|OMG I can't believe, they played for the mighty Leeds! #2 Tomas Brolin!|
Tue 12th Jul 2011 19:08 by Marko
Just sixteen short summers ago, rather than the club paymasters operate a zero payout policy - they were actively fuelling our wildest dreams!
The summer of 1995 and Leeds were in search of a star, and they made no secret about it.
Those of us rich enough (or brave enough to use the works phone) to call CLUBCALL's premium rate telephone service three/four times a day would have been tantalised by the claims that bespectacled MD Bill Fotherby was scouring Europe in search of the household name needed to slot in alongside the formidable Tony Yeboah, who's loan move from Eintract Frankfurt was made permanent on the back of 19 goals and transform Leeds from upper mid-table also-rans to genuine title contenders.
Uruguay's Ruben Sosa, Darko Panchev the brilliant Macedonian and Inter star, Andrei Kancheskis, Tomas and Faustino Asprilla of Parma were all names in the frame for a mega-money move to West Yorkshire. Asprilla seemed to be the name cropping up the most and when giant Czech Tomas Skuhravy cited his wifes' dislike of the Leeds shops as a reason not to come to the Premiership, it seemed only a matter of time that the maverick Columbian would swop the white shirt of Parma for that of Leeds.
Alas the move fell through, the club cited a criminal investigation as the root of the problem. Asprilla allegedly had fired off a gun at a wild party at his home and his movements were strongly curtailed by the Italian authorities, Even the most criticial fan of the Leeds board in the Silver/Fotherby era accepted Leeds would start the season with just Sheffield United defender Paul Beasley as their solitary summer signing not through want of trying. Six months later, Asprilla would move to Newcastle so obviously the Geordies had better connections in the Italian probation service than us!
However Fotherby MD would not be defeated in his search for a big-name and back in those days, we did not have the dratted transfer-window where all deals have to be sealed by close-of-play on or around September 1st. Indeed Parma was to eventually prove Fotherby's fruitful hunting ground after all when on November 17th 1995 he sealed a £4.5m move for their Swedish international midfielder Tomas Brolin.
Even the sight of a portly Brolin, posing under the Swedish flag at Elland Rd did nothing to quell the enthusiasm of the fans who gathered for the home victory of Chelsea. Amidst strains of Abba records, Brolin was introduced to the crowd and the announcer was at pains to tell us he was really nice! Some of the press hacks were not so complimentary, the Sun trumpeted "Doubting Tomas" - the negotiations for Brolin's signature seemed to go on for weeks and it was claimed he had inserted a "get out" clause which could be evoked in the summer if he didnt settle in Yorkshire.
There was no time like the present and despite Brolin making a losing debut as a sub at Newcastle, he made his full debut in the League Cup win over fading champions Blackburn. In December 1995, he scored his first Leeds goal in a shocking 6-2 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, but the Hillsborough horror show was forgotten on Christmas Eve where Brolin turned in a classic performance in the 3-1 win over arch enemies Manchester United.
By late January 1996, it was apparently that rumours of a strained relationship between Brolin and his manager Howard Wilkinson had some substance. Following an embarassing 5-0 loss at Liverpool, Brolin was dropped for the visit to Aston Villa and rumour has it he was forced to help carry the kit hamper into Villa Park.
He was more out than in the team and it seemed a parting of the waves was inevitable. Elland Road public opinion however was firmly on the player's side and during March's farcical 3-0 League Cup humiliation at Wembley against Aston Villa the Leeds fans turned on Wilkinson, baiting him with chants of "Why is Brolin on the bench?" until the Swede finally entered the debacle.
Brolin finished the 95/96 season early, to go to Sweden and have surgery. The summer was dominated by the sale of Leeds United to Caspian and the High Court rumbles that followed. Brolin's issues relegated to a mere side show. Having failed to turn up for training and Leeds stopping his wages, on August 19th the club announced he was available for transfer at just £2m - Leeds preparing to write off £2.5m. To save face, Leeds agreed he could join Swiss side FC Zurich on loan the following day.
In September 1996, Wilkinson was replaced by George Graham. Despite the new Leeds boss appearing to want to start afresh, Brolin refused to accept the olive branch and refused Graham's overture for him to return to England so Graham could assess his suitability for his Leeds rebuilding plans. In the end, an exasperated Graham was forced to declare Brolin as an "inherited problem" and admit Leeds did not even have a phone number to contact him on!
Having seen a proposed move to Sampdoria collapse due to medical problems in November 1996, Brolin eventually found himself back at Parma on loan - with the view to a permanent move at a knock-down price. However Leeds were left smarting when the Italian's backed out of a deal to make their former favourite a permanent fixture in their side once again in the summer of 1997.
The farce, which included Brolin cheating death when he was involved with a collision with an elk in his native Sweden, continued until the Autumn of 1997 when Leeds paid a repoertedly £140,000 to terminate his contract. Bradford City made enquiries about signing him, but he joined Crystal Palace and in January 1998 he was appointed as their assistant-manager to Attillo Lombardo - however it was claimed that Brolin was merely Lombardo's interpreter.
United fans who thought we had seen the last of him were treated to one last sighting of him, which just about made up for the £4.5m we wasted on him. The whites' travelled to Palace and after five minutes he was forced off with an injured head. He came back on and cut a bizarre spectacle in a head-bandage and a Crystal Palace kit which was at least two sizes too small for him. For the rest of the game, the Leeds players seemed to be deliberately taking pot-shots at his bandaged head.
With his managerial experience at Palace ending in relegation, Brolin headed home to Sweden and played just one more professional game for Hudisvalis. He then became a businessman with a portfolio nearly as wide as the great man himself, opening an Italian restaurant in Sweden, a shoe and skin-care brand, four racehorses, property and a firm making vacuum cleaner nozzles.
Brolin has also tried his hand at playing poker professionally. He certainly had a lucky hand when Leeds gave him a deal worth £12,000 a week in return for just 20 starts and four goals!
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