‘Once a blue, you’re a blue’: Haaland renews family ties with City | Erling Haaland


Erling Haaland is perhaps a rarity in the world of blockbuster transfers: a superstar signing whose declared love for Manchester City is in fact genuine. Where many footballers kiss the badge and cite being childhood fans of Club A, Haaland is the 22-year-old centre-forward whose father, Alfie, played for City, was popular with his team-mates and the personal and would take his infant son to the champions. ‘ Old Stadium, Maine Road.

Roy Bailey was City’s physiotherapist when Haaland Sr was at the club for three seasons from 2000. “I remember he brought his young boy Erling when he was injured on a Sunday morning,” he says. “He had the freedom of Maine Road. I saw him very small when he brought him into the treatment room and let him run around the field. Alfie was very fond of City.

Bailey treated Erling’s father when he suffered Roy Keane’s infamous high tackle in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford April 21, 2001. In the 86th minute, Keane went thrown over Haaland’s right leg, doubling the defender. It was an act of revenge, with the Irishman angry over an incident four years earlier during a game at Alfie’s club in Leeds. After Keane fell to the turf at Elland Road injured, the Norwegian stood over him and accused the midfielder of faking it. Keane had actually suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament and, as he documented in his 2002 autobiography, bided his time to repay Haaland. “Damn I hit it hard,” Keane wrote. “The ball was there. Take that asshole. And never look at me sneering about fake injuries.

Erling grew up understanding his father’s reluctance to talk about the episode. But while a second autobiography published in 2014 had Keane insisting he had no regrets, Bailey reveals the Irishman showed concern at the challenge, for which he was sent off. “It was a bad tackle, I know that,” Bailey said. “But to be fair to Roy Keane, he caught up with me right after the game and asked me about him. I just said, ‘Don’t worry about him. We iced him and he doesn’t seem to have a serious knee problem.

Bailey remembers running to treat Alfie that day. “It was lucky Alfie saw it coming,” he said. “When I saw the tackle with Roy on Alfie I knew he was going to catch it with his foot. It’s a good job he anticipated because if you’re standing on one leg still and someone catches you like that, you badly damage your knee.

Tony Grant, a midfielder who played alongside the Norwegian at Old Trafford, said: “Alfie was a nice person – he worked hard, he was a good guy – that was really the main thing about him. back then is not like now – we are all more educated, we all know there are eyes everywhere, social media has increased [the scrutiny] tenfold.

Roy Keane berates Alfie Haaland after hurting him with a vicious tackle in the Manchester derby in April 2001. Photograph: Phil Noble/PA

“But Roy obviously kept in his brain what happened [at Elland Road]. Roy didn’t take many prisoners, did he? He was holding something close and he did what he did – it was retribution. Terrible. Roy was an exceptional footballer and he had the other side of him too. But I don’t think it’s something personal. I think again, you are, how would you say it? Not tricky, but if you have a bad injury and someone pushes you, you can’t wait, especially if you’re that way. It was purely professional. »

Although Haaland was able to complete the derby, in the summer of 2003 he had retired aged just 30 due to an injury to his other knee. Bailey says: “Roy spied his luck and caught it with a bad tackle, but I doubt that ended Alfie Haaland’s career.” Haaland Sr however suggested Keane did, citing he never played a full 90 minutes again, only playing once more for City this season – 68 minutes in the following week’s draw with West Ham – plus four substitute appearances next campaign. .

Erling’s father, who considered legal action against Keane but decided he didn’t have a strong enough case, recalled the saga years later. “He tried to tackle me and I got the free kick,” Alfie said of the incident. “He was lying on the floor and I just told him to ‘get up’ like you normally do with players – nothing more than that. I wasn’t trying to want anything against him, but he did. took it very badly.

Of Keane’s horror challenge, he added: “For eight years, I haven’t been hurt. Coincidence or not, that was my last 90 minutes in England. Is it a coincidence, or is it not? If you’re on the ground and someone kicks you in the right leg, you can always twist your other leg. He can hurt himself and that’s probably what happened [to my left knee]. I didn’t play a full 90 minutes after that incident, that’s the harsh reality. And people can judge whatever they want.

“I found out afterwards that it was intentional and he was looking for revenge and all those things. I think it’s a bit sad. Sad for football and it wasn’t good for me no more at the time.

After his playing days ended, Alfie Haaland moved his family to Bryne before his son's star started to rise as a player.
After his playing days ended, Alfie Haaland moved his family to Bryne before his son’s star started to rise as a player. Photograph: Leon Kuegeler/Reuters

In retirement, Haaland Sr moved the family back to Bryne in southwestern Norway, where he served on the local council. Erling, featuring youth teams, began his stellar trajectory there.

Haaland Jr’s reputation at Bryne is exemplary – he is seen as a pleasant character, much like his father. Erling’s only moments of dissent were when, as a teenager, playing time could be limited to manage his development.

De Bryne Erling went to Molde in 2017, where Ole Gunnar Solskjær was his manager, and there he started racking up the goals – 20 in 50 appearances – before moves to Red Bull Salzburg (2019) and Borussia Dortmund (2020 ) turned out to be perfectly timed. The No.9 arrived at City with 135 goals and 36 assists in 166 appearances for his three most recent clubs.

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He returns to the club his father used to take him to as a toddler and, later, to watch when Alfie was gone, with City still dear. The family bond now deepens with Erling set to make his Premier League debut for champions Pep Guardiola at West Ham on Sunday.

“There aren’t many players who don’t feel that way,” Bailey says of those with City links. “Once you’re a blue, you’re a blue. Alfie was a good guy. He worked hard in training, did rehabilitation whenever he needed to, and was a top-notch athlete. Whenever you gave Alfie things to do, he did them right. He showed up early for treatments and early for training, prepared properly. He was a great guy for us. Now Erling has signed – fantastic.


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