DERRY City legend, Aleksandar Krstic, who lit up Brandywell Stadium during the late 1980s has returned to watch the ‘Candy Stripes’ play for the first time in almost 30 years when he visits Maginn Park in Buncrana this evening.
The Serbian hitman who joined Noel King’s revolutionary League of Ireland team in 1986-87 from French club, US Orleans, scored 18 goals in 17 appearances, helping guide Derry City into the League of Ireland Premier Division.
He left Brandywell as top goalscorer in the First Division that year and joined German side, FCSaarburcken before returning for a second spell at Brandywell, this time under the guidance of Jim McLaughlin.
And Krstic (now aged 55), who has worked as a football agent in Belgrade for the past 21 years, regards those two seasons on Foyleside among the best times of his career.
He lined up in squad which included Brazilian, Nelson Da Silva, skilful South African, Owen Da Gama and stylish full-back, Frenchman, Pascal Vaudequin, in a squad which had a real cosmopolitan feel to it.
And despite the ‘Troubles’ and the numerous checkpoints in Derry at that time, Krstic insists he was ‘incredibly happy’ at the Brandywell club.
There was the checkpoints and the ‘Troubles’ at that time and, in fact, everything was in place not to be happy and yet I was incredibly happy here.Alex Krstic
“It was the most incredible experience,” said the former City striker when I interviewed him yesterday. “It was a strange decision to come to Ireland but once I was there Derry and the Derry people did everything to make me happy.
“I had two tremendous years. It was not only football, but everything around football. There was the checkpoints and the ‘Troubles’ at that time and, in fact, everything was in place not to be happy and yet I was incredibly happy here,” he smiled.
“It really is a big paradox and I have great memories. The Irish people made my wife and myself very, very happy during our stay.
“In this point of view I would put it at the top of my career. In France I was happy and in Portugal and in Germany which was interesting but in Derry it was something special.
“Everyone was involved in football and showed their true support. Everyone was part of our success as a team.”
Krstic and his wife did spend a short time in Derry several years ago at Christmas, but he always wanted to return to watch the ‘Candy Stripes’ in action once more and decided now was the perfect time.
He’s back on Foyleside visiting his good friend, Seamus Mallon and spending his time playing golf at North West Golf Club, Lisfannon. While he spent yesterday afternoon meeting up with former teammate, Kevin Mahon and looking around Brandywell Stadium as he reminisces on those ‘special days’ when he played in front of crowds of 10,000 people.
“I’m enjoying my stay here very much. I’m playing golf and I’ve been able to go around the city and I’m really happy to be back.
“Last week I was in France in my home and I wanted to go somewhere for a little break and I felt I had to go to Derry and here I am. For a long time I’ve wanted to come back.
“I haven’t really kept in touch with how the club has been doing but Pascal (Vaudequin) would sometimes talk to be by phone and Seamus Mallon would keep me up to date on what’s happening.
“I’ll be going to the game tomorrow night and I hear they are playing in Buncrana because of the works going on at Brandywell.
Krstic lives a busy life nowadays, travelling mostly between Serbia and France and he’s not always privy to how results have been going for Derry City. And yet he regards himself as an ambassador for the club.
“I always hope the club does well. It’s a special club. I have great memories of the crowd and the atmosphere, it was amazing.
“We played well and I had good teammates who I couldn’t have done anything without. I’m really looking forward to seeing them because I spent a great time in Derry and in Ireland wherever I went.
“This is why I always feel like an ambassador for Derry City and for Ireland because I spent two fantastic years here and I love this country.
“I’m only here for one week so haven’t been able to see everybody but I’ll be back again.”
As a successful football agent, Krstic has represented top professionals such as ex-Liverpool striker, El Hadji Diouf, former PSG and Spurs midfielder Stephane Dalmat and 1998 World Cup winner with France, Vincent Candela.
He’s happy to still be involved in the game but it’s a far cry from when he graced Brandywell Stadium.
“I’ve done this for the past 21 years. I’m based in Serbia in Belgrade and I have my house in France but I’m living in Belgrade and have my offices there.
“There have been so many players over 20 years. It’s good to be still involved in the game but it’s different because you have to focus on the player not the team. It makes it very interesting.”
Alex will be a welcome spectator at tonight’s match in Buncrana as City look to get their league campaign back on track.
Kenny Shiels’ largely homegrown team is some world’s away from the cosmopolitan melting pot at Brandywell in the late 80s but the City legend is excited about seeing his beloved Candy Stripes in action.