A change of position has prompted a change of fortune for SK Brann's Erik Huseklepp with the forward now one of the hottest properties in Norwegian football and competing with Rade Prica for the top scorer's crown in this year's Eliteserien.
When Huseklepp emerged in 2005 he was perceived as an erratic left winger who could drift in and out of games. He was mostly used as an impact substitute by former Brann coach Mons Ivar Mjelde, who famously said he would never play the Baerum-born talent as an out-and-out striker. After Mjelde departed, new coach Steinar Nilsen did just that. The reward have been instant with Huseklepp, now 25, dazzling defenders and crowds in equal measure. The six-cap international sits level with Rosenborg BK striker Prica on 15 league goals this term, having registered a total of four times in the previous four campaigns.
Huseklepp is popular among the neutrals, too, thanks to his bubbly personality and exquisite goals with some, like the lobbed effort against Stabæk IF, catching the eye outside Norway. The only worry for Nilsen is that several foreign clubs are following his star closely as a result. "I can understand their interest," said the Brann coach. "Erik has developed into a complete player. He can provide goals and score himself. Physically, he has also become stronger and seldom plays a bad game. I fear we will not be able to hold on to him for long."
Norwegian international Huseklepp himself admits that although he plays for the team he has always supported, he has ambitions to test himself at a higher level. "I wish to play abroad, of course," he said. "But I have a very relaxed attitude to all the rumours. I will wait and see if and when an offer comes in." The son of former Brann player Ingvald Huseklepp insists the standard of training at the club in recent seasons has been a major factor in his improvement. "Now I play quite well even on my off days," added Huseklepp, who has scored 13 times in his last 15 league games. "Before, I could drop completely out of games due to fatigue."