Jonas Axeldal on his scoring struggle at Ipswich, Wembley celebrations and saving his team-mates from disaster

Jonas Axeldal failed to score for the Ipswich Town first team during his one season at the club.

Jonas Axeldal failed to score for the Ipswich Town first team during his one season at the club.

Jonas Axeldal may have never achieved anything like hero status at Ipswich Town, but the Swedish striker had already made his mark on football before he arrived at Portman Road.

Despite his lack of goals, Jonas Axeldal loved his time in Suffolk. Picture: ARCHANT

Despite his lack of goals, Jonas Axeldal loved his time in Suffolk. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Picked up by the Blues during a pre-season tour of Sweden in 1999, the striker played 21 games, made just one start and failed to score during his single season at Portman Road.

It’s a time he looks back on fondly, even if it wasn’t anywhere near the most productive of a career which also included an appearance for his country at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

He arrived at Portman Road after leaving Italian club Foggia and with him came something of an urban legend. Scour the internet and you will find muffled talk and speculation that the Swede might just have saved his Italian team-mates from disaster on the roads of Italy. What you will not find, though, is confirmation of what actually happened - if indeed anything did.

The softly-spoken Swede is too modest to proclaim himself a hero, insisting anyone would have done the same and seeming surprised he had been asked to recall an incident which happened two decades prior, but did confirm just how he jumped into action to prevent a disaster.

“We were going back on the bus from a game in the north of Italy and I noticed the bus driver had fallen asleep, I shouted and I think I managed to save the bus from having an accident,” Axeldal said.

“I went for the wheel and steered it a little bit but thankfully he woke up.

Most Read

“We were on a straight road but going fairly fast, so maybe if I hadn’t done it there could have ended up a tragedy.

“In that situation you just react but then afterwards you maybe get a little angry because you want to know why he fell asleep. It’s good nothing bad happened.

Jonas Axeldal (far right) pictured at an Ipswich Town golf day with (l-r) Jim Magilton, John McGreal

Jonas Axeldal (far right) pictured at an Ipswich Town golf day with (l-r) Jim Magilton, John McGreal, Tony Mowbray, Richard Naylor, Simon Milton and Wayne Brown. Picture: ANDY HENRY

“The whole team were on the bus so it could have been a lot worse, but anyone would have done the same.”

His move to Ipswich allowed Axeldal to fulfil his dream of playing in the English leagues and, while the history books will say it didn’t work out, those statistics far from tell the whole story.

The Swede, now an assistant manager at second-tier Falkenbergs in his homeland, scored goals for fun in the Blues’ reserve side but found first team minutes hard to come by before being released after just one campaign. From there it was on to Cambridge United, before returning to Sweden to finish his career.

He knows he didn’t take his chance in England, but that doesn’t mean his memories of his time in Suffolk are any less happy.

“The club was professional, the players were great and the training ground was really good, so me and my family felt happy,” he said. “We had a house near the speedway track and enjoyed living there.

“I felt really welcomed and I got along well with people like Jim (Magilton), we used to play golf together and were also room-mates for away games. He was a good friend during my time in Ipswich

“My daughter had just turned one when we came to England, she went to nursery there and enjoyed it. We only stayed for a year but I look back on it as one of my best years of my football career.

“I scored a lot of goals in the reserve games but unfortunately I didn’t manage to do it in any of the first team games which was pretty sad. That is one of the big reasons you don’t sign strikers for another year – if they don’t score goals. That’s just the way football is.

“Maybe it was bad luck or maybe I wasn’t good enough, I don’t know. I felt as if I created a lot of chances but just didn’t have the bit of luck to score. I felt a little unfortunate not to score for Ipswich but that’s the way things are.

“I would wish we’d scored a couple of goals but it didn’t happen.”

Axeldal’s one Ipswich season, of course, ended in promotion to the Premier League. By the time the play-off final win over Barnsley came around, the Swede had not made an Ipswich appearance in four months but, watching from the Wembley stands, he felt as involved as anyone.

“The best memory I have, even though I wasn’t playing or on the bench or anything, is of the play-off final at Wembley, that was huge,” he said.

“Even though we weren’t playing we were all still involved with the team and it was such a nice feeling to win, because that’s what you’re in football to do.

“We were very nervous. It was a big game and I felt we had a good chance which is what we ended up doing.

“We celebrated with the team and to see all the fans out for that was an amazing time in my life.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter