Soccer/Association Football


I could not finish MY STORY without writing about my love of football (association football)/soccer! It all started in 1958....and became an important part of my life.

EXTRACTED FROM WIKIPEDIA.....The Munich air disaster occurred on 6 February 1958 when British European Airways flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport, West Germany. On the plane was theManchester United football team, nicknamed the "Busby Babes", along with supporters and journalists. Twenty of the 44 on the aircraft died at the scene. The injured, some unconscious, were taken to the Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich where three more died, resulting in 23 fatalities with 21 survivors.

The football team was returning from a European Cup match in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), against Red Star Belgrade. The flight stopped to refuel in Munich because a non-stop flight from Belgrade to Manchester was out of the "Elizabethan"-class Airspeed Ambassador aircraft's range. After refuelling, pilots James Thain and Kenneth Raymenttwice abandoned take-off because of boost surging in the left engine. Fearing they would get too far behind schedule, Captain Thain rejected an overnight stay in Munich in favour of a third take-off attempt. By then, snow was falling, causing a layer of slush to form at the end of the runway. After the aircraft hit the slush, it ploughed through a fence beyond the end of the runway and the left wing was torn off after hitting a house. Fearing the aircraft might explode, Thain began evacuating passengers while Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg helped pull survivors from the wreckage.

Harry Gregg came from Coleraine and was known to the O'Brien family. He became a goalkeeping hero of mine. This tragedy kindled an interested for football and from that day to this, MANCHESTER UNITED has been my team and are in my heart forever.


As I grew up my love for the game grew. As I have mentioned in an earlier chapter, my encounter with a young boy at the Rotary Camp for disabled boys, at Helens Bay, outside Belfast, gave my support of Manchester Utd a real boost! I met Jim McMillan, a year younger than me. His brother Sammy McMillan was in the United squad and also an international player for NIreland. I gave Jim my autograph book and a few months later it arrived back with a lot of the players autographs, ie Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, David Herd, Billy Foulkes etc 

WIKIPEDIA: Samuel Thomas "Sammy" McMillan (born 20 September 1941) is a Northern Irish ex-footballer who played as a left winger or centre forward for various Football League clubs in the 1960s and early 1970s, including Manchester United, Wrexham, Southend United and Stockport County.

Many times I bemoaned the fact that I wasn't allowed to play the game due to my polio injury. However I defied my parents, especially during High School days. We played in the playground at breaks with a tennis ball. I was goalkeeper! This developed even further when my classmates, the Harkness twins, from the Oldtown area asked me to play for them against Rathbeg and a few others of the local housing estate teams. I played with a guilty conscience!....fear of injuring my leg and going against my parents warnings. Matches were played on the Bacon Factory pitch, a few hundred metres from my grandparents home. One evening it rained very heavily and we were due to play a match, which we did. I changed into an old pair of jeans, an old jumper and put on a old pair of boots (one was my Dads, for my 2 1/2 size larger left foot). As I left, Mum asked me where I was going on such a wet night. I answered by saying "over the hills for a walk"! Made my way to the pitch, some 300 metres away, through the long grass of the field behind our house (in front of Myrtle/Ivors home, then occupied by Wilsons). We lost the match on a very muddy pitch. I'll never forget my walk home. Wet and muddy through and through....came into our newly built bathroom and off with the clothes. I had no option but confess to Mum that I had been playing football. She was not angry, but I was made very aware that she wasn't happy. I retired from playing football at the grand old age of 14! 

I continued to follow football at local level by attending matches organised by Cookstown Streets League. Matches played at the Bacon Factory and Fair Hill. There was also a Summer Competition, the Thompson Cup, attracting teams from all over Ireland. I had opportunity to see a lot of "live" football. My interest for English football increased and I became very knowledgeable on most of the players in the English League. BBC's "Match of the Day" (still running!) was my favourite programme in the 1960s, as was Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon, with David Coleman, Frank Bough, Harry Carpentar and a few others.

Remember once attending an U16 football international at the Showgrounds, Coleraine with Dad. At a guess mid 1960's. The match was against Scotland. Pat Jennings, Newry Town and Martin ONeill, Distillery were budding boy footballers at that time. They later became household names. O''Neill is the Republic of Ireland's manager to day (2017)

My interest for football dipped a little when I became a family man and our move to Sweden. I was able to keep in touch with British football via BBC World Service. During our 3 years in Jönköping I watched Jönköping Södra on a couple of occasions, where English man Gary Watson was their star (he is still involved with the Club!)

I watched a few matches in Vrigstad. Highlight here was when Watford FC played a pre season friendly against a Vrigstad select. Kevin Philips, was the star attraction. He later became an English international player. To day he is/was assistant coach at Derby County.

I made a decision when our boys were small that I would not get involved in any way with football. However I was able to keep up to date with Swedish and British football via TV and radio. In the mid 1990's we acquired SKY. This was tricky in that I had to use Dads address for my subscription. We installed a huge parabol and with a Sky Box from Cookstown. I was able to see live Englisgh football, quite a change from BBC World Service on short wave radio!


1993 saw me attending a few Degerfors IF matches. Tim was now 14 years old. I felt a renewed urge to watch football again. I'll never forget a match towards the end of the 1993 season when Degerfors were in the running to be promoted to Allsvenskan. Thay had to beat Djurgården at Stora Valla, which they did! I was standing with a few guys, one of whom was Bertil Claesson. We all had tears, Bertil turned to me, hugged me and simply said, "Des, this is culture!!". Will never forget this incident. Bertil worked with Human Resources at the Steel Works in Degerfors and was a key customer for DACCAB. This was the beginning of an interesting adventure with Degerfors IF.

Degerfors IF won the Swedish Cup, known then as the Skandia Cup in the early 1990's and promotion to the Allsvenskan. I attended that Final by invitation of the Human Resource Dept at the Degerfors Steel Works. A young boy, ca 8 years old was with us. His Dad was one of these HR Managers whom I knew very well. The boy Ola Toivonen went on to play for Degerfors IF, Malmö FF, PSV Eindhoven, AFC Sunderland and to day Toulouse in France! He has also represented Sweden at International level....


Nils Ola Toivonen (born 3 July 1986) is a Swedish footballer, who plays as an attacking midfielder or striker for Ligue 1 side Toulouse, in France, and the Sweden national team.

After beginning his career in Sweden, he joined PSV Eindhoven in January 2009, and remained there for five-and-a-half seasons until a €2.5 million move to Rennes.

A full international for Sweden since 2007, he has earned over 40 caps for the nation, and was part of their squad for UEFA Euro 2012.

Early career

His father was born in Finland and emigrated to Degerfors to work in a factory, where he became Human Resources Manager. Toivonen started his career at Degerfors, where he became involved in their campaign in 2005 to avoid relegation from Superettan.

He was then bought by Örgryte. The first, and only, season in Örgryte ended sadly. Lukić was sacked, and Örgryte finished last in Allsvenskan, and thus was relegated to Superettan. In November 2006, he won the "Newcomer of the Year" award at the annual Swedish football awards.[5]

Malmö FF

He soon signed a four-year contract with Malmö FF, in a transfer worth more than $1.1 million. He became Malmö's second most expensive player of all time (only Brazilian international Afonso Alves cost Malmö more money, when the club bought him for approximately $1.3 million in 2004, also from Örgryte). In the 2007 season, Toivonen's first at Malmö, the club finished 9th in Allsvenskan and Toivonen scored three goals. The 2008 season went somewhat better for Malmö, finishing 6th, and this was the absolute breakthrough for Toivonen. In 27 games, he managed to score 14 goals as well as seven assists. This drew the attention of some Premier League and Eredivisie clubs, most notably West Ham United and PSV Eindhoven.

PSV Eindhoven

Toivonen playing for PSV in 2010-2014....Toivonen signed a contract with PSV Eindhoven in early 2009. The transfer fee was, according to some source, €3.5 million, and according to other sources €4.5 million. His first half season in the Netherlands, saw Toivonen score 6 goals in 14 appearances for his new club.

2012–13 season

Due to injuries, Toivonen only made 17 appearances in which he scored eight times. At the end of the season, PSV wanted to sell Toivonen as he had refused to extend his contract which would expire in the summer of 2014. Norwich City showed interest in the player, but preferred countryman Johan Elmander after Toivonen had been dawdling too long in the opinion of the club.[34]

2013–14 season

Although both PSV and Toivonen were dissatisfied after a transfer had failed, Toivonen made 14 appearances in which he scored once. In the winter break PSV announced that Toivonen would not play a single match for PSV in the second half of the season. Both the player and the club wanted to disband.

Stade Rennes

Toivonen with Rennes in 2014

On 20 January 2014, it was announced that Toivonen had been sold to Rennes for a transfer fee of €2.5 million.[35]

Sunderland (loan)

On 28 August 2015, Toivonen joined Premier League side Sunderland on a season-long loan, linking up with his former manager at PSV Dick Advocaat.[36] The following day, he made his debut as a half-time subtitute for Lee Cattermole in at Aston Villa, and assisted former PSV team-mate Jeremain Lens's equaliser in a 2-2 draw.[37] Toivonen scored his first goal on 22 September 2015, in a 4-1 League Cup third round defeat at home to Manchester City.[38]


On 4 August 2016, Toivonen signed for French club Toulouse FC.[39]

International career

Toivonen playing for Sweden at UEFA Euro 2012.

On 21 August 2007, he scored a hat trick (including 2 penalties) for Sweden U21against Wales U21 in a 4–3 friendly defeat. He was a member of the U-21 national team at the 2009 European Championship in Sweden and scored three times in the competition against Italy U21, Serbia U21, and a superb freekick against England U21 which contributed to a comeback from 3–0 down to 3–3 with Toivonen scoring the second goal.

Toivonen's full international debut came on 14 January 2007, when Sweden lost 2–0 away to Venezuela. During a period 2015-2016 he was not selected by Erik Hamren, the National Coach, causing him to miss the Euro Finals in the summer 2016. However the new National Coach, Jan Andersson, selected him for the World Cup qualifers in the Autumn of 2016.

Against Bulgaria, 1 October 2016, Toivonen scored and was credited with an assist for the second goal, when Sweden won 3-0!


In 1993 DIF played in the European Cup Winners Cup. The qualifying round was against the Maltese Club, Sliema Wanderers. I was asked by Börje Ågren, marketing at DIF to play host to the Sliema team. This I did and enjoyed the whole experience. Next it was Parma from Italy in the First round proper. Drew in Italy and lost by the odd goal in Degerfors scored by the Columbian star, Faustino Asprilla, scoring 2 minutes from the final whistle. A fantastic performance by Degerfors IF. Thomas Brolin and Gianfranco Zola were part of that great Parma team. They finished runners in the European Cup Winners that year, so it WAS a fantastic achievement by DIF!

By helping DIF in this way I had made myself known to a few of the Board members. I suggested to them that I make contact with some English League Clubs with the view of finding a partner with whom "we" could co operate with. This should include player exchange, exchange of football philosophies and a door into the Swedish football market and a stepping stone for young Degerfors IF talent to be exposed to the English market.

Over the next few years I had positive contacts with Sheffield Utd, Preston North End, whom I visited and discussed ideas. Coming back and presenting the findings to DIF Board was something different. Interested yes, but NOBODY was prepared to take these contacts on board and work with them!? I became disillusioned and slowed down this contact "work". I continued attending the matches as an enthusiastic supporter!

However after I joined Degerfors Rotary Club in 2011, I was aked by them if I would be interested in accompanying 2 young talented footballers, one from DIF, Jesper Karlsson and one from KB Karlskoga, Sebastian Bichler Bergenheim, to Swindon Town to join in a 2 week training programme. March 2011. This proved to be an interesting and exciting experience for the boys and also for myself. I met many football people from Swindon and got on really well with their Youth Coach, Paul Bodin. He played for Swindon Town for many years and a few other league clubs. 23 caps for Wales. His son Billy, plays to day (September 2016) for Bristol Rovers. Paul would have been keen to start some kind of interaction with Degerfors IF, but interest from DIF was very poor indeed, in fact no enthusiasm at all! I was very disappointed at this development (non!)

Just after this Swindon visit and the failure of the DIF Board to follow up my positive contact with Swindon Town I had a chat/idea exchange with the new DIF Chairman Janne Beckman. I was still interested in trying to link DIF with an English Club. In turn he gave me a contact with an English man Michael Williams, with whom he had exchanged ideas before, regarding some form of cooperation with the newly formed Kosova Football Association. I got in touch with Michael, who was a Sunderland supporter and had lots of football contacts in the North east of England. I gave him a brief of my ideas and he came back with a few very good suggestions. Amongst others to run a Summer School for the boys and girls in the Degerfors area.

I travelled to Sunderland (flights were paid for by Degerfors SpelarInvest AB, where I was a Board member). This was Spring 2011. This organisation was formed to initiate financial investment into the Club. Mike met me at Newcastle Airport and together we travelled to the Foundation of Lights HQ at the official AFC Sunderland Training facility. Met up with their Marketing Manager and several of their Youth Coaches. Spent 2 days and within 2 weeks I had a suggested programme and quotation for a 3 Day Summer School. Presented the concept to DIFs Board. "Who would look after this and the timing is wrong at the beginning of the summer holiday period!" Difficult to get parents to volunteer!...excuses everywhere.... "THIS IS SUNDERLAND WE'RE LIASING WITH".... No real enthusiasm was shown. Yet another disappointment!'

However I did not give up. Linked to Degerfors SpelarInvest I had a good contact with one of their members, a guy called Donald. We chatted about the reluctance of Degerfors IF to take on board a big club liason. One final attempt was made. A former player of international status, Ralf Edström, born in Degerfors, had played in Holland and Belgium. I wrote to his former Dutch club, PSV Eindhoven, mentioning Ralf and his ties with Degerfors IF. Another young Degerfors IF player, Ola Toivonen was on the PSV books at this time. I got a positive response from their First Team coach. Donald set up a meeting with Ralf in Gothenburg. He was a legend in Eindhoven and has a Conference Suite in the Philips Stadium called after him!

Ralf was also positive to helping Degerfors IF establish a link with PSV. What surprised me was that Ralf explained that he had never before been asked by DIF to help with any kind of PR work. He was happy to have been approached by us. However as a professional he requested that the Degerfors IF Board should formally ask him to liase with PSV Eindhoven. Donald and I, some weeks later met with the Board. They were surprised by this development. A few members were very keen to formally invite Ralf to liase with PSV, to try and establish some form of cooperation. NOTHING ever happen and that effort also fell through.


Ralf Sigvard Edström (born 7 October 1952 in Degerfors) is a Swedish former footballer.

Starting his career in Degerfors IF, a club known to produce many young talents, Edström moved to Åtvidabergs FF and became national champion in 1972.

Edström made 40 appearances for the Swedish national team and scored 15 times. He is most noted for his performance in the 1974 FIFA World Cup where he had a big part in Sweden finishing fifth, and he made 6 appearances during this tournament.[1]

On club level, Degerfors IF, Åtvidabergs FF, SV Eindhoven, Standard Liege, AS Monaco, he became not only Swedish Champion, but also Dutch (twice) and French Champion. He also won the Swedish, Dutch and Belgian Cups and was voted Swedish player of the year twice (1972 and 1974, winning Guldbollen).

He has been an expert radio commentator since the 1980s.

After this snub and all the hard, yet enjoyable work, I severed my direct link with the Club. I suppose it could be said that if you didn't belong to the "inner circle" .your ideas didn't count for anything. There are a few families who hold quite a lot of influence in the club's affairs! I still support the club to day, but still feel a lot of disappointment and resentment.

If any of these links had been developed THE MARKET VALUE OF DEGERFORS IF WOULD HAVE INCREASED DRAMATICALLY AND THE QUEST FOR A BIG SPONSOR COULD WELL HAVE BEEN MET YEARS AGO and DIF would not be a bottom club fighting off relegation, due to poor finances and lack of quality players!

After the work which I had put in with Sunderland and Mike Williams, I turned to former Degerfors IF player and coach, Börje Andersson. He was a student of mine at DACCAB, for 2-3 terms , around 2000. He also played in the same DIF team as Sven Göran Eriksson, in the 1970's and was Coach at Degerfors IF together with Tord Grip in the mid 1990's. Börje had just recently had become Head Coach at Villastaden in Kristinehamn. I presented the concept to him and his Board.  They had already committed to Liverpool FC for that summer, 2012. I was asked if I could assist, which I did. This Summer School was very strictly controlled by a very obnoxious agent, a Nowegian, who was the Liverpool Summer School Agent for the whole of Scandinavia.

My connection with Sunderland came to life again as Villastaden decided to run with Sunderland's Foundation of Light's Summer School for 2013.....some 2 years after my visit to Sunderland. This was a football success, however financially it failed. The following year 2014, the Summer School was run by Garphyttans FF, which is near Örebro. Also a football success but not financially. I was not involved with pricing out to the participants and I believe the financial failure was due to poor pricing!

Below is an extract taken from the AFC Sunderlands Foundation of Lights web site, Autumn 2014 

SUNDERLAND AFC, Foundation of Light

Foundation of Light are establishing themselves as world-class coaching experts receiving excellent feedback after hosting a soccer camp in Sweden.

More than 30 youngsters aged between eight and 14 took part in the three day camp, ran by the registered charity of Sunderland AFC, at Swedish club Garphyttan IF in July 2014. 

Players took part in a range of exercises designed to improve their overall skills, with Foundation Coaches delivering a Coaches' Clinic to pass on best practice to local coaching staff.

"The visit from Foundation of Light coaches really inspired, and made a big impression on our youngsters in the short time they were here. They also left us coaches with some great ideas to work on and we look forward to seeing the results over the coming months." quote by....Niclas Källberg, Head Coach at Garphyttan IF

Foundation of Light Coach, John Fothergill commented, "Working with the youngsters was fantastic but we also wanted to ensure that we left the coaching staff with something that would help their players get the most out of their football all year round.

"We'd like to thank Garphyttan IF for being such fantastic hosts. We were really impressed by the enthusiasm and attitude of everyone we met during the trip and hope that this is the beginning of a long-term relationship."

Foundation of Light are incredibly professional in the way that they organise any coaching event, and that was demonstrated in their preparation prior to the visit and their conduct at the camp itself.

One of the largest football Foundations in the Barclays Premier League, Foundation of Light have a staff of more than 200 ,including professional sports coaches, teachers, youth workers and more.

Coaching staff from the charity have taken part in coaching activity in countries including China, Estonia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Zambia this year, with all proceeds raised from the trips being reinvested into grassroots and disabled sport in the North East.

SPONSORING....During the late 1990's, DACCAB were a small sponsor to Degerfors IF for 2 seasons. We also helped the newly formed Karlskoga club WOODY'S FC with sponsoring in their first years as well as GLENNS, where Tim was involved


GEORGE BEST the Belfast boy!

A close second however, is another one of my favourite footballers.....ERIC CANTONA. Bestie was on a par with Pele, better than Maradona, Cryuff, Linekar, Gascoigne, Henry, Bergkamp and the other stars of the 90's and 2000's.

We'll see how another of my favourite players, ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC performs in his first season (2016/17) at Manchester Utd!





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