Morgan Treacy/INPHO Tim Nilsen of Derry pictured playing against Dundalk on Friday.
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'It was said the first day I came here: We don't mind you using us as a stepping stone'
Norwegian striker Tim Nilsen on his decision to join Derry City ahead of the new season.

IT BEGAN WITH a Facebook message from a Derry City legend.

It was Paddy McCourt, now a coach with the Candystripes, who got in touch with Norwegian striker Tim Nilsen.

“He wrote a long message and told me he was hoping I would answer it,” Nilsen tells The42. “I didn’t have him as a friend or nothing. I just saw the notification by accident, so that was maybe my luck.”

The 27-year-old has spent much of his career playing in Norway. His last club was Fredrikstad, a team currently playing in the third tier and for whom Nilsen scored on a regular basis during the year he spent there. He admits to not knowing who former Celtic player McCourt was, but has since become familiar with the man affectionately known as the ‘Derry Pele’.

“After the message, I looked him up and then I saw what type of legend he is.

“Paddy convinced me that this was a good place for me to come and really enjoy the football game again. Of course, Europa League qualification was a big factor as well.”

Derry have had plenty of success signing players on short-term deals in the recent past. Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe and David Parkhouse both made a significant impact amid loan stints at the Brandywell last year, with the former finishing the season as the Premier Division’s top scorer. Nilsen hopes to replicate their success.

“They had so many chances last year to score goals, and they scored like one out of three, the last strikers who were in the club. They said that they were brilliant.

“So [I was told] I would have a lot of chances if I came to the club and of course, that is what a striker wants. 

In this club, as a number nine, I think you will do very well if you play the game and understand the game. So my goal is to be better than them, of course.

“I don’t feel the pressure [to be better], actually, I get motivated by the pressure. I just like it.”

Despite Derry losing 1-0, Nilsen enjoyed an eye-catching debut away to Dundalk last Friday, and was lauded by manager Declan Devine afterwards. The talented attacker is one of nine off-season recruits, five of whom started at Oriel Park.

“I really enjoyed it. It was an upbeat game, of course. There’s a lot of intensity going out on the first match of the season. But I think both us and Dundalk will get stronger every week.

I had my first 45 minutes against Finn Harps [in pre-season]. That was the first time I played football for around four months. So I’ll work really hard now and hopefully I’ll just get better and better.”

And does he find the League of Ireland considerably different to Norwegian football?

“It’s a big difference. In Norway, it’s much more tactical football. Of course, it’s tactical here as well, but in Norway, everything is about how to play against a tactical team, you need to know where you’re going to run to open the space.

“But here in Ireland, this kind of football will suit me very well.

“It’s not less tactical, but a little bit more direct, which suits me the best. I am that kind of player that loves running in behind and loves staying in the box.”

Off the pitch, he is also enjoying life. His girlfriend is studying in Oslo, but plans to visit regularly, while he is sharing a house with three team-mates — Peter Cherrie, Colm Horgan and Sheffield United loanee Stephen Mallon.

“The group has taken to me very well. They had a big welcome when I came and when I arrived, we had a training camp in Dublin right away, so we were with each other 24/7 for three or four days, and that really helped me.”

It makes for a nice change from his last experience abroad. In 2017, Nilsen had a brief spell with FC Khimki in Russia, which didn’t really work out.

“That was tough, because nobody speaks English. With my not-the-best English, I felt like a real Englishman. So it was a little bit hard, because I felt really alone. But I had a Swedish guy on my team, so it was just me and him against everyone.

“I struggle a little bit with [understanding] Derry-Irish, but it’s getting better every day.”

Nilsen admits to not knowing the league very well, but has targeted “around 20 goals hopefully”. Should he achieve that aim, the Bergen native will likely move on, which could ultimately be seen as a positive for player and club alike.

Yeah, it will suit us both. If I do well here, it’s good for Derry. And of course, it will be good for me if I move on.

“It was said the first day I came here: We don’t mind you using us as a stepping stone, because we want you to get to bigger clubs, because then other players will come to us and they know we will do everything we can to give you a better club. So that, of course, was very good for me to know.

“Of course, I want to help Derry as much as I can. If it’s five years or five months, as long as I can help Derry and help myself, that will be the best.”

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