The man from Uruguay is the official biography of Danny Bergara, the first foreign national to coach an England football team.
When leading his Stockport County side out in the Autoglass Final against Stoke City on May 16th, 1992, Uruguayan Danny Bergara became the first ever 'foreigner' to manage an English Football club in a Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. During his time at Edgeley Park Bergara led the Hatters to three further 'finals' at the National Stadium, unfortunately all of which ended in defeat, nevertheless Bergara had put himself and Stockport County firmly on the football map.
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.
Bergara's footballing journey began 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. Bergara also represented Uruguay at under 17 level. Aged 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. On the mainland, Bergara 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.
Jan Bergara: 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.
In 1973 Bergara and his English wife Jan, moved to England to start their new life. They planned to start their own travel business, but due to an unusual set of circumstances he 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 the Luton boss Harry Haslam moved to Sheffield United in 1978 he took Bergara with him.
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. We played Plymouth Argyle reserves on 3rd April 1976 over the Easter period. Danny by then was well established as the youth team coach and due to injuries and suspensions to players at the club we were left with no substitute for this Combination match, so Danny, who was registered still as a player at the club, was named by Dave Pleat (reserve team manager) as the sub, thinking Danny, who had not played a full game for nearly one and a half seasons, would hopefully not have to be called upon to make an appearance. How wrong could he have been with Kim Wassell picking up an injury only a couple of minutes into the match.
On came Danny, an ageing 33-year-old, looking short, stocky and a bit overweight. Straight away the Plymouth players started taking the micky out of him and thinking they were in for an easy victory. Danny then went on to produce an excellent display of technique, skill and passing ability and he completely dictated the midfield for the rest of the game. Not running all over the place, because he was quite unfit, but by keeping and looking after the ball, by twisting and turning in tight situations and moving the ball on quickly and not getting caught in possession. He made two of the goals with inch perfect passes and played with the passion and commitment of a 23-year-old!
After the game all the Plymouth players wanted to know who he was and where he came from. It made me actually sit down and think, what an excellent player he must have been to be able to perform like that at his age, not really fit and hardly played any football for a long period of time, in what was a good quality reserve league, filled with experienced players.
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.
Alan Biggs (TalkSPORT): Today we happily accommodate Premier League managers speaking through an interpreter - even an England boss in the early days of Fabio Capello. Danny was a pioneer in going on to become the first Football League manager not to speak English as a first language. The Uruguayan went the extra mile to learn it, unlike so many who have followed him. Yet he was given too little credit for that.
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.
David Pleat: 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.
Mick McCarthy: 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.
The Man from Uruguay (A footballing journey) is the official biography of an extraordinary man and is available via Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0992785324 and also on Amazon Kindle https://tinyurl.com/y2gy85hx
I was nine years old when I first became aware of George Best, it was 1968 and I was living at my aunt Constance's house in Chorlton cum Hardy, as once again my parents were going through a 'rough patch' and as was the usual routine I had been 'farmed out'. Aunt Constance was a relative of my stepfather and although she had never married and had no children of her own, I always ended up staying with her in times of trauma in my parents relationship, this time however it appeared for good as I had also been enrolled in the local school, St John's and attended 'mass' on a Sunday at the Church further down the road.
Matt Busby attended the same Church and although I didn't know who he was when I first attended 'mass', I soon learnt how important he was to many football supporters. During the previous months I had become aware of all things football in Manchester as aunt Constance, had several lodgers in her big house many of whom were fledgling newspaper reporters and on a Sunday over breakfast I used to sit and listen to their regaling of the games they been to the previous day.
Little did I know it at the time but this was the most exciting period in years for mancunian football fans as both United and City were the two teams that everyone else in the country were talking about. I saw for myself at first-hand how good the two teams were as I was taken to Old Trafford and Maine Road on alternate Saturday's as the season neared its climax, although it was many years later that it became apparent that I had witnessed Best, Charlton, Law, Bell, Summerbee and Lee in their 'pomp'.
My first introduction to 'real' Football had been the previous May as my hometown team, Stockport County, received the Fourth Division Trophy on the last day of the season and, as I was to find out over the next forty plus years, in typical County fashion they lost to the bottom club Lincoln City by the odd goal in nine on their biggest day in years. I had been taken to the game as a treat and although I didn't realise it at the time I was going to spend the vast majority of my life witnessing many more disappointing days and nights watching the Hatters.
There were several things that I really loved about being 'farmed out' to Constance's, my regular visits to 'big games', my football education at the hands of the likes of James Lawton who was early into his career at The Daily Express, but most of all Constance had a television, something that we didn't have in our dysfunctional home. On that night in May 1968, I sat in a full lounge at Constance's as we all huddled around the black and white television set to watch United against Benfica in The European Cup Final. The game itself was remembered for it being the first occasion that an English team won the trophy but more than that it was the night that George Best became the idol of many young boys, and girls, no matter who their team was.
His brilliant goal in extra time was the stand out moment for me and I remember at school the next day every boy in the playground, both red, blue and indifferent was Georgie Best as soon as he had the ball at his feet, although having the longest hair amongst the boys, if not the best technical ability, I knew that it was I that stood out as the one most like him.
A couple of years later my mother and stepfather had finally 'separated' and my mother, sister, two brothers and myself moved into a new house in Heaton Norris in Stockport. I still visited Constance every Wednesday evening, as by now I had left primary school and now attended St Bede's College in the heart of Manchester City territory in nearby Whalley Range, so it was easy for me to call in on my way home to Stockport.
All these years later I am ashamed to admit that my visits to see Constance were not just about repaying the loyalty she had shown to me for many of my formative years, she had always treated me as the son she never had, indeed for one period in my very unhappy childhood she took me with her to Kilkenny in Eire where I stayed for several months during another of my parents 'breaks', another reason for my continued visits was that she always used to give me 'pocket money' which I used on every other Friday night to watch County.
Even though my love affair with Stockport County was starting to grow stronger I never forgot about my first footballing 'hero' George Best and Constance used to keep all the newspapers so that I could catch up on his latest deeds, whether they be good or bad.
It was common knowledge that George had had a new house built in Stockport as it seemed to be on the television or in the paper every week. One day after school myself and my pal Stan Alleyne decided to go and see this most famous of tourist attractions for ourselves. Whilst we were outside the house admiring the e-type Jaguar on the drive and playing with the ubiquitous leather 'casey' that went everywhere we did, a friend of George's came out and asked if we wanted autographs to which we both readily replied affirmatively, to our surprise we were invited in to collect them in person.
George was sat in the lounge watching the biggest television I had ever seen, and as we walked in he pressed a box on the arm of his chair and the television not only turned off but disappeared up the chimney, it was the most surreal thing I had witnessed to date. Over the next few years George was always in the headlines although unfortunately it was not always for football reasons and so imagine my surprise when one day not long after my seventeenth birthday I picked up a newspaper and there for all the world to see was the headline 'BEST signs for Stockport in the fourth division'.
I must have read an re-read the article a dozen times before it really sunk in, George Best was actually going to play for County, MY COUNTY, at Edgeley Park. He had agreed to play in three games for County all of which were to be at Edgeley Park and that first game against Swansea couldn't come quickly enough for me.
In an effort to get to know his new team mates, and also to give him some much needed match practice, George actually played in a friendly against First Division Stoke City in the days leading up to his debut for County and scored passed the England keeper of the day, Peter Shilton, with a well placed free-kick
The first thing that struck me on the way to the game was that I had never seen so many people walking towards the ground and when we got onto Hardcastle Road there was a sea of people the likes I had not seen before at Edgeley Park. The crowd was over three times the normal we were used to at County and most of them were there to see George and he didn't disappoint anyone who had come to see him.
Almost twenty minutes into the game, and having caused the visiting defence problems with two previous corner kicks, George sent over another in-swinging corner which Steve Potter in the 'Swans' goal could only palm into his net to give the Hatters the lead. Ten minutes into the second half and George took on and beat three men, and to my young mind at the time at least double that amount, before sliding the ball into the path of Lee Bradley who slotted the ball passed Potter to double our lead. With less than twenty minutes to play the Edgeley Park crowd got the one thing that the majority had come to see...a George Best goal!!
George began the move with a pass to Ian Seddon whose cross was headed on and George, with his back to goal, volleyed the ball into the net for a tremendous finish to the loudest cheer I had ever heard at Edgeley Park. Swansea did pull two late goals back to give us all a few nervous minutes before the referee blew for full time with County holding on to the two valuable points.
George's next game for County was a couple of weeks later, but my time in between was spent telling anyone who would listen that THE George Best had played and scored for MY Stockport County, it was an unbelievable feeling to know that all those years after I had witnessed the 'Belfast Boy' playing for Manchester United, he had played for County... and he still had it!!
George's second appearance for the Hatters came against Watford, and again the crowd was much larger than before his first game. George scored the opening goal and had a hand in a goal for his fellow Irishman Ian Lawther as County picked up a point against the 'Hornets' in a two all draw.
The last time I ever saw George Best play in the flesh came on Boxing Day in 1975 against Southport, he wore the number 11 shirt that he had worn against Watford and although he didn't score in his final game, his presence again attracted a bumper crowd with well over 6,000 in Edgeley Park to see the mercurial Irishman play his part in a one goal victory thanks to a goal from Micky Hollis.
Whenever I hear people talk about George Best I know that I have been blessed to have witnessed one of the world's greatest ever footballing talents, both at the height of his powers with Manchester United and also for Stockport County where he played a big part in County picking up seven out of eight points and certainly helped the club to make some much needed revenue as over 20,000 supporters came through the Edgeley Park turnstiles to witness his three appearances in the blue and white of County.
God Bless you George
I was asked by George Best's sister to contribute this story for inclusion in the book - 'George Best Will Not Be Playing Today'.
The book has been compiled using previously unpublished tributes from the many books of condolence opened after his death in 2005, as well as messages of support sent to the Best family by leading international figures.
The book’s title was chosen to sum up the unprecedented impact the mercurial footballer had on the game — taken from a poster outside a football stadium warning match-goers that the man they had most likely come to see was not on the team sheet.
I, like many Stockport County supporters, was lucky enough to see Best play for County on the three occasions he played for the Hatters, my memories take up two pages of this brilliant book. For more details visit http://www.georgebest.com
Written with my late friend Richard Harnwell 'A Pictorial History of Stockport County 1883-2006', The book started out life as a history of the club for release on VHS. By the time we had written our part, Richard had started to lose his sight quite rapidly, as a consequence of MS that he was suffering with. The production of the video was some way behind us and was still a distance from production, so I decided to turn the script into a book in the hope that Richard would see some reward for all our efforts. Unfortunately by the time the book came to print, he had passed away after a rapid downturn in his overall health.
The original book came out in 2006 after County had managed to stay in The Football League on the very last day of the season.
In true County tradition over the next five seasons they managed to win at Wembley Stadium for the first time, gaining promotion and followed that with a spell in administration before falling out of The Football League.
The 125 Year History of Stockport County DVD included all of the original script written by the two of us, added to by the studio to cover the two years between 2006 and 2008.
I then updated the book in 2011 to include the last five years of the club as a Football League club. Hopefully the next historical book on the club will show the rise back up into The Football League (EFL)