Norwegian football might not be that glamour, but the names John Arne Riise and Ronny Johnsen is well known and they both experienced to win the Champions League with two of the most iconic football clubs in the World, Liverpool and Manchester United.
To see the two now in charge of rival clubs Flint and Eik, from Tønsberg Norway, in the fourth tier of Norwegian football is a bit of a shock, but indeed looking in to it on a deeper level, roots and family have played a major part in such an astonishing happening.
Both clubs are seen as “grassroot” competitors and at the moment in the fourth tier of the Norwegian club football pyramid, and the city of Tonsberg have in the past 30 years struggled to get anywhere with Eik being the top club with a number of known players in their mid back in the 80’s and 90’s mostly competing at the 2nd level and also a short period in the early 80’s being a top club for a few seasons.
Ronny Johnsen had a career in football that was based on a special ladder climb up the divisions in Norwegian football at a young age, coming from a little place outside Tonsberg called Stokke, and from here he moved to Eik, and after being spotted by Nils Johan Semb, a former Norwegian national coach and also at Eik, he was surprisingly picked for international duty. He later moved to Lyn Oslo and Lillestrom before making his move abroad to Turkish club Besiktas and Manchester United.
Ronny Johnsen moved back to Norway in 2005 playing for Valerenga until 2008. After his retirement as a player, not really seen on a coaching scene of football. His return was a surprise to see in the media this autumn, but of course glad to have such a special man from the area back in local football is of course a positive happening.
John Arne Riise has also a connection to Tonsberg from a far past, growing up in the county of Vestfold as a youngster, and his family has lived in the area before and after with John Arne recently moving back here. While Ronny Johnsen is seen more like an icon and “special one” to guide Eik on their road back to the top, John Arne might have another agenda to take on a position at Flint.
Riise has announced his desire to become a top level coach at some time, but to see this starting at Flint might have surprised a few faces. The club is “grassroot” and probably at their peak at the moment, climbing up into the fourth tier a couple of seasons ago, and now saying loudly they want to take another step up the ladder.
While Flint is a well run club from the past with good facilities in the eastern part of the Tonsberg, Eik, in the north, is again trying to find their place in a new “merge” with the club FKT, who has been a bit of a “miss” as they tried to get into the top, and at one time were as high as the 2nd tier, but couldn’t keep up the work and as money has dried up, they are now trying to find a momentum with a merge with the “sleeping giant” of Eik.
With the local rival Sandefjord in close distance competing at the highest level, it looks a bit unreal to believe that this project should be successful and instead become another act of desperate search for an unreal dream of the past. But again could of course make rivalry between to minor clubs in Norwegian football flourish to dimentions you have never seen before in the lower leagues of Vikings football.
The City of Tonsberg is the oldest town in Norway, founded by Harald Fairhair in the 9th century. It was also an anciant capitol of the country and today around 50.000 are living in the city. To see two former players from Liverpool and Manchester United with Champions League winner medals in their luggage taking charge of two of the city’s clubs are both a bit sensational and of course very exciting.
The two clubs will of course have the eyes of the media, and it will be interesting to follow Flint and Eik next season. Wish both Johnsen and Riise all the best as they try to find their place in the Norwegian league system. As players they were phenomenal, as coaches they are both taking their first steps into unknown territory.