#4 – NAVIGATING NORWAY

Welcome back to Navigating Norway. Last time out I left you at the midway stage of the 2023 season, our second season in the OBOS Ligaen and third season overall. We currently sit 2nd in the Norwegian second-tier — unbeaten too I may add — as we aim for promotion once again. Too many draws have been our downfall so far, meaning we’re going to have to start turning these torrid draws into wins. It is a must if we are to take Tromsdalen up into the Elite Serien for the very first time in their history.

Before I delve into how the 2023 season ended I thought I’d give a quick roundup of how we have got to this point in the save. In the first season, we were promoted from the third their as champions, in the second season we shocked the nation by making the playoffs — narrowly missing out on automatic promotion — but fell at the semi-final stage. That’s the quick roundup over, can we make it 2 promotions in 3 years? Scroll down and find out for yourselves.

END OF SEASON REVIEW 2023

Everyone loves a bit of uncertainty and the unknown don’t they? That’s why I’m starting the end of season review part of the post by only showing you the results. This time I’m also showing you the goalscorers — mostly because I’d like you to see the times of the goals. We won 12 of our final 15 games in the OBOS Ligaen but was that enough to fight off the other 4 teams who are also out for the two automatic promotion spots?

We resumed the season with a 2–1 comeback victory over Goroud IL away from home where Gronli equalised in the 76th minute and Vegard Lysvoll scored the winner in the 90th. Late goals would now become a theme as we moved into the business end of the season. Unfortunately, Sandefjord — one of our challengers — ended our unbeaten run as they eased past us with a 0–2 victory. As always though, we bounced back with one of our infamous mini winning runs.

In August we took maximum points in all four of our fixtures. Lysvoll and Ibrahim scored in a 2–0 win at home to Mjondalen whilst Lysvoll was again at hand with another late winner away at Sarspborg 08 where we had to come back from a goal down to take all the points. Straightforward 3–0 and 2–0 victories followed over Aalesund and Asane with Lysvoll bagging another four goals. I did say earlier that the man was on a mission.

Then another blip.

2–0 down at Stjordals-Blink with everyone around us winning again was frustrating but we fought back to draw 2–2. Pedersen sparked the revival with a 66th-minute drive and Andreas Lovland, with only his third of season levelled in the 87th. We then travelled to Kongsvinger where we lost 0–2. We deserved to lose, yet it was only our second defeat of the season. We sat in 4th place, somehow with all the wins we had accrued before these results we had gone down the table, rather than up it.

KFUM Oslo succumbed to a 4–2 defeat before we played Sandnes at home. This and the game that followed were pivotal moments in our season. We fell behind at Sandnes in the first minute but were level 19 minutes later through Gronli. We fought and fought but a second goal just would not arrive. Then, in the 4th minute of added-on time, it was Tromsdalen hitman Vegard Lysvoll who popped up to flick in at the near post. I couldn’t help but pump my fists.

I said the next game was pivotal too. We were once again struggling at home to find a winner versus Raufoss but in the 91st minute, we were provided with a big chance. A chance that was taken as Sigurd Gronli stepped up to convert a penalty. Two MASSIVE wins in the race for promotion. We picked up another big win next as we defeated 2nd placed Fredrikstad 1–0 — Lysvoll on target once again of course.

With 3 games left, we still sat in third place. Even after a 3–0 win over Skied Fotball that took us to 28 games played out of 30 we still sat in third place. No matter what we did we just could not get into the automatic promotion spots but then, finally, we did. In our penultimate league game, we squeezed our way to a 1–0 win away at HamKam — you guessed it, Lysvoll again.

As we headed into the final game of the season all we had to do was win the game and we would be going up to the Elite Serien — we were level on points with Sandefjord but we had a superior goal difference — lose the game and we could potentially be heading back to another playoff scenario. We also could still win the league providing Fredrikstad lost their game, they sat top of the league going into the final 90 minutes, only 2 of us out of 3 could go up automatically.

Did you get all that? Right, this happened!

We won 2–0 with a Gronli double, Sandefjord won 4–1 and Fredrikstad lost 1–0 away to Stjordals-Blink. Promotion confirmed? Tick. Promotion as champions? Double tick! An unbelievable run-in that saw us win our final 7 games — two of which we won in stoppage time — to edge into the promotion spots and on the last day end up with confetti all over the place on our own ground. I knew the results around the grounds as we edged closer to the final whistle and although not being bothered about going up as champions I could see it was looking likely and at the end, I couldn’t have been happier.

OBOS LIGAEN CHAMPIONS BABY!

The graph above provides the most interesting information about the season. We were never top of the league until the final day of the season, that’s absolute madness, isn’t it? We were only in the automatic promotion places for 6 match weeks out of 29 going into the final day too. It must have been painful for Fredrikstad who were top of the league from game week 3 all the way until the end, only to fall into the playoffs at the final hurdle. It’s truly remarkable.

Fredrikstad reached the playoff final where they faced Tromso — it becomes a promotion/relegation playoff between divisions — where they failed to outdo our neighbours, another season in the OBOS Ligaen for Fredrikstad. Not for us though, we’re bloody going up!

What can I say about that squad? They were terrific. Centre-back Kevin Jablinski went on to win the player and player’s player of the season awards in our division whilst Vegard Lysvoll of course won the golden boot with 26 league goals — he is 33 now, can he continue scoring goals in Norways’ top division? The main man however is 23-year-old playmaker Sigurd Gronli who provided 14 goals and 14 assists this season. He’s destined for some stardom I’m sure. Molde are sneaking around trying to get his signature though so we may lose him — though I’ll do all I can to keep hold of him.

On a personal level for manager Fredrik Solskjaer — our face of the save — he picked up the OBOS Ligaen Manager of the Year award as well as securing his second career promotion and second league title win. In our three seasons in Norway, we have risen through two divisions finishing 1st, 3rd and 1st. It’s practically Sir Alex Ferguson numbers at Manchester United. He also sits 2 games way from 100 games in charge of Tromsdalen Fotball. We haven’t reached ‘icon’ or ‘legend’ status yet at the club but hopefully one day we will.

Next season will see Tromsdalen play in Norway’s top division for the first time ever and I genuinely have no idea what to expect. There are some very good teams up there in Molde, Kristiansund and Bodo/Glimt just to name a few. I’ll be aiming to keep our heads above water and not dropping straight back to the OBOS Ligaen, however, with a squad that constantly overachieves maybe I have nothing to worry about?

But hang on, what do we have here?

I’ll see you next time on Navigating Norway as we manage in Norway’s Elite Serien for the first time. But will Fredrik Solskjaer still be at Tromsdalen or will he be taking over the reins of Rosenborg?

Stay tuned, there’s never a quiet day in Norway with me around.

Jamie | TarrantinoUX

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

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