YOUNG PLAYERS TO WATCH IN THE OBOS-LIGA 2017
The OBOS Ligaen is a great arena for young Scandinavian players to show bigger clubs what they are made of and recent seasons has seen a number of players turn a good year in the division to a transfer to the Eliteserien or elsewhere. In this piece I will take a look at 5 players who could come of age in 2017 and who could be destined for great things.
Martin Tangen Vinjor – Kongsvinger IL
Vinjor broke into the KIL first team last season under Luis Pimenta & Gonçalo Pereira. The talented 17 year old midfielder made three OBOS Ligaen appearances from the bench last year and started against Lillestrom in their first pre season friendly of 2017.
Assistant manager Gonçalo Pereira, who was Vinjor’s manager at youth team level, spoke to me before the 2016 NM Cupen final against Rosenborg about the young midfielder. Pereira said that Vinjor was the standout player in Kongsvinger’s youth team and fully deserved his place in the first team set up. Pereira also suggested that he would not be surprised to see Vinjor make further strides towards the starting XI in the coming seasons.
Vinjor impressed onlookers recently as Kongsvinger lost their first pre season friendly of 2017 to Lillestrom, with some comparing him to key midfielder Martin Ellingsen. I would expect the young midfielder to fight for a regular spot on the bench next season, although this will be a tough task with Kongsvinger looking to challenge for promotion. Despite this, there is no doubting the young man’s talent and he will surely become more of a key player for Kongsvinger over time.
Axel Kryger – Sandnes Ulf
Kryger made his full debut for Sandnes on the week in which i began to cover the OBOS Ligaen for Football Radar. Kryger came into the Sandnes back four to replace the injured Nicolai Geertsen on the 8th of August 2015 and I was immediately impressed by how composed he was for an eighteen year old centre back. He looked calm on the ball and was good in aerial duels against the opposition’s attackers.
Kryger managed to make 7 appearances for Sandnes in the 2015 season, with an especially good performance coming against relegated side Honefoss on September 27th.
In 2016, Kryger struggled for game time, managing just 3 appearances from the bench as Sandnes made the promotion play offs. Now 19 years old, the 2017 season offers Kryger the perfect opportunity to nail down a place in the Sandnes starting XI. His cameo in the 5-0 defeat of Hodd in October saw Kryger play in the Sandnes midfield, a position that was unfamiliar to him the season prior. From what i saw in the next 40 minutes, it was clear that Kryger was very comfortable in this position and it could well be somewhere the youngster sees himself playing in the future.
It will be interesting to follow the development of Axel Kryger this season, he is more than good enough to challenge for a spot in this Sandnes team, but will Bengt Saeternes take the risk of playing him in what could be a huge season for the side?
Axel Kryger – Sandnes/Ulf (Foto: Digitalsport)
Håvar Grøntvedt Jensen – Fredrikstad
Havar Jensen is a name that tends to divide many OBOS Ligaen fans. Some, like myself, believe him to be the best young keeper in the league who is more than capable of being Fredrikstad’s No.1. Others simply believe he does not have the quality nor consistency needed to be the No.1 keeper of such a big side.
Jensen had a frustrating 2016 season, which saw him fill in for Per Morten Kristiansen whilst the veteran was injured. Jensen, however, never managed to usurp PMK when the former Haugesund ‘keeper was fully fit, to the dismay of the Fredrikstad fans who had grown tired of Kristiansen’s below par performances in 2016.
With Kristiansen leaving Fredrikstad in 2017, there is now a huge opportunity for Havar Jensen to show new boss Andrea Loberto that he is capable of taking the reigns in goal. In my opinion, he definitely has the ability to do so. The mistakes he made in 2016 were mistakes that most young goalkeepers make and with a bit of coaching and more experience starting games for Fredrikstad, the young keeper will only grow in confidence and ability.
It would be understandable if Loberto looked for a more experienced goalkeeper or even offered Jon Masalin another shot in goal, but Jensen more than deserves his chance at showing he can become the new Fredrikstad No.1 next season after some impressive cameos in 2016.
Andreas Lykke Strand – Levanger
Strand was injured for the majority of Levanger’s inaugural 2015 season in the OBOS Ligaen but came back fighting in 2016, playing 11 games and scoring 2 goals from midfield. Strand has long been the most talented U’19 player at Levanger but constant injuries stalled the midfielders’ recent progress.
Strand got his first start in the OBOS Ligaen on the 21st August 2016, as Levanger lined up against a Jerv side flying in the league. It was a big show of trust from manager Magnus Powell to start Strand, but unfortunately the midfielder lasted just 7 minutes, having to go off with a badly sprained ankle. The injury was expected to rule Strand out for the majority of the season but he returned just a few weeks later on September 11th.
In the weeks that followed until the conclusion of the season, Strand showed that he clearly has the talent to succeed at this level. His performances against Åsane, Raufoss and Mjøndalen were excellent and belied the young players’ age. His composure in the middle of the park and late runs into the box were a joy to watch at times.
With Levanger losing key midfielders such as Bendik Bye, Ørjan Hopen and Andreas Petersson in the Winter, 2017 could well see Strand step up to claim a starting berth in this Levanger side.
William Sell – Mjondalen
Last season, William Sell was an absolute revelation. Having only made the Mjondalen squad twice in 2015, (Both times in cup rounds) Sell became an invaluable member of the Mjondalen back four in 2016.
His talent was obvious in the early stages of the season, as he filled in at centre back in the absences of both Morten Sundli and Ulrik Arneberg. In his league debut against Sandefjord, Sell did okay against a dangerous strike force of Kjell Rune Sellin and Peter Kovacs.
Sell may not be the tallest defender on the planet, but his jumping ability means that even man mountain Peter Kovacs had a hard task beating the Mjondalen defender in the air. Sell also boasts great strength and a composure on the ball that is not seen in many young defenders.
A call up to the Norwegian U’18 side and an invitation to go on trial at German side Hoffenheim ensued in what would be a crazy second half of the season for Sell. After Morten Sundli was sold to Sarpsborg 08, Vegard Hansen decided against signing a new centre back and instead placed all his faith in the 17 year old.
From August the 14th, Sell played in every single Mjondalen game until the end of the season, keeping 5 clean sheets in 11 games in the league and impressing pundits across the country. In Mjondalen’s 1-0 defeat of Sandnes in October, Sell easily coped with striker Pontus Engblom who at that point was embarrassing every other OBOS Ligaen defence he faced.
I would expect Sell to go from strength to strength this season should be play as regularly in 2017 as the 2016 season. If he does perform to a similar or higher level as last year, expect bids for his signature from around the world.
William Sell – Mjøndalen (Foto: Digitalsport)