In the latest part of our series looking at the upbringing of our Academy youngsters, goalkeeper Lucas Bergstrom talks memories of football in Finland, his short careers in skiing and orienteering and his first playing in midfield.
What’s your earliest memory of playing football in Finland?
My first memory of football was at four years old when I took part in a football camp in the summer. I was there with a couple of friends for a week. After that, the only one thing I really wanted to do was to play football.
One place that was used as a 'training camp' was my grandparents’ summer home, there was a school 200 metres away and they had a grass pitch. We used to spend the whole week there playing football. The best part was in the evenings when we played games there with people from everywhere; locals, other people with summer homes and sometimes the sailors who were there for the night.
What’s been the biggest change since moving to England?
Most probably living in digs. To move in to another family's home is definitely different in the beginning. You have to adapt to new people, routines and so on but of course you get used to it and it becomes normal - having team-mates in the same digs makes it easier too.
Another change, of course, was the language. It was never a big problem because I learned it in school since I was 10 and I also got on track with the slang fairly well. Education on the other hand is a bit harder because all the key words I had learned in maths and physics during 10 years of school, a big part of them changed. It was bit slower at the start.
Did you have any idols as a youngster?
A footballer I have always looked up to is Zlatan Ibrahimovic because of the great goals he has scored in difficult games but mostly his work ethic and his life story growing up. The way he made his career purely through hard work, the mentality that he will work 10 times harder than the next guy and be so good that you can’t play against me on the pitch is something I really admire in him.
Did you ever play in any other positions when younger?
From the beginning I was in goal, but I don’t remember if wanted to be in the goal or if I was just put there because of my height! Soon I found out that there’s no better feeling than making a great save.
Even though I was mainly in goal I played also on the pitch - mostly holding midfield or in the number 10 position. At that moment, I started to appreciate the work the outfield players do and how much they run.
From around the age of 10 until 14 I played for two teams. My local club PIF, who were in the third-highest league in Finland and I played on the pitch for them. After that, I played for TPS, who were in the the highest league and I played in goal for them.
Playing on the pitch helped me improve on the ball, because of the lack of time and being able to do really simple things while you are tired. It has been a big part in my development as a goalkeeper to play on the pitch.
Did you play any other sports as a youngster?
When I was younger I used to do skiing and orienteering competitively. I didn’t have a long career in skiing because after a couple of years I had no real success, improvement or time so I dropped skiing and focused on orienteering and football.
Orienteering is sort of my family sport so I got introduced to it really young. My parents would bring me to the competitions that they would run in. In orienteering, I had some success and occasionally I would get on the podium in some small competitions - I got two third-place placements in a regional championship but that was my last race. After that, there was only time for one sport and the choice couldn’t have been easier to choose football.
What’s your earliest memory of watching football?
It was the World Cup 2010. We were with our cousins and grandparents at my grandparents’ summer home and in the evenings we sat down and watched the games on a small television. The only thing I remember was that I watched the games but I don’t remember much about what happened in them because halfway through I always fell asleep.
Even nowadays I don’t watch that much football. I mainly watch big games and highlights of the rest. The thing I like with the highlights is that the goalkeepers are a big part of them and I can watch and learn something from that.
What one footballing memory sticks to mind?
When I got to know Chelsea was interested in me the first time, definitely. It was after a SHA (Sami Hyypia academy) camp. I can’t remember who was the first to tell me was but obviously it felt amazing. It was even hard to believe that one of the biggest clubs in Europe was interested.
I have always wanted to be a professional footballer but it’s hard and the numbers are against you but this gave me a lot of confidence and a sort of 'click' that there is a good chance. I still knew that this was a just new beginning and that I had so much hard work to do.
SHA is where the best teams in Finland gather at Eerikkila (the national training centre). We would play games and do physical tests, then we compared the results to the ones of our previous years.
Another moment I won’t forget, even though I would maybe want to, was my second national team appearance. I came on at half-time because we were splitting the game and we were 2-0 down. The game goes on and we pull it back to 2-1. At the end of the game, there was a free-kick and I go up and try to score a header! A good cross came in and I saw the goalkeeper going for the ball, I just needed to head it over him to score the equaliser but I put too much power on the ball and it goes a foot or so over the bar.