Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Nicklas Bendtner could be the new Ray Kennedy: propelling Arsenal to the title
By 1970’s Gooner
I remember when I first started going to Highbury as a young lad. It was the time when all the local and national newspapers were mentioning Arsenal only in terms of its past glories. Of not having won anything for 17 years.
17 years I thought was a very, very long time. Still I had already chosen which team in north London I was going to bestow my allegiance to. This was the team in the area where I lived, the team all my friends and family supported and I did after all believe that with a strange name like Arsenal I couldn’t go wrong!
Strange because no other team in the League had a name that was not derived from the name of the town or area it came from nor a nickname that meant its players could gun down the opposition at will!
So I vowed that it wouldn’t matter if they went for another 17 years without winning anything.
But Bertie Mee’s Arsenal managed to get into the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, today’s equivalent of the UEFA Cup.
It was at this time that Bertie Mee started bringing into the team some younger players to replace a few of the old hands that had their day. Ray Kennedy was one of them. He made his first team debut against Glentoran in the 1969-70 version of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
In fact to my great surprise and of course satisfaction Arsenal progressed to the competition's final and the young Kennedy had a starring role. He came on as a substitute during the first leg while Arsenal were losing 3-0 to Anderlecht away and scored a crucial late goal.
Arsenal had to win 3-0 at Highbury to win overall which they did. It was their first trophy after 17 years. And I was there to see it.
What really impressed me was this strong and tall young lad that had burst onto the first team and played as though he had been around for years.
And what was even more satisfying was that we got him for nothing! He was released by Sir Stanley Mathews from Port Vale when he was 16 and he was working in a sweet factory playing amateur football!
Most of all I was impressed with his ability to receive a pass either to feet or in the air and even if surrounded by opponents clicking at his heels and trying to push him off balance he would still manage to protect the ball until his fellow players were ready to receive his lay off.
I watched Nicklas Bendtner for the first time at a televised Carling Cup game at Doncaster Rovers two years ago when Wenger fielded a B side which included among others Almunia in goal, Senderos at centre back and Robin Van Persie in attack. Bendtner came on for RVP in the 33rd minute (Almunia saved two penalties in the ensuing penalty shoot out).
His physique and style of play straight away reminded me of Ray Kennedy. Opposition defenders found it difficult to cope with his strength and aerial ability which was also strangely combined with a touch of skill and finesse.
I made a point of watching him play for Denmark and in a few of Birmingham’s games last season and he was clearly a handful for most defenders. He carried that form and style of play into this season for Arsenal. He was quite impressive in the pre season tournaments where he showed that he could rough it with the seasoned pros of the foreign leagues and also score goals.
I even argued on this site that he should be a realistic contender for inclusion in the first team “Bendtner makes a case for starting against Fulham” and “Bendtner should start every game. It makes more tactical sense”.
He has been used sparingly by Arsene Wenger mostly in the Carling Cup and a few Champion’s League games scoring against Newcastle, Slavia Prague, Steaua Bucharest and of course that marvelous header against Tottenham.
In fact Ray Kennedy scored a famous goal for Arsenal against Spurs.
During Ray Kennedy’s first season as a first team player (1970-71) he only missed one game in all competitions. He was an integral part of the Arsenal side which became only the second in the 20th century to win the coveted Double of League Championship and FA Cup (Spurs was the other one).
A tight, dramatic finale to the title race saw Kennedy score the only goal of the game against Tottenham at White Hart Lane from a cross by another of my 1970’s favourites, George Armstrong, to secure the title for Arsenal, our first since 1952-53. I was there too “banking” off school early to make sure I got into the ground.
Three days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 after extra time to win the FA Cup. Kennedy didn't score in the final (Charlie George and Eddie Kelly did) but did end the season with 27 goals, making him the club's top scorer.
Nicklas Bendtner has shown that Arsene Wenger can rely on him. If given the chance he could help propel Arsenal to the title just like a young Ray Kennedy did when, with the rest of the Arsenal 1970’s greats, went on to make history.
From me and the other contributors to “Arsenal Analysis” we thank you for your support and participation and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
May all your wishes come true.
Fabregas has added a “Peter Storey” attitude to his vast arsenal of talents
Is Justin Hoyte the new Pat Rice?