I’ve only seen a Swedish team play live on two occasions, the national team, at Hampden, twice. The first was in 1977. Kenny Dalglish was still very much a Celtic hero at the time but back then I was captivated by Ronnie Glavin, who, for me, provided as much thrill as his more celebrated team mate. Ronnie was subbed early in the second half but it was Joe Craig who made the headlines after coming on as a late substitute to make his international debut.
I was far back in the Celtic end but memories of Dalglish crossing from the right wing and Joe stooping low to head into the net from close range – his first touch of the ball – remain vivid.
I’ve a few great Swedish football memories of TV coverage: Gothenburg in the 1986 European Cup semi-final against Barca. The Swedes were 3-0 after the first leg but wilted in Catalonia and lost out on penalties. The neutrals were disappointed. Gothenburg fared better the following season, edging Dundee United in the Uefa Cup final (I was disappointed again). Heady days for both. I recall cheering the same team on in a Champions League qualifier during our barren 90s, when European pleasure was taken second hand.
There are some who would tell you Swedish football is in dire straits. Gothenburg, once the regional superpower, are currently 11th in the league, but Sweden has a rare joy, a league title competed for by up to a dozen teams. The Allsvenskan has produced seven different champions in the last seven years, in fact, it is a bit like Scotland, without Celtic or former club Rangers (remember them?).
Clubs live within their means, have an absolute connection to their communities and thrive knowing that genuine talent will be rewarded with a league title. Aspirational Scottish clubs must dream of this status….
Looking forward to tomorrow night. The script is written for Tony Watt to ‘do a Joe Craig’.
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