Season 20, Fredrikstad Fotballklubb, Norwegian Tippeligaen
Board Expectations: Mid-Table Safety
Media Prediction: 10th (16)
Transfers in: 20(!) in for ££3.4M
Transfers out: 22(!!!) out for ££750K
It should be noted that only six of the above transfers out were of my doing, the rest were basically 2/3rds of the squad leaving on frees. Hence the ridiculous number of players in, as the remaining third of the squad was the equivalent of lighting the wages on fire. Additionally, four of the transfers in were set up by the previous manager, surprisingly, three out of the four wound up being decent and one of them, Norwegian Engine Room, wound being one of our best MCs.
Of the multitude of players that I brought in, I spent big (££1M) on bringing over a 20 year-old Nigerian Midfield General from Tampere, with the rest being whatever young Norwegians I could grab — as I learned last time at Lillestrøm, Norway has pretty restrictive rules about how many non-Home-Grown players you can have registered. Of these, Hot Shot, a 19-year-old striker that I rescued from the Liverpool reserves, was the most promising.
I also avoided my other major pratfall at Lillestrøm, where I went with a new tactic that should have worked perfectly with their squad, only it didn’t and I ignored all the early warning signs and wound up getting sacked. This time, I wouldn’t try and outsmart myself.
Not a bad start to the season as I tried to figure out my best 11. I quickly identified one of the U19s that could play and he was soon dubbed The Vulcan because of his haircut, and he proved invaluable by popping in to score from the right wing.
After an early injury flare-up, we stabilized and became part of the top seven clubs as they put ground between them and everybody else. Europe was not out of the question, although I thought it would be a big ask.
In the mid-season window, I used some extra space we had in the wage bill to pick up three players, an Icelander that I’d been tracking since my time at Hä£cken who could play either in the middle of the defense or screening them, Mercurial Dutch AMC and South African Springbok, who wound up being invaluable in terms of letting Nigerian General and Engine Room get some well-needed rest.
Although I had expected Brann to take advantage of multiple games-in-hand, they, along with the other top teams, were up-and-down and a long Fredrikstad unbeaten streak put us fourth with five games to play. We led off with home victories over Moss and Lillestrøm and suddenly we were within sniffing distance of the top.
Next up was an away game to HamKam. We went up early and with 30 minutes to go, I decided that my veteran Czech CB was struggling and took him off, only for his replacement to give up a goal late on. I was gutted, we were now three points behind Brann and we played them next, away at that.
I was surprised as anybody when we beat them 2-0 at their place; however, it was tough not to think of those two points dropped when I looked at the top of the table and saw us tied with Brann and Moss on 59 points with one game to play; we were third, courtesy of a +24 Goal Differential, compared to +41 for Brann and +27 for Moss. However, they played each other at Moss in the final round while we were at home to already-relegated Molde, so we still had a chance.
We scored twice early on and the Moss-Brann game was tied at the half. Two more came in the 64th and 76th minutes and just five minutes later, news came through that Moss had scored — we were now tied on goal differential.
Racking my brain for the tiebreakers, I told the lads great job then noticed a goal had been scored after our game had ended: Brann had scored in the 94th minute to tie it up. We had won the league as a promoted side.
After two fairly easy matches against lower league opposition, we were given a tough matchup against our fierce rivals and multiple-recent-champions Moss in the third round. I was a bit shocked when we lamped them 3-0 on the road. Another tough draw as we played at home against league leaders Stabaek at home, winning 3-1.
After a 5-1 romp in Fredrikstad against Byrne in the quarters, we traveled to fallen giants Rosenborg (now in the Adeccoligaen) in the semi-final. In a cagey match, it took until the 68th minute for somebody to score.
We had a free kick at the edge of their box, Nigerian General put it into the wall and they sprang on the break, putting a free header in at the back post. In the 80th minute, they broke again from a corner, only to have our right-back cut out a bad pass and find Mercurial Dutchman, who put Hot Shot in behind the defense and he cut inside the defender to equalize.
Five minutes later, Mercurial Dutchman put the ball on the far post for The Vulcan to head home. With the fourth official holding up the board for extra-time, our 19-year-old Left Back gave up an idiotic penalty on the edge of the area. We were spared as the penalty was screwed wide and we didn’t look back on our way to the final.
In the final we would face another Norwegian fallen power in Odd Grenland, it was the champions of the first division versus the champions of the second division. It was honestly a poor match, with them scoring early and then us converting a penalty shortly afterward.
The only other incidents of note were us hitting the crossbar after the half and both sides spurning good chances at the death. Extra-time came and went, so it was penalties. Poor Odd only hit one of their first three and Nigerian General gave us 4 out of 4, slamming it right down the middle. Against the odds, we’d done the double.
Player of the Year:
Lots of possible choices here, with The Vulcan and Hot Shot being fan favorites, I’m going to have to go with Solid Left Winger, who started out in the reserves and over the course of the season forced his more well-known (and well-enumerated) Brazilian counterpart out of the starting eleven.
He finished the year with 24 starts, the highest average rating on the team and 8 goals and 7 assists, including a brace in the final game against Molde.
Former Club Watch:
RoPS: Champions, by way of goal difference
Hä£cken: Third in the Superettan, lost in the promotion playoff to Trelleborg, 7-2 on aggregate
Malmö£: 9th, 25 points back
Lillestrøm: 6th, nine points off the pace
Tampere: Blew the league to lose to RoPS on Goal Difference, thanks to a home collapse against the boys from Rovaniemi in the third-to-last-game
TPL 1ST (16) P30 W18 D8 L4 GF61 GA33 Pts62
And now my adventures in Scandoland have had the curtain drawn