One-on-one: To­mas Brolin hoovers up your ques­tions on vac­uum clean­ers and Leeds


FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view Chris Flana­gan Pho­tog­ra­phy Pon­tus Orre

On the list of weird gifts Four­fourtwo has been given down the years, this is def­i­nitely up there. To­mas Brolin has just reached into a bag and re­vealed some­thing very un­ex­pected: a vac­uum cleaner noz­zle.

Even as he hands it over to us, we’re imag­in­ing the con­ver­sa­tion with air­port se­cu­rity as we ex­plain why we’re tak­ing such a bizarre item back to Lon­don as hand lug­gage. “Er, To­mas Brolin gave it to us? Yes, THE To­mas Brolin…”

For­get star names like Hen­rik Lars­son and Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic: only one Swede has been named in a World Cup All-star Team since 1958 and that man is Brolin, thanks to his per­for­mances at USA 94.

Brolin’s now one of the finest vac­uum sales­men in Scan­di­navia, and ex­cit­edly shows his prod­uct to FFT. “I’ll give you a present so you know what I’m talk­ing about – we sell more than 130,000 each year and this one is the best,” says the 48-year-old, as we con­vene at the Hotell Kristina in the lake­side town of Sig­tuna, a few miles north of Stock­holm.

He was only 28 when he sur­pris­ingly swapped foot­ball for this new ven­ture, bring­ing his play­ing days to an end af­ter a move to Eng­land with Leeds United went hor­ri­bly wrong and ex­posed him to ridicule, fol­low­ing some in­creas­ingly pe­cu­liar in­ci­dents.

He’s ready to tell his side of the story… You made your Swe­den de­but in April 1990. Did you think you had a chance of go­ing to the World Cup at the start of that year? Gustaf Ekholm, via Face­book I had my own lit­tle dream, yes. I played for GIF Sundsvall but we got rel­e­gated. Nor­rkop­ing won the ti­tle and con­tacted me, so I went there in Jan­uary 1990 and the first game was against Gothen­burg, the favourites to win the league, live on TV. We won 6-0 and I scored a hat-trick. The man­ager of the na­tional team [Olle Nordin] was watch­ing, and he had one match left be­fore the World Cup where he could try me out, at home to Wales. I scored twice in Stock­holm, and when he picked the squad for the World Cup, he couldn’t leave me out!

How did it feel to score in your first ever World Cup match, against Brazil? Karin Sten­bock, via Face­book I was only 20 years old, so to make my World Cup de­but against a coun­try like Brazil and then score was just fan­tas­tic. It was against Clau­dio Taf­farel – I didn’t know we’d be in the same Parma team two months later! Un­for­tu­nately we lost 2-1, and then we lost 2-1 to Costa Rica and Scot­land too, but for me per­son­ally it was a good World Cup.

You joined Parma on the back of your dis­plays at the 1990 World Cup – how did the move hap­pen? Andy Chatham, Lon­don There was in­ter­est from Ger­many and Spain as well, but when Parma phoned I wanted to go there, as it was Italy. To play in Serie A in the ’90s was a very big thing – all of the best play­ers were there. Parma were a per­fect fit. As a foot­baller in other Ital­ian ci­ties you couldn’t go out be­cause the fans were hang­ing around, but Parma was quiet and you could live close to a nor­mal life.

Parma be­came re­ally pop­u­lar dur­ing the ’90s. What was so spe­cial about that team? Scott Dun­ning, Sal­is­bury We were a young side and just wanted to at­tack all the time. A lot of teams in Italy were scared to at­tack – it was 0-0 foot­ball. We shocked many clubs when we played like we did. Parma were from a lit­tle town who’d never been as high as Serie A be­fore. The aim was sim­ply to re­main in the league in the first sea­son.

We didn’t have a train­ing fa­cil­ity, and each morn­ing we didn’t know where we would be train­ing. We would change at the sta­dium, then travel in a minibus to this pitch or that pitch, al­most dif­fer­ent ev­ery day dur­ing the win­ter. But we had a re­mark­able first sea­son and fin­ished sixth. Then in the sec­ond year we beat Ju­ven­tus in the Coppa Italia fi­nal. It was not only Parma fans who liked us – the whole of Italy found us ex­cit­ing.

When Gra­ham Tay­lor sub­sti­tuted Gary Lineker against Swe­den at Euro 92, did that give you the boost you needed to fin­ish the job? Stu­art Steel­yard, via Face­book No, it didn’t give us a boost. When you’re in the game you don’t think about who’s out or in, but I think that was Lineker’s

last min­utes play­ing for Eng­land, right? I’m not sure what would have hap­pened if Lineker had re­mained on the pitch, but we had a very good team. It was a huge win for us and I scored quite a nice goal as well… [Smiles]

I love Barry Davies’ leg­endary ‘Brolin! Dahlin! Brolin!’ commentary for your goal against Eng­land at Euro 92. Have you heard it? Ese Ag­boaye, via Face­book I heard about that, yes. It was a spe­cial goal – one-touch all the way and a nice shot from me in the end. I played with Martin Dahlin many times and the more you play to­gether, the eas­ier you’ll find each other. Ev­ery­one maybe ex­pected France and Eng­land to qual­ify from that group but it was Den­mark and Swe­den – a big sur­prise. Af­ter that we thought we could get through to the fi­nal, so it was very frus­trat­ing to lose 3-2 to Ger­many in the semi-fi­nals.

Your win­ning goal against Eng­land led to The Sun in­fa­mously putting a turnip on Gra­ham Tay­lor’s head. Did you feel bad about that? Steven Ross, Wi­gan No, I didn’t know any­thing about that – dur­ing that time we were so fo­cused on our own world. How the English mass me­dia treat their play­ers and man­agers, I don’t bother…

What was Faustino Asprilla like in the dress­ing room at Parma? ‘Spurs Lover’, via Twit­ter Tino [be­low right] was a bril­liant guy. He was our clown in the dress­ing room and such a fan­tas­tic player. You never knew what he was go­ing to do – some­times that was good, but some­times it wasn’t so good be­cause even we didn’t know what he was go­ing to do! One year we had a week off and Tino smashed a bus door in Colom­bia. His foot was a lit­tle bit bro­ken, so he was out for a few weeks.

Parma won the 1993 Cup Win­ners’ Cup Fi­nal – how big an achieve­ment was it for the club? Paolo To­drani, via Twit­ter It was maybe the big­gest achive­ment in Parma’s his­tory. They won more tro­phies but that was the first one. The fi­nal was at Wem­b­ley against Royal An­twerp. I’d never played there and nearly the whole of Parma made the trip. It was fan­tas­tic.

Who would win: your Parma team or the 1999 UEFA Cup-win­ning vin­tage of Buf­fon, Can­navaro, Thu­ram, Veron, Cre­spo and Chiesa? Jeff Bur­ton, Southamp­ton That’s dif­fi­cult to say. In ’99 there were more star play­ers, but in the early-90s we prob­a­bly had a dif­fer­ent spirit. You never know, some­times the spirit wins against the more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers.

You reached suc­ces­sive Cup Win­ners’ Cup fi­nals but lost to Arse­nal in 1994. Should you have won that? Becky Leighton, Lon­don When I look back over my ca­reer, that’s the game we should have won. Arse­nal did the right thing, though – they scared our strik­ers, Tino Asprilla and Gian­franco Zola. Arse­nal were very ag­gres­sive and kicked them quite well, I think! But that is the game – no prob­lem. I missed two in­cred­i­ble chances at 0-0 – one of them hit the post. If we’d gone 1-0 up, I think we would have won fairly easily. Arse­nal would have at­tacked, we’d have en­joyed more space and could have scored four or five. But Alan Smith scored a bril­liant goal and af­ter that they de­fended very well. Arse­nal won 1-0 and that’s what we heard in the whole of Copen­hagen, with the fans singing, ‘One-nil to the Arse­nal!’

You scored a great goal from a re­hearsed free-kick against Ro­ma­nia in the 1994 World Cup quar­ter-fi­nals – how much did you work on it? Kris Tay­lor, via Face­book It was a se­cret… we’d done that free-kick at

Clock­wise from above

right To­mas leaves Neil Webb with twisted blood at Euro 92; clutch­ing the UEFA Su­per Cup in 1993; Hold­ing role: Ger­many’s Matthias Sam­mer keeps Brolin at bay; “Yee Haw!” Swedish prime min­is­ter Carl Bildt joins the fun at USA 94; Brolin didn’t get to play in the role he’d been promised at Leeds

Parma and Swe­den’s man­ager, Tommy Svens­son, had writ­ten it in his note­book. Two days be­fore the Ro­ma­nia game, he took out his book and said, “To­mas, I’ve seen you do this one.” He told me that we couldn’t prac­tise the free-kick dur­ing train­ing be­cause peo­ple would spy, but if we got a free-kick in the right area, we should give it a try. Some­one would pass the ball around the wall, and then I was sup­posed to cross the ball back in to give Martin Dahlin or Ken­net An­der­s­son an open goal. How­ever, dur­ing that match I got there and thought, ‘S**t, I have all the goal just for my­self. I have the open goal, so I’ll take a shot’. That wasn’t the idea – I came up with my own idea and scored! For a lit­tle coun­try like Swe­den, it was amaz­ing to reach the World Cup semi-fi­nals for the first time since 1958.

Af­ter reach­ing the semi-fi­nals in 1994, did you think Swe­den could go all the way and win the World Cup? Se­bas­tian Sjostrom, Gothen­burg Of course. But sev­eral play­ers were a bit in­jured and against Brazil you can’t have that. Then cap­tain Jonas Th­ern got a red card and we thought, ‘S**t, it’s hard with 11 vs 11 against Brazil, now it’s 10 v 11’. We lost and heads were down, but I was one of the first ones to say, “We’ve had a bril­liant tour­na­ment, let’s play like hell in the third place play-off. We can­not go back with­out a medal.” To beat Bul­garia 4-0 was mas­sive. Not many peo­ple have a World Cup medal. I was fourth in the Bal­lon d’or vote that year, too. Not bad!

You broke your foot in Novem­ber ’94. How big a turn­ing point do you think that was in your ca­reer? Ed­die Green, via Face­book Ev­ery­one says that, but for me it wasn’t that, be­cause an in­jury is an in­jury and even­tu­ally you will come back. Ev­ery­one told me I’d be back af­ter eight or nine months, but I was back af­ter five months and three weeks.

You were at Parma with Gian­luigi Buf­fon when he was only 17. Was it clear early on just how good a keeper Gigi would go on to be­come? Domenico Peri, via Twit­ter Def­i­nitely. I had trained with him and thought, ‘Oh s**t, this guy is 17 and he’s maybe al­ready the best’. Gigi was con­fi­dent, the right height and he made right de­ci­sions. He was an ex­pe­ri­enced player when he was still just a teenager. It was amaz­ing to see.

Why did you leave Parma in Novem­ber 1995 and sign for Leeds? Ian Wor­thing­ton, Bat­ley At the end of my five years with Parma, the coach [Ne­vio Scala] and me weren’t on the same level. I was keen to play, so I had to look else­where. I loved Parma. I wanted to stay, but the Bos­man rul­ing was com­ing in and I think some­one wanted to sell me be­cause my con­tract was run­ning out. I went to speak to Leeds and asked man­ager Howard Wilkin­son, “So where do you want me to play?” He replied, “I see you as a mid­fielder – a player in the mid­dle tak­ing care of our game.” I re­ally liked that po­si­tion and thought, ‘OK, if you want to play me like that, I’ll come’. But I didn’t ever play in that po­si­tion for Leeds. Never. When I first ar­rived, Tony Ye­boah was in­jured, so of course I had to play up­front un­til he had re­cov­ered, but af­ter that I never got to play in the role that I’d been promised.

Your first goal for Leeds was bizarre – scor­ing with your face while ly­ing flat on the floor. What do you re­mem­ber about that? Steve Maine, Rother­ham That was a very nice header! A Sh­effield Wed­nes­day de­fender tried to kick it out and he kicked it against my head. It was a good first goal. [Laughs]

Why do you think things didn’t work out for you in Eng­land? Adam Bagshaw, via Face­book My po­si­tion was one of the main points, and poor man­age­ment. I liked York­shire and the fans were amaz­ing. I still fol­low Leeds like a sup­porter. They need to get back to the Pre­mier League be­cause the fans are in­cred­i­ble – 30,000 and 35,000 at home games even now. I re­mem­ber be­ing on the bench for the 1996 League Cup Fi­nal against As­ton Villa – it was so frus­trat­ing, but the fans kept sign­ing my name be­cause they wanted me on – I’ll never for­get that. They knew some­thing wasn’t right, and that it wasn’t only my fault. Fans are clever like that – they all un­der­stood that some­thing strange was go­ing on with the Leeds man­age­ment.


It was re­ported that you de­lib­er­ately played badly in a 5-0 loss at Liv­er­pool, in protest at be­ing played on the right. Was that true? Sean O’neill, via Twit­ter No, I never played badly on pur­pose, but I couldn’t play my best in that po­si­tion and I told the man­ager so be­fore­hand. That was Wilkin­son’s way of telling me, ‘I de­cide here’. I’d scored both goals in the game be­fore that against West Ham and ev­ery­body was say­ing To­mas Brolin was one of Leeds’ best buys. Then he put me on the right at An­field and I was out of the team – it was strange.

Did you re­ally play for £800 a week at FC Zurich, then pay some of your own money to re­join Parma, just to se­cure loan moves away from Leeds? An­thony Selby, via Face­book Yes. At first I went to Zurich to get away from Leeds be­cause they didn’t treat me like a foot­ball player. Then I had a great five months back at Parma un­der Carlo Ancelotti. I liked feel­ing that the coach be­lieved in me, and we al­most won the Serie A ti­tle in 1997.

There was a ru­mour go­ing round that you once missed Leeds’ pre-sea­son train­ing camp be­cause you hit a bird with your car. How big was that bird? Jamie Laws, Nor­wich It was a re­ally big bird! The car win­dow was smashed and I couldn’t see where I was go­ing be­cause of the sun­light. You can’t just leave the car in the mid­dle of the mo­tor­way, so I missed the flight to Eng­land. I was an hour late for the first train­ing ses­sion and they fined me one week’s wages. That was a good start for me un­der Ge­orge Gra­ham at Leeds! One hour late and I got fined. I wasn’t go­ing to risk my life to get to the first train­ing ses­sion, but ob­vi­ously some­one wanted me to do that. [FFT: Did you think it was weird when the me­dia claimed that you had ac­tu­ally driven into an elk?] I wasn’t blind, it def­i­nitely wasn’t an elk… A few years later, though, I did hit an elk and it was a scary ex­pe­ri­ence – the car was com­pletely de­stroyed.


Is it true that Ge­orge Gra­ham (be­low) con­fis­cated your pass­port to stop you go­ing to Swe­den, but you man­aged to get back there any­way? Cathy Wat­son, via Face­book Yes, he did a few things like that. These days you would de­scribe that be­hav­iour in a par­tic­u­lar way, al­though I won’t say the word. How did I get back to Swe­den with­out the pass­port? Well, I was To­mas Brolin! [Laughs]

It was re­ported that Leeds wouldn’t let you back into El­land Road to watch any of their matches for free. Did that re­ally hap­pen? Tony Til­son, Skip­ton Yes, that’s right too. That hap­pened at a few matches, but I had friends who had a VIP box so they let me in there. Was I shocked when it hap­pened? There were a lot of shock­ing things that hap­pened un­der that man­age­ment, so in that case I wasn’t too sur­prised, I just had to laugh. You know the word to de­scribe that be­hav­iour. I won’t say it. No, ac­tu­ally, I will say it. It was bul­ly­ing. Do you do that sort of thing to a player on your own team? I don’t think so. I’d al­most for­got­ten a lot of these things that hap­pened over the years, but it’s all com­ing back to me now.

Do you re­gret join­ing Leeds? Car­los Sanchez, via Face­book No I don’t, be­cause when the man­ager tells you that you’re play­ing in a cer­tain role, in my world you’ve got to trust him. I can’t re­gret that the man­age­ment was poor dur­ing that pe­riod – that wasn’t all down to me.

Given how things had gone for you in Eng­land, why did you de­cide to re­turn and play for Crys­tal Palace? Nick Day, via Twit­ter I had al­most de­cided that I would stop play­ing foot­ball then, but the Crys­tal Palace owner Mark Gold­berg called me. He was a huge fan of me and said, “Come and train with us for one week.” Then on the Thurs­day, af­ter two days’ train­ing, Steve Coppell asked, “Can you play Satur­day?” I thought, ‘What the hell?’, but it was great that I had a man­ager who only needed to see a cou­ple of train­ing ses­sions and thought I could play in his team. I was not very used to that! I had a great time at Crys­tal Palace, but we had quite a lot of in­juries and went down at the end of that sea­son [1997-98]. I was as­sis­tant man­ager at the end of the sea­son. Mark Gold­berg asked if At­tilio Lom­bardo and my­self would take the team. I said, “Of course, I’ll help you if you want.” It was a strange but good ex­pe­ri­ence.

Do you think the way you’re por­trayed in the English me­dia is fair? Did all the talk about your weight up­set you? Owen Davies, via Twit­ter It was all a load of bulls**t, be­cause you don’t sign an over­weight player. Other­wise they’d be bet­ter look­ing at the way Leeds and Crys­tal Palace do their med­i­cals! I no longer have to worry about the English me­dia, as they didn’t know the true story and no one wanted to hear it. They were do­ing the ex­act same thing that Leeds were do­ing – bul­ly­ing, and if they think that’s OK, that’s not my prob­lem. I think the English press has al­ways been like that and I’m not sure it will get bet­ter. It’s their way. Bul­ly­ing is the right word for the English press. No one has writ­ten about this. It’s the first time I’ve ever said it – I’ve been wait­ing for 20 years.

Why did you re­tire at 28? Al­lan Adams, via Face­book At first it was fun to go to train­ing ev­ery day with Crys­tal Palace, but by the end it wasn’t as fun any more. I won­dered, ‘Shall I do this next sea­son?’ I thought about it dur­ing the sum­mer and de­cided to stop. It wasn’t be­cause of in­juries. If you want to con­tinue play­ing at a high level you’ve got to train ev­ery sin­gle day, but I wasn’t so keen to keep do­ing that. I had other projects in my head – when I stopped play­ing, an in­ven­tor came up to me with his new idea about vac­uum clean­ers and I opened that com­pany. If by the De­cem­ber of that year I’d wanted to play again, I would have come back. But that feel­ing never came and now it’s 20 years ago. Ev­ery­one says 28 is young to re­tire, but it de­pends on what you’ve done in your 28 years as a foot­baller. I’d done quite a lot.

Why did you start in goal in your last ever pro­fes­sional ap­pear­ance? Joe Brown, via Twit­ter That wasn’t a pro­fes­sional game. I have a brother, Hakan, who played in Swe­den with Hudiksvall. I thought it’d be nice to play with him. I said, “If you ever need a goal­keeper, I’ll play.” When we were young we would both play at home, one shoot­ing, one in goal, so we were good goal­keep­ers as well! I played one game in the league and one in the cup for my brother’s side. I re­ally en­joyed it.

Do you still like play­ing in poker tour­na­ments? Don­ald Mc­crae, Glas­gow I was in­volved in poker for a while as I was a name for a bet­ting firm. Now I don’t play poker very of­ten, but it was great fun. I played it for around 10 years.

Why did you post a naked pic­ture of your­self do­ing snow angels on In­sta­gram a few years ago? Bryan Joseph, via Face­book [Laughs] Here in Swe­den, we will do the sauna and then you throw your­self out in the snow. But I wasn’t naked – I had snow on my body, just not very much!

You pro­duced a record with Dr Al­ban. Any idea what he’s ac­tu­ally a doc­tor in, or is it like Dr Pep­per or Dr Seuss? Craig Rid­ing, via Twit­ter [Laughs] He’s a doc­tor in den­tistry. I’m still friends with him. I’ll or­gan­ise three or four events in Sig­tuna ev­ery year with live mu­sic, and he has sung here at my par­ties. Mak­ing that record was a lot of fun. Life is too short to do bor­ing stuff – if some­thing isn’t fun, then I won’t do it. Be­ing a foot­baller stopped be­ing fun for me, so I stopped play­ing. A lot of play­ers kid them­selves that they en­joy it just to stay a part of the foot­ball cir­cus, but I’m not that kind of per­son and I had other ways to have fun in my life.

Above left Messy di­vorce: Brolin de­parts Leeds af­ter his re­lease in 1997 Right “Hey, what did I ever do to you?” To­mas couldn’t save Palace from the drop af­ter a bit of rough and tum­ble with his for­mer em­ploy­ers

Above Swe­den cel­e­brate quar­ter-fi­nal suc­cess over Ro­ma­nia at USA 94 Left “Let’s dance!” Tak­ing on Black­burn’s Stu­art Ri­p­ley on New Year’s Day 1996

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