Swedish Vale fan Tomas Silfver has kindly allowed OVF to reproduce his interview with former Port Vale striker Luke Rodgers on this website.
This article originally appeared on www.svenskafans.com
I’d never thought that a former top-scorer for Port Vale would sign on for my Swedish club Hammarby, but this summer it became a reality. 2007-08 top scorer Luke Rodgers signed for the club as one of sacked manager Greg Berhalter’s last signings. It was clear that an interview with Luke was required.
I called him up and we decide to meet up at the restaurant Fenix in Södermalm, Stockholm. It turns out that he had rented an apartment from Hammarby just above Slussen, a popular part of Stockholm. I told Luke to order what he liked but he was content with a bottle of mineral water.
Luke Rodgers was born in 1981 and grew up in England’s second city Birmingham. He was a supporter of Birmingham City as a child and also had the chance to join their youth academy. He was pleased that they won The League Cup a few years ago, but that success was unfortunately followed by relegation to TheChampionship.
When it was time to leave the youth academy, he took the chance to sign for Shrewsbury at the age of seventeen. He played 1999-2005 for Shrewsbury and scored 65 goals in 176 matches and was very popular with the fans. He scored four hat tricks during that spell.
” It was also at Shrewsbury that I played my most memorable match. It was the Conference play-off -final in the 2003-04 season that we played at The Britannia Stadium. We managed to win on penalties and went into League Two , ” he tells me.
In the summer of 2005 Luke decided it was time to move on and he ended up at Crewe Alexandra under the management of legendary Dario Gradi . He found it hard to get a regular place in the starting eleven, but scored nine goals in 38 games during two seasons with The Railwaymen . He also played with Tom Pope at Crewe and he is happy that Tom Pope did well last season.
It was a well-run club with dedicated fans and I’d like to to take this opportunity to thank all the supporters…
How come you signed for Port Vale in January 2007?
“I felt I wanted to move to another club. Port Vale’s former manager Martin Foyle had rung up Crewe to hear if the club had any players for sale. It suited me perfectly to sign for Port Vale. Even when I was at Shrewsbury and Crewe I always lived in Birmingham . ”
“I had a very good time at Port Vale. It was a well-run club with dedicated fans and I’d like to to take this opportunity to thank all the supporters. It was great to be the 2007-08 season’s top scorer with 12 goals. My best memory from my time in Burslem was when I scored against my former club Crewe Alexandra.” He also very clearly remember the rivalry between Port Vale and Stoke fans as he comments on rivalry between the clubs in Stockholm .
Some fans say that you could have become a cult figure like Tony Naylor if you had stayed at Vale Park?
“Oh, thanks for saying that. Well, I know who Tony Naylor is, but I do not think I could have become as good as Tony. I felt it was time to leave the club when I did. My relationship with the manager Dean Glover was not the best as you know as I did not like to be on the bench . Maybe I was a little hot blooded when I was younger and said things I should not have said that, but you get older and then you settle down. ”
Lee Sinnott was more strict and formal in his leadership. We players would not have minded if he had remained in the manager’s job…
How was it to work with the managers during your time at Vale Park. Presumably Dean Glover was the manager that you liked the least. How were Martin Foyle and Lee Sinnott as managers?
“Yes, they were very different , but I had no problem working with any of them. Martin Foyle was more of a players’ manager as he was more part of the squad as a friend. Lee Sinnott was more strict and formal in his leadership. We players would not have minded if he had remained in the manager’s job instead of being sacked in the autumn of 2008 .”
Many Port Vale fans will remember that you often ended up offside?
” Yes, but it’s kind of my style . Just look at the statistics how often I have been offside. I like to lie alongside the last defender and then it becomes easy to get in an offside position.”
I did actually watch Luke Rodgers play once. It was Port Vale’s 4-1 loss to Macclesfield that I first saw him play. It was Lee Sinnott’s last game as Port Vale manager as he was fired two days later and was replaced by Dean Glover .
Luke spent a lot of time on the bench when Dean Glover was the manager and he was not very happy there. After a quarrel with Dean Glover, he left the club in January 2009 to sign for Yeovil for the rest of the season.
In the summer of 2009, he signed for Notts County with new Arab owners who had promised that they would go on to make the club a big club and had acquired the former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and Hasse Backe as Director of Football and manager. However, it never came to fruition as the money wasn’t there and Rodgers followed Hasse Backe to New York Red Bulls in MSL.
It was really an experience for Luke to play in the US.
” Everything is so different, so organized and you had the opportunity to play with old stars. Players that I’ve never been close to playing against in England. You learn a lot by going abroad .”
His stay in the United States came to an abrupt end when his VISA was not renewed in early 2012. The club’s fans did what they could to convince the US immigration authorities that he should get a new visa and created the website www.americansforlukerodgers.com , but unfortunately it was all to no avail. Luke was forced to leave the United States in March 2012.
I think it would go much better for the English national football team if more players took the opportunity to play abroad and was trying to play in different leagues and so on…
“I think it would go much better for the English national football team if more players took the opportunity to play abroad and was trying to play in different leagues and so on. Unfortunately, most players want to stay in England where the big money is, ” he reflects.
He then ended up with Lillestrom in Norway, but the contract was cancelled after a few months when the club was not happy with his performance. Last season he played for Portsmouth and Shrewsbury. He believes Portsmouth has great potential to become a big club again when the club’s finances are back on their feet .
Luke tells us that then he signed for his first club Shrewsbury again – even though he knew that you should never go back to one old club and believe that you can repeat the old success again .
“You should never go back to your old club again, but I really wanted to play for Shrewsbury again,” he says. Unfortunately, it was not a successful second spell at the club. He left the club in March after he failed to gain a regular place in the starting line-up .
Who is the best manager you’ve ever had?
” It’s a simple answer . Hasse Backe whom I had both at Notts County and New York Red Bulls. It is also he who persuaded me to move to Sweden . He could really get the players to perform at their best during training and matches . England’s former coach Sven-Göran Eriksson was Director of Football while at Notts County. He was easy to deal with and often came down and talked to us players.”
The best player that you have been in the same team with?
“Simple, it was Thierry Henry during the time of the New York Red Bulls. And David Beckham is the best player I played against .”
Best player that you have played with in England?
“My good friend Ryan Lowe, who now plays at Tranmere Rovers.”
Luke thinks that it’s is great to get the chance to come to Sweden and play for Hammarby and Bajen’s devoted fans. Both club’s dedicated supporters were something he had heard about before he came here. He made his debut in the opening game between Hammarby and Örgryte at the new Tele2 Arena on July 20 in front of 30,000 people. It was a fantastic atmosphere and experience.
Politely, he says he likes the club Hammarby and that Hammarby is a well-run club. It is perhaps fortunate that he can’t speak Swedish so he can read the Swedish newspapers. On the day of the interview, the football journalist Mattias Lühr writes in Expressen that the Hammarby board should resign after the fiascos that have occurred this season.
Time passes and it’s about time to finish the interview. His girlfriend has been left behind in England and she is phoning him. I thank him for taking the time for this interview and wish him good luck for tomorrow’s game against Assyriska .
Maybe, I will tell you a little about my Swedish Club Hammarby IF. Hammarby are one of the most popular clubs in Sweden despite playing in the second tier, The Championship, for the last four years. Hammarby also has one of the highest attendances figures in Sweden despite playing in the The Championship for a couple of seasons now. I think they are ranked as number three when it comes to attendances in Sweden. 51 % is owned by its members and the remaining 49 % is owned Anschutz Entertaiment Group (AEG) who owns several arenas in USA and Europa. They also own Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS), Los Angeles Clippers (NBA) and Los Angeles Kings (NHL).
Hammarby was founded in 1897 and was founded by workers in southern Stockholm and has always been characterized by being the underdog to the other two clubs in Stockholm – AIK and Djurgården. Hammarby have only been Swedish champion once in 2001. In the middle of that season, the manager Soren Cratz was told he would not get a new contract because he got the team to play “boring football”. This motivated the players to work harder and thus ended with the team became Swedish champions for the first time that year!
Footnote 1: The day after the interview, the Assyriska-Hammarby match takes place in Södertälje. Luke came onto the pitch as a substitute with ten minutes left to play. While he was waiting to get into the game, Assyrsiak reduces Hammerby’s lead to 1-2 and Thomas Dennerby moves down Kennedy Bakirciouglu to midfield resulting in Luke playing alone on top. It’s a thankless task to come in when Assyriska is pushing for the equaliser. Rodgers is one of the fastest playersI’ve seen on a football pitch for a long time.
Footnote 2: A few days ago, Hammarbys chairman resigned after he realized that the supporters had no confidence in him since Hammarby will probably miss out to promotion to the Premier League in Sweden this season. The chairman is elected at an annual meeting every year.
Interview (c) Tomas Silfver – our thanks to Tomas for allowing us to reproduce this