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THE MAN FROM URUGUAY:

Danny Bergara -
A Footballing Journey

Danny Bergara was the first foreign football coach to work with the English national side when he spent two years in the early 1980s working with the England under 18s and under 20s.

Working against all the prejudices that came at the time with being a foreigner in the country that has always been considered as ‘the home of football’, Danny worked his way from coach to becoming the first manager of an English Football League side whose first language wasn’t English.

When leading his Stockport County side out in the Autoglass Final against Stoke City on May 16th, 1992, Danny also became the first foreigner to manage an English Football club in a Cup Final at Wembley.

During his time at Edgeley Park, Danny led the Hatters to three further finals at the National Stadium – unfortunately, all of which ended in defeat. Nevertheless, Danny had put himself and Stockport County firmly on the football map.

Danny Bergara

By Stuart Brennan, Manchester Evening News

There has never been a football manager quite like Danny Bergara. Passionate, hard-working and eccentric. The man who won County their first promotion in 24 years. The man who wrote the most incredible programme notes ever seen. Everyone connected with County in the early 1990s has a story to tell about Bergara. The little Uruguayan magician made his mark on Edgeley Park, all right. When he arrived from Rochdale in 1989, County had spent two decades festering in the troughs of the Fourth Division. During the next six giddy years, they won a promotion, came within a whisker of another - missing out in the play-offs three times - and made four trips to Wembley, having never played there before his arrival.

But Bergara’s footballing journey began long before, in his home country when, as a 14-year-old, he signed for Racing Club Montevideo. Making his first team debut at the age of 15, he won the 2nd Division at just 16, and represented Uruguay at under-17 level.

At 20, he moved to Europe to sign for Real Mallorca where he thrived in his new surroundings, helping to win the Second Division championship in 1965 and finishing as the club’s top scorer three times before a £25,000 transfer took him to Sevilla in January 1967. In mainland Spain, Danny continued to flourish, picking up another Second Division title medal and top-scoring three times, but following an £8,000 move to Tenerife his playing days were ended by a calf injury.

After the end of his playing days, Danny and his English wife moved to St Albans to open a travel agency. Fate was to play a hand as he began a new career as a coach.

In 1973 Danny began coaching at nearby Luton Town. He proved a natural in his new role, inspiring youngsters such as the future England international Ricky Hill with his emphasis on skill, and when Luton boss Harry Haslam moved to Sheffield United in 1978, he took Bergara with him.

“On the 9th of March 1963, when tourism was just taking off, with a bible (from my brother) in my pocket, I set off aged 20 from Dover by boat and then train to Mallorca with a college friend of mine. Who would have imagined my destiny was about to unfold just two months later! I met Daniel at the end of May 1963. I do remember asking Daniel in broken English when first meeting him what he was studying or what was his profession aside from playing football. His answer was simple “I am a professional footballer” I hadn’t realised that you could actually earn a living from playing football”.

Jan Bergara

Peter Mead
Luton Town

“I first met Danny when he joined Luton Town in the 1973/74 season. My first recollection was he signed as a player/coach. He must have been around 30 years of age and coming to the end of his career. I had just signed on as one of a group of about nine apprentices at the club which included youngsters such as Andy King, Lil Fuccillo, Alan Biley and David Carr all of whom went on to have really good careers in the game.

At training we would be split up into three groups, 1st team squad, reserve team squad and finally the youth team squad. We would go off in our different groups to warm up and prepare for training sessions. Danny`s warm ups were full of flexibility exercises and always with the ball working in pairs which was completely different from the old regimental style warm ups which we were used to. After training we found out this caused quite a stir with the first team players who actually stopped and watched this small stocky foreigner take our warm up and could not believe that a warm up could be so enjoyable!

We played in the Midweek Reserve League which was made up of local clubs like Northampton Town, Cambridge United, Charlton Athletic, Millwall and Peterborough United.


Andy King
Luton Town/Everton

“I started out at Tottenham but having been released I joined my home town team Luton Town about the age of 16. Having spent some time being coached by Danny I was soon in the first team, making my debut aged 17.

As well as being coached by Danny, I also played in a few games with him as he often appeared in the Combination League side. He could do things with a ball that none of us could do. I remember a time when I was coming to the end of my contract and was struggling for form, Danny put me at sweeper in a reserve game against Tottenham Hotspur and told me to watch the game develop in front of me. I had the game of my life, the confidence I gained from that one game soon earned me a place back in the first team and having played about thirty games I moved from Luton to Everton. The fee was £35,000 which was eventually worth £60,000 after I had played fifty games.”


Keith Edwards
Sheffield United/Hull City/Leeds Utd

“I was really saddened by Danny’s passing; he was the best coach I have ever worked with. I was never one for extra training with anyone until Danny arrived at Sheffield United. But then I often stayed voluntarily to work with him because what he did was worth doing.”

At Bramall Lane, the Uruguayan became assistant manager and chief coach, and his work attracted the notice of the Football Association, who enlisted him to coach the England under-18 and under-20 sides in 1980 and 1981.

Bergara went on to spend a year as National Manager of Brunei. He also coached/managed at Sheffield United (twice), Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Rochdale, Darlington, Rotherham United and Doncaster Rovers - but it was at Edgeley Park that he became renowned throughout football as he put serial underachievers Stockport County on the map.

Controversially, his Edgeley Park adventure ended with the sack following a bitter fall-out with his chairman, and although an industrial tribunal ruled in 1996 that he had been unfairly dismissed, his career never regained full impetus.

Bergara spent his last few years as a ‘scout’, working for Tottenham Hotspur under his old pal David Pleat and Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers under Mick McCarthy before passing away in 2007.

“Danny came, he saw, he conquered. He made a lasting impression on all his friends and colleagues as a canny football coach in a foreign country. He climbed a ladder fraught with difficulties and reached his goal. He was a great demonstrator of the skills of our game. He could trap, he could volley, he could shoot - he could bend the ball years before Beckham did.”

David Pleat

“I really liked Danny as a man first and foremost, I thought he was one of the best people I've ever worked with in football, and it goes without saying that he had a real talent when it came to spotting a player.”

Mick McCarthy

“On the 9th of March 1963, when tourism was just taking off, with a bible (from my brother) in my pocket, I set off aged 20 from Dover by boat and then train to Mallorca with a college friend of mine. Who would have imagined my destiny was about to unfold just two months later! I met Daniel at the end of May 1963. I do remember asking Daniel in broken English when first meeting him what he was studying or what was his profession aside from playing football. His answer was simple “I am a professional footballer” I hadn’t realised that you could actually earn a living from playing football”.

Jan Bergara
Danny Bergara

BOOK REVIEWS

FourFourTwo

A skilful inside forward for Mallorca and Sevilla, Danny Bergara is best known in the UK for his six years as Stockport County boss from 1989, becoming the Football League’s first manager whose mother tongue wasn’t English. It’s an intriguing story, as Brennan speaks to those who knew the Uruguayan pioneer.


Oliver Holt (on his way to cover The Superbowl)

No films on plane to New York. Wanted to read The Man from Uruguay. A terrific job by Phil Brennan on a wonderful football man, Danny Bergara.


Iñigo Gurruchaga - El Correo (Vocento)

I have enjoyed very much reading the book, I had read a couple of the articles on the great Danny Bergara in the past and had in mind to write something in the weekly column that I publish on English football every Monday. But I stumbled on the book before Christmas, and I have enjoyed greatly reading about the details. It is as entertaining as it is moving.

The Man From Uruguay - Phil Brennan

The Man from Uruguay: Danny Bergara A Footballing Journey

By Phil Brennan

Available from www.victorpublishing.co.uk

For further info on Danny Bergara visit www.dannybergara.co.uk