The Rams travelled to Sweden and Finland as part of their pre-season preparations in August 1981. Details of the trip and friendlies played were reported by fan John Warcup, who according to his write up in the Leyton Orient edition of the Ram on August 29, took his holidays every summer to follow the team abroad. The Derby squad on the tour was: Jones, Cherry, Emery, Richards, Coop, Ramage, Powell (S), Osgood, Reid, Spooner, Skivington, Sheridan, Emson, Hector, Swindlehurst, Clayton and Wilson. Manager at the time was Colin Addison, but he was to be replaced by John Newman a few months later in January.
Leaving on Sunday August 9, the first destination was Lulea in northern Sweden. Travel was by air from Heathrow to Stockholm then on an internal flight to Lulea. Alvsbyn, 50 minutes away by road, was the headquarters for the four-day Swedish stay. It is reported that the hotel staff were surprised to see professional footballers relaxing by playing cricket – the Swedes were ‘still in the dark’ as to what cricket is all about. The next morning after training, some players went fishing, another group played tennis and some stayed behind to play foot tennis on the hotel lawns. Warcup complained that only one shop in Alvsbyn sold strong beer with bars virtually unknown in that part of Sweden, and no alcohol sales anywhere after 7pm.
When the team arrived at Lulea on August 12, they were greeted by cheering Rams fans who had made the journey by boat and train, a trip of well over three days. Derby demolished Lulea 6-0 with a hat trick from Swindlehurst, plus a brace by Wilson and a goal from Spooner. An undated A4 blue teamsheet was issued.
IFK Lulea 0 – 6 Derby, Wednesday August 12 1981
Rams: Jones, Coop, Richards, Powell S (Osgood), Ramage, Skivington, Reid (Spooner), Hector, Wilson, Swindlehurst, Emson
The next evening Rams played IF Alvsbyn but found their opponents much harder to break down. The game ended 1-1, Hector scoring for the Rams. A 16-page general programme was available with only ‘Program 1981’ on the front cover and no mention of Derby or the date. The contents are all advertising except for the Alvsby squad list in the centre pages. A blue A4 teamsheet was issued for the match showing Derby’s 17-man squad, and also listing Warcup as ‘Journalister’.
IF Alvsbyn 1 – Derby 1, Thursday August 13 1981
Rams: Jones (Cherry), Coop, Richards, Powell S (Osgood), Ramage, Skivington, Reid, Hector (Spooner), Clayton, Swindlehurst (Wilson), Emson
The Rams squad made the long coach journey to Oulu in Finland the next morning for a match that night against Champions OPS, who were drawn against Liverpool in the European Cup that season. The players seemed tired after consecutive matches and a long journey, but still beat the Finnish champions convincingly 3-0 with goals from Swindlehurst, Emson and an own goal. “You must do well in the Second Division this year” was the verdict of the Finnish fans and officials. The programme is a gate folded glossy single sheet containing mostly adverts with both teams in the centre. Oulu had Barry Diamond listed as number 2, Keith Armstrong at 20 and Hugh Smith as 10.
OPS Oulu 0 – Derby 3, Friday August 14 1981
Rams: Jones, Coop (Osgood), Powell S, Ramage, Skivington, Reid, Spooner, Wilson, Swindlehurst, Emson (only 10 players listed in the Ram).
The group continued their travels the next day by air, heading south for the old capital of Finland, Turku.
The next game was not until Tuesday which gave the players time to relax and use the hotel facilities, including a swimming pool, sauna, a pool table (less 3 balls) and a tennis court. Steve Emery had been struggling with a swollen ankle and had not played a game all tour, with Frank Sheridan also nursing an ankle injury and Alan Ramage restricted by a calf muscle injury.
The Rams beat TPS Turku 1-0 courtesy of an early goal from Kevin Wilson. An A3 four-page newspaper was issued for this game, and is the most common of the issues from this tour. The teams are listed on the front cover with the rest advertising.
TPS Turku 0 – Derby 1, Tuesday 18 August 1981
Rams: Jones, Emery, Richards, Powell S, Sheridan, Skivington, Spooner, Reid, Wilson, Swindlehurst, Emson.
Next morning brought an early start from Turku airport on the 7.30 flight to Helsinki, from where the group flew to Kuopio for the final match of the tour on August 19 against current Finnish league leaders KPT. They were met at the airport by the managing director of KPT who boldly declared: “We have won 15 matches on the trot. After tonight it will be 16”.
Kuopi were celebrating an anniversary with marching bands joined by happy, flag-waving Rams fans which went down well with the Finns. Two early goals put Derby ahead inside half an hour, with KPT pulling a goal back just before half time. KPT are described as the best side the Rams met on the tour, but Derby were always the better side in tight situations with no further goals in the second half. An A3 green teamsheet was available. Aiden Gibson was listed as number 16 for the Rams on the squad list with Steve Spooner not featuring at all – perhaps a late replacement before the tour started? KPT had a Douglas Hatcher and Mickey Bellfield on their squad list.
KPT Kuopi 1- Derby 2, Wednesday 19 August 1981
Rams: Jones, Emery, Richards, Powell S (Sheridan), Ramage, Hector, Spooner, Reid, Clayton, Swindlehurst, Emson.
This article was first printed in issue 12 of Derby County Memories (March 2016). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.