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Xtratime's Head of Humour 2007
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The Dutch sorcerer’s apprentice
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22 April 2005

Doug Gratton

The son of a sculptor, Robin van Persie knows all about learning his trade at the feet of an artist.

But while his father cannot help him much with his football career, the Arsenal striker is anxious that another Dutch master - or should that be pass master? - does not hang up his boots before he can finish his apprenticeship.

Van Persie was dubbed "the nearest thing to a young Dennis Bergkamp" by manager Arsene Wenger after his two-goal salvo against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday and has been widely tipped to take over his mantle next season.

But in an exclusive interview with High&I Sport, the 21-year-old explains how he wants Bergkamp to prolong his career so he can keep learning from the best - and how his upbringing has helped him to cope with the pressures of being at a top club.

"I had a few choices before I came to Arsenal," said Van Persie. "I could have gone to Spain or stayed in Holland.

"But I preferred to come here and train with the best players in Europe - and maybe the world - so that I could get better.

"I could have got a little more money in Spain, but for me that wasn't the number one. I wanted to improve myself. I am young and I want to train and play with the best players in the world.

"Of course, if Dennis stays or not it is his decision and the club's, but I would be happy if he stays because every day I can learn from him."

It is not exactly the response that you expect from a player who has been described as both "impetuous" and "irresponsible".

But then Van Persie is not exactly what you expect. Relaxed and open, he doesn't seem to have the "attitude" that some reports have suggested.

Instead, he comes across like a typically easy-going - and likeable - Dutchman.

However, he clearly knows the criticism and recognises that not everyone is going to like him.

"If you are a big player you have to make a shield around your own body," he said.

"For me, the most important thing is to play football. People can say good or bad things about me, but the main thing is I love football.

"What people say is their own problem. I want to be nice about everybody, but in life not everyone can like you and you have to accept that. But it is very important to go to the training ground with a happy face."

He thinks his background has helped him with that.

"I had one grandpa who played for NEC Nijmegen [a Dutch club], but nobody else plays football," he said. "My father is an artist - a sculptor - and my mother works with children who are handicapped, while I have two sisters.

"They love that I am a footballer, but not because of what it means. For them I am just normal and that's the main thing."

At times over the last month, though, he must have wished he had a shield around him.

Not only could he have done with protection from Andy Todd's late challenge on Saturday - for which the defender has been charged by the FA - but he has also had to put up with an attack from rather closer to home.

After his dismissal for two yellow cards against Southampton in February, Wenger was almost cruel in his criticism of the Dutch striker. Some people even thought the manager had overstepped the mark. But Van Persie says it was harsh but fair.

"That's what I like," he said. "If I'm messing it up he will say so. Against Southampton it was my fault - I had two yellow cards and he said it. He is honest: he could say he is a fantastic young player blah blah blah blah. But no - he is honest. He said: 'He is young, but he was wrong - it was his fault.'

"And now I am doing well and he says it also, and I respect that.

"If the manager says you are doing well when you are not, then it is worthless. If you are not doing well, then you know it yourself."

The whole event was probably exaggerated anyway. Bergkamp, for example, has always had "an edge" to his game, but has not been hung out to dry like his compatriot.

The most significant lesson is the one on the pitch. Too flash, or just too slow on the ball, Van Persie was slowing Arsenal's best moves down.

"Arsene told me that I should change my game a little bit," he said. "He only gave me a hint. I was thinking about the conversation and I was watching Pires on the training ground and I thought that's what the boss means - simple game, passing quickly, lots of runs but play your own game in the box.

"So I watched him and I thought that's the way I have to play if I want to be a big player."

Clearly, it will take more than just a cameo to show that Van Persie is doing the simple things as well as he can do the spectacular.

But most importantly, he is taking responsibility off the pitch as well as on it.

And he knows what he wants to achieve.

"You have players who are sometimes fantastic and sometimes rubbish," he said. "But Dennis and Robert are always at least a seven [out of ten] if you have to watch them and give them a mark.

"Every decision they make is good for the team and good for themselves.

"They are always thinking about their passes. Even if they are only four or five yards, they think about the consequences."

Van Persie is learning that lesson.

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he doesn't have any of the attitude we were told about when he was in Holand does he ?

he is sometimes a bit mad on the pitch but he comes across as the perfect teammate giving respect to everyone and keen to learn.

could become a real great player for us in the next years. :thmbup:
 

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Surely you can retrospectively quote anyone's comments in an interview and make them sound very responsible, rational etc. It's a different kind of thing that often makes players lose their head on the pitch when everyone is watching them though. :neutral:
 

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Xtratime's Head of Humour 2007
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Vagabondo said:
Surely you can retrospectively quote anyone's comments in an interview and make them sound very responsible, rational etc. It's a different kind of thing that often makes players lose their head on the pitch when everyone is watching them though. :neutral:

you can't find anything on van Persie at Arsenal though that is anything but respectful and dignified.

contrast that with his time at Feyenoord. :shades:
 

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The stories we had heard before about him were ridicliously awful. Like when Feyenoord won something and were celebrating in the dressing room, that RVP entered and started shouting why he wasn't selected :googly:

Seems like two different men to me now. :cool:
 

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Jern Lizardhous said:
contrast that with his time at Feyenoord. :shades:
That's what happens when you have the confidence of the manager. Wenger could still turn Cassano around.
 

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Xtratime's Head of Humour 2007
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nEEbz said:
What is so special about Cassano btw? What is he like?
he's like Arsenal :D inventive, imaginative and lovely to watch. :shades:
 

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Xtratime's Head of Humour 2007
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khimik said:
Him and Reyes would get on great. ;)
yeah Cassano, Reyes, Fabregas and Lupoli could go for nights out with the two younger more responsible lads looking out for them. :shades:
 

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The Dude
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It might just have been rumours that he had big attitude problems in Holland, who knows really?

He seems to manage being a pro-footballer suberbly so far, far away from getting into Pennant-troubles. But he has some way to go before he will hit it big, but focusing on the right things, which he seems to do, I can't see much that is likely to stop him. The boy got loads of talent... :)
 

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Jern Lizardhous said:
yeah Cassano, Reyes, Fabregas and Lupoli could go for nights out with the two younger more responsible lads looking out for them. :shades:

Lupoli or Sendo ? :cap:
 

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nEEbz said:
The wolf scores, whenever he is fed. :shades:
Good, the little Devil has style ;)
 

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nEEbz said:
just a small correction ;)

we don't mastermind devils in our academy :nono:
;)
 

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Xtratime's Head of Humour 2007
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Discussion Starter #20
if you buy Gilardino, you won't need Lupoli as Gilardino is so young that he won't be retiring for at least 10 years.

you can just admire the Wolf from afar, give you a reason to watch the Arsenal more often. :shades:
 
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