Remembering….Halmstads BK v Newcastle United
After two Allsvenskan titles under the management of Roy Hodgson in the 1970s, the mid-nineties sparked a mini-gold rush for the club from the south-west of Sweden. After lifting the 1994/95 Svenska Cupen, HBK then went and won Allsvenskan in 1997, during a period coinciding with the emerging talents of Fredrik Ljungberg, and again in 2000.
Yet the 1990s was also a period where the club made a mark in Europe. In 1995, HBK played Italian Cup holders Parma off the Gamla Ullevi pitch as they triumphed 3-0 in a Cup Winners’ Cup match before the Italians won the second-leg 4-0. The following year saw HBK embark upon another European campaign where they faced Newcastle United in the first round of the Uefa Cup. This would be the first occasion that the Magpies would play a competitive match against Swedish opposition – and as of 2011, it is something that has never been repeated.
HBK travelled to Newcastle for the first-leg on 10 September 1996 and lost 4-0 to the 1995/96 English Premier League runners-up, who had just added £15 million pound man Alan Shearer to their squad. Two weeks later, Newcastle made the journey to Sweden and Michael Hudson was among the Geordies at Örjans Vall:
We’d already been to Wembley, where we’d been outplayed by Manchester United and soaked through as we made our way back to the pubs.
Some of us had travelled on to Anderlecht’s Constant Vanden Stock Stadium two days later, hidden ourselves among Sunderland fans to see Les Ferdinand’s headed winner at a decrepit Roker Park, and seen Newcastle start their UEFA Cup campaign with a 4-0 home victory over Swedish part-timers Halmstads BK. And now, as a squad containing Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley, David Ginola and Philippe Albert made their way to the west coast of Scandinavia, a hundred odd of us had just landed at Copenhagen Airport on a late September morning in 1996
We switched to a coach, hung our flags up in the back window and drove north through the capital towards the Helsingor ferry and Sweden, our third country of the day. I sat with a group from Shildon, County Durham who I’d met on the way to Carrow Road the previous season. “Aye, so I took a ball to Seaton sands,” said one, necking the last of an Elephant Beer, “and I chucked it to one of the seals.” “What happened?” “Nowt, it just bounced away. I thought they’d be able to do tricks and that. I’ve seen them on the telly.” “You’ve never met Aldy, have you?” someone whispered. “It’s best not to ask.”
The beer ran out soon after Helsingborg and by the time we checked in to the Hotel Tylosand we were all straight on the hunt for more. The Blackpool of Sweden was how someone had described Halmstad, but it looked more like Bamburgh as we dumped our bags in the lobby and looked out at the beach: clean, windswept and completely unexciting. Ordering a pint in the hotel bar taught us two immediate lessons: that alcohol in Sweden was even more expensive than Denmark and that we were staying in a building owned by the two members of Roxette, guitars and platinum discs laid out around the walls. “What country’s that?” asked Aldy, pointing through the window at a bit of land as wide as a football pitch, the height of a corner flag out of the sea and empty but for a couple of wooden cottages, a flag pole and a lighthouse painted in red. “Country? It’s just a rock, man,” answered an incredulous voice. “It’s about the same size as Jersey, isn’t it?” “Bergerac must have had an easy job, then.”
Dressed for success (sorry), a bendy bus took us to the Örjans Vall stadium and a bar that had apparently been smashed up by supporters of Djurgården a few weeks before. We headed to the ground to collect our tickets, were pointed down the side of a river and ended up cutting across a field towards a small white caravan. “I want the ticket office not a hot dog,” someone muttered before we saw the open flap and a handwritten sign with ‘Tickets’ written on in marker pen. It was in keeping with the rest of the facilities at the Örjans Vall, which had been built in the early 1920s and used for two of the games in the 1958 World Cup. As we took up our places in the uncovered stand behind the goal, we could see people playing tennis twenty metres from the pitch. This wasn’t exactly Cold Blow Lane.
A crowd of 7,500 people had come to see if Halmstad – who’d beaten Faustino Asprilla’s Parma side 3-0 at home a year earlier – could pull off a miracle. The home side lined up with a young Freddie Ljungberg; Newcastle had Shearer, Ferdinand and Asprilla in attack, and a makeshift back three of Albert, Darren Peacock and Warren Barton. There were always likely to be goals.
The first came two minutes before the Hungarian referee whistled for half time, Ferdinand controlling a Keith Gillespie pass, spinning his marker and smashing a volley on the turn past Håkan Svensson in the Halmstad goal. For the few hundred travelling fans that would be as good as it got, the team attempting to coast through the second half before falling to two sucker punches in six minutes in the final quarter of the game. First Torbjörn Arvidsson bundled in after Pavel Srnicek parried a Robert Andersson shot, and then Magnus Svensson materialised from midfield to strike home the winner off the underside of the bar. Keegan was visibly furious, his mood not helped by the Swedish TV crew who unwisely asked “Tell us, Kevin – did you let Halmstad win tonight?” “If we think we’re the sort of side who can go out, stroll about and win games then we’re kidding ourselves,” he said in his post-match press conference. Aldy was just as puzzled the following day. “Is this fruit ok to eat, do you reckon?” he asked, staring at the breakfast buffet. “It’s not poisoned, if that’s what you mean,” someone answered. “Nah, man,” he said, shaking his head at the stupidity of the reply, “but it might be that plastic stuff, just for display.”
Which is probably how Manchester United felt three and a bit weeks later.
Halmstads BK – Håkan Svensson, Peter Vougt, Markus Jönsson, Tommy Andersson, Fredrik Andersson, Magnus Svensson, Anders Smith, Fredrik Ljungberg, Peter Lennartsson, Torbjörn Arvidsson, Robert Andersson. Subs used – Mattias Karlsson, Stefan Selakovic.
Newcastle United – Pavel Srnicek, Warren Barton, Darren Peacock, Philippe Albert, David Batty, Keith Gillespie, Robert Lee, Peter Beardsley, Faustino Asprilla, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer. Subs used – Lee Clark, Paul Kitson.
Goals – Ferdinand (43 mins), Arvidsson (74 mins), Svensson (81 mins).
Attendance – 7,847.