Born in the small railway town of Tarm with a population of only 4084 in West Denmark, Kim Heiselberg was plucked from obscurity by our youth scouts in late 1997 as we parted with £125,000 to take him from Esbjerg. With the first team on a run of form that would see them finish in third place on 90 points, his arrival went unnoticed as the then 20-year-old was consigned to reserve team football.
Sadly for the young Dane, his Wearside career didn’t go down the same path of fellow countryman Thomas Sorensen, and instead some questionable defensive performances and a sending off for telling the referee to "f**k off" in one of his first performances for the reserves meant he joined the likes of Stefano Santini (remember him?) in the ‘class name, crap player’ category.
His first full season coincided with one of the club’s most successful as we dominated the old First Division - winning the league with a record 105 points. The central defender found himself nowhere near the first team, as Jody Craddock and Darren Williams provided the back up to Andy Melville, who was enjoying a resurgence, alongside new signing Paul Butler. Heiselberg went back to Denmark to link up with former club Esbjerg fB on loan in March 1998. The side from south-west Denmark were having an impressive season though and his chances of first team football were severely limited.
Heiselberg never returned to Wearside, instead staying on loan at the Danish club where he eventually broke into the team after moving into a central midfield position and scoring one goal in 31 appearances. However, when his contract at the club came to an end, Esbjerg decided against offering their former youngster a permanent contract, and he returned to England as a free agent in an attempt to find a club.
Colin Todd had just taken the manager’s role at recently relegated Swindon Town at that time and, luckily for Heiselberg, was in the process of a rebuild that would see him move for cheap foreign targets. Todd brought in Heiselberg alongside Juan Cobian, Antoine van der Linden & the brilliantly named Danny Invincibile. He became something of a cult hero for The Robins - sadly for him though it was for all the wrong reasons.
In danger of being cut adrift at the bottom of the league and suffering the prospect of a second successive relegation, Todd gave Heiselberg a league start following on from a fairly steady debut in a 1-1 Worthington Cup draw against Exeter City. It didn’t exactly go to plan for him though, and despite Invincible equalising early in the first half a "back line boasting more holes than a colander" that included the former Danish under-21 international conceded another two goals before half time. Heiselberg was subsequently taken off at half time, Colin Todd was sacked in the wake of the result, and the Dane never played in England again.
After returning to Denmark to find a club, he had a fleeting spell at Herning Fremad before retiring back to his hometown of Tarm.
Hugely respected in his native land - although perhaps not by the pigs - he’s made quite a name for himself in the porcine world. The Lionel Messi of pig farming some might say - he’s the proud owner of several awards due to his expertise on the dietary requirements of pigs.
In an interview with PigProgress in 2010 , it was claimed the former defender had worked out the secret to bloating in sows and had become invested in improving the diet of the pigs that resided on his farmland. Seeing his pigs mortality rate raise to 12.8%, he began looking at possible causes for this, and came up with the idea of ‘home-mixing’ which in turn improved gut functioning and digestion in the stomach. Heiselberg explained “apart from the addition of a bit of maize to the sows in farrowing, we did not change much to the ingredients of the feed. It was mainly the way it was presented”. Which I’m sure was nice for the pigs... before he went on to kill them anyway.
So there you have it, from Danish under-21 international to Wearside to award winning pig farmer via Colin Todd’s Swindon Town. Kim Heiselberg found his way in the world thanks to swines.