When midfielder Daniel Tjernström joined then champions AIK Solna from Örebro SK, he thought it would not be long before he himself got to lift the Allsvenskan trophy. That was in 1999 and the title has eluded both Tjernström and AIK ever since. The most popular club in Sweden even suffered the indignity of relegation in 2004, but with four rounds left to play this season and AIK top, that long wait could be coming to an end. "I joined AIK to win titles," Tjernström told uefa.com. "This year we might finally make it happen."
If it were to happen, no one would welcome it more than AIK captain Tjernström. Now in his eleventh season, he is the club's longest serving player and has seen his share of highs and lows. "My first year was fantastic," he recalled. "We won the cup, finished second in the league, but above all we qualified for the UEFA Champions League. And the draw put us in a group that was, how can I say this… well, interesting." Stuart Baxter's side were pitted against Arsenal FC, FC Barcelona and AFC Fiorentina. "Playing at such grounds and against such teams is something I'll always remember."
Although the Swedish side finished bottom of the group, they tested their illustrious opponents and acquired a taste for Europe's premier club competition. "2000 was pretty good too, but after that we got into a slow and steady decline," Tjernström added. The nadir was reached in November 2004 when AIK finished second from bottom in the Swedish championship and were relegated. "We had no continuity after Baxter left. New coaches kept coming and going, and it wasn't until 2005 when Rikard Norling took over that we got the right stability again." Indeed, between 2002 and 2004, five different coaches tried their luck in the Råsunda hot seat.
Under Norling, Tjernström was transformed from a playmaking offensive midfielder into a left-back. These days he is used mostly as a holding midfielder, and the 35-year old admits he has lost one quality over the years. "I used to have a really good shot, that's what I was famous for. Now I barely even try. I haven't scored in the Allsvenska for three years. That's pretty bad, but if we win the title who cares if I don't score? We have others who can do that."
AIK have one point more than IFK Göteborg at the summit, with two key matches against their title rivals to come. The pair meet on the final day of the season on 1 November before going head-to-head again in the Swedish Cup final six days later. While the cup final takes place at AIK's Råsunda home, the potential league decider will be held at the Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg. "It's going to be really tough, but hopefully we will have secured the title before then," Tjernström said. For AIK and their former Swedish international, the longest wait may soon be over.
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