With another European night at White Hart Lane, Peterjon Cresswell visits one of Tottenham’s old opponents, recently revived Lyn Oslo.
David Cassidy was top of the charts and Martin Chivers was scoring hat-tricks when Spurs played the runners-up from the Norwegian league in the UEFA Cup in September 1972.
But ask anyone of a certain generation to name a side from Norway and inevitably they will suggest ‘Lyn Oslo’ sooner than they can say ‘Strømgodset’.
Not that Lyn were ever lucky against English sides – the Tottenham tie ended 3-12 soon after Leeds tonked the Scandinavians 16-0 – but the two-time national champions from the 1960s remain in the collective psyche.
Yet one of Norway’s most venerable clubs all but vanished entirely in 2010.
‘Lyn were regulars in the upper half of the top-flight Eliteserien in the 2000s,’ says Magnus Wattne of the Lyn supporters’ website www.lyn1896.no. ‘We even got back into Europe for two seasons. In the team were had John Obi Mikel, Watford’s Odion Ighalo and ageing Argentine World Cup star Matías Almeyda.’
But while city rivals Vålerenga went from strength to strength, winning the league in 2005 and gaining second place in 2010, Lyn were floundering.
‘In 2010, years of constant financial problems finally led to bankruptcy,’ says Wattne. ‘For the last part of that season we went straight down to the Sixth Division, the seventh level.’
But Lyn’s followers, many of whom weren’t even born when their club took on Tottenham and Leeds, didn’t give up.
‘A loyal fan base of about 2,000 kept supporting the team as if nothing had happened,’ remembers Wattne. ‘They still produced Italian-style displays at games, match-day programmes and pre-match articles online. A council of trusted fans handled a variety of tasks and kept the wheels in motion until a new formal organisation was founded to run the club’s senior team a year later.’
A historic attachment to the famous Bislett Stadium – Lyn were formed in the surrounding district of St Hanshaugen in 1896 – saw the club move into this former home of Vålerenga as they moved up the divisions.
‘Our fan base is here in the west side of town. The crowds got bigger and bigger – up to 3,000 for a major game in the lower leagues.’
Take a trip to the Bislett, an easy tramhop from downtown Oslo, and you’ll find a stream of red and white heading for the main entrance as you sit over a local Ringnes beer on the terrace of the Store Stå bar opposite.
Once inside, though no Neapolitan cauldron, the Bislett’s main stand fills with surprisingly raucous teenagers bashing seven bells out of any object they can find and bastardising Simon & Garfunkel (‘Here’s to you… Lyn Oslo!’) in fine communal voice for pretty much all of the 90 minutes. It’s cheap, it’s fun and it’s easily accessible. Plus you’re rewarded afterwards with another pint of Ringnes surrounded by images of sporting legends at the Store Stå.
‘Oslo is a city with a classic east-west demography,’ explains Wattne. ‘A cup match between Lyn and Vålerenga at the Bislett three years ago attracted over 11,000 spectators, with the majority dressed in red and white.’
‘The bankruptcy and the difficult way back has also made the club’s most valuable assets clear to everyone. We have a big youth department and a group of loyal fans supporting the club with exactly same enthusiasm as they had when following the club in the Eliteserien. Norwegian media often points to the fact that though Lyn were demoted to the very bottom, their fans have turned out as if we were top flight. So, in addition to developing local talent, support from the stands attracts the better players from other clubs around Oslo, even those playing one division above.’
Sadly in 2016, that one division above will be the third-flight 2.Divisjon, Lyn dropping down last month despite that fervent support.
‘Lyn are one of only two clubs in Oslo with true potential to bring home silverware,’ concludes Wattne.
‘These days, it is a game of patience. In the long run, this club will always be aiming for the top of the Eliteserien.’