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Friday
Dec302011

A Volley at QPR

BY GRAHAM SMITH / @GrahamSm1th

Not the control of a floated David Platt pass, the shuffle past Matt Elliott and the hat-trick goal against Leicester. Not the impossible flick, spin behind Nikos Dabizas and sidefoot finish at Newcastle.

The standout Dennis Bergkamp goal for me is a 10-yard volley away at QPR in 1996. It remains my favourite ever Arsenal goal. It wasn’t the most important but it is still the most utterly brilliant goal that I have ever seen live.

I was born into an Arsenal family and brought up with a choice "You can support anyone you like as long as it’s not Tottenham". Fair enough, Dad.

At 7, I started to get into the Arsenal. Brian Moore was the narrator to my Arsenal induction and David Rocastle was my first hero as I sat through the Littlewoods Cup win in 1987. At school in Berkshire the majority of my friends supported Liverpool. The only shame about the 1989 title was that a week-long half-term break separated the 2-0 win at Anfield on Friday night and the opportunity to gloat about it in the playground.

By 1991 I had persuaded my Dad, who was a regular at Highbury from the fifties through to the seventies to take me to a game. Aston Villa were dispatched 5-0 on the march to the title. The West Lower was like watching a game through a letter box, Kevin Campbell had the biggest thighs I'd ever seen and Anders Limpar was as brilliant in the flesh as he was on the telly.

For the rest of the Highbury years we would pick and choose our games and I had plenty of 'I was there' moments. The last game with the old North Bank, the first game with the new one. Ian Wright breaking the club's goalscoring record, seeing us parade the Premiership trophy in 2002 and 2004. 

Lastly, all the knockout games in the Champions League in 2006 where we deservedly dispatched Juventus, Real Madrid and Villarreal and finally the 4-2 win against Wigan and Highbury's final farewell.

The move to the new ground enabled us to get season tickets and notable away trips in recent years have included the win on penalties in Rome, the 6-1 win at Goodison Park on the opening day of the 2009/10 season and most recently, the brilliant day out at Stamford Bridge in November.

Dennis Bergkamp is the player that stitches my generation together. I'm old enough to remember the George Graham era and the end of it was painful. Boring, winning football was one thing but once George seemed to lose that winning habit...

Arsenal didn't sign players like Dennis Bergkamp and we haven't signed a real superstar since. For me, he's the best player I've ever seen in an Arsenal shirt.

We went to QPR away in 1996, an easy drive along the M4 from Berkshire. Arsenal went behind early on and didn't equalise until the second half. Lee Dixon latched onto a ball on the right and his cross was volleyed in by Bergkamp at the near post.

His finish was nonchalant and stylish, but ferocious at the same time. It is a cliché but the ball was genuinely in the net before you could blink. That's what football is all about for me. Drifting off and thinking about old games and goals. 15 years later I can close my eyes and clearly remember an explosive volley ripping into the top corner of the net.

Dennis and the goal sum up how I feel about the Arsenal: full of class and the very, very best.

To see Graham's favourite volley (6 mins, 17 seconds), click here. 

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