AHEAD of his appearance in tomorrow’s Danish Cup final, the former Hearts midfielder Eggert Jonsson revealed he wants a return to Britain this summer.
Jonsson will play for FC Vestsjaelland against Copenhagen in Denmark’s Pokalen final but is considering a career move when his contract expires in June.
The Iceland internationalist has spent the last two years abroad with Belenenses of Portugal and, since January, Vestsjaelland in the Danish Superliga. Now 26, he covets a return to the UK because he feels his style of football is best suited to British leagues.
Jonsson told the Evening News he largely considers himself Scottish after growing up in the youth academy at Hearts.
He was sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers for £200,000 in December 2011 because the Tynecastle board needed urgent funds to pay players’ wages at the time. Jonsson’s spell in England was ill-fated as Wolves suffered successive relegations to end up in League One. He revitalised his career in Portugal before joining Vestsjaelland at the start of this year.
A cup final appearance is an added bonus for a modest club who are second bottom of the league and battling relegation. Jonsson knows staying in the top flight is more important. If he is to leave Denmark, pocketing a cup winner’s medal would certainly rank as a career highlight. Copenhagen have lost only one match in their last 12, though, including Monday night’s 1-0 league win away at Vestsjaelland. Now the clubs meet at Denmark’s Parken Stadium, which doubles as Copenhagen’s home ground.
“They do a coin toss to see who is the home team. I expect it will be a good atmosphere but they know the place inside out and they are more used to the pitch,” said Jonsson.
“We played them on Monday but I was suspended because I’ve had too many yellow cards. Anything can happen in a cup final. It’s the same grass both teams will play on. Our priority is definitely to avoid relegation and stay in the league, but we’re in the cup final and you always want to win. My contract is only until the end of the season so we’ll see what happens in the summer. They have already said they want to offer me a new contract but we’ll see. I’m open to anything.
“Even though I was brought up in the academy at Hearts, a lot of British players don’t like going abroad and would rather stay in the UK. I don’t mind going abroad but my aim is to try and get back to England or somewhere in Britain.
“I know the mentality and the culture there and I almost think of myself as a Scottish guy because I was there for so long. I like everything about it but I’ll see what’s there in the summer and take it from there.”
A hernia problem curtailed Jonsson’s Portuguese adventure last summer as Belenenses expected him to continue playing despite needing surgery. His contract was mutually terminated and he returned to his native Iceland to recover before signing for Vestsjaelland. The move to Denmark has allowed him to play regularly again in his favourite position, defensive midfield.
“Last year I was in Portugal and, when I struggled with injuries. I just wanted to go somewhere else because I felt the medical team there weren’t really fixing my problem. I had a problem in my groin area, it was like a sports hernia. They just expected me to play with the injury when I needed an operation, so I wanted to get away from there. I had my operation last year and then decided to come here. I just wanted to go somewhere I would feel good and where I could start playing again.
“I came to Vestsjaelland in January and so far I’ve really enjoyed it. The team is second bottom but our results have been good over the last few weeks. It would be great if we manage to win the cup final and escape relegation.
“I’ve been playing as a defensive midfielder, like a No.6. We play 4-4-2 and I’m the more defensive minded one in midfield. As you know, that position or centre-half are my preferred positions. It’s a bit different from playing as a striker away at Hamilton.”
He blurts out a laugh remembering his days as an emergency forward at Hearts under former manager Csaba Laszlo. Jonsson’s versatility eventually became a standing joke in Edinburgh. He was used in literally every position except goalkeeper but was always appreciated by his team-mates. His value was never more pertinent than when he left Tynecastle for Wolves late in 2011.
“It was a strange one. I didn’t know it was happening until the day Hearts accepted the offer,” he recalled. “I didn’t know talks were going on and it wasn’t something my agent set in place. Wolves just came in, they knew Hearts were in trouble and needed the money so maybe they saw an opportunity to do it early. I was transferred a few days before Christmas and I thought, if something was to happen, it would be January.
“I was shocked when it happened and to be honest I felt like one of the Scottish boys because I came through the academy at Hearts. I was there for seven years and I knew all the people there from when I was just a boy. Hearts is a great club. I can’t really say I ever wanted to leave but the offer came in. When a team from the English Premier comes in for you, it’s hard not to take it.
“It was just before Christmas and I remember we hadn’t been paid for almost two months. At least I saved Christmas for the boys and their families,” he laughed. “No, seriously, that wasn’t the deciding factor but it made it easier. I wasn’t that eager to leave Hearts but at that time they were having money problems. I remember when they sold me, all the older players got paid their wages just before Christmas. At least something good came out of it.”
Jonsson appeared only seven times for Wolves, plus a further two outings on loan at Charlton Athletic. In summer 2013 he left the West Midlands with the remaining two years of his contract cancelled. Journeying around Europe wasn’t in his thoughts but spells in Portugal and Denmark have helped his career.
“This wasn’t really in my plan. I loved my time at Hearts and when I left, Wolves were in the Premier League at the time. It was an offer that was hard to say no to. My time in England didn’t work out. I would’ve liked it to have gone differently. About three weeks after I signed for Mick McCarthy, he was sacked. Wolves got relegated and didn’t win a game. It was a tough club to be at as the new guy when everything was collapsing.
“After that I just wanted to go somewhere I could start playing again. I went to Portugal and had a good season there. I think there would have been some options for me there but I got injured two weeks before the next season started and I was struggling after that. I’ve been playing regularly since I came to Vestsjaelland so from that point of view they have helped me.”
Leaving Denmark as a cup winner would be of even greater benefit to an Icelander whose heart remains in Britain, if not Scotland.