Bernard Joseph “Bernie” Slaven is a Scottish-born footballer, who through his grandfather became eligible to feature for the Republic of Ireland at international level.
Slaven made a total of 514 senior career appearances, scoring 200 goals along the way. He also pulled on the Republic of Ireland shirt seven times, scoring the only goal of his international career on his debut against Wales.
Slaven was included in Jack Charlton’s 1990 World Cup squad, but unfortunately did not feature. Despite being disappointed to not play, Slaven was grateful just to be there.
“To be included in the World Cup squad was a dream and an honour. What you have to remember is, up until then I had only played one and a half games, scoring on my debut, so to hear I was rubbing shoulders with guys like Van Basten, Gullit, and Lineker was surreal.
“I was disappointed not to get a game but I was realistic as I had played no part in getting the Republic to the finals. Jack Charlton very seldom changed the team and nine of us didn’t even get a game. Frank Stapleton was one of them and he was a top goalscorer.
“Pulling on an Ireland shirt at 29 was an honour and a reward for all my hard work and I will be forever grateful to Jack Charlton.”
Bernie started off his career in Scotland, making a handful of appearances with both Airdrie and Queen of the South. In 1983 he moved to Albion Rovers, scoring 31 goals in 47 appearances. This is where he would earn his move to Middlesbrough, where he would go on to make a real name for himself as a goalscorer.
Bernie spent eight years at Middlesbrough, where he managed to score 147 goals in just over 382 appearances.
Slaven impressed the Boro management, scoring in a trial game against Bradford City. Despite Bradford wanting him to sign on the dotted line, Bernie signed for Middlesbrough in October 1995 for £25,000, to the delight of manager Willie Maddren.
One of the more amusing anecdotes from Slaven’s career occurred at Binns department store, after his Middlesbrough side defeated Manchester United away from home for the first time in almost 70 years.
“During radio commentary, my old colleague asked, ‘Next time we go to Old Trafford to take on Man United, how far would you go if we actually beat them?’ I replied ‘There is a saying in Middlesbrough that you will show your arse in Binns window if it happens. The last time the Boro had won there was 68 years ago, so I thought it was a safe bet.
“After 90 minutes at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, the scoreboard read ‘Man Utd 2 Middlesbrough 3.’ The travelling Boro fans were chanting ‘Bernie, Bernie show us your arse.’
“On the Monday morning I arrived at the manager’s office at Binns, within an hour the room was full of journalists, local and national, don’t forget it was Christmas and the press were looking for stories.
“I put on my red tartan kilt and got one of the girls to write 3-2 on my bum cheeks.
“As I entered the window of the store I couldn’t believe my eyes, there was a couple of thousand people inside and outside, trying to get a glimpse of my rear.
“If only I had kept my big mouth shut!”
Slaven admits that his boyhood heroes are Glasgow Celtic, and is impressed with the job Neil Lennon has done, especially in Europe.
“Neil Lennon has done a fantastic job. Last season’s exploits in Europe were exceptional. Obviously disappointing that he had to sell Hooper.”
On Celtic’s Champions League group this year he said,
“You write Celtic off at your peril, home form is the key and the record at Parkhead over the years has been exceptional.”
When he was scoring consistently at Middlesbrough, there were rumours in the press that Celtic were interested in Slaven’s services. This is something Slaven would have welcomed.
“When I was banging in the goals I was linked with Celtic in the newspapers, unfortunately Billy McNeil and Liam Brady quashed the rumours. I would have loved to have played for my boyhood heroes. If I was good enough scoring in every division in England on a regular basis, I would’ve said yes.”
It was former Celtic manager Tony Mowbary who gave Bernie the nickname “The Wolf.” Following this, whenever Bernie scored the crowd would howl like wolves.
Bernie recently talked about Celtic on his website and said,
“Recently my Da (sic) passed away, but I will be forever grateful that he introduced me to the game of football and introduced me to Celtic. But now that he has gone I just wish I could have worn the famous hooped jersey. Whenever I hear ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ it will always remind me of my boyhood dreams, my Da and Celtic.
Bernie finished off our interview by telling me his career highlight.
“My career highlight was scoring the goal that relegated Chelsea. It was the play-off finals, which was over two legs. The first game was at Ayresome Park and we won 2-0. At Stamford Bridge we held on and went into the top flight. It was amazing.”
Since Bernie stopped playing, he has been heavily involved in the media. He started out doing Boro TV and has summarised on over 500 games for Middlesbrough. For the last 14 years, he has done a radio show called ‘The Three Legends’, which broadcasts every night on Star Radio 6-8pm.
Finally, I would like to thank Bernie for taking time out to do this interview. You can follow him on Twitter by following this link here – https://twitter.com/bernieslaven
Written by Kieran Psyl | Check out Kieran’s blog at http://kieranpsyl.blogspot.co.uk/