Eric Haugan (25) left Molde at 19 to try his hand at French club Marseille. The road back to Aker Stadium – through the second division and the Allsvenskan – was a long one.
You might say I’m living a boyhood dream. I remember myself when I was there to celebrate the series’ gold medal as a 14-year-old fan in 2011. Then the players were seen as heroes. It’s weird to suddenly be a part of it yourself.
The words belong to Muldensee Eric Haujan, who “suddenly” was one of the signings of the year in Norwegian football. Now he can also call himself the cup and league winner of the parent club.
– I never gave up, but it was a blow in the face to go from France to the second division. It’s a bit unrealistic how well things actually went. Haugan tells VG I probably haven’t let it sink in yet.
When Östersund relegated last year, there was little to suggest he would end up at the home where it all began. But in February, a phone call from my birth manager, Ole Eric Staverm, changed everything.
Initially, it was a one-year contract. Many may have imagined that Haugan would be the one to give his generator more breadth in the off position.
– I wanted to show that this is where I was supposed to be. At the same time I did not feel pressured. I only saw opportunities, says the boy from Nordbyen – the roof of my birth.
But injuries to key pieces like Sherif Senian and Martin Björnback mean Haugan got plenty of playing time – something he grabbed with both hands. He recently signed a contract that runs until 2026. He himself has stated that he would like to consider a ‘lifetime contract’.
But the path to a four-year contract with Molde was arduous and at times unclear. When he knocked on the A-team door in 2015, he chose instead to pursue his professional dream in France. Prior to that, he managed to score two matches for the first team of the club he had been all his life.
Looking back, I definitely learned a lot. But I probably won’t do the same thing again. At the same time, it was almost impossible to join Team A here. The central defender points out that there was a group of goalkeepers in the team.
Aside from the training residency in 2017 – after the residency in Marseilles ended – a return to Aker Stadium wasn’t exactly in the cards for Haugan. He was on trial at Sarpsborg that same spring, but ended up in Hades in the second division.
– It was a great group in Hødd that gave me a good development yard. From there it was just a coincidence, as is so often the case in football. But most people – myself included – probably thought the second band might not be the right ring for me.
In order to further his career, the meeting with former Vikings coach Ian Burchnal was crucial.
– He visited us a few weeks before he got the job in Östersund. When my contract with Hødd expired, I trained with them in Sweden. This resulted in a three-year contract. I’m so grateful for that, Haugan says, and is rethinking the transition in 2019.
Fast forward three years and Haugan became a crowd favorite at Aker Stadium. He surprised the fans and inside the club.
He himself was sure a lot was up for Moldy to work out, as they recently switched to playing three in the back. It was something that Haugan used in both Östersund and Hødd.
– Perhaps that was part of the reason for taking me. But at first I didn’t feel quite at home. When we arrived in Marbella before the season, I noticed that this was an important step forward. Haugan, who has made the center stopper his own, says daily training should take as much credit for his development as it did this year.
– It was something new to me. I used to play on one side, but after the game against Viking this year, I think Erling and I saw that a central role could be a thing for me, he continues.
He says nothing else was relevant when Molde showed interest this winter. At the same time, there’s one thing that bothers him a little bit about the transformation that’s going on when it happened.
– It’s a little bitter that I’ve always had some of my best friends here, and that they were gone before I got here. But they’ve been incredibly helpful with tips and advice on how to succeed, says Haugan, pointing to, among other things, Benfica pro Frederick Orsens and Cypriot pro Eric Heistad, as well as two Blad Svendsen.
– They follow a lot. Aursnes gave me advice that I really put to good use: Don’t train too much. Just stay injury free. Maybe it meant I had the opportunities I had, especially in the beginning, says Haugan.
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