When Tord Grip was appointed second-in-command to England’s national team boss Sven Göran Eriksson, it was not his first direct experience of English soccer. Some 40 years previously in 1961, while a promising young Swedish player, he had spent three months in England.
During this period, the future England assistant manager appeared for both Aston Villa and Skegness Town.
Tord Grip First Experience Of English Football
During his stay, Grip made an impact at both clubs. He even provided a guest column for the Birmingham Saturday night football special, the Sports Argus, thus allowing a deeper investigation into his time in England than might otherwise be possible.
Tord Grip was born in Ytterhogdal on 13 January 1938, and after playing for his local club Ytterhogdals IK, the footballer joined Degerfors IF in 1956 at 18.
Degerfors were members of Division 2 Svealand at the time, but despite his tender years, Tord went straight into the first team, making his debut on 29 July 1956 against Köpings IS in what was the opening league match of the season.
He soon established himself as a regular in the team, playing inside forward and scoring regularly. His form attracted the attention of the national selectors.
National Team Appearances
In July 1958, he won his first cap at the U level (the Scandinavian equivalent of under-23) when Grip played in the 5-2 victory over Finland U on his home pitch at Degerfors, scoring twice. The 1959 domestic season was particularly successful for Tord Grip.
He continued to represent his country at the U level while netting 23 goals in 22 games to help his club win the Division 2 Svealand title.
Promotion to the top-flight (the Allsvenskan) was achieved via a play-off victory over Landskrona BoIS. Degerfors consolidated their position in the top division during 1960 under English coach Billy Burnicle, the former Lincoln, Bradford City, and Aldershot halfback.
By the time he visited England early in 1961, Tord had established a reputation as a talented youngster.
He had already won eight caps at the U level and spent a season as a regular in a top-flight team. His visit came when his employer, the Swedish steel firm Uddeholm, sent him to their office in Northwood Street, Birmingham, for three months during the close soccer season in his home country.
Not long before the Swedish player came to the attention of Aston Villa, who had just been promoted back to the top flight after a year’s absence in the old Second Division.
The Sports Argus reported on 28 January that “Tord Grip,” a 22-year-old from Degerfors, was likely to sign amateur forms for Aston Villa, and he seems to have done so. However, no registration was ever lodged with the Football League.
When his guest column appeared in the Argus by early March, the future international manager linked up with the club and attended evening training sessions twice a week.
The Aston Villa manager was Joe Mercer, who later went on to have a spell as caretaker manager of England, although it is unlikely that he would have had much contact with Tord Grip.
However, Tord’s first games in English soccer were not played at Villa Park but for the unfashionable Central Alliance club Skegness Town. To modern readers, this might seem an unusual move. However, the Swedish national team coach, George Raynor, was also manager of Skegness Town, seemingly juggling the two contrasting roles with ease.
When international duties took over, the east coast club would be run by their committee until the Swede could return once more to his domestic responsibilities. The late 1950s and early 1960s were probably the heydays of Skegness Town.
The club joined the Midland League in 1958-59, where they competed on equal terms with the likes of Peterborough United, Gainsborough Trinity, North Shields, and Spennymoor.
When that competition folded in the summer of 1960, the Lillywhites, joined the Central Alliance Division One South. From 1958 to 1961, Skegness was a solid semi-professional club, and almost all the first-team regulars had previously appeared in the Football League.
The two most experienced members of the side at the start of 1961 were goalkeeper Terry Webster (172 appearances for Derby County) and center-half Charlie Williams (158 games for Doncaster Rovers).
Charlie Williams achieved national fame much later on as a stand-up comedian. Although this was non-league football, it was of a relatively high standard.
The possibility that Tord Grip might appear for the Central Alliance club was noted in the Skegness Standard on 15 February 1961. His debut came when he appeared at inside left in the fixture at Bourne Town on 25 February. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. The Swede had a relatively quiet game.
However, his class was readily apparent, and the match report noted, “Grip kept pegging away as a useful link in a forward line better balanced than Bournes. The future Sweden soccer coach managed to make ground quickly from defense into attack.”
Making A Name For Himself
The following Saturday, the Lillywhites were at home to Kettering Town reserves, and this time the Standard match report bore the heading “Swede is the Star Player.”
Again, Grip produced a splendid performance as his team won 2-0, the highlight coming with his goal on 48 minutes: “He seized on a mistake by Lloyd close to the left post and shot into the net from what seemed an almost impossible angle.”
Tord’s third and final game for the Lincolnshire club came on Saturday, 11 March, when the team again met Kettering’s second string.
Although Skegness lost 2-1, his performance again attracted praise, the match report noting, “Grip was a constant danger as he schemed to get the attack going.” (Skegness Standard, March 1961)
After making three appearances for the Central Alliance club, Tord Grip achieved his ambition of appearing in Aston Villa’s colors when he played for the club’s ‘A’ (third) team in a Midland Intermediate League game at Stoke City on Saturday, 18 March.
The team showed eight changes from the previous week’s game against Wolves (when a young George Graham wore the number 10 shirt).
It included two future stars in Lew Chatterley and John Sleeuwenhoek and several players who made a career in the lower divisions. Villa outclassed their opponents, winning 5-0. It was Tord’s only game in the famous claret and blue shirt before he returned home to Sweden.
Tord Grip Views
While in England, Tord Grip recorded his views on the game for readers of the Sports Argus (4 March 1961), providing some thoughtful comparisons between football in England and Sweden.
Interestingly, although he saw himself as a deep-lying inside forward, as the future coach announced that his ambition was to be the “Gerry Hitchens of Sweden.” Hitchens was Villa’s star player and an incredibly talented center-forward who was one of the few English players to play successfully in Italy during the 1960s.
The interview covers a full range of topics, including standards of play, training, stadiums, and attendances.
Tord was impressed with the Tottenham Hotspur side, who were on their way to achieving the ‘double’ (he had seen them play against Villa during his visit) but suggested that while the muddy conditions might favor English clubs, the best Swedish sides would be able to match a team of Aston Villa’s standing providing the pitch was dry.
Training exercises were similar in the two countries, although the Swedes, being amateurs, needed ‘a slave-driver’ to train them. Degerfors, a provincial club, could not match Villa’s gates but attracted average attendances of 18,000 in a town with a slightly higher population.
One of the most significant differences was in admission prices – the minimum charge for entering the Degerfors ground was 7 shillings, considerably more than the price that fans paid to enter Villa Park. He considered this was due to the higher standard of living in Sweden.
Back To Sweden
Once back in Sweden, Tord Grip resumed his place in the Degerfors line-up and with his country’s U international team, adding two more caps, both against Switzerland. The finest season of his career followed in 1963 when Degerfors challenged IFK Norrköping and AIK Fotboll for the Allsvenskan title, eventually finishing in the runners-up position.
Tord formed an extremely productive striking partnership with Lars Heineman, the two scoring 32 goals between them, leaving Grip as his country’s equal-third top scorer. A string of B international caps also came his way following his debut at this level against the USSR in May of that year.
Towards the end of 1963, the softly spoken Swede was called up to make his full international debut in an Olympic Games qualifying tie against Hungary when he scored once in his team’s 2-2 draw.
He was capped twice more during the 1964 season, against Netherlands and Denmark, but at the end of the 1965 campaign, he moved on to join AIK. The Swedish international spent three more years before becoming player-coach of Division 3 club Karlskoga.
Tord Grip Moving Into Managment
This was the start of a long and successful career that took him from Swedish domestic soccer to Norway, Switzerland, Italy, and finally to become Sven-Göran Eriksson’s assistant coach within the England set-up from 2001 to 2006 before moving to Manchester City with Sven.
It was Tord who persuaded Sven-Goran Eriksson to become a soccer manager. They were teammates and studying PE when Tord convinced the younger Sven to consider going into football management.
Then, after a brief stint as Mexico’s assistant coach, the softly spoken Swede returned to England to become Notts County’s assistant director of football. In 2010, Tord Grip had a short stint with Ivory Coast and then became the assistant coach of Kosovo between 2014-16. This was his last involvement before retiring.
Since retiring from management, Tord continues to watch 3-4 matches a week and freelance scouts for Southampton FC’s English premiership team.
Tord Grip Soccer Career
Full Name: Tord Erland Grip
Birthplace: Helsingborg, Sweden
- Tord Grip started his playing career in a 4th Division club called Ytterhogdals IK at 13/14. At Ytterhogdals, he also worked full-time as a baker.
- He moved to Degerfors, where he started working full-time for a steel company, studied part-time towards his degree in Physical Education, and also played for Degerfors IF (Division 1) from 1956 – 1959, then again from 1960 – 1965 (Premier League 1)
- He moved to Stockholm, where he studied part-time to complete his degree while playing for AIK in Stockholm (1966 – 1968).
- He won three international caps, playing for Sweden.
- 1969 – 1973: Player / Manager for KB Karlskoga (Division 1) – Sweden
- 1974 – 1975: Manager Örebro SK (Premier League 1) – Sweden
- 1976: Manager Degerfors IF (Division 2) – Sweden
- 1977 – 1978: Manager Swedish Women’s National Team, Swedish U16 National Team & Assistant Manager for Swedish National Team
- 1979 – 1980: Manager Örebro SK (Division 1) and Manager Swedish U21 National Team
- 1981 – 1986: Manager & Sports Director Malmö FF (Premier League 1) – Sweden
- 1986: Manager Campobasso (Serie B) – Italy
- 1987 – 1988: Manager of Norwegian National Team
- 1988 – 1990: Manager BSC Young Boys (Premier Division 1) – Switzerland
- 1991 – 1997: Assistant Manager Swedish National Team
- 1998 – 2000: Coach SS Lazio (Serie A) – Italy
- 2000 – 2006: Assistant Manager English National Team
- 2007 – 2008: First Team Coach Manchester City
- 2008 – 2009: Assistant Manager Mexico National Team
- 2009 – 2010: Assistant Manager Notts County – England
- 2010: Assistant Manager Ivory Coast National Team
- 2014 – 2016: Assistant Manager Kosovo National Team
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!