Exclusive Interview: Bryan Roy

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

JR  ‘'Goedemorgen Bryan!  Many thanks for talking to me at TSF.  Let’s jump into it.  You played five seasons for Ajax at a time when the team was crammed with talent…

BR  ''Yes, my most special memories are the five years that I spent in the youth setup where I played with fantastic players such as Richard Witschge, Dennis Bergkamp, Danny Muller, Marciano Vink and Frank and Ronald De Boer.  We came through the entire youth setup and we all broke through together from the AFC Ajax youth team which was fantastic.  We won Eredivisie Championships and also a European trophy and we played as a young team in a league at a time in which PSV Eindhoven were really strong.  We were always in and around the top of the league fighting for the title but in the case of PSV Eindhoven at that time they had Romário, Gerald Vanenberg and Ronald Koeman in the team.  It meant that they were an excellent team but nonetheless it was a great time to play professional football in the Netherlands because there were a lot of top footballers playing in the country’'.

JR  ‘'You took an interesting next step in your career by playing two seasons in Italy for Calcio Foggia 1920?

BR  ''Calcio Foggia 1920 was fantastic.  I arrived at the club in 1992 and the players were really nice to me.  They were also great players.  As you say it was interesting to go to that club at that time.  The players even asked me in the first instance “what are you doing here at Calcio Foggia 1920”, which was hilarious.  I had arrived at a club who were third from bottom having just been promoted to Serie A, but they had a fantastic manager in Zdeněk Zeman who preached attacking football in the same way as Johan Cruyff and Louis van Gaal did. 

That was the reason why I decided to sign for the club, I learned a lot from Zdeněk Zeman in my two seasons at the club and I also scored a lot of goals to make a jump in my career. 

As a winger I did not score many goals at AFC Ajax and it was more about the team performance and judging your position, but under Zdeněk Zeman you have to score as a winger and he had fantastic tactics to make that happen, it was very successful.  In our first season we finished high up in mid table and in our second season we missed European football by one point.  Calcio Foggia 1920 are really romanticized in Italy, they are loved by everybody as a football club and that is also due to Zdeněk Zeman who ensured a culture of attacking football and spectacular football, and people still talk about it in now in 2021’’.

JR  ‘’Bryan, the Nottingham Forest fans will be very keen for me to ask you about your time there where you spent three seasons in the Premier League….

BR  ''I have fantastic memories from my time at Nottingham Forest and my two seasons there particularly. The club was also just promoted to the Premier League and we had a spectacular first season in particular with Stan Collymore upfront.  I played in a fantastic team with great guys.  To experience the Premier League as it is now is one thing but at the beginning was brilliant because a lot of fantastic footballers had arrived in England from Italy and Spain.  When I played at Calcio Foggia 1920, Serie A was the main league in Europe.  But England took over from Italy as the main league and I am really proud to have experienced the Premier League at that time, and if you see what it has become now it is fantastic. 

We finished third in the league with Forest in that first season, and it was spectacular.  We also went on to play European football where we were eliminated in the quarter finals by Bayern Munich.  In my second season we played brilliantly with Stan Collymore who moved to Liverpool FC.  I am convinced if he would have stayed we would have finished even higher in the league the next season, but we eventually finished mid table.  In my third season things started to go wrong.  Frank Clark resigned and then the house of cards fell down.  I believe there was also a discussion in the club that Frank could not invest what he wanted to invest and promises were made but not kept.  In such a case there is only one choice for the manager which is to resign.  At that point you know that you are not going to have a good season.  Stuart Pearce took over the reigns but he was not very successful and we did not have a good season.  Although I left the club after my third season I only have fond memories of my time at Nottingham Forest and that experience of three top seasons in the Premier League.”

JR  ‘'You mentioned that Dutch football was in rude health for a time, at international level you played with some incredible players…”

BR  ''Gerald Vanenburg, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman and Dennis Bergkamp - who was magic - are among the best players I played with.  If you take Marco van Basten… he was one of the best strikers in the world ever, and I got to train with him.  He was from another planet, it just was not normal.  He was so quick and the speed of his actions on the pitch were frightening.  He had perfect technique and his finishing was just outstanding. and Ronald Koeman with his long passes was just unbelievable, I didn't even have to look.  I just went deep and I received the ball at my feet.  These are things that you never forget.’’

JR  ‘'Wingers can sometimes find particular opposition set-ups hard to play against,  was there a style of football that you found it difficult to break down?’'

BR  ''I can't really name which players in particular but I had difficulty against Portuguese defences.  And of course at the time that I played in Italy we played against AC Milan and that was really difficult because they kept catching you offside.  They could play with four defenders to protect the depth and width by moving all together. I remember having particular difficulty against FC Porto when I played against them in European competition and also the Portugal national team when we would play them in friendlies when I was capped by the Dutch national team.’’

JR  ‘’That's really interesting.  Bryan, I really want to thank you for your time today and for complimenting me on my Dutch!  Let me finish by asking who influenced you most as a player?

BR  ‘'Well as you can imagine I have played under the best managers in the world.  The first one was Johan Cruyff who discovered me at the age of ten.  He was the one who created the base of the Ajax youth academy and he also gave me my debut in the AFC Ajax first team.  I learned so much from him during the six years that I was with him.  Of Course Louis van Gaal was really important too, he is a fantastic manager.  I also played under Rinus Michels with the Dutch national team in 1992 and that is more a romantic story because he was such a big name in Dutch football.  I also experienced Leo Beenhakker and Zdeněk Zeman and I am really proud that I have been able to work under such managers.  There are very few players that can say that they have worked under such good managers.  But of course the one that stands out above them all is Johan Cruyff.” 

James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.