A host of former Owls penned articles for our popular matchday programme feature ‘Generation Ex’ last season, and these features will now be available at swfc.co.uk! The players take us through their experience of life at Hillsborough and relationship with the club. We start today with Wednesday’s greatest ever foreign import, 1991 League Cup winner and Swedish international right back, Roland Nilsson. Over to you, Roland….
Before I joined Wednesday, everybody at that time when I was playing in the 1980s, they all wanted to come to England because we had grown up with English football on the television. English football has always been where everybody wants to come to and it still is with the Premier League today.
Growing up, I started out as an attacking winger, then dropped into midfield and suddenly at Gothenburg we were struggling for a right back, so I started to play there and it went well, in the end I am glad for that decision.
Nowadays there are a lot of wing backs compared to right backs, and I think I would have adapted to the modern-day wing back position as well. When I went back to Helsingborg I played as a wing back, I enjoyed that as I liked to get forward.
I had played against England in a World Cup qualifying game and a couple of weeks later someone phoned up and said ‘would you be interested in coming to Sheffield?’
I had a look at the table at that time and Wednesday weren’t doing too good down towards the bottom. But I thought I’d go over and I spoke to Big Ron.
I trained for a week, then played for the second team and I really enjoyed it, after that we sat down and began talks.
Big Ron was a big influence. He explained why we were down at the bottom and he said ‘I’ve tried a lot of right full backs but I can’t get it right, and if you come over I think I’ll get it right.’
That is important for a player to hear, that you are going to join and start playing, so it was a key thing to know.
Big Ron said I was one of the most professional players he worked with, which is a great compliment. I think this is from when I started to play with Gothenburg, they were really good, they had just won the UEFA Cup and they had a lot of good players, so to be one of the starting players I had to show for myself and for everyone that I could be part of the team.
I knew training would be tough and I had to keep myself as fit as possible. After getting in there I always had the thinking that now I’m playing, no one else can take my place, I wanted to play every game.
I remember that I played a game for Sweden 24 hours before our FA Cup final replay against Arsenal in 1993. That was one of the toughest things I’ve done, playing an international game then playing a tough match 24 hours later, it was tough on the legs, the body and the brain.
I needed a couple of days off after that, then my energy started to come back, it’s not something I would advise anyone to try again!
When you come over as a foreign player you need to start playing well, there weren’t too many foreign guys playing in England and that meant you had to perform and give your best straight away or else you might not play.
I had lived in Gothenburg at that time and the cold was rather the same as Sheffield so that wasn’t hard to adapt to! I lived close to the ground to begin with, later I moved to Beauchief.
I think the fans were behind me from the beginning. I think they saw that I was a good player and I felt I had them with me. I always gave everything I had in every match I played.
The football made it very easy to come over and enjoy, because if you are a footballer your life revolves around the football, and my time was good while I was here.
During my first season I think we did very well and we started to get things right, suddenly we found ourselves at a point where we would look like we would make it, but unfortunately the balls that normally went in were hitting the post or the bar, or the keeper did a fantastic save.
At the end, in 1990, Luton got the result they needed to stay up while we lost to Nottingham Forest. We thought we had made it judging by the reaction of the crowd, but we found out after that we were relegated, which was devastating.
In the next season, 1990/91, the key thing was that we kept all of our best players, because we had a good side with good players.
We started very well in the season, but unfortunately for me I injured my cruciate ligament so I missed some months.
You could feel it in the club, that we knew we had a good side and that if we kept going we could do well, and after a little while in the League Cup, the feeling was also there that we could go all way.
It was good to look around and see the players that we had around us, it was frustrating for me because I couldn’t be involved, but I could support the players and do my rehab, I could still feel the players were enjoying playing.
The day we won the League Cup was an incredible day, I was very happy to come back from injury just before the final.
I’ve played in matches where I just felt that I was playing well and enjoying it, and this was one of them.
I think Lee Sharpe at that moment was the key player and I knew I was going to have my hands full, but obviously I started early to see how I could stop him. I knew it was a special task in that final and it was great to be able to stand there at the final whistle as the winner.
After the final against Manchester United I knew there was something special between me and the fans.
When I returned to play against Wednesday when I played for Coventry and got an amazing reception, it was a really great feeling.
It was one of those, that when you go to another place you never know how the fans of your former club will react, but they were just amazing really.
It’s always great to come back. The fans are still so good to me when you go the ground, you can feel the atmosphere.
I still follow the team and see how they are doing, I see them play when I can and I hope they will get to the Premier League again in the future.