Kent Håvard Eriksen is not your typical OBOS Ligaen striker. His pace and movement breaks the mold set by seasoned 1.Divisjon veterans such as Robert Stene and Andreas Aalbu who rely on their physicality and finishing ability to set them apart from their rival strikers.

(Photo: Digitalsport)

The Sandnes Ulf forward has proven himself to those who doubted him over the last couple of seasons with 26 goals in all competitions for his side including some extremely crucial ones late last season. The pace with and without the ball Eriksen possesses is something rarely seen in the OBOS Ligaen, it sets him apart from his rival strikers and gives Sandnes an invaluable weapon in attack.

It’s been a strange career thus far for Eriksen, who has seen himself playing in England and being linked with a move to the Polish Ekstraklasa all before he hit the age of 23. Now, the striker seems settled in Sandnes having been with the side for three consecutive seasons. It is a place to call home for Eriksen who had been with 4 different sides in 4 years prior to his move.

‘I really enjoy my life here with my fiance and my kid in beautiful Sandnes so i don’t regret moving. Sandnes were in the Eliteserien when i joined and I must say moving to Poland at the time from the safe life of Norway scared me.

I really want to play in the Eliteserien again and get enough minutes to really show I’m good enough. I still have many years left in football and with the development i have had so far under the wings of Bengt Sæternes i really think i can do big things in the future.’

Late bloomer

One comment that has been levelled at Eriksen througout my time covering the OBOS Ligaen is that the forward is something of a ‘Late Bloomer’. It is easy to see why people believe this, with Eriksen not appearing in the OBOS Ligaen until the age of 21. So how come he never played at a higher level prior to that?

‘It’s hard to tell, when I was younger I was living close to Kongsvinger and that was a natural place to look towards, but i have never been in touch with them. With few local 2 division teams or higher in Hedmark at the time i assume those teams considered bigger and safer names than a local 3 division striker like myself.

But the day Elverum and Kevin Knappen (the manager at the time, now at Hamkam) made contact and wanted me to play for them in 2 division i finally got to show my skills at higher level.’

Since joining Elverum in 2012, Eriksen has not looked back. Having scored 21 goals in 49 league games for the Hedmark side in the 2.Divisjon and then the OBOS Ligaen, the striker was suddenly on the radar for many top flight teams.

A move to Sandnes in the Eliteserien was confirmed early in 2014. It meant Eriksen had moved from the English Wessex League (9th tier) in 2010, to the Norwegian 3.Division in 2011 before jumping from the 2.Division in 2012 to the Eliteserien in 2014… quite the journey.

Wants to go back to Eliteserien

For Eriksen, there are large amounts of unfinished business to attend to in Norway’s top flight after a poor first attempt in 2014. Having fought off the attentions of Polish side Lechia Gdansk, Eriksen decided to sign with Sandnes from Elverum where he had announced himself as a top lower league talent in 2013.

Eriksen made just 10 appearances for Sandnes in the Eliteserien in 2014. It was a frustrating time for the forward who wanted to show he had what it takes to succeed at this high level having previously played most of his football in the lower reaches of Norwegian football.

‘I was never considered a big talent in any of my years as youngster. I was in the second team all the way up, until the day i got to play 3 division because of injuries in my first senior club, Sander IL.

I followed up with some good years in Bournemouth F.C and Funnefoss/Vormsund and then i really started to take big steps. That was a great time, and i really enjoyed living in England and playing football there. And i tell everyone i meet that the level of lower leagues in England are actually really good.

Considering that I played my first second division match for Elverum in 2012 at 20 years old and first Obosligaen match at the age of 21 being called a late bloomer can be right. But i do really wish i had more chances in Eliteserien with Sandnes Ulf at the time in 2014.’

Fotball , 26. mars 2017 , privatkamp , Sandnes Ulf – Haugesund

2016 looked to be the year Sandnes attempted to make Eriksen’s dream of playing Eliteserien football a reality. The club signed up proven talents such as Vidar Nisja, Bojan Zajic and Steinthor Thorsteinsson as they went all out to secure promotion back to the top tier ahead of the 2017 season.

Unfortunately, inconsistency hit the side greatly and despite boasting the best defensive record in the league and one of the most prolific strikeforces, the side eventually fell short of promotion.

One huge positive to come out of the season was Eriksen’s goalscoring form. After a scintillating start to the year, the striker was then dropped for a few months before coming back into the XI for the final part of the campaign. The 25 year old forged a deadly partnership with top scorer Pontus Engblom and finished the season on 13 goals from 26 league games.

The partnership with Engblom will be hard to replicate with the Swedish forward now playing for Stromsgodset. Eriksen however thinks that both he and new signing Kjell Rune Sellin already have a good connection and can help the side achieve their goal of promotion.

‘Yes me and Pontus had a great partnership. I already have a really good connection with Kjell Rune Sellin and we really want each other and the team to succeed. I think it will be great season playing with him.

My personal goals is to improve all my parts of the game. I want to produce more assists and goals, and keep my high work rate. Sandnes Ulf’s goal is to be better than last season and be in the top flight.’

Sandnes will clearly be one of the favourites to achieve promotion from the OBOS Ligaen to the Eliteserien this season. If Eriksen can continue to harness his undoubted potential then you wouldn’t bet against him leading his side back to Norway’s top tier in 2018.

Ben Wells

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