With a move as a possible successor to Malky Mackay at Cardiff, Molde boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks likely to take the next step in his managerial progression. Whilst a move to the Premiership was always his long term goal, working for Vincent Tan might not be the smartest move for the former Manchester United striker. It won’t be the only difficultly for Solskjaer as he transitions from life in the Norwegian Tippeligaen to the Premiership. It’s has been the perfect environment for Solskjaer to cut his managerial teeth and has paved the way for another former Premiership striker to do the same. Former Leeds United striker Brian Deane moved to Norway last January to begin his managerial career with Sarpsborg 08 and is loving every minute of it. Operating at the other end of the table than Molde, Sarpsborg are about to embark on only their third season in the top flight and for Deane it’s the perfect challenge for his first years as a boss. In a relegation scrap, managers learn more about their team and themselves than they do competing for honours at the top half of the table. So far, Deane has impressed many with his approach as he attempts to instill his philosophy to his team. He wants his team to keep the ball on the deck and pass it around with precision and conviction.
In his debut season, Deane helped Sarpsborg to a 14th place finish at the expense of Tromso who dropped automatically to the Norwegian 1st Division. A tense play off against Ranhiem (who won the 1st Division playoffs) followed but Sarpsborg came out victorious, winning 3-0 over the two legged affair to remain in the top flight. It had been a tough season for Deane who was very much learning on his feet as he went along. He could have been forgiven for walking away from the project as Sarpsborg went on an eight game losing streak mid last season. Nut with the backing of the board and with his squad starting to embrace his passing philosophy, Deane stuck with it and inspired them to four wins in their last nine games (including a 1-0 victory over Molde) to keep them in the league. With the new season due to kick off in late march, Deane is preparing for pre-season training once again, but this time as head coach. He knows that he has to improve the team with the limited resources he has and solve some of the problems that arose last year such as improving his teams focus in the last quarter of the game (Sarpsborg lost 7 games last season with goals scored after the 65th minute) and finding a natural goal scorer to lead the line (midfielder Mohammed Elyounoussi finished the clubs top goal scorer in the league with six goals)
Deane has ambitions to follow Solskjaer’s example and rebuild his team from the ground up, focusing on developing youth players that work with his tactics rather than finding players who could fit the mould. Success will be determined by Sarpsborg establishing themselves in the league and eventually challenging for honours. Whilst it may take a few seasons, Deane is committed to the long haul sensing the potential the club has.
“I really want the time to mould this club. It’s our way of playing that’s winning us admirers. This season was always going to be a challenge for Sarpsborg. But we’ve got players with something to prove, up for the fight. I wasn’t always in the best teams, and that’s when you ask yourself: ‘Have you got the desire?”
His long term ambitions will be to return to England and manage there, with Leeds being his club of choice, but he knows that the calls won’t come until he has proven himself in Norway. It will be a long road for Deane but a journey he is ready to take.