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Re: 20th anniversary of a legend’s arrival

By David B30/5/2019 09:38Thu May 30 09:38:27 2019In response to Re: 20th anniversary of a legend’s arrival

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Bontcho is, to me a Hendon legend. I totally agree that legend status is totally overused, but in my eyes numbers don’t make legend; it is intangibles. I watched quite a lot of Hendon reserves when Bontcho was there and you only had to look at how the reserves and younger first-team players reacted to him; they utterly adored him.

Bontcho was the epitome of Frank Murphy’s football ethos: style, swagger, skill and smile on face. He was a 30-something player, who, nine months earlier, had scored in the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) round of 16 for CSKA Sofia, was three years removed from playing at Euro 96 and five years after his World Cup semi-final appearance and yet he was willing and happy to be a squad player at Hendon in the sixth tier of English football. His first goal for Hendon was an overhead scissors kick (and he nearly repeated it against Blackpool in the FA Cup 2nd round – which would probably have set up a club-history-changing third round tie at Arsenal), and he came off the bench to replace Richard Wilmot in goal to turn a one-goal deficit into a 2–1 win at Carshalton, a couple of days after the hugely disappointing FA Cup exit on an utterly dreadful Claremont Road pitch against Dagenham & Redbridge.

When he was at Hendon at the end of his first season, Ipswich needed to win at home to make the Championship playoff on the final day (they did), but half a dozen fans traipsed to Heybridge to watch Bontcho playing for Hendon instead – that is how much thousands of Ipswich fans loved him. In spring 2001, he appeared in all 11 games in 16 days at the end of our maddest ever season.

Hundreds of Hendon players have spent many more seasons with the club, won more trophies, received more honours, scored more goals, made more appearances, but Bontcho had that je ne sais quoi that made him such a special player and person.