5 Minutes with...
Capped over 100 times for Sweden, Alexandersson spent 4 seasons at Goodison Park. He spoke to me about his time with the blues and tells me what he is doing now that his playing career is over...
The 1999-2000 season was one to forget for Sheffield Wednesday, the club suffering relegation after finishing 19th with 23 losses from 38 games. One of the few bright sparks in their disastrous season was the form of Swedish winger Niclas Alexandersson, chipping in with 5 league goals, notably netting against Liverpool at Anfield, as well as scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane against Spurs. A firm fans favourite, Alexandersson was named the club’s Player of the Year, although following the club’s relegation it would prove to be an inevitable leaving gift, as the Swede made the move to joing long-term admirer Walter Smith and sign for Everton, for a fee believed to be around the £2.5m mark.
Walter Smith told how he had first noticed Alexandersson during a Champions League game at Ibrox, when he was manager of Rangers and Niclas was playing for IFK Gothenburg. “He was easily their best player” noted Smith. Coincidentally, Alexandersson came away from that game with the shirt of a certain Paul Gascoigne as a memento, both unaware that they would end up teammates at Goodison Park a few years down the line.
The Swedish international got his Everton career off to a blistering start, notching 5 goals in Pre-Season, including braces against both Manchester City and Preston North End, the signs were good for the Blues new wide man. It was perhaps symbolic of his career that after scoring those 2 goals against City in the final Pre-Season game, he came away with an injury and was forced to watch from the stands on the opening day of the season against Leeds Utd.
It wasn’t long, before these niggling injuries soon took hold, resulting in Niclas only managing 17 Premier League appearances in his debut season at Goodison Park. Injuries would go on to play a consistently disruptive part in his career at Everton, with just 49 League appearances in his 4 seasons at Goodison Park, before he was sent out on an unremarkable loan spell at West Ham, eventually moving back to Sweden where he would end his career at IFK Gothenburg.
Alexandersson is honest in his admission that he was a player who struggled when it came to being in and out of the side...
“Yes, unfortunately I think injuries were a big part in me not performing as consistent as I wanted. I have always been a player that gets better the more I play” he told me when we spoke.
In a previous interview with Evertonfc.com he spoke of his frustration at himself for his performances in the last year and a half of his time at the club, and points to a lack of confidence after coming back from the 2002 World Cup and not being a regular starter, something he wishes he would have dealt with in a stronger fashion.
As well as the injuries that hampered his first season at the club, there was also the change of manager to contend with during his second season, as Walter Smith was sacked and replaced by a young David Moyes, arriving from Preston North End. So how did the two managers compare in style?
“I would say that Walter Smith was maybe a bit more from the old school, whereas Moyes came in with fresh new ideas and training methods etc.” he tells me.
“But I also felt that Smith was happy to delegate to his team around him, while Moyes always wanted to be the one in charge of all areas”
Niclas was mostly part of an Everton squad that flattered to deceive, with players such as Paul Gascoigne and David Ginola at the end of their careers, but he was also at the club to witness the emergence of a certain Wayne Rooney. So who did he rate as the most talented he played with at Goodison, I ask?
“That’s a really difficult question, If I can mention a few it would have to be Duncan Ferguson, Thomas Gravesen and obviously Rooney. But then you could still see the talent of Gazza, even though he was well past his best when he came to Everton”
The mention of Duncan Ferguson leads me to my next question, was Niclas surprised to see his former teammate step up to take the reigns as caretaker manager this season, following the departure of Marco Silva?
“No I wasn’t really surprised. I have met him a few times when I have been back over to visit the club and seen that he was involved with the youth teams. He has certainly got the right passion and he has such a big Everton heart, so with a bit of experience I’m sure he would do a great job.”
Despite a stop start career at club level, Alexandersson had a rather successful international career – representing Sweden over 100 times and playing in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, as well as Euro 2000 and 2008.
He scored 7 goals for his country, most notably scoring against England in a 1-1 draw in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup in Japan.
So to the future, Alexandersson tells me he is impressed with the ambition shown by the club with the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti, alongside the plans for the new stadium on the banks of the Mersey. Does he think the club can really push on and realise it’s potential?
“I really hope so, the potential is most definitely there. Although it is still so hard to compete with the top clubs”
Now that his playing career has come to an end, what is Alexandersson doing with himself, I ask…
“I’m living in Gothenburg where I work as a Football coach in Änglagårdsskolan. Änglagårdsskolan is a school connected to IFK Gothenburg, with just over 300 students, who train Football three times a week during the school term.”