The big interview: Tomas Brolin – "I was bullied at Leeds, but I don't regret joining them"

Tomas Brolin
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There was a rumour going around 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 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!


  • 1990-95 Sweden (47 caps, 27 goals)

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 wasn’t 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.

Tomas Brolin Crystal Palace

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 bullshit, 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.

Tomas Brolin Ballon d'Or

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

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

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.

This feature originally appeared in the August 2018 of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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