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What’s in a name?
Is Mitchel Bergkamp the real deal? Machel Hewitt explores...
Mitchel Bergkamp has played roughly 190 minutes of first-team football for Bromley since he arrived at the club in January 2023.
Yet scour social media and football club forums and you’ll find more than 190 minutes of written content, positive and negative.
Some will say that, given who his father is, a heightened level of scrutiny comes with the territory.
If we assume that stance is correct, it rather begs the question: How astute can fans and the media be when Bergkamp Junior’s body of work is so small?
Earlier this week, Bromley announced that Mitchel has signed a new contract for the 2023/24 season.
In a carefully worded press release, Andy Woodman said:
“I’m absolutely delighted that Mitchel has decided to stay with us for next season. We’ve got a special player on our hands and we saw glimpses of what he can do last season. He’s an exciting player and one we look forward to seeing more of next season.”
Woodman worked with Mitchel briefly at Arsenal and has seen the 24-year-old in training and matches for the last four months. These facts alone should prompt people to accept his new contract at face value.
However, some immediately took to social media to decry the move as a cynical marketing stunt, denouncing Mitchel’s qualities in the process.
It left this writer perplexed on many levels. Above all, what on earth had people seen in his limited game-time to make such a definitive statement?
Beyond Woodman’s unprecedented success in the Bromley hot-seat, it has often gone unnoticed that he has an eye for talent.
He has blooded several homegrown prospects when other managers wouldn’t have taken the risk, and has staked his reputation on numerous loanees. What’s more, homegrown or loaned, almost all of those players have improved in their time under Andy.
I remember Ethan Coleman and Ali Al-Hamadi initially catching pelters concerning their perceived lack of ability. Both are now shining in the EFL for Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon respectively.
Given Bergkamp arrived without a pre-season behind him, and had to adapt to the culture shock of National League football, it should be no surprise that Woodman bedded him in slowly.
I, for one, expected him to be re-signed. To hit the ground running and show his true quality, Mitchel needs the benefit of a full pre-season. A new contract also gives Andy the chance to experiment with him in some risk-free friendlies. But will a new season bring enlightenment?
The conundrum for Mitchel Bergkamp has nothing to do with his quality.
His goal at Woking and his control of the long punt at Chesterfield that led to Cheek’s 99th-minute equaliser are two brief but exciting examples of the talent he possesses.
Bromley lacked incisive flair last season, Corey Whitely and Louis Dennis being honourable exceptions, so there is a sense that Woodman is backing himself to turn Bergkamp into an X-factor player.
The conundrum for Mitchel is, assuming his game-time allows, can he consistently be the guy?
Or am I looking at this the wrong way?
Am I falling victim to the significance of the surname? Is my assessment flawed because I’m giving too much credence to who Mitchel might be rather than who he actually is?
It’s certainly a charge some might place at my door, but can either side of the argument really claim to know Mitchel’s full worth at this stage?
The only person who’s seen enough to determine that is Andy Woodman. And, given his résumé, maybe, just maybe, we should defer to him on this one.
As we approach a new season knowing that he’s locked-in, the big question is: Where does Mitchel Bergkamp fit in the Bromley team?
Based on my early observations, Mitchel isn’t an out-and-out striker and seems to suit the deeper-lying #10 role best. But how often do you see someone with Mitchel’s height and physique play in that position? Is there another option I’m missing?
This is where we come full circle. The reason we can't answer these questions is because we haven’t seen enough football to make any concrete statements about Mitchel Bergkamp.
Actually, there is one concrete statement: He’s more than just a surname.
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