Berg takes over at Blackburn

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Norwegian football star Henning Berg was confirmed as the new manager of the Blackburn Rovers on Thursday, signing a three-year contract with the English club where he launched his international pro football career 20 years ago.

Henning Berg, back in his Manchester United days. Now he’s taking over as manager for Blackburn Rovers. PHOTO: Manchester United

Berg told reporters it was “like a dream” for him to be back at Blackburn, which first hired him as a player in 1992. “It’s a fantastic feeling to come here again, drive to the stadium and be back,” he said.

Berg, now age 43, was born in Eidsvoll, just north of Oslo. He played for the nearby Norwegian club Lørenskog while still in his teens, from 1987-88, and then went on to play for Vålerenga and Lillestrøm. In 1987 he had a trial with Manchester United while still a Vålerenga player, but was unable to sign a contract with the club after failing to obtain a work permit.

He left Lillestrøm to join Blackburn Rovers after being scouted by its former manager Kenny Daglish during an England-Norway match at Wembley.  The deal was worth GBP 400,000. As right-back and also centre-back defender he played a vital role for the Rovers in their title-winning season under Daglish from 1994-95, missing just two games in the whole season.

Berg’s abilities as a defender ultimately led to a move to Manchester United in 1997, where he was bought for a record fee of GBP 5 million at the time. In his career with Man U, he helped the side win two league titles (1999 and 2000), becoming the first player to win in the Premier League with two different clubs.

The now famous 1999 side he played for was in fact treble-winning, with an FA Cup and one UEFA Champions League also in the same year. He had to miss two cup finals because of injury, and scored in total three goals for the club, with one particularly well-remembered one against Inter-Milan in the quarter-finals of United’s Champions League winning season.

Re-joined Blackburn 12 years ago
He continued playing with Manchester United until 2000, when he re-joined Blackburn Rovers, initially on loan for three months, with the move later made permanent under then-manager Graeme Souness. The club was promoted back to the Premier League in 2001, and won the League Cup the following season, with Berg lifting the trophy as captain.

In 2003 Berg signed with the Scottish Club Rangers, staying with them until 2004, where he played his last match professionally. He was also part of the Norwegian national team at different points in his career, in 1994, at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, as well as Euro 2000.

In 2005, at the age of 35, Berg became manager of Lyn football club, signing a four-year contract with the Oslo side. In 2008 he accepted an offer to manage his former club Lillestrøm, where he had last played back in 1992. He signed a five-year contract which ended in 2011 when he was sacked after a period of poor results and internal unrest at the club.

‘Fantastic for Norwegian football’
His appointment to manage Blackburn Rovers after a stint at TV2 was generally well-received in Norway, where Kjetil Rekdal, who played with Berg for years and now manages Ålesund, called it “fantastic news for Norwegian football that we send another coach in England.” Rekdal said Berg’s appointment was “a sign we’re doing something right.”

Rekdal also said it was an advantage that Berg is familiar with Blackburn, knows the club and the local culture there. Berg has publicly criticized Blackburn’s Indian owners – now he’ll need to work for them, and show results.

The club, which was relegated from the Premier League, has been investing heavily to make a comeback and be reinstated. They brought in five new players over the summer and now have Berg as manager. On Saturday he’ll already be leading the team against Crystal Palace.

“Its going to be a tough game but we’re on good form and have played well in recent games,” said Berg, adding that he’s looking forward to the match. He now hopes fans will support the club. Previous manager Steve Kean got rough treatment from supporters, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Berg clearly wants to avoid that. “Its the future that counts,” he said.

Views and News from Norway/Elizabeth Lindsay

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