Saturday 19 August 2017

'I'll celebrate if I score - but I won't cause any chaos'

Bendtner ready to face his old club Arsenal and confident his best years are still ahead of him

Nicklas Bendtner of Nottingham Forest will face former club Arsenal tonight
Nicklas Bendtner of Nottingham Forest will face former club Arsenal tonight

John Percy

Nicklas Bendtner is sitting in the Robin Hood Suite at Nottingham Forest, determined to focus on his future but struggling to escape the past.

He is the man known as 'Lord Bendtner', the former Arsenal striker who once infamously declared he would become one of the best in the world, a cult hero across Europe but not always for reasons associated with football.

Bendtner will face Arsenal in the League Cup tonight on a mission to "reboot" his career in the Championship, after a troubled few years in which he has cheated death in a car crash, departed the Premier League and seen his contract terminated by Wolfsburg 14 months early, with sporting director Klaus Allofs describing him as "a menace to the club" amid allegations of poor time-keeping.

Regrets? He's had more than a few but, at 28, is still convinced the best years are ahead of him.

"There have been some things I'd have liked to have changed if I could, on and off the field," he says.

"The perception has been I did some stupid off-the-field stuff which got written about, but you've never seen me do an interview where I'm explaining myself or I'm crying about a situation.

Grabbing

"I had a conversation with a friend about this recently. He said if I was out and about with my girlfriend and a guy starts grabbing her then what do you do? If I tell him to get off and he then wants to fight me I don't really have an option. I'm in it, and the next day in the paper it will be about Nicklas having a fight.

"It's up to people to make their own judgment."

Ever since he made his debut as a 17-year-old for Arsenal there has always been the suspicion that Bendtner's talent has been unfulfilled.

Eight years under Arsène Wenger passed without a trophy, with Bendtner playing in the shock 2-1 defeat by Birmingham City in the League Cup final in 2011, and it is fair to say that he never envisaged his career taking a path to the Championship, where it is thought he earns around £15,000 a week.

On the day he signed for Forest as a free agent he announced on Instagram that 'The Lord is Dead', yet his past reputation is going to be difficult to shift.

"I don't see any reason for it (he Lord nickname), but I suppose there's worse nicknames," he says. "I don't know how it started or when it started. All of a sudden someone said to me: Do you know everyone calls you Lord? I didn't know, and they told me to have a look on Twitter and Instagram, and it just became more and more.

"I don't think I can kill it to be fair. Whatever I do it's going to stay."

An interview in November 2009, shortly after he had been named the Danish player of the year, has arguably defined his career. After being asked to outline his aims for the future, he replied: "I want to be top scorer in the Premier League, top scorer at the World Cup and, within five years, I want to be among the best strikers in the world. Trust me, it will happen."

Bendtner agrees those words have done him no favours.

"I actually don't regret saying I want to be the best striker in the world because that's what everyone wants. It's just that no one wants to say it," he says. "If you play in the Championship, you want to play in the Premier League. If you play for a top team you want to maybe go to Spain and play for Barcelona and Real Madrid.

"It's just the way it is. People don't really speak about it because you can get hurt. I was very young and I might have said it too early, before I had proven I was in that category or could get in that category. So I don't regret saying it because it was obviously a general feeling that I wanted to be.

"But yeah, it has haunted me. The way it was written I thought: Did you really say that? I don't think there's anything wrong with being ambitious."

Bendtner's charge sheet is lengthy. There was the time when he was fined £80,000 and banned for one match after pulling down his shorts to reveal Paddy Power-branded underwear while playing for Denmark at Euro 2012.

In March 2013, he was banned from driving for three years after being caught over the legal drink-drive limit in Copenhagen. Earlier this year his contract at Wolfsburg was ripped up by mutual consent, after scoring nine goals in 47 games.

Yet it was the car crash in 2009 that he feels put the pause button on his career. Driving to Arsenal's training ground in his Aston Martin, he swerved into a tree to avoid another motorist and was lucky to escape with his life.

"The guy was in the middle lane of a motorway and forgot he had to turn off to the left," he recalls. "It was a big moment and if I hadn't worn my seatbelt I wouldn't be sitting here today."

Bendtner believes the attention he draws is often unfair but says he is now in a much better place.

"I hope to have 10 years left," he said. "I'm at a place now where I'm really happy and I get to play football. I still have time to achieve what I want to achieve and still have time to prove what I need to prove. Hopefully, we can sit here in 10 years with some trophies and it's all been a great story.

"If I score against Arsenal I will celebrate - but I promise I won't be causing chaos." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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