#1 – NAVIGATING NORWAY

Picture this, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has just been sacked as the manager of Manchester United. His credentials were always questioned, “he won in Norway and was sacked at Cardiff” they always said. After last night’s events at St. James’ Park, you may just begin to question whether it was Solskjaer or just the Red Devil’s inept and whinging playing squad. Still, the “he won in Norway” sentiment rankles a little, especially in Norway.

I’ve never managed in Norway on Football Manager and after another night of no sleep, I decided to have a look around the old interweb and do a little studying. It didn’t take long until I was sold on a football club and a save had been loaded up. But before all that, shall we talk about the wonderful nation of Norway first to familiarise ourselves and set the scene?

Alternatively, you could skip that and check it out here in your own time.

Looking through the history of football in Norway — which stems back to 1883 — you’ll notice that they are still yet to make a mark on the game. Albeit with a certain Erling Haaland and a new generation of players coming through that at some point you’d hope to see that fact change. The Norweigan Football Association was founded in 1902 — When Newton Heath became Manchester United, another Ole link? — and the national team has only managed to qualify for 3 FIFA World Cups out of 22.

They did win the 1929/32 Nordic Championship before it was abolished in 2001 and also came third in the Olympic Games in 1936. That is as good as it gets for the national team. At club level, their most famous achievement is Rosenborg’s run to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in 1996 where they were defeated by Juventus 3–1 on aggregate. Rosenborg (11) and Molde (1) remain the only Norweigan football clubs to reach the Champions League group stages.

That’s the brief history out the way, I’d hate to bore you. So where do we go from here? Simple. I want to make Norway a force in Europe at club level. I stumbled across a team named Tromsdalen UIL— in the municipality of Tromso — and after a look on their Wikipedia page, I was sold after reading this: “In the 2019 season, Tromsdalen has to play their home games at Alfheim Stadion because their floodlights were not approved by the Football Association of Norway.”

They were founded in 1938 but unfortunately, I can only see their league history from 2006 where they have been the West Bromwich Albion of Scandinavia yo-yo-ing between the first and second divisions of the Norweigan third tier. I’ll hopefully be able to change that but only time will tell whether I spend the entire save at one club in this save. I’d like to but who knows what will happen as this new journey progresses.

MEET FREDRIK SOLSKJAER

Meet Fredrik Solskjaer.

31 years old and born in Molde. Whether he has any relation to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a mystery but there is one thing we do know for sure, he never played football at any professional level and his coaching badges and reputation reflects that. Here are three fun facts about Fredrik Solskjaer: He is a fully qualified tree surgeon. He hates the snow. Has written three number one bestsellers in Norway all about the adventures of John Arne-Riise at Liverpool, Fulham and then Roma. All true stories, apparently.

Tactics? We’re going with a high intensity 3–2–2–1–2 in a bid to revolutionise the Norweigan game. I’m also going with this as I started an offline Glory Hunter save over the Christmas break and after chopping and changing tactical instructions it led my Paris Saint-Germain team to the quadruple. It’s only PSG I hear you say, and you may be right, but I’m determined to make this tactic a force at all levels, even here in the Norweigan lower tiers.

Signings? I’m making do with what I’ve got for now although that may change as we delve deeper into our seasonal preparations. I’ll be back very shortly as I bang out the pre-season campaign and garner a better idea of what and who I’m working with. Ser deg snart! (see you soon to me and you!)

PRE-SEASON REVIEW

There’s a lot of green circles in those results isn’t there? I wouldn’t read too far into that though. With a full two months and two weeks until the competitive season would begin I arranged a friendly for every Sunday evening. The opposition were all either similar in stature to us or downright awful and quite possibly teams of Norweigan Sunday league football — but don’t quote me on that. However, 10 wins from 11 are nothing to be sniffed at.

We scored 41 goals overall and conceded 7 which is a rather good return also but I’m doing my best not to get carried away albeit the team has taken to the unorthodox formation like a politician to an illegal Christmas party. The standout player in the warmups was striker Vegard Lysvoll who at 31 years of age netted 9 times whilst assisting 3 in his 8 appearances.

Bloody decent.

I said I wouldn’t sign anyone, didn’t I? It wasn’t a lie, this was more of an opportunity presenting itself that I couldn’t turn down. As soon as I saw his name feelings of nostalgia flooded me. Morten Gamst Pedersen, a legend at Blackburn and scorer of sensational goals was available on a free transfer from Alta and I immediately took him. Yes, he is 39 years of age — and I didn’t even know he was still playing — but he’ll be an important player, I have no doubts about that whatsoever.

Time for the real action to begin now. I’ll be back once again at the halfway point of the season which will be in mid-August. It’s going to take some getting used to when the Norweigan leagues start and finish. Also, it looks like we’ll be in for lengthy off-seasons which I’m not that much of a fan of but we’re all here now so let’s just learn to live with it shall we?

MID-SEASON REVIEW 2021

After a slow start to the season we kicked on and at the halfway point of the Postnord-Ligaen Avdeling 1 — yeah, me neither — we sit top having just climbed above Floro with a 4–0 victory, more of that later though as I’ll start from the beginning. The opening day saw us blow a 2–0 lead to draw 2–2 with Moss HK at home, Walid Idrissi’s 90th-minute equaliser was more than deserved though so settling for a point wasn’t as big a disappointment as you’d think. We followed that with our first win of the season away at Hodd. Tobias Vibe and 18-year-old Dovydas Zala with the goals.

We returned home to play out another draw, this time a frustrating 0–0 draw with Eidsvold Turn and what came next was another disappointing result as we lost 1–0 away at Kvik Halden, it was an abysmal performance. 1 win from our first 4 games wasn’t filling me with much confidence. Floro SK were then victims of some slick football as we ran away 3–1 winners with the goals coming from Gamst Pedersen, Gronli and Lovland. Was this the turning point?

Our third home game of the season would see us take on Alta — one of the league favourites — and this was our third attempt at taking all three points at home. We failed to win on our own turf once again, a narrow 2–1 defeat despite being the better team, in my opinion anyway. From this point forward, however, we did not lose again. Goals from Gronli and Lovland gave us our first home win of the season in a 2–0 win over Baerum and we followed that with another 2–0 win away at Brattvag where Lovland was on target once more. Sandwiched in between those league games were two cup ties as we batted away FK Fyllingsdalen 5–2 and then Alta 3–1 to put us into the third round of the NM SAS Braathens Cup (the Norweigan FA Cup).

We equalised late on at home versus Asker thanks to Kent Malic Swaleh and then went on to win our next four games in the league. Our run included three straight away games where we beat Kongsvinger 3–0, FK Senja 4–2 and Valerenga’s second team 2–0. Morten Gamst Pedersen scored four whilst assisting four in these outings, proving that his free transfer was definitely the right decision. Lysvoll scored twice in a 4–0 home win against Floya to send us to the top of the league for the first time.

At the halfway stage of the league season, we’re looking strong. Our start was inconsistent but as the players adapted to the tactics the football started to flow and we’re now certainly in a dogfight with Floro SK, Atla and Brattvag as we look to earn either automatic promotion or promotion via the playoffs. We’ll also be looking to progress further in the Norweigan Cup but having been drawn with FK Molde I’d more than assume that our run has come to an abrupt end although you never know. Everyone loves a cup upset, don’t they?

I’ll get on with the nitty-gritty and see you at the end of the season. Fingers crossed it all goes to plan and we can all celebrate the first promotion at the end of our first season in Norway.

END OF SEASON REVIEW 2021

We were close to giving up automatic promotion after having it in the bag but as you’ll see above we made it over the line. The five-match winning run that we had put together as we reached the halfway point was immediately ended by Moss FK who defeated us 2–0 in a game where Football Manager informed me that only two of our fans had travelled. They obviously had not foreseen the poor performance we’d end up putting in, I’m using that as an excuse for other fans not coming to see us play away from home.

But then we put a six-game winning streak together that started with a 2–0 win over Hodd at home through early goals from Gronli and Lovland. Those same two fans then travelled again to see us win 3–1 at Eidsvold Turn where Vegard Lysvoll netted a superb second-half hat trick. Next up we travelled to promotion rivals Alta where this time we were followed by 24 travelling fans and they were left celebrating as we claimed a 1–0 win thanks to a 12th-minute goal from Sigurd Gronli who had now become our top scorer. Further wins over Floro SK and Brattvag had seen us go 9 points clear at the top of the league with 6 games remaining.

Game over for the chasing pack, surely?

Not quite. Our second winning streak was ended by 10th place Baerum who tore us apart in a 4–0 dismantling. We had to ring some changes but that was no excuse for such a poor result. The defeat had dented the confidence as we then could only manage a 0–0 draw at home to struggling Kongsvinger, our lead had been reduced to 4 points and I did begin to worry that our season may be unravelling but a 2–1 away win at Asker had us back in the driving seat. Morten Gamst Pedersen fired in the winning goal with a long-range drive in the 68th minute, even now at 40-years-old he still possesses immense talent.

Talking of Gamst Pedersen, it was at this point that he signed a two-year contract extension and with the goals and assists he has been providing it’s a very welcome renewal. In other news, our u19s wrapped up their own league in dominant fashion. Using the same tactical setup as the first team it’s showing that my football philosophy is paying off at all levels. They had guaranteed their own promotion, could we now do the same?

As we stepped onto our home turf to play already relegated FK Senja we knew that three points would secure the title and automatic promotion. What I did not envisage was just how tired and worn down the team had become. We laboured to a 0–0 draw but in reality, we so easily could have lost the game which would have been a complete and utter embarrassment. We’d have to wait to confirm the title but with two games remaining it was almost a certainty.

349 fans travelled this time — strange numbers, right? — as we took on Floya in our penultimate league game and this time we got the job done. We led 2–0 at halftime via goals from Steffen Skogvang Pedersen and Anders Karlsen but after the restart, Olsen pulled a goal back and our right-wing-back was shown a red card. An equaliser followed and at 2–2, it looked like we may end up going to the final day. Then Andreas Lovland popped up at the back post to nod home in the 79th minute. No highlights followed and the trophy was ours to lift above our heads as we celebrated promotion as champions.

We were defeated 2–0 at home on the final day by Valerenga 2 but it was a non-event. We had already done what we had needed to do. We were second-best in the league statistics, however. Lysvoll was 2nd in the goals column, Nilsen was 2nd in the clean sheet’s column and Morten Gamst Pedersen had to share the most assists statistic which was tied at 6.

Luck was on our side on the injury front. Looking at the squad page you’ll notice that we had 8 regular starters that featured in 25+ games of the 29 games that we played. There were many important players but Tobias Vibe at centre-back and Morten Gamst Pedersen in midfield were the standouts. Both will remain under contract for next season and they’ll be vital in ensuring our survival. We’ll need to make additions to the squad during the break to give us the best chance of staying up and potentially push us higher than we could possibly imagine.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first season in Norway and to end it as league winners and achieving promotion in the first season is certainly something I did not expect. We were 16/1 to win the league before the season began — it’s no Leicester, I know — but we have overachieved massively, which slightly worries me when I think ahead and how difficult my second season in charge will be. Ahem, I mean how difficult Fredrik Solskjaer will find it.

I’ll be back in a few days with a run-through of season 2. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed the first instalment of Navigating Norway. Feel free to leave a comment or like, it is always greatly appreciated.

Jamie | TarrantinoUX

Follow me on Twitter here. / Visit Non-League Reports here.

One thought on “#1 – NAVIGATING NORWAY

  1. Pingback: #2 – NAVIGATING NORWAY | On the Break

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