Still England’s finest export

We think Kenny Pavey is the best English player currently playing outside of these shores.  Whenever we are in Sweden we try and make time for him, simply because he is a really nice bloke.  After my trip over to the Stockholm derby I asked Andy Hudson, our expert on Swedish football, and author of the excellent website Blågul Football to meet up with Kenny when he was next over in Stockholm.  Over to you Andy.

Pavey thanks to Robert Henriksson

I’ve been involved in many great situations since I started writing about football, but one stands out. It’s June 26 2011 and I’m sitting in O’Leary’s, a bar in Örebro. I’ve just ordered another beer, my fifth of the day, and AIK have won 2-1 away to Trelleborg. The only people celebrating as Teteh Bangura struck the winner in the 77th minute were me and a friend, in stark contrast to our protests when AIK wrongly had a goal disallowed in the first half; the other lads with us are still fuming about the ÖSK loss earlier. I fire off a text message and then there’s a look of disbelief from around the table as I read out the reply. My AIK supporting friend, the person to blame for the amount of time I spend talking about AIK; the person to blame for me checking the internet for the latest news; the person to blame for me listening to Swedish radio coverage of games whenever I can, can’t believe it. Kenny Pavey, ‘scorer’ of the disallowed goal, has replied. The same Kenny Pavey who can also happily be blamed for my AIK lust.

An infectious smile comes across the face of every AIK fan when I mention one name: Kenny Pavey – crowd favourite, idol of the North Stand, legend. If you wanted a definition of a whole-hearted, passionate player then I would give you Kenny Pavey. But he isn’t an English clogger, this guy has skill to go with the tough tackling. Continue reading

The quickest penalty of all time?

The 18 May 1946 is not a day that many will remember as being well known for anything.  If you are old enough to remember, then President Truman gave a televised speech announcing the end of the railroad strike in America and that is probably it, unless you were a resident in the small town of Ängelholm in south west Sweden.

On that night, in a small forest on the outskirts of the town a UFO landed.  The Swedes aren’t known for their strange beliefs such as other nations (Trolls for instance in other more northerly areas) so it was hard to put this down to a flight of fancy, especially as it was seen by a chap called Gösta Carlsson, a famous Swedish ice hockey player at the time.  Gösta claimed that the aliens landed and then passed him some secrets that enabled him to set up a successful natural therapy company.  A bit like an extra-terrestrial Herbalife then.  There is a monument in the forest clearing where the incident was alleged to have taken place which makes it the one of the biggest tourist draws in the area.

The town itself is better known for us younger people as one of the best surfing beaches in the Nordics.  People come from hundreds of miles away to enjoy the wide sandy beach and the strong currents.  It is certainly a nice looking place – free from litter and well kept lawns, and lots of very bronzed Swedes cycling around.

But I was not here for the UFO watching or the wind surfing.  Of course I was here for football.  Ängelholms FF are your typical provincial Swedish football team.  Happy to sit in the mid-table of the second division, occasionally upsetting one of the big boys in a cup and even rarer pushing for a promotion spot.  They have ambition though, and the club have stated that 2011 is their target date to reach the Allsvenskan for the first time.  This season has started well for them.  A 3-2 win on the opening day against favourites Hammarby in front of over 3,000 set them up well, but since then it has been a disappointing series of draws mixed in the occasional defeats.  In their last home game the crowd dropped down to just over 300 which must be a real concern for the club. Continue reading

England’s finest export

Question: Who is the most successful English player currently playing abroad based on trophies won?

Most people would undoubtably plump for Mr Beckham at this point but they would be wrong.  Leytonstone’s finest has only won the La Liga title since leaving Manchester United despite the glory that always surrounds him.

The Answer is Kenneth Steven Pavey.  Who you may say, but I can assure you that Kenny is a true living and breathing legend in his surroundings and will be plying his trade in the Champions League come August time – yes a real Englishman in the Champions League (take note Arsenal!) when AIK, Sweden’s treble winners in 2008 take their place amongst Europe’s elite.

So how did Pavey come to be plying his trade in a land best known for IKEA, Volvo and long long summer nights.  Pavey made his debut at his local club Affenley FC in South East London before moving to his boyhood favourite club Millwall FC as a schoolboy.  Unfortunately the dream of playing for the Lions didn’t come through and so he moved down the A2 to Rymans League club Sittingbourne where he made his debut in one of the most progressive non-league clubs around.  So progressive that he almost found himself on his way to Aston Villa where he seemed to have impressed when on trial in 1998 but the clubs could not agree on a fee and just a few seasons later he was catapulted into the world of Swedish second division football. Continue reading

The sound of the suburbs

My week of travelling

Five games in seven days.  Apart from a major tournament this is a record at TBIR towers but not one I fancy repeating too often.  After heading to the far west of Scandinavia last week for the joys of Esbjerg and Herning, to the barren north of Ilkeston, the chavtastic Dartford (speaking as someone who grew up just a few miles away before I get abuse) to the east of Sweden and the outskirts of Stockholm for my second Allsvenskan game of the season and the fabulously named IF Brommapokjarna.

As I flew into Stockholm I noticed that the snow and ice that had blighted my life for the first part of 2010 was still in abundance across the Swedish countryside.  In fact many of the lakes were still frozen completely and there was clear tyre marks on many as they had been used for impromptu race tracks.  With temperatures forecast to be hovering just above freezing point it had been a wise move to pack the old hat and gloves to avoid a repeat of the Danish frozen fingers syndrome.

The view of the suburbs

Idrottsföreningen Brommapojkarna were formed back in 1942 and by my reckoning have the longest name in any top league in division, a title that Borussia Monchengladbach had proudly held for so long.  The club are actually one of the biggest in the world as well in terms of organisation.  They can boast over 250 affiliated teams, ranging across juniors, youth, senior and veterans levels for both male and females.  But it has only been in recent years that the senior team has made its mark on Swedish football, rising to the Allsvenskan for the first time in 2007.  After relegation the following season they bounced straight back up and finished 12th last season to give them another term at the highest level.

One player the club did develop was Bojan Djordjic who went on to play a single game for Manchester United, and there was a rumoured link up between the two clubs although the only thing they have shared since is the same black and red colours they play in.

Grimsta IP

So after a busy day in our new Stockholm office I headed off to Bromma which sits almost at the end of the T19 T-Bana line some 30 minutes from central station.  Bromma is considered to be Suburban Stockholm and can count former residents Christer Fuglesang (the first Swede in space) and Per Albin Hansson who was Prime Minister in 1946 when he died on a tram. Today the area is more known as the home of Stockholm’s City airport which is the fourth largest in Sweden and a darn site nearer to the city centre than any of our offerings in London.

IF Brommapojkarna 1 GAIS 0 – Grimsta IP – Tuesday 7th April 2010

Red sky at night, Stockholm's alight

IF Bromma are one of the few teams in the top leagues in Sweden allowed to use an artificial pitch.  They have no such problems as our friends at Durham, and are allowed to play in all competitions.  Judging by the snow around the ground it appears to be a necessity on these cold spring days and would otherwise have lead to numerous postponements.  The Grimsta is a funny old affair.  One old covered stand is augmented by single stands all over the place, some wooden, some metal terracing and some concrete.  Plus there is an uncovered area of seating which in inclement weather would not be too nice.  The typical Swedish grills form the focal point at each corner and from my seat in the main stand I had a view of suburbia, which provided some entertainment in a very sterile first thirty minutes where there was not one single chance on goal.

First goal of the season calls for a big cuddle

The hundred or so travelling fans from Goteborg tried to make a noise, and there was a random drummer banging away for IF Bromma but nobody could take away the tedium of the game.  Had so many games in such a short space of time taken away the magic of the game or was this genuinely that bad?  Coming into this game IF Bromma has drawn two and lost one of their first three games, the game we had been to at Helsingborgs on day one actually. Worryingly the three games had yet to produce a goal for IF Bromma although they had only conceded one.  And with our friend Kristoffer Nordfeldt back in goal after his indiscretion at Helsingborgs they had at least been tight at the back.  Visitors GAIS had faired slightly better winning  one, drawing one and losing one of their three games so far and it was them who came closest to opening the scoring in the 35th minute when full back Romario Pereira Sipiäo ( I don’t think he is Swedish somehow) rasping shot from twenty yards just flashed wide.

Top save

Just three minutes into the second half and we had some genuine excitement as firstly Nordfeldt made a great save from a GAIS free kick and then almost with the next attack Tim Björkström tried his luck with a lob from 25 yards that GAIS keeper Jankulovski could only tip onto the bar and someone the rebound stayed out.  But IF Bromma smelt a goal and two minutes later they opened their account for the season as a quick throw in into the penalty area found Joakim Runnemo and he smashed the ball into the roof of the net.

IF Bromma then started to play as if they had been leading in every game, passing the ball around.  If truth be told I lost interest on the 80 minute mark.  Denmark finger syndrome started to take hold and the media seats were the most uncomfortable seats I have ever sat in – they were positioned so far away from the desk that you had to sit on the edge of the seat, which is fine if the game is an edge of the seat game, but when its not its blooming painful.

So the end of my marathon session of football.  Would I do it again? Not in a hurry that is for sure.  Perhaps it was just that the quality was poor, or was it that after 69 games my season interest was coming to an end.  For IF Bromma it was just the start as a win took them up to the dizzy heights of 8th, although whilst the long winter was ending I could only feel their long summer of pain was just about to start.

More photos from the game can be found by clicking here.

About Grimsta IP
A real mixture of stands and styles at the 60 year old Grimsta.  The main stand is covered with seats put directly onto the terrace and a big walkway separating the front rows from the pitch.  Behind each goal are small wooden terraces although at the south end this only extends part of the way as the club house takes up the rest.  On the far side of the pitch are two stands – one is uncovered seating and the other is a more permanent concrete terrace.  The ground can in theory hold 8,000 although it would be creaking at the seams if it did.  The club played for a while at the Olympic stadium to make the necessary improvements for Allsvenskan football.  Picturesque in the summer months, harsh the rest of the year is a fair assessment!

How to get to Grimsta IP
Hop on the green T-bana line from central Stockholm in the direction of Håsselby Strand on the T-19 line and get off at Johannelund which is two stops from the end of the line.  The station is in zone 3 and a return ticket is 60SEK.  When you exit the station, turn right and then right so that you are walking along the main road.  Cross the slip roads on the roundabout (at the crossings!) and walk straight ahead down the incline.  You will see the stadium straight ahead behind the training pitches.

How to get a ticket for Grimsta IP
Unless the visitors are one of the big four (AIK, IFK, Djurgården or IF Hammarby) then you can buy tickets on the gate.  Ticket prices are 250SEK for a seat in the main stand, 200SEK for an uncovered seat or 120SEK for a spot on any of the numerous terraces.  Concession tickets are 50SEK.  You can also buy tickets online at Ticnet
where instructions are also given in English and you can print your own tickets off.  Last season the club had the lowest average attendance in the Allsvenskan at 2,860.  Only one game, the derby against AIK Solna sold out the 6,800 ground.

Double Danish with a portion of Swede – Part 2

I rarely get hangovers these days but after a night of pub hopping in Copenhagen and more than a few Carlsberg/Tuborg/Jacobsens I woke up on Sunday morning with a banging noise in my head.  Turns out I had gone to sleep with my iPod on and it had looped around to a bit of Metallica.  So I took them out and the noise simply got louder.  A quick shower and a nurofen breakfast later and the EFW/TBIR team were on our way north for the first leg of a classic “two games in two countries in one day”.  Not something new for the team as we had more recently seen games at Essen and Arnhem on the same day to add to an England/Wales, Bratislava/Vienna and a Germany/Austrian one.

Classic floodlights

The train north was eventful for the bizarre hobbits sitting opposite us.  Two women, one of whom had a better beard that any of us who complained about the temperature on the train, kept her ticket on a string around her neck, felt she was being “victimised and persecuted” when asked by the conductor for her ticket and then took her shoes off and put her feet on the seats before tucking into a homemade lentil salad that she ate with her fingers.  Her “mate” who kept her back to us at all times appeared to have a plastic face with a scarf keeping a birds nest on her head in place decided they needed a “treat” after such a hassled start to the day and went and got them an instanst Hot Chocolate to share…and to make things worse – they were both English!  Now who is more anti-social?  The group of English fans having a beer on the train or a woman with body odour rabbiting on about patterns on the window (oh how we laughed when we saw them on the train on the way home too!)

Olympia - home of the gods

Our destination was Helsingør, home of Hamlet but there was no time for a cigar here as we headed onto the Auroa of the Sound, one of the ferries that makes the 20 minute regular crossing between Denmark and Sweden.  For it was opening day in the Swedish Allsvenskan, and we were heading across to see Helsingborgs IF, and life for them after Henrik Larsson.  This was my third visit to the stadium, which is becoming one of my favourite Swedish grounds.  I had last been back in the Autumn for a stormy Swedish Cup game versus IFK (See here).  The stadium can actually be seen from Denmark.  Not that it is big, but because it sits on top of a hill, that looks like a mountain from 2 miles away, let alone when you are on the 15 minute trek up.  Capello – simply bring the England team here for altitude training!

The one away fan...locked in after the game

The club had been in the transfer market, with the biggest new signing being Erik Edman, once of Spurs, Torino and Rennes no less.  The visitors IP Brommapojkarna, had retained their spot in the top league last season, probably due to the awful form of the two clubs from the capital Hammarby (who were relegated) and Djurgården (who were saved via the play offs).  Now there are small clubs, and there are small clubs.  But I have never seen a club only have 1 away fan like we saw here – “Come on a unicycle, did you come on a unicycle!”.

That will be my entrance then....

With our press passes picked up (Thank you Mr Ericsson) we went in search of a beer. No such luck in the ground, although the lovely lady in the press area saw that we were three hungover Englishmen and made us some toasted cheese and ham sandwiches.   The ground is in the middle of sleepy-ville Sweden, and on a Sunday lunchtime there was simply nothing open.  Deaks has to be given oxygen to get through this difficult time until kick off.

Helsingborgs IF 1 IP Bromma 0 – Olympia – Sunday 14th March 2010

Three yellows make a red

So all the hopes and dreams of fans across the nation were still floating in the air as the game kicked off at 2pm.  There is so much magic at this stage of the season and it is often the only point in the season when all teams are equal.  And often the magic is dispelled in one swift move.  Twenty nine  minutes into this game, with the scores all level, IP Bromma’s keeper races out of the area to clear a ball but inexplicably decides to handle the ball.  The linesman spots the infringement and alerts the referee.  Realising he has been busted the keeper kicks the ball out of the ground.  The referee wanders over, looking very old school in all black, very rare these days, and issues a yellow for the handball, a yellow for the kick away, a red for two yellows and then another yellow for dissent as he wanders off.  Well done Kristoffer Nordfeldt – a great start to the season.

Eric Edman, the new signing

As is the case in all of these situations that a player has to be sacrificed to bring on a new goalkeeper, and it took a good few minutes and some heated discussions on the touchline before young Dalil Benyahia was brought off who headed down the tunnel to say thank you to his goalkeeping chum I am sure. Up until this point it had been an open game with just one chance falling to the home team when a shot from Christoffer Andersen was partially saved but the ball instead of bouncing goalward somehow developed back spin and the ball bounced to safety.

Nobody knows where the ball is going to end up

Just a minute after coming on as a sub, Benny Lekström kept out Helsingborgs again with a fine double save from Marcus Nilsson.  It wasn’t all one way traffic though, as Bromma also had a chance of two, the best one falling to Andreas Eriksson who saw his chip being cleared off the line by a retreating Joel Ekstrand who then painfully collided with the post.  Half time and no goals but plenty of action.  We retreated into the press room but not before posing for a couple of snaps with Helsingborgs Man of the Century, Henrik Larsson.

Henrik Larsson meets a legend

Now just in case you had been living in cloud cuckoo land for the last few years you may not realise exactly how famous Mr Larsson is in these parts.  He was voted Helsingborgs man of the century a few years back and has a wood carving of himself sitting in the city museum down the road.  He was watching the game with a chap who we all knew, yet no one could actually say who it was.  Wim Jansen? the Irish dad from Shameless and countless others were rejected by Uncle Google.  So if you were there on Sunday and know who he was, please get in touch.  Henrik posed happily for pictures, and we passed small talk about the weather (as us English do) before he left us in peace and went back to the press room (us not him – its not for ex-players you know just us working journalists!).

The sun was still shining and that may have been the reason for a sudden 400% rise in the away support as our sole traveller had been joined by three more, all equalling spread across the terrace.  Less than 7,000 had taken the trouble to come to the game, and that was disappointing as there seemed to be very little else to do in the sleepy town and less than £15 to watch a game in a town where a beer and a bit of pizza (Did you know 7/11 were doing a promotion on pizza?) would set you back the same.

When the football is boring just turn around and watch another game

Helsingborgs continued to push forward but apart from another one of those spinning backwards balls in the 65th minute, there was little action to be had.  And every so often a bing-bong sound would divert all attention to the big screen that showed goals from elsewhere in the league.  Quite bizarre although based on some of the dire fayre I have seen this season at The Circus (aka Upton Park) I think this may just take off in England.  Good old BK Häcken putting two past Djurgården though.

With just fifteen minutes to go we had to leave.  With time tight to get back into Denmark for the main event we headed off.  Of course we knew we would miss a 90th winner, and that is exactly what happened when Mattias Lindström scored.  By this stage we were back on the ferry, having found beer at last and readying ourself for the fun and antics at Parken.  a lovely way to spend a few hours on a cold yet sunny day.  If you haven’t been to Helsingborgs before, go now – literally now.  But remember your oxygen mask for the steep walk up the hill.

Another view of the day can be found at my compardre Danny Last’s blog here.