An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the League Two game against Mansfield Town on 13 January 2018.
Did you know that there are more moose per square kilometre in the beautiful, hospitable country of Sweden than in any other nation? I didn’t know that until just now.
It’s doubtful that any Swedish moose answers to the name of Marvin, but Cambridge United’s links with the home of IKEA and Wallander extend far beyond an affinity with the outsized ruminant.
I like to think, for example, that somewhere among Sweden’s vast forests there’s a football club where, at the final whistle of a home win, ‘Far, jag kan inte få upp min kokosnöt’ booms out through the PA.
This jaunty ditty, to the tune of ‘I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts’, was recorded in 1950 by gap-toothed Swedish entertainer Povel Ramel and figures prominently in the Lasse Hallström film My Life as a Dog. Lyrically unrelated to Billy Cotton’s megahit, it recounts a young boy’s failure to crack open his coconut. We’ve all been there.
Back to the links between Sweden and the U’s, Jonas Axeldal and Demba Traoré among them. They are pictured on this page thanks to ace caricaturist Colin Proctor.
They both arrived at the Abbey in the early days of the millennium but striker Axeldal stayed for less than a year, scoring twice in 19 games before returning home and making his mark as a coach at Falkenbergs.
Defender Traoré played 12 times in black and amber before departing for Enfield, then Greece, the Netherlands and Norway, where he plays for Asker.
But United’s first connection with Sweden came in 1992, when John Beck’s barnstormers undertook a pre-season tour of the Stockholm area and points south.
The club had been invited to visit following the Swedish TV screening of the famous 2-1 win at Ipswich in November 1991 that took the U’s to the top of Division Two.
The squad, depleted by Steve Claridge’s exit to Luton, Colin Bailie’s refusal to return to training and Richard Wilkins’ preference for staying at home to discuss other contract options, certainly made a mark on its host country.
Midfielder John Fowler made his debut in the opening match against Eskilstuna, but it was Chris Leadbitter and Dion Dublin who attracted attention by picking up two yellow cards apiece. Down to nine men after 50 minutes, the U’s lost 1-0, incurring another five bookings along the way.
Beck was convinced the ref had misinterpreted United’s commitment. ‘The Swedes were jumping and squealing but it was just good, hard English tackling,’ he observed.
Michael Norbury (knee) and Tony Dennis (Achilles) were ruled out of a game against Mjölby Södra, but Dublin scored a couple in a 5-0 win. The next match, at Täby, was called off when a storm flooded the pitch, but when it was staged the following day United used 19 players in a 2-0 victory.
The last game was a 9-0 stroll over Trosa with the Manchester United-bound Dublin netting five and Devon White (two), Lee Philpott and Michael Cheetham chipping in.
Answers on a postcard or here: Dion Dublin, Paul Raynor and Liam Daish all scored against Mjölby Södra, but which member of the United ground staff also contributed a goal?