Strømsgodset IF are well set to end their 42-year wait for the Norwegian league title as the 2012 Eliteserien nears the halfway stage.
The Drammen club lead champions Molde FK by four points after 14 rounds of the season, with serial title winners Rosenborg BK a place further back in third.
Coach Ronny Deila's philosophy of giving young players a chance is regarded by pundits as the main reason for the success of Godset, who finished eighth last term. At the helm since the beginning of the 2008 campaign, Deila advocates an attacking style of play with an emphasis on keeping the ball firmly on the ground.
"We are putting our faith in young Norwegians as opposed to buying older, foreign players," said Deila. "That way, we get more enthusiasm for the team from our supporters and hopefully build a bigger and better club."
In addition, the 2010 Norwegian Cup winners also have an arrangement with Manchester City FC whereby they are able to loan some of the most talented youngsters from the Premier League champions' academy. Ghana midfielder Mohammed Abu, 20, who is now back with his parent club after scoring twice in 11 league outings this season, is a case in point.
Goalkeeper Adam Larsen, defenders Alexander Aas, Lars-Christopher Vilsvik and Razak Nuhu, midfielders Anders Konradsen and Alfred Sankoh, and strikers Péter Kovács and Ola Kamara are among Strømsgodset's key performers in 2012. Kamara, the club's six-goal top scorer, registered a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw with Rosenborg last month.
Mind games or not, Deila is doing his best to put the pressure firmly on Ole Gunnar Solskjær's Molde. "We may not be good enough to take gold," he said recently. "To do that we would need to get the maximum out of the squad. I see Molde as being stronger than us at moment. They are more experienced and have more spending power should they need reinforcements. Apart from that, I don't see another team that is better than us."
Like many an unfashionable side, however, Strømsgodset may be a victim of their own success. Their stated aim of being a "selling club" could dampen supporters' hopes of a first league title since 1970. "We aim to be a selling club, and hope to sell a player or two this summer," said Jostein Flo, Strømsgodset's director of sport. "We hope the loss of a couple of players won't mean that results deteriorate."
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