Last week Rosenborg BK's Roar Strand scored a top-flight goal for a record 21st straight season; ahead of a trip to Linfield FC he speaks about staying at the top and his fresh ambition.
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On 13 September 1989 a 19-year-old named Roar Strand made his UEFA competition debut as a late substitute in Rosenborg BK's European Champion Clubs' Cup tie with KV Mechelen. Now 40, Strand is gearing up for another UEFA Champions League campaign having just rewritten the record books again.
At the start of the month Strand – who save for a 1993 loan to Molde FK has remained with Rosenborg – returned from injury to strike four minutes from time against Sandefjord Fotball. Not only did it move unbeaten Rosenborg three points clear at the Norwegian Premier Division summit, a lead now extended to five, but it made the midfielder the only player to score in 21 consecutive seasons of any European top flight, putting him back one ahead of Ryan Giggs.
"I don't think about these sort of things right now but in the future, then I will," Strand told UEFA.com. "I've been lucky to be with a really good team for so many years, I've been happy to be there for that many years. I've been lucky to have so few injuries."
Among more than 600 appearances for Rosenborg, Strand has racked up over 100 games in European competition, including ten separate UEFA Champions League group campaigns, scoring against the likes of Real Madrid CF, Arsenal FC and FC Porto. On Wednesday, Rosenborg begin another bid with a second qualifying round first-leg trip to Linfield FC of Belfast.
"We don't know a lot about Linfield yet, so it's going to be exciting," Strand said. "It will be really difficult to get to the Champions League. We need a bit of luck in the draws and good performances, maybe we can do it."
Naturally, the period when Rosenborg were group-stage regulars brings back happy memories for the former Norwegian international. "We played so many good teams and had so many good results," Strand said. "It's tough to pick out one – we beat AC Milan and Dortmund [both away] and drew 1-1 against Arsenal, these were good matches."
Through most of that period – including the start of a run of 13 straight titles between 1992 and 2004, all but one with Strand – Rosenborg were coached by the man who gave him his senior debut, Nils Arne Eggen. In May, Eggen returned for his fourth spell at the club helm, and few know him better than Strand.
"I have a good relationship with Eggen," Strand said. "He's a good coach and everybody listens when he speaks because he has been such a successful trainer. In the past he had a lot of players that had been there for many years, that was certainly the key."
But can Rosenborg recapture the heights of when they first worked together? Strand admits: "I'm not sure if we can. We have a good team now but we had a better team in the past. A lot of players had played together for many years and we knew each other really well. Now we have a few young players, but we can be really good."