When Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimović scored what was arguably one of the best goals of all time against England last week, it brought back some fond memories for football fans in Aylesbury.
The skill and poise on display as Ibrahimović launched himself skywards at the new Swedish national stadium to send a looping overhead kick into the goal from all of 35 yards would have been no surprise to anyone at Buckingham Road in July 2004,when Zlatan came to town.
The world star spent four days training at Aylesbury United’s now dormant Buckingham Road ground with then Dutch champions Ajax. He was joined by a plethora of other players now starring on the world stage such as Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van Der Vaart.
Another England slayer, Ronald Koeman, was the manager at the time while the popular Danny Nicholls was boss of Aylesbury.
Ajax trained on Ducks groundsman Pete Ash’s award-winning pitch as part of their England tour, during which they played friendlies against Luton and QPR.
The memorable event came off the back of the 2004 European Championships where Ibrahimović had scored another spectacular effort – a volleyed backheel against Italy.
Hundreds of people attended open training sessions over the course of the week and watching ‘Ibra’ score his now famous goal brought back ‘fantastic’ memories for former vice-chairman John Newman.
“One of the best teams in Europe wanted to train on the hallowed turf!” Newman recalls.
“Not many clubs at any level, were that popular.
“Watching his spectacular goal reminded me of what he was like back then, he wasn’t too forthcoming with requests from various parties that week, but he was happy to pose with my daughter Yasmin and her friend for a photo.
“My main memory of that week, was the warmth and friendliness of the Ajax staff, and how at the end of each session, the coach would stand at one end of the pitch with the ball bag, and the goalies would kick the balls into the bag from the other end of the pitch.
As a young sports reporter, I remember being a bit star struck on interviewing Ibrahimović at Buckingham Road. But he was a real gentleman and was happy to give me his time to answer a few questions about his goal against Italy and his week in Aylesbury.
I said to him at the time: “You won’t score many better than that?”
His reply has stuck in my head to this day.
“Wait and see,” he said.
“Maybe next week I will! I’ve got plenty more tricks to do, don’t worry!” he joked.
Except he wasn’t joking, he was clearly right.