Steffen Iversen: Tottenham’s fondly remembered injury crock

Jason Rodgers
Jason Rodgers
Jason Rodgers
Contributor

On his day, fit and healthy, Steffen Iversen was a fantastic striker. The trouble was, that day was far too infrequent. Tottenham fans eventually grew frustrated of Iversen’s goalscoring struggles and injury woes – especially for a player with so much potential.

Iversen’s career began in his native Norway, joining Rosenborg’s youth system at the age of 18. He made an instant impact, scoring six goals in his reserve team debut and soon was called up to the first-team.

18 goals in 50 matches for the club is a very solid record for the teenager, and he even gained some Champions League experience in his two years in the side.

It was no surprise, therefore, to see Iversen attract interest from across Europe. In December 1996, Tottenham Hotspur won the race to sign the Norwegian, paying a fee of £2.3 million for his services.

Iversen was unfortunate to join Tottenham at a time where the club were struggling both on and off the pitch. Under the ownership of Alan Sugar, Spurs went through what felt like dozens of managers as they tried to find ways to break out of Premier League mid-table obscurity.

What didn’t help matters for Iversen was that he was bought, in the eyes of Tottenham fans certainly, as a direct replacement for the legendary Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann scored an impressive 21 goals in his season with the club – Iversen would never get close to that figure.

Rather embarrassingly for the Norwegian, his six goals in his first two seasons for Tottenham were three less than what Klinsmann managed when he rejoined the club on loan in 1997/98 to save the club from relegation whilst Iversen began to struggle with injuries.

Still in his early twenties, Iversen appeared to be turning a corner with Spurs as they moved towards the 21st century. Iversen was able to play consistently, and this led to two more impressive seasons. In 1998/99, Iversen scored 13 goals in all competitions, and improved this to 17 the following year. He also scored a memorable winner in the semi-final of the 1999 League Cup against Wimbledon, helping Spurs on their way to the eventual trophy.

Sadly, that was perhaps the peak of Iversen’s career. Injury problems really started to overwhelm the Norwegian, who would never play a full season for Tottenham again. The club grew frustrated of only having Iversen for half the season during the first three seasons of the 21st century and eventually released him one year early from his contract to sign with Wolves.

He stayed at Wolves for just one year, scoring just four goals as his career continued to seemingly dwindle.

His national team exploits were a healthy distraction from his challenging time in England. Iversen picked up 79 caps for Norway during his career, scoring a respectable 21 goals. He also had the honour of scoring Norway’s first and only ever goal in the European Championships, with a famous match-winner against Spain in 2000.

Moving back to Norway in 2004 seemed the best move for Iversen’s career. Playing for Vålerenga, Iversen rebuilt his reputation as he helped lead the side to their first league title in 21 years in 2005. Sadly for the club, Iversen chose not to extend his contract and instead moved back to his native Rosenborg as a free agent.

Iversen scored a very respectable 63 goals in 128 appearences in his second spell for the club and was the star player in their run to the 2006 title with 17 league goals. He rejected offers from the likes of Genk to lead Rosenborg to consecutive league titles in 2009 and 2010 before making the decision that he wanted to give English football one last shot.

In January 2011, Iversen signed for Crystal Palace, then of the Championship.  Despite scoring on his debut, the Norwegian once again struggled for goals. He scored just once more in the 13 months he spent at the Eagles.

In 2012, Iversen made his final return to Rosenborg, stating that he wanted to win the league one final time. Whilst he fell just short of that target, Iversen’s retirement from professional football at the end of that season marked the end of an era for a club legend.

Steffen Iversen is a Norwegian football legend. Six Tippeligaen titles is some feat, and whilst he never really found his feet in England, he can still be proud of an immense domestic career.

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