#5 – NAVIGATING NORWAY

Welcome back to Navigating Norway where we enter Fredrik Solskjaer’s fourth season as a football manager. Last season we clinched promotion as champions of the OBOS Ligaen — on the final day no less — to see Tromsdalen reach the Elite Serien for the first time in the club’s history. However, I left you on a cliff-hanger as once the season ended we were approached by one of the biggest clubs’s in Norway: Rosenborg.

The aim of this save was to get a Norwegian side back into the Champions League group stages and Rosenborg is one of two clubs to have ever done that — 11 times to Molde’s 1 — so the question is, do we take the easy route and move to a bigger club or keep going with Tromsdalen and one day get them into Europe?

Of course, we turned it down. Tromsdalen for life, yo!

With that job offer thrown straight into the bin, my attention turned to the 2024 season. Our first season in the top flight and that means the club has just had its status upgraded to professional. It’s getting real now that’s for sure. Our aims for this season are fairly simple: stay up. But, with how we have overachieved season after season so far I would not be surprised if we ended up finishing in the top half of the table.

We will need to strengthen the squad though if we are to stay up. We are a heavy favourite for relegation and when looking at the players that we have I can understand why. At least 75% of the squad are second-tier quality at best. I’m looking at getting in 7 players at a minimum and with a budget of £60k to play with I’m rather confident of being able to strike some decent deals. We have of course done well so far with our free transfers and if I can get one or two freebies through the door then that would be more than ideal too.

PRE-SEASON REVIEW 2024

We had a difficult pre-season although the opposition was not what we were used to. Top teams from Denmark, Austria and Russia visited our home ground and pretty much blew us away. Our first game back on the pitch following promotion saw us lose out to FC Kobenhavn 1–2 although we looked the better side in patches. We followed that up with another loss as we shipped five goals in a 3–5 defeat to Red Bull Salzburg. Not the best of starts but we still managed a few goals.

Mjolner — a few divisions below us — succumbed to a 2–0 defeat but then we lost another two in which we failed to score. Dynamo Moscow turned up and destroyed us 6–0 whilst Sturm Graz could only beat us 1–0, in both games we barely touched the ball. It was rather alarming in all honest. We stuck NINE past village outfit Varsol which was nothing to really write home about before losing 0–1 to fellow Elite Serien side and neighbours Tromso. 2 wins from 7 in a disappointing warmup to the long season ahead.

Signings had to be made and I managed to bring in FIVE.

The best signing of the window was goalkeeper Andreas Smedplass from Kongsvinger for £13k (£26k) — he’s strong in all the areas our previous goalkeepers have not been. Better aerial and jumping reach as well as reflexes. We needed better defenders to protect him though which led to us also bringing in right-wing-back Runar Overik on a free transfer from Alta and Thomas Nyheim from Molde FK for £1.4k (£2k) — both make significant improvements to the defence.

Our most expensive signing so far is defensive midfielder Jacob Bolso who joins us from Stabaek for £45k (86k) and he will hopefully provide the link between defence and attack. With great attributes for such a young player, we’ll be looking to build the team around him as the year’s pass. Our final newbie is striker Kevin Martin Krygard from Molde FK for £9.25k (£13k) — with Vegard Lysvoll turning 34-years-old it is maybe time for him to take a backup role. We will of course never forget his goals that propelled us to Norway’s top-flight division.

The final news we have to round up the pre-season section of this update is the news that Fredrik Solskjaer has once again extended his contract at Tromsdalen UIL Fotball, signing on for a further two years. If we are to be relegated — I’m confident we won’t be — I’d hope that the club would still keep us on and give us the chance to get promotion to the Elite Serien again. You know my aims for this save and I’d preferably like to make them a reality as a one-club man. So, let’s get cracking and see what the top division is all about.

MID-SEASON REVIEW 2024

We’re halfway through and we find ourselves right in the middle of the table — 8th place. With 22 points out of 45, we are definitely exceeding expectations but we have the same old problem of being unable to turn draws into wins. We have won only a third of our games whilst being tied in 46% of our fixtures. Another interesting statistic is how tight things have been. We have only won or lost by the odd goal — only 3 games ending with two goals being the difference. Does this mean the new goalkeeper and defenders are doing their job? Or alternatively, does that mean we’re missing Vegard Lysvoll up top?

We began the season on an unbeaten four-match run. It began with a 1–1 draw away to Brann where we led until the 93rd minute when Robert Taylor bundled in an equaliser but our first home game saw us hang on to claim all three points in a 1–0 win over Haugesund. The side that joined us in promotion last season, Sandefjord, were our hosts next and we could only battle to a 0–0 draw where it looked like both sets of players were more worried about losing than winning.

Bodo/Glimt gave us a rude awakening to the division by overpowering us in a one-sided first half but Andreas Lovland’s 61st minute earned us a point. Molde FK was next, they hadn’t won the league in two years but as you’ve seen from the league table they are running away with it this time yet we did give them a hard time as they could only scrape a 1–0 win. It was a proud moment albeit the game ended in defeat. Our first defeat in the top flight.

Then we went and did what I can only imagine is being hailed as the ‘infamous Tromsdalen mini-run’ where we won 3 of our next 5 without defeat. Andreas Lovland struck in the 82nd minute in a 3–2 away win at Kristiansund, Sigurd Gronli fired in a brace at Viking but we surrender the lead to draw 2–2 and then Mikael Johnsen scorched one in from 30 yards to confirm a 2–1 home win versus Odds.

Vegard Lsvoll netted his first of the season to save a point in a 1–1 draw away to Valerenga before Sigurd Gronli fired in a hat-trick as we saw off bottom side Ranheim to win 4–2 — our biggest win of the season. We lost the municipality derby to Tromso 0–1 next before disappointing 1–1 and 0–0 draws at the hands of Stromgodset and Jerv but did put three past Lillestrom away from home in probably our most satisfying victory of the save so far. We reached the halfway point of the season with a trip to Rosenborg — who Fredrik rejected in the summer — and we failed to make a mark on the game, falling to a 2–0 defeat.

In the Norwegian FA Cup — the NM SAS Braathens Cup — we have reached the semi-finals stage for the first time. Wins over Bryne, Innstranda, Sandnes Ulf, Start and Kongsvinger — all by the single goal — have seen us find ourselves 90 minutes away from our first cup final. We’ve had the luck of the draw too. We’ll play the Elite Serien’s bottom side Ranheim in the semi-final. Will we have something shiny to hold above our heads in 2024?

In other news, Norway reached the 2024 UEFA European Championship semi-finals. An incredible achievement — mostly down to goals from Erling Haaland — as they defeated teams such as Wales, Denmark, Holland and Serbia before being dumped out by Belgium. Roberto Martinez’ men did it the hard way though as they only scraped into the final with a 4–3 win in extra time. Belgium went on to lose the final to England who laid to the rest the ghosts of Wembley 2021. By the time I think of taking up the Norway job they may be in a position to win a major tournament. Exciting stuff.

From the squad screen, you’ll notice that the goals are being shared between three players: Sigurd Gronli, Kevin Martin Krygard and Andreas Lovland. The assists are ratioed around the team but coming more from midfield rather than the wing-backs as in previous seasons. The standout player so far has been the new man in between the sticks Andreas Smedplass and our new striker Krygard who has so far found the net 9 times. Sigurd Gronli — of whom I have tipped twice now to be a major future star — has also been impressive.

We have reached the end of this update and it is hard to pick a target here with 15 games remaining. We are as close to winning the Norwegian Cup as we have ever been so we will, of course, aim for that but as far as the league is concerned we can aim for the 3 European places available — we are only 4 points away from them as it stands. We do have a backdoor into Europe through the cup so there are two avenues to pursue here.

I’ll also need to strengthen when the window opens in a few games time. I have shortlisted 5 players and it’s possible that we could get them all within budget so fingers crossed by the time we hit the 20 game mark we’ll have them all signed up and be prepared for a late run at reaching one of UEFA’s European competitions.

See you next time. Up the Tromsdalen.

Jamie | TarrantinoUX

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

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