When leading his Stockport County side out in the Autoglass Final against Stoke City on May 16th, 1992, Uruguayan Danny Bergara became the first ever ‘foreigner’ to manage an English Football club in a Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
During his time at Edgeley Park Bergara led the Hatters to three further ‘finals’ at the National Stadium, unfortunately all of which ended in defeat, nevertheless Bergara had put himself and Stockport County firmly on the football map.
Stuart Brennan (Manchester Evening News): There has never been a football manager quite like Danny Bergara. Passionate, hard-working and eccentric. The man who won County their first promotion in 24 years. The man who wrote the most incredible programme notes ever seen. Everyone connected with County in the early 1990s has a story to tell about Bergara. The little Uruguayan magician made his mark on Edgeley Park, all right. When he arrived from Rochdale in 1989, County had spent two decades festering in the troughs of the Fourth Division. During the next six giddy years, they won a promotion, came within a whisker of another – missing out in the play-offs three times – and made four trips to Wembley, having never played there before his arrival.
Bergara’s footballing journey began in his home country when, as a 14-year-old, he signed for Racing Club Montevideo, making his first team debut at the age of 15. Bergara also represented Uruguay at under 17 level.
Aged 20 he moved to Europe to sign for Real Mallorca where he thrived in his new surroundings, helping to win the Second Division championship in 1965 and finishing as the club’s top scorer three times before a £25,000 transfer took him to Sevilla in January 1967. On the mainland, Bergara continued to flourish, picking up another Second Division title medal and top-scoring three times, but following an £8,000 move to Tenerife his playing days were ended by a calf injury.
Jan Bergara: On the 9th of March 1963, when tourism was just taking off, with a bible (from my brother) in my pocket, I set off aged 20 from Dover by boat and then train to Mallorca with a college friend of mine. Who would have imagined my destiny was about to unfold just two months later? I met Daniel at the end of May 1963. I do remember asking Daniel in ‘broken English’ when first meeting him what he was studying or what was his profession aside from playing football. His answer was simple “I am a professional footballer” I hadn’t realised that you could actually earn a living from playing football.
In 1973 Bergara and his English wife Jan, moved to England to start their new life. They planned to start their own travel business, but due to an unusual set of circumstances he began coaching at nearby Luton Town. He proved a natural in his new role, inspiring youngsters such as the future England international Ricky Hill with his emphasis on skill, and when the Luton boss Harry Haslam moved to Sheffield United in 1978 he took Bergara with him.
David Pleat: Danny came, he saw, he conquered. He made a lasting impression on all his friends and colleagues as a canny football coach in a foreign country. He climbed a ladder fraught with difficulties and reached his goal. He was a great demonstrator of the skills of our game. He could trap, he could volley, he could shoot – he could bend the ball years before Beckham did.
At Bramall Lane, the Uruguayan became assistant manager and chief coach, and his work attracted the notice of the Football Association, who enlisted him to coach the England under-18 and under-20 sides in 1980 and 1981.
Alan Biggs (TalkSPORT): Today we happily accommodate Premier League managers speaking through an interpreter – even an England boss in the early days of Fabio Capello. Danny was a pioneer in going on to become the first Football League manager not to speak English as a first language. The Uruguayan went the extra mile to learn it, unlike so many who have followed him. Yet he was given all too little credit for that.
Bergara went on to spend a year as National Manager of Brunei, he also coached/managed at Sheffield United (twice), Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Rochdale, Darlington, Rotherham United and Doncaster Rovers but it was at Edgeley Park that he became renowned throughout football as he put serial underachievers Stockport County on the map.
Controversially, his Edgeley Park adventure ended with the sack following a bitter fall-out with his chairman, and although an industrial tribunal ruled in 1996 that he had been unfairly dismissed, his career never regained full impetus.
Bergara spent his last few years as a ‘scout’, working for Tottenham Hotspur under his old pal David Pleat and Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers under Mick McCarthy before passing away in 2007.
Mick McCarthy: I really liked Danny as a man first and foremost, I thought he was one of the best people I’ve ever worked with in football and it goes without saying that he had a real talent when it came to spotting a player.
The Man from Uruguay (A footballing journey) is the official biography of an extraordinary man and is available from www.rosemartinbooks.bigcartel.com