Meet the new Bergkamp

The family resemblance is unmistakable, but can Roland do for Brighton what his great uncle Dennis did for Arsenal? Andrew Warshaw reports

Well before he put pen to paper and signed for newly promoted Brighton, Roland Bergkamp knew what to expect. Famous name, chip off old block, let's see how he compares with great uncle Dennis. That sort of thing.

Yet being saddled with the same name as one of the greatest players ever to grace the Premier League doesn't appear, at this early stage at least, to be fazing the Seagulls' newest recruit as they prepare for the excitement of Championship football in a new, 22,000-seater stadium.

''I've had it in Holland for a couple of years, people saying, 'Oh he'll never be as good as Dennis,' so I've already got used to it,'' said Roland, in his first major interview since joining his new club. ''Sometimes all the attention can be a bit annoying but I'm not the same sort of player as he was. He was far more technical than I'll ever be. I'm more of a 6ft 3in target man.''

Not surprisingly, as a child Roland was captivated when watching the talents of his great uncle, an Arsenal legend whose distinguished career ended in 2006, after more than a decade at the club. It turned the young Roland into an instant Gunners fan and it is a strong allegiance that he still carries.

''I didn't see him play at Ajax and Inter, I was too young. But I watched most of his games at Arsenal. They were always called Boring Arsenal but he helped changed all that. I really like the way they play. I didn't consult him about coming to England because, to be honest, I knew what I wanted to do.''

Emulating famous footballing relatives can be difficult. The former Manchester United striker Jordi Cruyff, for all his talent, never lived up to the hype after following in the footsteps of his father, Johan, who was Holland's greatest player.

While it would be unfair to place the young Bergkamp, just 20 and having turned professional only two years ago, in the same category, he understands the point. ''I'm anticipating all the scrutiny," he says, "but all I can do is play to my strengths.''

It was in part down to Bergkamp, who made his under-21 international debut in March, that Excelsior, the smallest of the three professional Rotterdam clubs, managed to hold on to top-flight status last season while playing bright, skilful football. Bergkamp was watched by the Brighton manager Gus Poyet's sharp-minded scouting network, whose reports led to an offer of a two-year deal.

No sooner had he booked into a local hotel that will serve as his temporary accommodation than Bergkamp was off to Portugal for a pre-season tour with his new teammates. A 2-2 draw against a young Spurs selection, in which he came on for 15 minutes, was followed by a 1-0 defeat against a strong-looking Paris Saint-Germain side in what was his first start for the Seagulls, alongside the club's record signing, Craig Mackail-Smith. Last night Brighton finished off against local side Olahense, and are due to return tomorrow to continue pre-season training.

''I always wanted to go to England as long as I can remember," says Bergkamp, "so when Brighton came in for me I had a look at them. I had no idea how big a club they were. The equivalent league is Holland is tiny by comparison, rarely topping 6,000. Even at Excelsior I was often playing in front of 3,000 fans.''

It was Brighton's spanking new ground at Falmer, up and running after years of false dawns and financial setbacks, that excited Bergkamp. That and the presence of Poyet, one of the brightest managers in the country, who has a refreshing one-touch approach to the game.

''When I knew Brighton were interested in me," says Bergkamp, "I did a bit of searching and couldn't quite believe what came up. There were a few other countries interested but when I saw what kind of stadium Brighton were moving into, I had to look again just to make sure.

''Then I went over for a talk with Gus and was surprised how they train. It's a very un-English way of playing. If you were to ask me what type of football they play in England, I'd probably say kick and rush, to a large extent. But there's no kicking and no rushing at Brighton. Gus works rather like they do in Holland, playing with the ball.''

Poyet says that the new kid on the block will face a learning process in the English game. ''I'm sure he is willing to come and keep learning and get stronger to adapt to our style,'' said the Uruguayan. ''His name is going to bring plenty of memories but we ask that people forget about his uncle. He has the same name but he is a totally different player to Dennis and we don't want people to compare him.''

Whether Bergkamp will be named in the starting XI for Brighton's first fixture, against Doncaster Rovers on 6 August, is unclear but he will certainly be in the squad. ''Dennis was one of the best foreign players to have played in England and we want Roland to get as high as possible,'' said Poyet. ''But, from the beginning, we just want people to take him as a young and promising talent.''

Great uncle Dennis:

Age: 42

Clubs: Ajax, Internazionale, Arsenal

Appearances: 553

Goals: 201

Honours: International caps: 79

Arsenal: 3 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups Ajax: 1 league title, 1 Uefa Cup, 1 European Cup-Winners' Cup Internazionale: 1 Uefa Cup

What they said: "If Ryan Giggs is worth £20 million then Dennis Bergkamp is worth £100 million" – Marco van Basten

New boy Roland:

Age: 20

Clubs: Excelsior, Brighton & Hove Albion

Appearances: 26

Goals: 8

Honours: Under-21 caps: 1

What they said: ''He is a totally different player to Dennis and we don't want people to compare him'' - Gus Poyet

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map