the iceman cometh

This article originally appeared in 
MEHSTG Vol. 2 Issue 19 (February 2001)

When he was signed from Icelandic side, Valur Rejkavik, nobody really knew much about him, but they were soon to find out as Gudni Bergsson became a useful member of the Spurs team, mainly because of his flexibility in being able to play a number of positions.

A young law student and double winner in his home league, Gudni decided to try and make his way in the football world and came to England to have trials with clubs to see if they would take him on. His first try at a big club – Aston Villa, failed to produce any firm commitment from them and he then turned to Tottenham. It was November 1988 and the Icelander produced such good performances he was offered professional terms very quickly, especially because, as an amateur there was no fee involved. So in the following February, he joined some of the big name players in the Spurs team.

His favoured position was as a sweeper, but Tottenham mainly employed him as a left back. It was this lack of awareness by the management about where to utilise him to the optimum effect that eventually became his downfall. He seemed to have the ability to read the game so well from behind the defence, but playing a sweeper was still an alien idea to a lot of English coaches. This was despite playing under Terry Venables and Ossie Ardiles, who you would have thought would have been the best coaches for Gudni to play under as they had experienced football abroad and could have instituted a sweeper system that would have suited him down to the ground. However, that was not to be, so he settled into the role that had been thrust upon him.

Bergsson was a calm, level-headed footballer, who took things as they came and very rarely got ruffled. In fact the only time I can remember him getting into any trouble was when he was warming up in a game against Nottingham Forest. The ball went off for a Forest throw-in and Gudni refused to release the ball to Stuart Pearce. Now of all the people in all the games, Gudni had to pick on “Sicko” !! He was good at bringing the ball out from the back and his distribution wasn’t bad for a Spurs defender !!

For emergency reasons, he was also played in midfield and produced a good string of performances there, despite it not being a natural position for him. In a game, coincidentally, against Forest again, at the City Ground, he was instrumental in the 3-1 win achieved there in August 1991. He scored his best goal for Spurs that day (out of the two in his White Hart Lane career), breaking from deep in his own half, before exchanging passes with Gordon Durie to take the ball in his stride and strike it past Crossley in the Forest goal. The other goal was not so memorable as it came in the 1-5 reverse at Plough Lane in 1991.

Bergsson continued to be a regular in the Icelandic national side and showed why he was best used in the sweeper role for them. The lack of foresight by Spurs managers during his career meant that, like others who have been bought by Tottenham, not a great deal of thought had gone into where to play him for the best. After having been in and out of the side, he eventually went to Bolton Wanderers where he has had a successful time personally, even though the team have been up and down between the First Division and the Premier League. As captain of the club for a while, he has given stability to their defence and quite often crops up on the scoresheet – and not all from set pieces either. With Sam Allardyce currently managing to keep the Trotters up amongst the promotion chasers, we may yet get to see Gudni grace White Hart Lane again.

SID E NETTING

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