Henrik Larsson about sly digs
Lars Winkler was in Glasgow to interview Johan Mjllby before the EC 2000. One day he was waiting outside the stadium when a Henrik Larsson training to come back from injury passed by. Arent you going to interview me as well? Henrik said. Sure, I can do that, a surprised Lars replied. Do you have time now? Soon, Lars dropped his notepad and pen on the table. Hey, why bother with this. I could have written this before I came here, both the questions and the replies. Lets do something else instead. Henrik was the one to be surprised now. He said that he provided dull replies because he had to guard himself, be careful. He didnt trust journalists. Lars said that he wasnt interested in speculating about his comeback or to look for sensations. What do you want to talk about? Henrik wondered. Anything, Lars replied. Why dont you tell me how you prepare for games?
How do you prepare for a game?
- To begin with, I always prepare mentally, tell myself that it will hurt out there and that it should hurt. You have to enter one-on-ones like you mean it. Even when youre not a big guy you have to get in there and deliver a few blows to show what youre made of. If you jump in and tackle even if you are a bit late entering it the opponent might hesitate the next time. Its those kind of things going through your mind the first few minutes. The first touch, I always try to make it simple, bring the ball down on the chest, pass it back, calm, easy. Basic.
- To get into the game. The next ball you receive, I can knock it over or past the defender. If you try that the first you do and miss, you want to try even harder the next time and theres a good chance you fail completely after that. These kind of things are especially important for a player like me who likes to have the ball and challenge the opponent.
Youre sitting before games telling yourself it will hurt, how do you prepare?
- I know that it will hurt, but I also know that after all my session in the gym, Im bloody strong. Im stronger than my opponent. I can run more than they can. Even if it will hurt, it will hurt more on them. I know that I will get my punches, tackles, nasty ones from behind, everything. If you are aware of this from the start.
the sly digs?
- Which I or they deliver? It doesnt happen often, but now and again it does happen. Most of the time its I delivering them actually.
- You really want to write it but I dont want to say.
- Its really nasty from time to time.
Do you do like Vinnie Jones did on Gascoigne?
- Sometimes you walk in front of a defender and pull their pants. I mean, if you get hold of the package, you just pull even harder. Its everything from I understand that this is fun to read but I have to think about being a role model. People sit and read that I do this and that and they interpret it the wrong way.
But isnt it about understanding what football is about today?
- Well, its tough. The defenders dont hesitate kicking me down if they get a chance. I got to think, if I get a chance I mean, Im almost always with my back against them. Its almost always them kicking down me. Lets say theres a 50/50 ball. Often you will come in late but you will go in with the studs a bit for them to feel it. Dont get me wrong now, you always go for the ball, but you at the same time you protect yourself. In other situations you want to go in one direction but feel that someones got a hold of your shirt. You look for the linesman and the ref and then you strike. I punch him in the stomach or over the hands to get loose.
How much does the ref see?
I dont think he sees much
Its happening fast?
- Yes, its no big swing at him, but so that they will feel it. Of course, you use your elbows but I dont feel like delivering an elbow to someones head. Its more often that you use them to deliver one here (he points to the upper arm). You know what it feels like to get an elbow there when you are relaxed.
You dont get anywhere in modern football if you dont play like that?
- No, you wont ever get away from the one marking you.
Whats the Scottish defence like?
- A bit nasty, often stick a leg in you, drag your shirt. Ive never received a punch by a Scottish defender, but been cut down like lumber several times.
Whats it like on national level?
- Its harder, you play a notch tougher.
Arms, legs, fists?
- Yes, for sure
What can you not do?
- You can never head-butt an opposing player or elbow him in the face on purpose. It is wrong but it happens of course. You can do most things. If I play a tough player I dont care very much. I know that if I get the chance Ill get past him. But then I can play tough if he plays tough. If hes nasty I will be nasty back.
Whats the mouthing like out there?
- I talk quite a bit myself. I dont think Im particularly fun to meet when it comes to that.
What do you say?
- Its everything from I met your wife this weekende, it was damn fine to all kind of things like that. Its the kind of things you say out there. Its nothing you plan.
And what do you get to hear?
- All kind of things. You know when youre knocked over and they dont feel like its a free-kick theyll give you a you devil *******. Nothing personal. Its never anything about my skin colour.
- No, except from in Allsvenskan.
You got a bigger mouth than your opponents?
- I dont think, I just blurt something out in the heat of the moment. Even if you know its wrong you do it because you know that you will annoy. Get them out of balance, and bang, theres a yellow card. You got them by then.
Its about small margins?
- Yes its about getting this first advantage. There is nothing better than playing against a defender who got an early yellow card.
At least you look kind?
- Yeah, but looks can deceive. Ha-ha. I have never been very big and always had to find ways to show myself. Even if Im not big I know it hurts to meet me. Im 100% sure about that.