To football fans arriving in Sweden in the mid-1990s, Billy Lansdowne – the ex-West Ham, Charlton and Kalmar FF striker – quickly became a feature of Saturday afternoons in his role as pundit on TV4’s English Premier League coverage “TipsExtra”.
Billy’s cockney lilt to his Swedish added a certain insider authority to his analysis of the weekly ins and outs of the league most Swedes still choose to follow.
“It is still the English league that Swedes follow. They all have a favourite English team. It is only really Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) that generates any interest in the other European leagues,” Billy Landsdowne told The Local on Thursday.
While no longer a regular on Sweden’s television screens, Billy still follows the English league closely and will soon be sharing his thoughts with The Local readers on his new blog Billy’s Boot Room.
After playing for West Ham and Charlton in the early eighties, Billy soon found himself on his way to the Swedish second division and Kalmar FF. He stayed for a year, returned home, found himself a job and was all set to turn out for London side Dagenham, when an East End night out with the Kalmar lads persuaded him to accept the now top-flight club’s offer of a two year contract.
During his six year stint with Kalmar FF in Sweden’s Allsvenskan he claimed the golden ball for being the league’s top scorer and won the Swedish cup.
While Billy never returned to play in the UK, during his near 30-year stay in Sweden he has watched the English league change beyond recognition.
“Well the biggest change is that there are fewer English players playing. But I don’t think this is a problem for the national side as the ones that are left play with the best players in Europe, the world, each week,” he said.
“I get a bit fed up with Swedes going on about the long ball game. I played for West Ham, so we always played football, but so did most of the top the teams then, and they certainly do now.”
A lifelong West Ham fan, Billy grew up on the Upton Park terraces watching his father play alongside the likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.
“I never realized then just how big a role the game would come to play in my life.”
He remains active within the game, turning out for a team of television celebrities. While (even as a West Ham fan) he can admire Arsenal’s graceful style of play, he admits that he is more of an old-style English centre forward.
“Last season they called me the tank. But I have lost 13 kilos during the winter and am really looking forward to this season,” he said.
So while Billy is a more slim-line model than last graced Sweden’s television screens, he claims he has become more forthright in his views.
“When I was working on television, I was always a little concerned about upsetting people. These days I don’t mind upsetting people,” he joked.
For more outspoken news and views from Billy Lansdowne on all things football click over to Billy’s Boot Room – a new blog at The Local.