Dennis Bergkamp: Stillness and Speed [Book Review]

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Bergkamp is a footballing enigma.

In fact, I can’t even begin talk about his career exploits without reliving this majestic pirouette goal he scored against Newcastle whilst playing for Arsenal in 2002:

Bergkamp’s exceptional first touch and control of the ball was a sight to behold as his precise passes were capable of cutting through high lines to set up his teammates.

He was a quick and intelligent player regarded as one of the most technically gifted players of his time.

Although he wasn’t keen on being recognized as your typical goal scorer, Bergkamp more than compensated for that with his playmaking abilities and flexible passing range.

Not many players during that era possessed the versatility to play across the front line, but Bergkamp was one of the few that could use his quick feet and close control to adapt to multiple forward positions.

One of his former managers – Arsene Wenger – stated this regarding his technical abilities:

“He needs fewer touches to score. Sometimes just one, when others need two or three.”

Arsene Wenger

During his footballing career, Bergkamp was able to amass a collection of trophies that included:

  • 3 Premier League titles;
  • 4 FA Cup titles; and
  • 3 Super Cup titles.

One of his most renowned achievements was being a part of the 2003/2004 Arsenal “Invincibles” who managed to go a whole season unbeaten.

He was also awarded with individual achievements such as Player of the Year in 1991,1992 and 1998.

These trophies were spread across his career playing for Ajax Amsterdam, Inter Milan and Arsenal FC.

His international career didn’t last for as long as he had hoped for, but he still managed to achieve two Footballer of the Year awards for the Netherlands.

Now, let’s dig into his famous book!


Overall rating

As an overall compilation of his football career and early life, I would rate this book a 9/10 as it manages to maintain authenticity throughout the book and keep the reader engaged.

The writer of the book – David Winner – does an excellent job of extracting the analytical element in Bergkamp’s playing style and the reasons as to why he excelled as a playmaker.

The stories about his interactions with former managers, teammates and staff is an eye-opening revelation that gives more insight into his personal character and the connections he built over the years.

Additionally, one of the best elements about this book is that it not only targets football fans but avid readers that want to find out what makes a talented person a genius.


Where to buy the book

Stillness and Speed: My Story
  • Bergkamp, Dennis (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 05/08/2014 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster UK (Publisher)

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Book overview

In his revealing book, the former Dutch star opens up about his personal life in addition to his famed footballing career, with particular emphasis on what motivates and inspires him.

The book also draws the reader’s attention to his formative years, where he was a footballing student of the great Johann Cruyff.

He learnt from one of the game’s greatest minds and once he had signed for Arsenal, he was able to share his vision for the game with Arsene Wenger. The team went on to win seven major trophies, with Bergkamp playing a pivotal role in the side.

Bergkamp’s obsession with perfection is clearly depicted throughout the book as he always thinks one step ahead of the average footballer.

Not only does the book highlight his creative talent but also draws upon the hard work and determination invested from such a young age.

Later on in the title, former teammates and managers recount individual displays of his technical ability which gives an account into what others thought about his skills at the time.

The timeline of the book begins at his boyhood club, Ajax, and portrays his playing career at other clubs such as Inter Milan and Arsenal.


Key chapter highlights

There are quite a few things in this piece that can draw a reader’s attention.


1. Early life

A depiction of his early life before football tells the story of how an eight year old Bergkamp would practice kicking the ball against a worn-out brick wall.

Bergkamp would practice for hours finding out the different ways the ball bounced as well as experimenting on the techniques to control the ball.

It was at this point that his innate precision was gradually honed to what it became in his prime years and acts as a testament to the positive relationship between hard work and performance.


2. Personal fears

Another chapter is able to reveal one of Bergkamp’s personal struggles.

The Arsenal legend earned the title of the “Non-Flying Dutchman” later on in his career and this book delves deeper into the real reason behind his fear of flying.

According to Bergkamp, his aviophobia was caused by his uncomfortable experiences flying in small planes during his time at Inter Milan.

He stated:

“When you looked out all you could see was white or grey. And there was hardly any space. It was so cramped it made me claustrophobic.

You had absolutely no room to move and you just sat there shaking the entire trip. It made me feel so awful and I began to develop such an aversion to it that it suddenly dawned on me: ‘I don’t want to do this any more.”


3. Facing criticism

In one of the chapters titled “The meaning of meaning”, Bergkamp goes into detail about his remarkable goal against Newcastle.

He reacts to the scepticism about whether he actually meant to control the ball with such precision. His response was:

“Which part do they think I didn’t mean?”

Dennis Bergkamp

Based on his meticulous training approach portrayed in the book, it is almost certain that Bergkamp meant every single action that led up to his famous goal.


Is Stillness and Speed a good book?

Before you decide whether you want to purchase this title, it’s good to consider a few of the pros and cons.

Here’s a comprehensive summary:

  • Bergkamp goes into great detail to explain his thought process when he was creating goal scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates; his attitude towards training and his need to go the extra mile to “get it right”
  • The book also provides and interesting view on the different styles of play across Europe. Bergkamp established his technical skills under Dutch tutelage before dealing with the physically and mentally bruising side of the game whilst playing for Inter Milan, before another adjustment to the fast-paced game of English football under Arsenal.
  • This book is a fascinating read, ranging from acute tactical insight on the pitch, to charming personal anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of a man with a golden touch whose personality perhaps prevented him from outshining others in the public eye.
  • This book highlights the beauty of the game, the heights of elegance, genius and self-expression the game can reach.
  • It’s not just a linear narrative of a life and accomplishments but an endless flow of transferable life lessons that can be applied in our daily lives.
  • Not an autobiography in the traditional sense as it lacks a central focus and wasn’t actually written by Bergkamp. The book is as much about Cruyff, Ajax, Dutch football, Arsenal and Inter Milan than it is an account about the man himself.
  • This book tries to be too complex as if playing football like Bergkamp is a mystical and spiritual experience when really he was just a highly intelligent and technical player.


How many pages are in Stillness And Speed?

This book consists of 269 pages spread across 21 chapters.

It’s available either as a hardcover, paperback or eBook and it was originally published on the 5th of December 2013 by Simon & Schuster Ltd.


Similar alternatives to Stillness and Speed

Book readers are always after more options.

If you enjoy the tales that footballers have to tell, you might want to try out the following titles:

My Turn – The Autobiography by Johan Cruyff
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Cruyff, Johan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
I Think Therefore I Play by Andrea Pirlo
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Pirlo, Andrea (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top
  • Auclair, Philippe (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 07/18/2013 (Publication Date) - Macmillan (Publisher)


Closing thoughts

Stillness and Speed is an excellent take into the football career of Dennis Bergkamp and provides an in-depth guide into what made Bergkamp special and his ambition to succeed.

Even if you’re not an avid football fan, don’t worry.

Because this book will shed light on various morals and principles that can be applied in your day-to-day life.

Samuel Waihenya
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