Dan Coker's Match Preview
With England’s upcoming World Cup quarter-final against Sweden coming up on Saturday, here’s a look back at the Hammers’ Swedish contingent.
Niclas Alexandersson was born on 29th December 1971 in Halmstad, Sweden and began his career with local club Vessigebro BK before moving to Halmstads in 1988 as a teenager. He joined IFK Goteborg in 1995, winning the Swedish title and playing in the Champions League before being signed by Ron Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday in 1997. The Owls were relegated in 2000 (although Alexandersson was voted Player of the Year by the supporters) and Everton manager Walter Smith swooped to sign the winger for a fee of £2.2m. He scored five goals in 66 appearances in all competitions for the Toffees before falling out of favour with new manager David Moyes.
Trevor Brooking signed the 31-year-old Alexandersson on a short-term loan for First Division West Ham during his second stint as caretaker manager in the early part of 2003/04. Alexandersson made eight appearances for the Hammers, recording four wins, three draws and one defeat. He made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 home win over Reading on 13th September 2003. His final game, a 2-2 home draw with Burnley on 18th October 2003, also proved to be the end of Brooking’s tenure with newly-appointed Alan Pardew waiting in the wings to take over. Pardew was keen to extend the loan but Alexandersson decided to return to Merseyside for personal reasons. He couldn’t force his way back into the first team at Goodison Park however and he returned to IFK Goteborg on a free transfer in January 2004. He retired in 2008 but made a brief return for the same club in 2009.
Alexandersson also received 109 caps for Sweden, scoring seven goals. He was a member of the Swedish squad at Euro 2000 and Euro 2008, as well as at two World Cups in 2002 and 2006. He opened his nation’s account in the 2002 World Cup, scoring the equaliser for the Swedes in their 1-1 draw with England in Saitama. Now 46, Alexandersson has worked on a project which combines education and football in Gothenburg.
Freddie Ljungberg was born on 16th April 1977 in Vittsjo, Sweden. The Ljungbergs moved to Halmstad when Freddie was five; he would later attend Sannarpsgymnasiet, the same school the aforementioned Niclas Alexandersson attended. Ljungberg began his career with local club Halmstads in 1994 at the age of 17, winning the Swedish Cup in 1995 and the Swedish league title in 1997. He moved to Arsenal in 1998 for £3m and scored 71 goals in 313 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners before moving across London to West Ham United.
Alan Curbishley signed the 30-year-old Ljungberg on a four-year deal for a fee approaching £3m, although then-chairman Eggert Magnusson negotiated the fee and Ljungberg’s contract. Ljungberg made 28 appearances for the Hammers, making his debut as captain in a 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City on 11th August 2007. He scored his first goal for the club on 9th February 2008 in a 1-1 home draw with Birmingham, with his second and final goal for the Hammers coming in a 2-1 defeat at Sunderland on 29th March 2008. His final game was a 2-2 home draw with Newcastle on 26th April 2008, a game which saw him break his ribs when Magpies defender Steven Taylor landed on him accidentally.
Ljungberg won 75 caps for Sweden, scoring 14 goals. He was a member of the Swedish squad at Euro 2004 and Euro 2008, as well as at two World Cups in 2002 and 2006. After Euro 2008, Ljungberg agreed to terminate his West Ham contract just a year into his four-year deal for a sum of £6m. Ljungberg stated, "I gave my all at West Ham and enjoyed my time there but the decision is the best for the both of us. Now, I will take my time to consider my football future”. His two goals for the Irons can be seen in my video below.
Ljungberg signed for Seattle Sounders in 2009 and joined Chicago Fire a year later. He signed for Celtic in 2011 before moving to Japan later that year to join Shimizu S-Pulse. He announced his retirement from football in August 2012 but announced a comeback in July 2014, signing for Mumbai City to promote the launch of the Indian Super League. He played just four matches before moving back to London where he became coach of Arsenal’s Under-15s in July 2016. He was named assistant manager of Wolfsburg’s first team in February 2017 but left the club six months later. Now 41, Ljungberg is back at Arsenal as the club’s Under-23 coach.