ICE­MAN JON HAS WORLD AT HIS FEET

Roy­als ace looks for­ward to Rus­sia ad­ven­ture

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Paul Ed­di­son

JON Dadi Bod­vars­son grew up dream­ing of play­ing in Eng­land, but now he has Rus­sia on his mind.

The Read­ing striker was a Manch­ester United fan as a child even though, like most of his com­pa­tri­ots, Eidur Gud­johnsen at Chelsea was his idol.

For Bod­vars­son, the idea of play­ing along­side Gud­johnsen was some­thing he could scarcely have imag­ined. Go­ing to a World Cup with Ice­land was even more un­likely.

How­ever, that’s ex­actly what he will be do­ing.

Last month’s win over Kosovo made Ice­land the small­est na­tion ever to qual­ify for a World Cup and they will take their place in the draw on De­cem­ber 1.

That mag­i­cal night in Reyk­javik stands out as the ca­reer high­light for a 25-year-old who, bar­ring in­jury, should be part of the first Ice­landic team to play at a World Cup next sum­mer.

And, while fans are in­creas­ingly kept at arm’s length from their he­roes in the mod­ern game, Bod­vars­son loves the fact that play­ers and sup­port­ers still cel­e­brate to­gether in the Ice­landic cap­i­tal.

“In my short ca­reer, it’s the best feel­ing I’ve had,” said Bod­vars­son.

“The feel­ing af­ter­wards when we beat Kosovo at home and qual­i­fied for the World Cup was just un­be­liev­able. You get to the stage where you are just so emo­tional.

“You are on the bus with all the play­ers, you go to the cen­tre of town in Reyk­javik, and most of the city is there cel­e­brat­ing.

Mem­o­ries

“You feel on top of the world. It’s the great­est feel­ing you can get and you will al­ways keep it in your mem­o­ries.

“It’s quite spe­cial to play in front of the fans and for the fans from your coun­try. You are so to­gether in this. The coun­try is so proud. The to­geth­er­ness is un­be­liev­able.”

It’s been a re­mark­able jour­ney for Ice­land, who qual­i­fied for their first ma­jor tour­na­ment at Euro 2016, with that last-16 vic­tory over Eng­land still ar­guably their great­est-ever re­sult.

Bod­vars­son has been an in­te­gral part of the ride, mak­ing his de­but in 2014 just af­ter they had missed out on the last World Cup in Brazil. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength.

He said: “I re­mem­ber watch­ing the na­tional team as a young kid and a young player. It was lots of dis­ap­point­ment year af­ter year. We never achieved any­thing.

“At the Euros, our aim was to get out of the group stages. When we man­aged to do that, I re­mem­ber Eidur Gud­johnsen spoke.

“We had Eng­land next. He asked ev­ery­one in the meet­ing: ‘Are you sat­is­fied? Or do you want to go fur­ther?’.

“Now, no­body is re­ally sat­is­fied. The coach man­ages to get peo­ple back on the ground.”

Bod­vars­son is in his first sea­son the Roy­als, hav­ing spent last year at Wolves. He is one of five cur­rent mem­bers of the Ice­land squad ply­ing their trade in the Cham­pi­onship, in­clud­ing skip­per Aron Gun­nars­son at Cardiff.

He ad­mits it’s not been the eas­i­est of starts team-wise or per­son­ally at the Made­jski, par­tic­u­larly with the calf in­jury that is due to keep him out for an­other two weeks.

But, af­ter Tues­day’s win over Not­ting­ham For­est – Read­ing’s first at home since Au­gust he is con­fi­dent they can turn things around.

“Read­ing is very fam­ily-ori­en­tated. It’s very sta­ble and ev­ery­one has helped me get set­tled re­ally quickly,” he said. “My team-mates are re­ally nice.

“The Cham­pi­onship is bizarre. If you get on a bad run, it’s so hard to get out of it. But, if you get on a win­ning streak, it’s al­most easy to get an­other win. We just need to keep be­ing pos­i­tive, things will come around.

“When (the Ice­landic Champi­with on­ship play­ers) meet with the na­tional team, we talk about the league and how it’s go­ing with our clubs.

“We all agree that the Cham­pi­onship is a very tough league, very phys­i­cal, and there’s not a lot of breath­ing space. You have to be on your toes.

“It was al­ways in the back of my head, a goal that if I were able to play in Eng­land, happy days.

“I think the en­vi­ron­ment is good, the cul­ture is easy, the lan­guage too, so it’s a nice en­vi­ron­ment to be in.”

Com­ing to Eng­land ful­filled one life­long am­bi­tion for Bod­vars­son. Rus­sia 2018 is the next.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

COOL AS YOU LIKE: Ice­land’s Jon Dadi Bod­vars­son in ac­tion against Turkey and, in­sets, the Ice­land fans and play­ing for Read­ing

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