Danny Bergara is linked with several English football clubs, most famously Stockport County but there is so much more to his story including a two year period working for the England youth team, the first foreign national to do so, almost twenty years before Sven Goran Eriksson took charge of the first team.
Alberto Daniel 'Danny' Bergara was born in July 1942 in Pocitos, a residential area of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. The Bergara family owned a ranch, 180km from Montevideo, in Garzon, with 500 head of cattle and 3,000 sheep, but moved to Rocha in 1947, allowing the children to attend better schools, returning to the family ranch during the holidays. As a young boy on the ranch Alberto almost drowned in the sheep's disinfecting bath yet he loved the life his family had, particularly the opportunity to carry out his favourite pastimes such as fishing in the river in Garzon, shooting partridges, bare-back horse riding and outdoor barbeques. Every house in Uruguay seemed to have a built-in barbeque, as it was very much a meat producing and eating country. Alberto's favourite food was always steak.
His father Mario had died, aged just 36, in 1949, leaving his wife Maria Elena a widow with seven children. Alberto was just 7 whilst his youngest sister Pilar was still a baby. The family moved back to Montevideo in 1953 when Alberto was 11 years old where the children attended secondary school and university respectively. The ranch was rented out before it was eventually sold to very good friends of the family. The Bergaras were a very cultured and educated family, with accountants, solicitors, doctors, a defence minister and even a bishop amongst their numbers. Alberto's upbringing was based on true Christian values. The Bergara children were schooled in Rocha, with the Marista brotherhood. The Marist brothers, a Catholic Religious Institute came from Germany, and the founder of the school, brother Gandolfo Hengeled, had been the headmaster who went on to become the chief inspector of all the Marista schools in South America.
Bergara's footballing potential as a skilful and prolific inside-forward had been noticed at a very early age and he joined the youth team at Racing Club of Montevideo aged 14.
On the day of his debut the gate man wouldn't let him into the players entrance because he had short trousers on and he didn't believe he was playing. In that era, at least in Uruguay, long trousers were not worn until a boy reached 15 years of age, which then signified the beginning of the stage of maturity for boys. Bergara's rise from youth team to first team came rapidly, making his debut against Rampla Juniors, he went on to help Racing Club win the Second Division title in 1958, and thereby a return to the top flight. He made his début in the Uruguayan First Division the following season aged 16 going on to make around 50 appearances in the Uruguayan First Division, in which there were only 18 games per season. His first goal for the club coming against Defensor in the Artigas Cup.
With his family's work ethic in mind, Danny worked in the Banco Transatlantico whilst continuing his football 'education' and also during this period he won 3 caps for his country at youth international level, twice against Argentina and once against Chile. The local newspaper were quick to heap praise on the youngster: "We have seen in this future star of our football, all but a man, even though he is only 17 years old. He joined Racing Club at 14 in 1956 and immediately played against Nacional FC, the first time against the shirt of one of the 'big teams', in the reserves and scored against the two 'big clubs' Nacional and Penarol"
Danny's form had not gone unnoticed to the many scouts that travelled to South America on behalf of European clubs and in 1961 Fiorentina of Italy wanted to sign him but in that era the rules stated that a player had to have a parent or grandparent of Italian origin, so the move couldn't happen. However his continued excellent form had been brought to the attention of Spanish club Real Mallorca, whose Coach Jose Luis Saso had seen Danny whilst over in Uruguay on one of his regular scouting missions. Saso then sent Jaime Porres, a representative of the club, over to speak to the Bergara family about a possible move to Europe for the young star. Danny's mother Maria Elena, believing that her son was too young at the age of 19 to travel such a distance, refused permission for him to sign, although she came up with a compromise for the Spanish club. Maria Elena told Porres that she would only agree to her son moving to Spain if Real Mallorca signed Danny's brother Ignacio (Nacho), a defender who was two years older than Danny, too. After consulting with his employers Porres agreed to both Bergara boys joining Real Mallorca, although years later Danny often mentioned his annoyance at having to share his 'signing on' fee with his sibling. The fee was shown as 225,000 pesetas for Danny, by now just turned 20, with Nacho, who had also recently had a birthday, shown as a free agent. Both players moving to Spain in 1962.
Mallorca suffered relegation in 1962 and despite his goals the club missed out on an immediate return to the top flight the following season. However, Danny helped Mallorca to win the Second Division championship in 1965. Having lost five of their opening sixteen games, Mallorca were to lose just one of the last fourteen, at Hercules (0-1) and that in January. A superb run of six wins and four draws saw them clinch the title. Bergara again amongst the goals, his form bringing him to the attention of the bigger clubs on the mainland.
In the summer of 1966 Danny and Jan were married at Christ Church, Hampstead in London and in true footballers wives style, the newlyweds honeymoon included a visit to Wembley Stadium to watch England against Uruguay in the opening game of the World Cup courtesy of the Uruguayan coaching staff. The two young newlyweds finished their honeymoon in the Lake District. On his return to Mallorca Danny was again in great form and the club were struggling to fight off the attentions of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia.
Bergara finished the season at Mallorca going on to grab thirteen goals, his best goal scoring tally for the club, as they were relegated back to Segunda Division. He remained with the club for the following season, when despite him reaching double figures again, notching ten goals, disappointingly Mallorca, who were 5th with just six games to play, managed only one more win to tail off to finish 9th in Segunda Division. Atletico Madrid, Espanyol and Seville all showed interest in signing the by now 25 year old Bergara, with Seville winning the race for his signature. The deal, a record at the time, was 2.5M Pts plus a player and a game between the clubs with the gate money staying with Mallorca. Supporters had to finally accept that Mallorca couldn't keep their favourite son any longer. There were economical problems and debts to deal with for the club to survive and progress.
The birth of son Simon was one of few highlights in Bergara's first season as Seville were relegated to the Segunda Division for the first time in many years. There had been questions asked before a ball was kicked as Seville had given the managers job to Antonio Barrios. Although Barrios was one of their former Manager's, the problem for many was that he had been promoted at the end of the previous campaign with city rivals Real Betis. The decision to name Barrios was not popular amongst the supporters and as the team were heading for relegation he was sacked with his side sitting bottom of the table. Under Barrios, Seville had struggled with consistency, winning only two of the opening twelve games. Bergara scoring twice against Espanyol (3-0). The team's next win was the only real highlight of the campaign, Bergara grabbing a late winner at home against runners up Barcelona (2-1). With 12 games to play Seville turned to another former Manager, their former player Juan Arza, to see if he could perform a miracle. Arza had the nickname 'the golden boy' from his days as a player. He had scored a hat trick on his debut and helped Seville win their first ever Primera Division title in 1946. Under Arza the side's form improved but they were to win only three further games, Bergara netting four times, including the winner against CE Sabadell, as they finished second bottom, the only consolation being that Betis finished below them. Bergara finishing the campaign as top scorer with 11 goals. The following season saw Seville clinch the Segunda Division title on a dramatic last day as they beat CD Mestalla, who need to win to avoid relegation, at home to finish above title rivals Celta Vigo who also won on the last day, beating Real Valladolid.
The following season saw Seville clinch the Segunda Division title on a dramatic last day as they beat CD Mestalla, who need to win to avoid relegation, at home to finish above title rivals Celta Vigo who also won on the last day, beating Real Valladolid. The Board had backed Arza in an effort to make sure they made an immediate return to top flight football, allowing him to bring in several new players such as Berruezo, Chacón, Lebron and Catalan. The move paid off handsomely as they were to lose just seven times in thirty eight games with Bergara again finishing top scorer with 13, Berruezo (10) and Lebron (9) the club's other top scorers.
Bergara's most famous goal for the club came in the 1-0 victory over Real Madrid, as reported in the newspaper: Madrid resisted until the 80th minute. Betancourt had no chance with Bergara's goal that won the game for Seville, the first club to win against Real Madrid in this league and knock them off top spot, sensational triumph, breaking Real's winning run, in front of a crowd of 50,000. Bergara still holding the match ball told press "It wasn't difficult for me to keep the ball in the game against Real Madrid. A throw-in was given in the dying seconds. I knew the referee was about to blow his whistle, he was looking at his watch. I controlled the ball with my chest, ref blew his whistle. I gave the ball a squeeze and kept it, I think I deserved to".
The following season saw another change of manager at Seville, as Greek Coach Dan Geordiadis took the helm. Bergara, now aged 29 and with no sign of first team action under the new regime he moved to Tenerife in the Segunda Division in October 1971. But before Bergara left Seville the club presented him with the clubs badge, gold and studded with diamonds. That showed the great esteem in which he was held at the club with the President saying: "I can assure you that Bergara is a luxury for Tenerife. That's not to say the club doesn't deserve to have players of quality but for the division that they actually found themselves in (2nd division). Bergara is an authentic player of the 1st division, you will soon see the proof for yourselves"
Tenerife had won promotion to The Segunda Division after two seasons in The Tercera Division but were struggling to win games at the next level. Shortly after signing, Bergara was joined at the Club by fellow Uruguayan Héctor Núñez who replaced former Spanish International Ignacio Eizaguirre to become the Head Coach after leaving Tercera Division outfit Calvo Sotelo. A young Tenerife side began to work well with the experienced Uruguayan pair, Núñez off the field Bergara on it, starting with the first match together against Hercules, Bergara making two goals in a comfortable victory (3-0). Tenerife went on to record another nine home wins including victories against two of the sides promoted, CD Castellon (2-0) and Elche CF (1-0) as they finished in a respectable ninth place in the table.
Bergara's second season at Tenerife saw him receive the calf injury that was to end his playing career but not before he picked up several man of the match awards for some scintillating performances.
Having arrived in St Alban's, England in June 1973 with the notion of opening a travel business, Bergara spoke to Paddy Sowden, a friend of Jan's family, about the possibility of training with Luton Town, where he was the Chief Scout, in an effort to keep fit. Aware of Bergara's playing career, Sowden had been impressed by a series of scrapbooks that Jan had kept from his playing career in both Uruguay and Spain. Knowing how hard it would be to convince the club to allow the Uruguayan to train at the club, Sowden asked for permission to show the books to the manager Harry Haslam. Having read the books, Haslam was keen to meet with Bergara and so invited him into Kenilworth Road for a chat. Although impressed with Bergara's experience and obvious ability, Haslam was aware that as a foreign national there was no immediate opportunity to use him as either a player or a coach, so he set about planning some way to find an opening. In the mean time Bergara was invited to join in with training at the club. Haslam came up with a unique plan to ensure Bergara would be allowed to join him at Luton Town. He convinced one of the Directors of the club to employ Bergara as a driver's assistant which meant that he would be in a position to gain a National Insurance number which would enable him to pay tax and insurance, thereby also being able to enrol on a coaching course. Once accepted on the FA list Bergara could also sign for the club as a player/coach. Having offered Bergara a role as a full time coach with responsibility for looking after Luton Town's youth players, Haslam announced: "He is a good coach and has sound ideas on continental coaching methods. Danny cannot play for our first team but he can play in our reserve side in the Football Combination and midweek league. He is very keen and we wanted a coach who was able to play with the youngsters and add a little experience to the midweek league side"
Having readily accepted his new role as Youth coach, Bergara was quickly making friends both within the club and also amongst the opposing teams that his youth side came up against. His engaging coaching style impressed his new charges, and on the occasions that he was called upon to play, he often brought positive comments from the opposition. Bergara continued his coaching education with the youth team over the next few seasons, his young charges, featuring the likes of Alan Biley, Andy King, Ricky Hill and Lil Fuccillo, were to lose only one League game in his first two seasons, picking up League titles and Cups along the way. Bergara's coaching abilities had started to attract attention further afield. He was offered a position back at Seville as Head of Youth but the offer that almost saw him leave his new English home came from his home country. Bergara also flew to Uruguay and spent ten days with the Uruguayan FA after which he was offered the dual role as Director of Coaching to the Uruguayan FA and also a role as International Youth Coach. Upon his return to England it became apparent that there were issues within the Uruguayan FA and Bergara decided that his immediate future lay with Luton Town. Having turned down several approaches to leave Kenilworth Road Danny Bergara eventually took the next step on his English adventure early in 1978 when Haslam accepted the vacant manager's role at Sheffield United. After a very successful spell at Kenilworth Road, he was once again to move on from a club where he had been very happy.