THERE is, it turns out, no great mystery about Nicklas Bendtner’s squad number after all. This is extraordinary, really, given the lengths to which he went to change it from 26 to 52 at Arsenal a couple of years ago.
At the time, Arsenal’s official website carried an article headlined “Bendtner explains switch of squad number”, in which the striker didn’t really explain the change at all, beyond stating: “I chose to move to 52 because it’s a special number to me personally.”
So special, in fact, that Bendtner was prepared to pay to replace any new replica shirt bought by an Arsenal fan with his old number on it, a gesture that cost him somewhere around £10,000. Blimey, we thought. He really must have wanted that number 52. But why?
POSSIBLE REASONS NICKLAS BENDTNER MIGHT HAVE CHANGED HIS SQUAD NUMBER FROM 26 TO 52 IN THE LATE SUMMER OF 2009 AT GREAT PERSONAL EXPENSE
1) He thought, as suggested by the jokes doing the rounds at the time, that he would become twice as good a player as he had been the previous season by doubling his squad number.
2) It was some kind of cryptic dig at Emmanuel Adebayor, who had just left Arsenal for Manchester City under something of a cloud. Adebayor wore 25, so Bendtner reversed the number.
3) He is a huge fan of the B52s, both the band and the plane. He likes nothing more than spending a Saturday evening pogoing around his front room to “Love Shack” while building Airfix models of the Boeing B-52 Strattofortress.
4) It was a subtle mathematical joke. As any maths boffin will tell you, 52 is an “untouchable number”. Bendtner, so renowned for having high self-esteem that he once allegedly scored 10 in a psychology-based confidence test that only had a scale up to nine, was suggesting that he was untouchable too.
5) His favourite metal is tellurium, a brittle, mildly toxic, silver-white metalloid, which looks similar to tin and was discovered in Transylvania in 1782 by Franz-Joseph Muller von Reichtenstein. Its atomic number is 52.
6) The happiest day of his life involved going to his local cinema to watch The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (in which the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything is 42) in a double bill with the Bo Derek-Dudley Moore romantic comedy 10. And 42+10=52.
7) He is a keen card player (there are 52 cards in a pack, excluding the jokers) and has taken to indulging his passion by watching repeats of Bruce Forysth’s Play Your Cards Right and Fred Dinenage’s early 1980s pontoon-based game show Gambit.
8) His best friend lives in Mexico, where the international dialling code is 0052, and they spend hours on the phone to each other, talking about their favourite B52s songs, their tellurium collections and Fred Dinenage’s abrasive presenting style.
9) Bendtner loves nothing more than travelling around Sheffield on the number 52 bus from Hillsborough to Woodhouse Mill. He first discovered the bus route after playing in a pre-season game against Sheffield Wednesday.
10) It’s the first part of his pin number. The other half is written on a piece of paper stuffed in his kitchen drawer.
None of those explanations are the truth. Bendtner has revealed the real reason for picking 52 on his website:
“Nicklas Bendtner plays with the number 52 on his back, but actually his favourite number is 7,” the site states.
“But when he joined the Arsenal team, the number 7 was already taken by the Czech Tomas Rosicky.
“So when Nicklas Bendtner was presented with the opportunity to change his old number 26 before the season 2009/10, he chose the number 52 because 5 and 2 equals 7. He also thinks that 52 sound good.”
And that’s it. Ade Akinbiyi did something similar after joining Crystal Palace in 2002. His favourite number 10 had already been taken, so he plumped for 55 instead, even putting a little plus sign between the two fives. Bendtner, I’m pleased to report, does not feel the need to use a plus. Perhaps it would have given the game away a little too soon.
MOTD’s final match: Sunderland 2 West Brom 2
Commentator: Steve Bower
There is a question that arises from all of this. What would Bendtner do if he moved to a club where the number seven shirt was available? It’s not a question he has had to answer at Sunderland. By the time Bendtner joined on a season’s loan from Arsenal at the end of August, the seven had already been snaffled by Sebastian Larsson.
And so Bendtner has stuck with 52. I suspect he would have done anyway, as it’s quite a useful marketing tool now. (Can you think of a higher-profile footballer who wears 52? No, of course you can’t.)
Bendtner’s goal tally hasn’t always matched his levels of self-belief. Before yesterday’s match against West Brom, the cruel-minded football wag (that’s wag, not WAG; although I acknowledge there could be some overlap) might have suggested that 52 represented the number of weeks since the striker’s last league goal.
That particular drought is over. West Brom went 2-0 up quickly enough yesterday to make any visiting fan regret lingering at the burger stall. But Bendtner pulled one back, via a deflection off Gareth McAuley, for his first league goal since December, then created an equaliser for Ahmed Elmohamady.
If Bendtner continues to have that kind of influence, maybe he’ll find his way into the Match of the Day opening titles. After all, there’s a space in there for a modern Sunderland hero at the moment. At the start of the season, the titles (which DO show all 20 Premier League clubs, whatever anyone else tells you) featured a clip of Asamoah Gyan to represent the Black Cats – but then he decided to clear off to the United Arab Emirates. So for now, Gyan has been replaced by Kevin Phillips. Bendtner has a long way to go to match Phillips’ achievements at the Stadium of Light. But he’s probably confident enough to have a go.
1. Aston Villa: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
2: Wolves: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
3. West Brom: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
4. Fulham: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
5. Wigan: 1 (2L: 4, 3L: 1)
6. Swansea: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
7. Sunderland: 1 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
7. Tottenham: 1 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
9. Newcastle: 1 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
10. Everton: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
11. Blackburn: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 1)
11. Norwich: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 1)
13. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
14: Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
15. Bolton: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
15. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
15. QPR: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
18. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
18. Stoke: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
2L = On second last (Aston Villa 2 Wigan 0)
3L = On third last (Everton 0 Liverpool 2)
(Teams receive one point every time they are last on MOTD. Teams level are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. MOTD2 not included.)