NEW Saints signing Vegard Forren represents the most promising centre half to come out of Norway in years.
That’s the view of Saints’ long-serving former defender Claus Lundekvam.
Forren moved to St Mary’s in a £3.5m deal from Molde earlier this month, and is in contention to make his debut for Mauricio Pochettino’s side at Old Trafford tonight.
With Manchester United boasting Premier League top scorer Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in attack, it would be – as Lundekvam puts it – “one hell of a game” to start with.
But, however fiery the baptism might prove for Norwegian international Forren, his fellow countryman Lundekvam believes Saints have pulled off a coup to sign the 24-year-old.
“He’s a very modern centre half,” said the former Saints skipper. “He’s very good on the ball and he reads the game well.
“He’s strong one-against-one, and he’s a bit like me in that he likes to play – he likes to start the attack and join in.
“He’s still got a lot to learn. He’s not played at the top level for very long.
“But the last couple of years, in the games he has played for Molde and for the national team, he has been very steady.
“He’s the biggest centre half talent we have had in Norway for quite a while.”
Lundekvam well knows the transition that Forren must now make. It was 1996 when, as a 23-year-old, Lundekvam left Norwegian side SK Brann to join Saints.
“My biggest challenge coming to England was that the game was a lot faster – the quick players, the tempo, and all the movement,” said Lundekvam, now 39, who made 413 appearances in 12 years with Saints.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how he’s going to handle that. He reads the game pretty well, but when the game is as quick as it is in England it is going to be a challenge for him.”
If Pochettino chooses to play him this evening, it will undoubtedly be just that.
“He won’t get a better test. Against Rooney and Van Persie it is a big challenge,” said Lundekvam, who now works as a television pundit in his homeland.
“He’s played national games against top players, but this is different.
“It’s the Premier League, it’s high tempo.It’s going to be a bit of a culture shock for him, like it is for everyone who comes from Scandinavia.
“It takes some time to get used to it, as it did for me. But he has got the potential to do very well for Saints.”
Lundekvam also confirmed Saints had asked him for his opinion of Forren.
“I have only given my recommendation,” he said. “I have had no influence on it. I only gave my opinion on him.”
It was a solid endorsement, though.
Lundekvam certainly holds Forren in high regard, and while his talent on the pitch is enough alone to impress him, it is also his attitude and drive off it.
“Vegard is a shy lad and he is coming to England to prove himself,” said Lundekvam.
“He is not coming to England for the money. He is a very proud footballer and he wants to play at the highest level.”
Lundekvam intends to travel to Southampton for Forren’s home debut, which could be the February 9 fixture against champions Manchester City.
“I am sure we are going to have a few conversations around what to expect from Southampton as a club and as a city,” he added. “If I can be of any help to him to fit in, of course I will be. But I haven’t talked too much in detail with him.”