MAD DOG GRAVESEN – The Last of the Modern Footballing Mavericks by Chris Sweeney has just been published by Pitch Publishing. The Celtic Star spoke to the author about one of the maddest players ever to have pulled on the Hoops and why he decided to write a book about the Great Dane. Below is our exclusive interview with the author of Mad Dog Gravesen – The Last of the Modern Football Mavericks and next we’ll publish a Celtic specific extract from this entertaining new book, so stay tuned to The Celtic Star for that!
Hi Chris, MAD DOG GRAVESEN – The Last of the Modern Footballing Mavericks is your new book that’s just been published by Pitch Publishing. Congratulations on that! Can you tell us something about the book, what the reader can expect and why you decided to write a book about the Great Dane?
I decided to write about Thomas as I was fascinated with him, more as a person than a footballer. I felt he was well-known for his career on the field, but a lot about his off-field persona wasn’t so well known. It struck me that we no longer have these larger than life characters in top level sport, particularly football.
You don’t get that intangible quality anymore, a lot of the players now come through the academies and are so sanitised, a guy like Thomas would never have made made it through that sort of environment. I hope people get a book that lets them find out about the man behind the player and also reminds the fans how refreshing and inspiring it can be when you encounter a true maverick, which without a doubt Thomas is.
This is your second book, but the first one that’s football related. What was your first book about and how did you go from there to writing about the former Celtic star Tommy Gravesen?
My first book was about the BMX star John Buultjens who’s from Glasgow, he went from being thrown in a fire by his abusive father, to then being locked up for attacking him with a kitchen knife, to being adopted and discovering BMX which allowed him to live a completely different life. His journey has since been turned into a movie with Steven Speilberg even giving it his support. I went from there to Thomas quite easily. I’m attracted to people who are cut from a different cloth and live without compromises.
You’ve interviewed some big stars over the years, including the likes of P Diddy, Amy Winehouse, Mike Fleetwwod and Jon Bon Jovi. Any interesting stories you can share about interviewing these stars?
That was really my day job and how I got started in the media, I actually still do some of that now. In terms of stories, if anyone remembers P Diddy coming to Glasgow to perform for MTV, I was the one who talked him into wearing the kilt that night. But when we were talking as I was explaining why he should do it, I gave him the line “you’ve got the legs for it” which I think due to different cultures and in his macho world, I don’t think he was used to a guy telling him that. So we had a few awkward moments before he realised where I was coming from.
I’ve thrown clumps of mud at Sex Pistols’ fans with Calvin Harris who were giving him stick and started throwing mud at him first, so we returned the compliment. Most of the big names are pretty decent people, I really like Mark Ronson who always enjoys a chat, Noel Gallagher loves if you bring up football as he’s sick of being asked the same things, so last time we had a chat about why Manchester City seem to give so many players to Celtic. Another guy who loves his football is Maxi Jazz from Faithless, he was telling me about how he has to go all proper to games now as he’s a director at Crystal Palace.
What did you learn about Tommy Gravesen’s time at Celtic – it’s fair to say that he seemed to split opinions among the support at the time?
The main thing I learned was ironically what spurred me on to write the book, there is a lot of unknown and mystery there. The Celtic fans I spoke to are bemused about what happened, and lots of them recall how he scored twice against Rangers. Here was a guy coming from Real Madrid, clearly with tons of ability and he ends up only playing for one season and ultimately retires aged 32 after going on a youth team trip to Ireland. That was the last anyone heard of him for several years until he resurfaced in Las Vegas. I hope the book opens up some of those mysteries and provides some answers.
Clearly after his football career, things seemed to get even crazier for Tommy Gravesen. What can you tell us about his life after he hung up his boots?
He moved to Vegas but now lives back in Denmark. There are lots of rumours about how much money he has earned and how he earned it. With Thomas it is hard to nail anything down, he’s a recluse of sorts and in Denmark has even been nicknamed The Unicorn due to his mythical status.
What’s the story about Gravesen and Mike Tyson and is it true that he once brought dynamite to training?
Yep, dynamite was brought into training in Hamburg. He referred to it as his “special fireworks” – the tale is in the book, but a crater was left on the training field that day. Mike Tyson was enchanted by Thomas after going to see an international game in Copenhagen, he loved his aggressive and free-wheeling style. So much so, Tyson asked for his shirt and wore it for the rest of his time in Denmark, as he was there for a fight which set up his big clash with Lennox Lewis.
We understand that you spoke to someone in each of his club and international dressing rooms, from Vejle, Hamburg, Everton, Real Madrid and Celtic, plus Denmark at World Cup/Euros. There must have been some common themes coming across in these conversations about Tommy?
The book goes through all of his life and career, and everybody remembers him vividly. He was a guy who made a serious impression, no matter where he went. One thing that gets overlooked with all the outlandish antics and bizarre incidents is that he was a top player with bags of skill. All the football people were keen to stress how good he was and probably better than most fans appreciated. But they all said they would not be surprised to learn of anything he’d done, nothing is impossible when it comes to Thomas.
Tell us about him apparently making a £100million fortune in Las Vegas – is this true and what is the story about him losing another fortune in high stakes poker game?
There is a tale of him losing $54 million in a single game of one-on-one poker. Plus there’s the news of him winning the £100 million fortune. Thomas has never said any of it is true or not, but my book looks at the reasons behind it. Although one thing I do say in the book, Gordon Strachan claiming Thomas makes a fortune as the second best Call of Duty players in the world is rubbish.
Is there still a place for mavericks like Gravesen in football and if not, do you think that the game is poorer for it?
I don’t think there is. Even if you take a club like Celtic in a relatively small commercial market like Scotland, the stadium is plastered with corporate signs or adverts. The game is now a business and that has turned the players into assets, so image and perception are important.
The academies churn out these strong, fit and talented athletes but hardly any display a real distinctive character and if they do have it, they chose to suppress it. I’m not having a pop at Celtic as all the clubs are in the same situation, but is there anyone in the squad that fans would love to know more about or find really interesting as a person?
I think Thomas is one of the few players in recent history that fall into that bracket and probably the last we’ll see for a long time reach the levels of being somewhere like Real Madrid.
Do you keep in touch with Celtic games from your home in Zurich and if so what do you think of the current Celtic side as opposed to the team that Tommy Gravesen was apart of?
I’m not a massive Celtic fan any longer. My father is a diehard and really is far more passionate than me. I did get a season ticket one year for Christmas though and when I was a boy I’d get the players autographs, the best memory of that time is how genuine and warm Tommy Burns was. Him giving his time and seemingly caring about me standing there to meet him, how he conducted himself around me had a far bigger impact than me watching Pierre van Hooijdonk score in the ’95 Scottish Cup Final to end the long trophy drought or going to some of the big European games during the run to Seville.
Where can Celtic supporters get a copy of Mad Dog Gravesen?
They can get in book shops, it should be in the main ones like Waterstones. But it’s also on Amazon if they prefer that and they can ORDER HERE or click on the book cover below…
Next on The Celtic Star, a Celtic story from MAD DOG GRAVESEN – The Last of the Modern Footballing Mavericks by Chris Sweeney…
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