A win for a fourth-tier side in Norway may not usually elicit celebrations in the UK but as the referee called time on Valdres FK’s first league game of the new season, there were three reasons to be cheerful back in Blighty.
One of those reasons and the star of the match was undoubtedly Kyle Spence. The 21-year-old made three appearances for Coventry City before drifting off into non-league. Now he seems reinvigorated by the move abroad and remarkably fired home a hat-trick on his league debut.
Ryan Nelson was also pivotal to the opening day success of his new team. The former Queen of the South man from Durham provided two assists on his debut.
And the glue holding the team together as they cruised to a 4-1 win away to Vestfossen? That was Dominic McGiveron. The scouser who played in Finland last year and was previously on the books of the prestigious Nike Academy based at St George’s Park put in a dominating display in midfield.
It may have been the perfect start to league season for Valdres but for one of their English contingent, this was just the start.
“I think the club want to build for the future,” says McGiveron.
“We have a very young squad with really talented players. The league system changed up last season so the club want to improve on their [performance] last season and try to get as far as possible in the cup.”
The 22-year-old midfielder took time out from a busy pre-season schedule before Valdres’s first game at the weekend to share his thoughts in an exclusive interview with English Players Abroad.
After playing for Finnish side SJK last season, mostly appearing for their second team in the fourth tier, McGiveron was looking for a new challenge this year.
“The main thing for me was a platform,” he says when asked why he joined the Norwegian club.
“There were a couple of other clubs asking about me, but I felt like it was a good opportunity to get noticed and get some valuable game time.”
The move came following contact from an agent. After a three day trial, in which he found the back of the net during a practice game, Valdres wasted no time in signing up the young Englishman, giving him a call as soon as he got back home. It was an opportunity he could not turn down.
“The facilities here are fantastic. The indoor sports hall is available for us to do extra work and the indoor turf is great.
“It also helped having two other English lads and the manager was really keen to have me and wanted to build the squad around me.
“It was great to have that feeling that I would be a really important part of the squad.”
The two other English lads are the aforementioned Spence and Nelson but the trio are spread across the beautiful mountainous valleys of Valdres, which is situated in central, southern Norway.
“The club provide accommodation. There are Dutch and Spanish lads (Claudio Kiala and José María Cruz) staying with Ryan and Kyle in [buildings which are like] college dorms. I am currently staying up in the hills with one of the Norwegian players.
“I like to have my own space and enjoy cooking so this was perfect for me. I’m a five minute walk from the gym in one direction and five minutes to the football centre and shops so it’s really ideal.”
The conversation now continues to turn away from football on onto what life is like so far from home. McGiveron has previously played for clubs in America and Finland so has he got used to living away? The answer to that is a resounding yes.
“I love that part [life abroad outside of football]. I really enjoy cooking and trying new things. I’d call myself a good chef right now and I’m always asking for my mum to send different spices from home which I can’t get here.
“I’ve lived in 3 different countries on my own now and I can really cope well.”
That’s not to say his family aren’t keen to come over and a get a taste of the Scandinavian lifestyle, “My family haven’t been out yet. They’re planning a visit next month,” he says.
“They came out twice while I was in Finland and they loved it!
“It’s just a completely different way of life. It’s much more laid back and clean. I don’t think my brother wanted to go home!
“In Scandinavia, in the summer, the weather is amazing and it’s a really good summer. I hope its the same here!”
Although the former Liverpool academy player admits that a move abroad away from home isn’t for everyone, “I know players who can’t cope on their own and don’t enjoy that part of it,” he says.
“I like to make healthy meals all the time but a lot of players don’t know how to and order take outs often. I know the lads here are really good though and look after themselves.”
In addition to cooking, McGiveron’s hobbies in Norway outside of football are not too dissimilar from a 22-year-old back at home; PlayStation, Netflix and going to the gym but the walks around the amazing scenery of Valdres is something he cannot do as often back home in Liverpool.
It is a full time contract for the Englishmen who have joined the club so training also takes up a large part of their time. The 22-year-old says the players are usually given Sundays off but during the week it is an intense schedule, with training everyday and gym sessions twice a week.
With the time he does have spare, he is hoping to start an online course to help with learning the local language and to further his education. As well as keeping us at English Players Abroad updated on the club’s progress, of course.
For now though, it’s time for the English lads to repay the faith Valdres have put in them and their fellow foreign imports – their goalkeeper Rafael Veloso, is also an import, having played for Portugal U19s – and provide the results. Their league campaign got off to the perfect start but next up is a big game. The first round of the Norwegian Cup against Brumunddal is a “massive deal” according to McGiveron.
I look forward to following the progress of McGiveron, Spece, Nelson and co. for the rest of the 2018 season.
NB: This piece was written last week before Valdres went on to win their cup game 2-1 and they then picked up another victory at he weekend back in league action.