A legend on the Bolton terraces and stalwart for his country, Iceland, Gudni Bergsson was first imported to England by Tottenham in the 1980s. In a recent chat with news.bwin, the centre-back-turned-lawyer discussed the three teams closest to his heart where he, unsurprisingly, reserved his highest hopes for his countrymen ahead of Euro 2016.
Bergsson on Neil Lennon’s sacking and Bolton’s current situation…
I don’t think Neil can have too many complaints about being released because the results weren’t acceptable. He was working under difficult circumstances but they were still bottom of the table and it’s not good enough, so changes needed to be made. We’ll just have to see how we will end this season and who will be appointed on a permanent basis.
The takeover of the club has been dragging on for a long time but, now it has finally been concluded, we can look forward to the future. We need to rebuild the club because, the way it is looking at the moment, we are going down to League One. I would love for us to compete in the Premier League again and this has to be an aim for a club that had success in the top division like Bolton Wanderers. A change is needed as soon as possible.
From the games I’ve watched this season, we’ve been struggling all over the pitch to be honest. We’re struggling in all three phases and not only this but against Rotherham, where we actually won, you can tell there is a lack of belief, tactical awareness and ability within the team.
We look a weak team and the results have reflected that. All the way through the season we’ve simply not been good enough and all these accusations and troubles off the field haven’t helped either – it’s been a very difficult season.
Bergsson on who the Trotters should appoint next…
Phil Brown has been linked with the club in the past and he has been named as a candidate – he’s got varying experiences as a manager in all four divisions, which is what we need.
Jimmy Philips [current first team coach] is in the hot seat temporarily and he has got a lot of experience as a coach and at the club. He’s an ex-Bolton player and is a Trotter through-and-through, so I think he should be considered for the permanent role based on the team’s performance between now and the end of the season.
It’d also be great to have someone like Sam Allardyce, for obvious reasons, but realistically, we’ll struggle to attract the best managers because I think it’s a foregone conclusion we will be relegated. Hopefully next season we will have someone at the helm that can help us challenge for promotion and bring some good times back to the club.
Bergsson on the best Bolton players he ever played with…
There were quite a few, but Jay-Jay Okocha was a special talent. Youri Djorkaeff and Ivan Campo were also great players and I joined when a young Kevin Nolan was breaking through the ranks.
I’ve been lucky enough to play with the likes of Peter Shilton, Peter Beardsley and Eidur Gudjohnsen, who went on to have a successful career with Chelsea and Barcelona, too.
Bergsson on Tottenham Hotspur, their title chances and Champions League…
Tottenham have what it takes to win the Premier League but their problem is Leicester City, who are just going steadily about their business, picking up the points when the pressure is on. Spurs will need to have a really good run in as Leicester just aren’t faltering.
Regardless of whether Tottenham succeed or not, it should still be considered a great season for Spurs if they finish second. Leicester are obviously the fairytale story, but Spurs have not won the title since 1961, so they will be just as determined to fight until the end and it would be a fantastic achievement if they did so.
On the Champions League, I think they are definitely strong enough to reach the last 16, maybe the quarter finals next season, but it’s a learning curve. It’s a difficult competition, especially when you progress to the knockout stages as you’re facing the best teams in the world. We’ve just seen how Manchester City have been struggling in the competition despite their star-studded squad and enormous wealth they’ve got. City have done much better in the Champions League this season, which proves it’s an experience which you need to constantly learn from.
For Spurs to push on, they need one or two real quality players to strengthen the squad next season, but they must also keep the core that has been so successful this season together. The Borussia Dortmund result exposed them as a team not quite there yet, but I hope they’re better equipped for next season in the Champions League as it will benefit English football.
Bergsson on Mauricio Pochettino and where Spurs need to strengthen…
It’s strange to look back to one stage last season when he was under immense pressure and some fans were calling for his resignation. It shows you how difficult it is to keep hold of a job as manager in the Premier League but I’ve been really impressed at how he’s stuck at it and created such a strong team.
Harry Kane, who started off slowly during his time at Spurs, has shown for the second season running that he’s a player that’s going to be valuable to both his club and country. Then you supplement him with Dele Alli and Eric Dier in midfield, Toby Alderweireld in defence and Hugo Lloris in goal and you’ve got the makings of a really good team. There’s resilience about them that you could say has been missing in the past and they are becoming more and more difficult to beat.
Bergsson on Harry Kane…
I would have loved the challenge of facing Harry as I always enjoyed playing against players with all-round qualities.
He’s quick, technical, has a good eye for a pass and he can finish his chances. What I find most impressive is that there are no real weaknesses in his game and he’s taken the opportunity when it has been presented to him. There is such a fine line nowadays between getting a chance at your club and never fulfilling your potential because you never get the opportunity. I think the way Spurs have managed their academy is an example to other clubs.
Bergsson Iceland’s chances at the upcoming tournament and star man Gylfi Sigurðsson…
Iceland’s opening game will come down to how well we can limit the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo. If we can keep him quiet, I think we can get points against them.
However, the most important game in the group will be the second game against Hungary, who I’d argue are the weakest of the three opponents. With Austria and Hungary in good form of late, it’s going to be difficult but I’m quietly confident we can qualify from the group. I’m sure the coaches, players and people around the team will know that we are not there just to make up the numbers, we’re there to qualify from our group.
If we go into the knockout stages, that will be a great achievement and if somehow we reach the last eight, it would be beyond anyone’s dreams – Greece won it in 2004 so anything is possible. The main thing is that we do ourselves justice, play well and really take the game to the opposition.
I think Gylfi has been playing especially well in recent weeks. He’s a creative player, who is very technical and skilful but also very dangerous from dead-ball situations. He is valuable because not only does he create changes, he can score from anywhere – he is without doubt the best player for Iceland. He scored six goals in qualifying so let’s hope he can continue that form in the tournament.
It’s good to see him doing really well for Swansea because they have struggled for consistency this season and with the regular football he’s getting there, he’s finding his best form and hopefully that translates to his country.
And finally…Bergsson on England’s chances…
With England you never quite know how well they’ll perform. I always hope England do well but it seems that gradually as time has progressed, they have gone from a team that reaches the final/last four to the last eight and then last sixteen. I can’t understand why England do not perform better in these competitions.
If Wayne Rooney does well and players like Kane, Alli and Jamie Vardy can keep up their momentum at the tournament, without fear of failure, then England can have success.