Erik Nevland played for Fulham during an era quite like no other. His stay in SW6 started with ‘The Great Escape’, followed by a record league finish of seventh and ended in Hamburg for the Europa League Final. Daniel Smith spoke to the Norwegian finisher to look back at his time with the club…
DS – How did you get your first opportunity in football and did you have any role models in the game growing up?
EN – I have played football for as long as I can remember. I grew up playing for Viking Stavanger, from the age of seven. Viking is the biggest club in my town, and my dream was to play for the first team which played in the top league in Norway. My role models were all the players in the senior first team, and my biggest dream was to play alongside them! When I was 18 years old I got my debut in the last game of the season.
DS – Who do you owe the biggest thank you to for your development into a professional footballer?
EK- Hard question. Many of my coaches and fellow players have helped me on my way to a professional career. Thanks to my parents of course for driving me to training every day when I grew up!
DS – You moved to Man Utd at a young age, was it hard adjusting to a new country & were there any first team players that you looked up to and learned from?
EN – Adjusting to a new country wasn’t too difficult. I had a lot of help from the club and my girlfriend moved with me. I was living a dream. It was strange moving away from home, not having my friends and family around all the time. I looked up to all the players at the club. My bedroom walls at home in Norway were covered with MU shirts and posters of the players. It was kind of unreal to suddenly be around them daily.
DS – How did it feel representing your country and do you have a match that stands out from your 8 caps?
EN – I never got a lot of games for Norway. The competition was hard, and I spent many games on the bench. Of the few I got, a game against Turkey in Germany (was played on neutral ground for some reason) stands out. We drew 2-2 after they scored in the last minute after a bad error from our goalkeeper.
DS – Having played in Norway, what’s the coldest game that you’ve ever played in?
EN – First game of the season in 2004 we played away against Tromsø (north of Norway). There was a lot of snow and it was cold as hell! The game was stopped on several occasions because the pitch needed to be cleared for snow. We lost 4-0.
DS – What were your relationships like with both Sir Alex Ferguson and (Sir) Roy Hodgson?
EN – The relationship was based on mutual respect and a professional one. I owe them both a lot, because of the belief they had in me, and the way they treated me.
DS – What was your favourite goal for the club?
EN – Difficult to choose! The first one against Reading obviously means a lot. The goal against Blackburn at Craven Cottage also stands out, the play leading to the goal was perfect, we won 3-0 in that one.
DS –How about your favourite match for Fulham?
EN – How can you choose one? Man City and Portsmouth away in the great escape was great, many of the games in the Europa League leading to the final in Hamburg. I could just keep going!
DS – Without your goals against Reading and Birmingham both in stoppage time during the Great Escape, we would have been relegated. We stayed up by 3 goals in the end and those extra goals by you made the difference. Were you aware that they were that crucial to our survival?
EN – I was aware that those goals were very important. I`m very glad to have been a part of this great club, and it makes me proud that I have contributed to the great escape.
DS – What did you say to the ref in Rome when you were sent off as soon as you came on as a sub and what was going through your mind at the time?
EN – I said some Dutch swear words to the ref when he sent me off. I just couldn’t believe it, I have never felt so small ever in my career. That is the worst feeling I have had on a football pitch.
DS – Was it frustrating being, for the most part, a ‘super sub’ during your Fulham career or did you understand your role in the squad?
EN – I fully understood my role in the squad. I was competing with some very good players with a lot of experience in the Premier League, so I accepted that they were better players than I was. But I always made sure I was ready when the manager needed me.
DS –It was sad to come up just short in Hamburg, but it was still an incredible achievement. What a game to have as your last for the club! Did you know at the time that it was goodbye, if so, what was going through your head at fulltime on the pitch?
EN – Yes, I knew it was my last game for the club. I was very disappointed that we lost, but at the same time, I felt very fortunate to have been a part of an FFC team that played in a European Final. Looking back at it now, it just makes me proud.
DS – Could you name the best eleven made up of your teammates from your entire career? So, the best eleven teammates from Man Utd’s youth team, Viking, Groningen, Fulham & Norway.
EN – This is almost impossible. I have been very fortunate to have played with a lot of great players with different qualities. Out of respect for them, I’m not going to choose. The only thing I’m sure of is that I would not make the team!
DS – Haha, fair enough. Being cheeky, how about naming the best players from both your time at Fulham and your entire career?
EN – Still hard, but I think I have to say Damien Duff was the best player during my time at Fulham. He was a real pro, had skills and was a player that could make a difference in games.
Ryan Giggs was unreal, he had skills and pace that I could only dream of. Looking at where Luis Suarez is now, he is one of the best too.
DS – Do you plan to come back and visit us at the Cottage one day?
EN – Fulham means a lot to me, and I’m very lucky to have played for this fantastic club and supporters. I would love to visit the Cottage soon. When I come to London, a visit to the cottage is on my list!
DS – I remember reading your tweet on the way home from Stoke when we were relegated about how gutted you were. How excited are you that we are now back in the big time and did you watch the Playoff Final?
EN – I watched the Playoff Final, it was nerve-racking to watch. They really deserved to win the game, and all of the players fought like lions. It was a joy to watch.
It is fantastic to have Fulham back where they belong in the Premier League. It’s also nice to see that most of the important players are staying by signing new contracts. I am really looking forward to the new season now.
DS – Are you still involved in Football, if so what are you up to?
EN – I work for a small amateur club in Stavanger called Randaberg Fotball, and I also coach my 10-year-old daughter’s team.
DS – Finally Erik… pie or pasty, which filling?
EN – Don’t know to be honest. Of all the English food I prefer a full English breakfast!