It was an up & down 2016 season for Sandnes Ulf who eventually saw themselves make the OBOS Ligaen promotion play offs despite some poor early season form. It was an improvement on the 2015 season in which Sandnes failed to even make the top 6, but fans of the side are definitely not satisfied.

I spoke to Alf Morten Haga who is the leader of Sandnes’ supporter club, the ‘Gaukereiret’;

“I honestly felt that we had a squad that was strong enough to finish first or second in the OBOS Ligaen last season. I am disappointed with the outcome.”

Sandnes’ early season inconsistency cost them massively in 2016. They would beat sides such as Mjondalen and Fredrikstad comfortably, but then struggle against teams such as Hodd and Asane. It was the story of their season that Sandnes would always play well against the bigger sides, but falter against teams struggling in the lower reaches of the table.

Manager Bengt Saeternes will now face the tough task of turning Sandnes into title contenders next year. Having been given two years already to take Sandnes back to the Eliteserien, this year may well be Saeternes’ last shot at taking his side up before the board lose their patience.

This task will be made all the more difficult with the losses of key players such as Pontus Engblom, Steinthor Thorsteinsson, Eirik Schulze and Anel Raskaj. On losing Engblom, Haga said;

– I am pretty worried about the loss of Engblom. To replace a player who has scored 43 goals in 2 seasons is more or less impossible. We will have to depend on more players, including the midfielders, to score goals for us next season.

At the time of writing Sandnes have made four new signings; Tomas Kristoffersen from Tromsdalen, Remi Johansen from Brann, Kjell Rune Sellin from Sandefjord and Roy Miljetig from Haugesund. If Sandnes want to turn their dreams of promotion into a reality then at least three more quality signings will be necessary as the depth of their current roster is extremely shallow.

However, the early signings the side have made do look like quality additions. Both Sellin and Johansen are proven players at OBOS Ligaen level, and Miljetig is expected to set the division alight after a below par year with Haugesund. Tomas Kristoffersen will also offer a much needed steadiness to the Sandnes midfield.

– In general I am pleased with the new signings, Said Haga.

– There are some well known names there with good CV’s. Eirik Schulze was a big loss for us but the new midfielder (Kristoffersen) from TUIL looks very promising.

Sellin is a top player, no doubt, but i doubt that he can replace Engblom. Although, it is unfair to compare them.

With Bodo/Glimt, Start, Kongsvinger, Jerv, Fredrikstad and Mjondalen all also eyeing up a charge for promotion, it could well be one of the toughest OBOS Ligaen seasons in recent memory. Sandnes will have to find a level of consistency that evaded them last year.

– My expectation is to see Sandnes challenging for promotion next season, Said Haga.

– I also hope that some of our young players such as Kryger, Aasen and Dybevik also get their breakthrough in 2017.

It was sad to lose talents such as Sandberg though, but the young players have made great progress of late and deserve their shot at the first team.

It is sure to be a tough season not just for Sandnes, but for all sides looking to achieve promotion to the Eliteserien. The 2017 OBOS Ligaen is shaping up to be a very interesting year with more teams than ever throwing their hat into the promotion ring. Sandnes would love to be one of these sides, but much work is still needed to be done for them to challenge.

Fotball La Manga 02.03.2015 Foto: Morten Olsen/Digitalsport Sandnes Ulf v Fredrikstad 1:0 Sandnes Ulf jubler for scoring Mer jubel i 2017?
Sandnes Ulf jubler for scoring mot FFK på La Manga. OBOS-liga ekspert Ben Wells mener de må ta grep om det skal bli scener som dette ofte i 2017. Foto: Digitalsport

Ben Wells

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