This is one episode of a wider series. To instead start at episode one, please click here.
I let the news sink in. It’s mid November 2022, and unless a dramatic turnaround happens, I will be leaving Lillestrøm at the end of the calendar year. Granted, leaving having delivered them promotion back to the promised land, a cup victory, financial stability and with European qualifiers to follow, but leaving none the less.
After my tough time at Varbergs, Lillestrøm really have been good to me. I’ve bagged my Continental B Licence, and I am well on the way towards gaining my Continental Pro (although I really wish I had it now!). My 550 days or so in charge have also allowed me to massively improve all of my managerial characteristics. When I joined, my managing finances rating was at 17% (now at 79%) and media handling at 30% or so (now at 100%). Also, winning the second tier and the Norwegian Cup has improved my reputational ‘score’ to 55%, where it was once 35%.
31 victories in 57 games have also improved my overall managerial performance statistics. At roughly around the three and a bit year mark of this journeyman adventure, where I started out with no badges, no experience and no clue, I don’t think progress has been too bad.
I would consider this a relative success so far!
On hearing the news that I am (probably) leaving, Gordo kindly bought us a pair of matching travel pillows for flights. I have a feeling he’ll want to come with me, wherever I move on to.
That reminds me. Since I blocked the sixth burner phone number that he has tried to call me using since I last seen him, I haven’t heard from Freddy Danielsson, our former assistant at Varbergs. Was he still wandering Sweden, hunting for me? Had he embarked on a managerial adventure of his own?
Is it just me or have his eyes got even crazier looking?
That raises a good point, actually. How are Varbergs doing without me? After a good start in the Allsvenkan after their promotion, the last we checked in on them their form had collapsed and they were firmly back in the relegation mire. How did it turn out?
They comfortably survived! Good on the old BoIS. Their financial status is even showing as ‘okay,’ now. I’m delighted for them, that is a great result.
Our Åråsen Stadion is generally empty at this time of year. Only Gerry*, the lone groundskeeper, is usually around, in his trademark Lillestrøm hat from the club shop, cutting away at the turf for hours on end. He gives me a nod as I enter the stadium and have a quick look at the pitch and the 10,200 empty seats. The cold wind whistles through the silence, and I head towards my office, potentially one last time.
*I’d be astonished if his name actually was Gerry. I just didn’t want to seem insensitive to the staff at the club by being honest and saying I have no idea what his name is, despite saying hello to him every morning for over a year.
Let’s have one last look at the Lillestrøm squad, and I’ll highlight a couple of the key players, after the unbelievable year we’ve just had.
Honourable mentions to Moshtagh Yaghoubi and Thomas Lehne Olsen, who were also part of this year’s success, but have since moved on to pastures new.
I’ve ranked the players on the above list based on how many minutes they spent on the pitch, but there might be a few surprises for you on who some of the key men were.
Perry is known as a bit of a joker around the place. Instead of worrying that he spoke absolutely no Norwegian when he arrived, Perry used it to his advantage and wound a lot of the lads up, pretending he had no idea when to pass and when to tackle. The Scouser has settled in better than I ever hoped he could, and as well as having a brilliant season on the pitch, has developed into arguably the mentally strongest player we have in our ranks.
Fredrik Krogstad is a different kind of captain to the ones I’ve been used to (like Albert Ejupi I brought to Lillestrøm with me from Varbergs). Quiet and unassuming, Freddy K is my first choice anchorman in our preferred 4-3-1-2 shape, and has protected his defence valiantly. An incredibly hard working team player, he has now played 168 league games for the club, and is such an important and influential figure.
I have to mention Fredrik Spruyt, because he has given us the most incredible value for money. After I plucked him from Belgian outfit RWDM for just £13,500, Spruyt has been a midfield mainstay this year. 32 appearances in total, with 7 assists and an average rating of 7.09. A strong tackler, leader and hard working example both on the pitch and in training, Spruyt has been a wonderful signing.
Despite Lasse Nordås’ ultra youthful appearance, the 20 year old left winger-turned-target man has been a fantastic weapon in the Lillestrøm arsenal this season, making such a difference when introduced in games. The combination of his athleticism (15 jumping and strength, and a height of 6′ 1″) and his exciting dribbling ability (15) alongside solid attributes all round, made Lasse essential. 8 goals and 5 assists (and a 7.28 average rating) from 25 appearances, 10 of which were from the bench!
Very honourable mentions to new goalkeeper Will Jääskeläinen, who lived up to his famous goalkeeping name (17 clean sheets in 28 games), 6′ 7″ hitman Leonardo Rocha, who bagged 11 goals and 8 assists in 27 starts, and new signing Anto Grgic, who not only hit the ground running when Yaghoubi left, but inarguably improved our midfield (an average rating of 7.73 in his first 11 appearances).
That leaves the best to last. We have been trending #InViktorWeTrust for months, but he really has delivered. We listened to the fans and took the £850,000 gamble in bringing in our beloved number 7, Viktor Gyökeres, to the club months ahead of his proposed bosman move. He became Lillestrøm’s record signing, and boy was he worth it.
30 goals in 33 starts. Two of which were the equaliser and winner in the Norwegian cup final. You simply could not write this! (writer’s note – you literally are, mate. Think about it)
It’s almost December. Is it job hunting time, or will I stay for the European qualifiers and first season back in the big time (if ChriJo will have me!)? What would you do?
Is my ‘go’ date the 31st of December 2022?
Thanks for reading.