Premier League Career: Crystal Palace (1997-1998), Wimbledon (1999-2000), Ipswich Town (2000-2002), Charlton Athletic (2003-2007), Portsmouth (2007-2010)
Hermann Hreidarsson shares an unwanted Premier League record with forward Nathan Blake. He has been relegated from the top-flight a joint-record five times and with all the clubs he represented too in the Premier League.
It is unfortunate he holds this distinction because Hreidarsson was a very capable centre-back during his 15 seasons on these shores. He played 315 times in the Premier League, enjoying his best season in 2000-2001 when Ipswich Town finished a brilliant fifth in the table.
Hermann started his professional career at his local club IBV, making the breakthrough into their first-team in 1993. He spent five seasons with them, notching up 66 appearances and scoring five goals. In his final season, IBV ended up as champions of Iceland for only the second time in 18 years. However, by the time they were lifting the trophy, Hreidarsson had already embarked on his English adventure.
Crystal Palace liked what they saw and in August 1997, they signed the defender on their return to the top-flight. Hreidarsson immediately became a fixture in the team on a regular basis. He missed just one match in the 1997-1998 campaign, scoring league goals against Sheffield Wednesday and at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. The Eagles were relegated but his performances stood out week in, week out in a struggling side.
Hreidarsson had been signed by Ron Noades and when he stepped aside as Crystal Palace chairman and moved to Brentford, he took the Icelandic international with him. It was a surprising move considering the Bees were playing in the Third Division at the time. He scored six times in 1998-1999, helping the London-based side to the title but his talents were far greater than the league he was playing in. Settled in the capital, he moved to Wimbledon in October 1999 for a fee of £2.5 million. That was Brentford’s record transfer fee received for 15 years until Andre Gray’s move to Burnley.
Hreidarsson was signed at Wimbledon by fellow Scandinavian Egil Olsen and scored a goal on Boxing Day 1999 against West Ham United, capitalising on a rare error from Shaka Hislop. However, Olsen’s demanding training methods saw him fall out with the majority of the squad and he was sacked weeks before Wimbledon’s relegation to the First Division was confirmed.
That summer, he was on the move again, this time to newly-promoted Ipswich Town for £4.5 million. Hreidarsson formed decent partnerships with Mark Venus and young prodigy Titus Bramble, scoring in a 3-1 victory over Bradford City in March 2001. In their first season back in the Premier League after a six-year absence, the Tractor Boys finished a brilliant fifth in the table, earning a place in the UEFA Cup. The good times didn’t last though in Suffolk.
Ipswich experienced a dramatic reverse in their fortunes in 2001-2002 and a 5-0 defeat on the final day of the season at Anfield saw them relegated. Hreidarsson stayed at Portman Road despite their relegation, turning down a move to West Bromwich Albion in the summer of 2002 for the fear of being involved in yet another dogfight against relegation. However, with financial problems growing and the club slipping into administration, Hermann was sold in March 2003 to Charlton Athletic for £900,000.
Hreidarsson’s return to London to play for his fourth club in the capital was largely a success. He played a key role in Charlton’s best-ever Premier League season as they finished seventh in 2003-2004, scoring one of his three league goals for the club in a surprising 4-2 victory over big-spending Chelsea on Boxing Day 2003.
He made 132 appearances for the Addicks but their stability was rocked by Alan Curbishley’s departure at the end of the 2005-2006 season. Iain Dowie, Les Reed and Alan Pardew all managed the club in the following season but Charlton’s seven-season stay in England’s top-flight ended and that meant a fourth relegation on Hermann’s CV.
Exercising a clause in his contract which would allow him to leave on a free transfer if Charlton were relegated, Hreidarsson switched to Portsmouth in May 2007. He found the net in Pompey’s thrilling 7-4 victory over Reading which remains the highest-scoring match in Premier League history and was part of the team that won the FA Cup in 2008. Hreidarsson made 72 top-flight appearances for Portsmouth but relegation was inevitable when a nine-point penalty was imposed when the club slipped into administration. His 2009-2010 season ended when he snapped an Achilles tendon in an away match against Tottenham Hotspur, ruling himself out of the FA Cup final.
Hreidarsson would never play in the Premier League again but stayed with Portsmouth in the Championship until January 2012. After a six-month spell at Coventry City, he returned to his homeland to begin his coaching career. He managed the Fylkir men’s and women’s teams before becoming an assistant coach for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League in January 2018, linking up with his former Portsmouth teammate, David James.