Norwich City Cult Heroes: Matty Svensson – a Swede with attitude
Matty Svensson had a short stay at Norwich, but English football clearly left an impression – as Chris Lakey found out for the latest in our Cult Heroes series
Mathias Svensson was one of the unlucky ones.
Svensson made his debut in a famous 2-0 win at Portman Road in December 2003 – but it was another debutant, Leon McKenzie who stole the headlines by scoring both goals.
The Swede had joined City on loan earlier that month - but the flavour of the month had always been Darren Huckerby, confirmed when the spotlight shone even more brightly on him with the Boxing Day ‘reveal’ that he had signed a permanent deal.
Svensson was an easy-going sort of bloke: no fuss, no drama. He just did his job – convenient given that McKenzie and, particularly, Huckerby, would always be higher up the food chain at Carrow Road.
As then manager Nigel Worthington explained at the time: “English football and Swedish football is very similar. It’s rough and ready and all action. That is why so many Swedes come across here and do well.
“I’m delighted that Mathias has decided to come and join us. He will be a big asset. He’s hungry and ambitious and is just what we’re looking for to add to what we’ve got. He upsets defenders, he’s a handful to mark, he’s aggressive and he can score goals.”
Svensson headed to England after cutting his teeth at IF Elfsborg before moving to England, playing for Portsmouth, Crystal Palace, Charlton and Derby (loan) before joining Norwich for £50,000.
In his one and a half seasons he scored 11 goals in 27 starts: not the most prolific striker, but after a difficult start when he scored just once in his first 11 games (in his first home game, against Nottingham Forest), he began to improve, and scored six in five games in March/April.
Promotion saw the transfer fee rise to £300,000, but the Premier League wasn’t kind to Svensson: his four goals, including a double against Bolton, was a poor return from 10 starts and a dozen appearances from the bench.
Relegation from the top flight triggered a clause in the Swede’s contract and off he went, back to Elfsborg for £100,000.
“I had probably the best time of my career when I was at Norwich, the last two years when I was in England and I think maybe I went home a bit too early,” he said a few years later.
Svensson was trouble for defenders – six years before he arrived his physical threat upset City boss Mike Walker after a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth. Walker had described Pompey’s physical approach as “scandalous”.
You doubt Svensson would have been too bothered. An interview a few years later suggested he wasn’t that impressed by the managers he worked under in England.
“Alan Curbishley is highly-rated in England - because people don’t know what goes on in the dressing room,” said Svensson of his former Charlton boss. “He only cares about the first team and doesn’t give a damn about the rest of the squad. You just get dropped and banished without a word of explanation. Curbishley doesn’t give a s**t about any of his players.”
Alan Ball and Harry Redknapp got the sharp end as well, with only Terry Venables coming away with any praise.
“The only good manager I had in England was Terry Venables. He brought me to Portsmouth and I really rated him,” he said. “But a lot of the other English managers know diddly squat about football and just don’t want any foreigners. Look at a guy like Alan Ball. When he was the manager at Pompey and gave his first team-talk all the players were just laughing at him.
“He was just one of the bad ones they have in England. Come on, just look at Harry Redknapp. Oh my God. When you see how he is regarded, it’s no wonder that foreign managers dominate the Premier League.”
Players didn’t get off lightly: “Patrick Vieira is a really dirty player but he doesn’t have the same psychotic personality as (Roy) Keane,” said Svensson.
“And another psychopath is (William) Gallas at Chelsea. We have had some really tough duels and he is really dirty.”
Matty Svensson - likeable chap. With an edge.