Posted on Sunday, 19th August 2012 by Gavin Connolly
I remember almost immediately wanting him to succeed and believed in his abilities, knowing very little about him. I think it was down to pundits and journos claiming we’d bought the wrong Dutchman, with Arjen Robben having a better time of things with rivals Chelsea.
Admittedly, Robin brought with him a reputation of being antagonistic, petulant, and disparaging. A reputation that perhaps intimidated other clubs and coaches from making a move when the Rotterdam-based side made the Dutch Football Talent of the Year 2001-02 winner readily available for transfer.
Proof of RvP’s cantankerous nature, if it was needed, was provided many times by Bert van Marwijk., who, incidentally, left his position as manager of Feyenoord two months after Van Persie’s departure to take the managerial role at Borussia Dortmund. Nevertheless, van Marwijk had previously been quoted as stating ‘His behaviour made it impossible for him to remain in the squad…’ after demoting Van Persie to the reserves following a bust up.
Feyenoord were unable to extend Robin’s contract during the summer of 2003 (sound familiar?) as his relationship with the manager continued to degrade and distract from his on field accomplishments.
By the end of the 2003-04 season, Robin had made 78 appearances, contributing 22 goals and nine assists – not a bad return for a young prospect, mainly playing on the left wing.
Van Persie, ironically, won a trophy (if you can call it that) on his debut in the Community Shield with a 3 – 1 victory over Man Utd, coming on as a substitute and that would some what summise his debut season with the Gunners.
Unable to make an impact on a team that already contained Thierry Henry and Jose Antonio Reyes meant what little we saw of him was from the bench. Funny then that his debut campaign would rank third of eight in a table of seasonal appearances.
We also saw first hand, what RvP’s temper was capable of producing, when 1-0 up and the opposition down to ten men at St Mary’s, Arsene Wenger implored his players at half-time not to give referee Alan Wiley an excuse to level the playing field. In almost pure defiance, within seven minutes of the restart, Van Persie hacked down Graeme Le Saux and was given his marching orders, leaving the manager, squad, and fans furious and frustrated in equal measure. It was not until many games later, an F.A. Cup semi-final against Blackburn Rovers at the Millennium Stadium (I was there – Thank you, Rob), that would see the Dutchman make an impact from the bench. Two late goals, in a tightly contested affair, saw Arsenal through to their fourth final in five years, and all was seemingly forgiven and forgotten.
Robin would go on to appear as a substitute in the final of the same year against Man Utd and convert one of the five successful penalties that granted Arsenal’s last major trophy after a fortunate 0 – 0 draw.
This summer proved to be a controversial one, with Van Persie being arrested upon allegations of rape. He would eventually be cleared of all charges.
From here on in, the fan’s relationship with Van Persie began a rollercoaster ride that endured more troughs than peaks.
In November 2005, eight goals in eight starts and a five-year contract extension was followed by a broken toe. Making little impact throughout the campaign, it was another frustrating season for the player ending with him named as an unused substitute in the Champions League Final against Barcelona in 2006.
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