles into a top-10 spot in the Premier League thanks to a 1-0 win over Watford.
Bergkamp, who scored 120 goals in 423 appearances for the Gunners, said he always knew the former French international midfielder had it in him to be a successful leader from the dugout too.
“He’s got this calmness about him, he used to have it as a player as well,” Bergkamp told the South London Press. “Everyone knows the battles he fought in midfield as a player, but outside the pitch there was also a certain calmness with him talking tactically about getting the ball in the right areas and letting players play to their strength.
“That’s what he did as a player and you can see it as well as a coach now. He’s got all the things sorted where every player has improved over the season and that’s a sign of a good manager.”
When asked about whether he would like to join up with Vieira again, but on the coaching side, having been assistant at former club Ajax – including a spell under former Palace boss Frank de Boer – Bergkamp revealed he would not rule it out.
“Who knows?,” said the former Ajax and Inter Milan player. “I get along well with Patrick. I admire his calmness, I admire his career, but especially I admire the person he is, one that’s nice to be around. Who knows in the future?”
While Saturday’s game was not one to remember, Bergkamp spoke of his pride in watching Vieira make his mark from the sidelines.
“Maybe not today, but during the season you can tell what his way of playing is – aggressive in midfield, trying to win the ball, simple passes going forward,” said Bergkamp.
“I really enjoyed watching this season. I feel he’s really influencing the team, you can see his print on them. The way he approaches things and the way they’re playing – you can see his philosophy which is always a good thing.
Dennis Bergkamp was there at Crystal Palace today to support Patrick Vieira. Here’s them chatting after the game. pic.twitter.com/QGl2RSY5Ex
— Connor Humm (@TikiTakaConnor) May 7, 2022
“He’s laid a foundation and even more than that. He’s had a great season and people hadn’t expected that. If he can build from here then maybe they can look forward to finishing higher in the table. It’s interesting to watch.”
Bergkamp and Vieira were key elements in more than a decade of trophy success under Arsene Wenger.
In the 2003-04 season they went unbeaten in the league – 26 wins and 12 draws – to become the first team to do so in the top-flight since Preston in 1888-89 and earn the name ‘The Invincibles’, part of team which included other household names such as Thierry Henry.
Vieira has spoken many times about keeping in contact with his former team-mates.
Bergkamp revealed the bond is stronger than ever in 2022.
“It’s not really something that you create, it’s something that is just there,” said Bergkamp. “The other day I saw Thierry [Henry] and he said it’s been 16 years [since they’d last played together], that’s unbelievable. We spoke over the phone but it’s how it goes. It felt like the day before that you saw each other.
“It’s a really good feeling, I consider them all friends and it’s important that you have such a connection as that’s for life.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD