Injury-hit Vålerenga Fotball will have to draw on all their famed resourcefulness as they battle to maintain their Eliteserien status, a run of seven successive league defeats leading to the resignation of coach Tor Ole Skullerud.
Storm clouds gather
Football can be a fickle sport. On 24 June a 2-1 victory over FK Bodø/Glimt took Vålerenga up to fourth in Norway and the outlook appeared rosy: a top-three finish was a real possibility. Storm clouds have gathered over the Ullevaal Stadion ever since, however, the high hopes of the Oslo club's supporters, the Klanen, washed away by a sorry run of seven league defeats. A 3-0 loss at second-from-bottom Strømsgodset IF sums it up, and even their 1-0 win at PAOK FC in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round proved in vain, the 2-1 first-leg reverse meaning elimination on the away-goals rule.
Now the sole focus for Norwegian Cup holders Vålerenga is avoiding relegation – they may have to fight tooth and nail to do so. Adding to the mix, they must do it without Skullerud who, citing fatigue, stepped down this week. "It will take a massive effort to turn things around, and I feel I haven't got any more to give," he explained. "I hope Vålerenga survive, the fans deserve it." Just three points separate them from the drop zone, however, and player-manager Martin Andresen is only too aware that this is a "difficult period". "I hope we will see a change when key players return from injury," he added.
Andresen is himself sidelined, as are defenders Freddy dos Santos and Erik Hagen, and Saturday's match against title chasing Molde FK is perhaps the last thing Vålerenga need. The travails of other clubs flirting with relegation provides some consolation, with FC Lyn Oslo rooted to the foot of the table, six points from safety with eight games remaining. Third-from-bottom Fredrikstad FK have also had their problems after coach Anders Grönhagen went on sick leave. After reaching an agreement with Grönhagen, Tom Nordlie – who lists Vålerenga among the 13 sides he has coached – has been installed at the helm. "This is a great challenge," he said on his appointment. There are a few of those in Norway this season.