A Thursday evening surprise saw Rovers announce their second signing of the summer, ahead of 2023-24, as Sondre Tronstad became the latest recruit at Ewood Park.
The 27-year-old central midfielder, who will link up with his new teammates once his Vitesse Arnheim contract expires on 30th June, joins the East Lancashire side on a three-year contract, until the summer of 2026, by which time he will be 30.
A player not shy of disrupting the flow of the opposition, Norwegian Tronstad is no stranger to English football, having had trials in his teenage years at the likes of Manchester United in 2009 and Huddersfield Town in 2014 – the latter of which picked him up on a two year-deal at 18.
After his unsuccessful stint with the Red Devils, Tronstad returned to his native Norway and became a key player for then-Norwegian First Division side, IK Start, whom he helped get promoted back into the premier Eliteserien in his first professional campaign, after 12 appearances and one assist, from a possible 30 games, despite only being 16.
His impressive appearances in Norway saw Huddersfield Town snap him up in January 2014 for a nominal fee, following a successful trial, but despite two years in Yorkshire, Tronstad failed to make an appearance for the Terrier’s first-team, leaving aged 20 to return to his homeland, linking up with FK Haugesund, an Eliteserien side.
It was at the Seagulls where Tronstad found his home and was able to make his mark professionally, as he would go onto have a successful four-year stint in south-west Norway, racking up 137 games, five goals and 12 assists in a spell that spanned across two sets of Europa League Qualifying in 2017-18 and 2019-20, as he helped the club into their second and third-ever forays into Europe. In his first foray into continental football, Tronstad notched a goal and four assists in the four games FK Haugstad played against the likes of Republic of Ireland side, Coleraine – including a hattrick of assists – and Polish powerhouses, Lech Poznań.
His fine performance domestically and in the brief continental football he played – including two ties against PSV Eindhoven – caught the eyes of another Eredivisie side, Vitesse Arnheim in January 2020, when he moved to Holland on a three-and-a-half-year deal for an approximate fee of €600,000.
After global events saw the second-half of the 2019-20 Eredivisie abandoned, Tronstad was only able to make six appearances at Vitesse prior to the end of the campaign, yet came back stronger in 2020-21 – his first full season in the Netherlands – netting twice and assisting once in 23 games, as Vitesse finished 4th and qualified for the Europa Conference League’s qualifying rounds for 2021-22. Alongside 32 Eredivisie games and three goals, Tronstad helped Vitesse qualify for the inaugural group stages of the Europa Conference League, getting past Dundalk and RSC Anderlecht, before being placed in a group with Slovenian side, NŠ Mura, French outfit, Stade Rennais and English giants, Tottenham Hotspur.
Vitesse put on a show in Europe – courtesy of Tronstad’s help with a goal vs NŠ Mura – as they finished above Spurs – after beating them at home, 1-0 – and qualified for the Round of 32 where they were drawn against Austrian side, Rapid Wien which saw Vitesse run out 3-2 winners over two legs with Tronstad assisting in a 2-1 defeat in Vienna. Their European tour would end in the Last 16, however, as they were beaten by eventual inaugural Europa Conference League winners, AS Roma.
That didn’t put Vitesse off, as they finished 6th in the 2021-22 Eredivisie, but failed to qualify for Europe for a second successive campaign, after losing the Conference League league playoffs versus AZ Alkmaar, despite a Tronstad goal in the semi-final win over FC Utrecht.
2022-23 saw Tronstad come into his own once more, as despite only missing six league games all campaign – two due to suspension and three due to a hamstring injury – he played his part in securing Vitesse a top-half finish, despite them finishing 10th – his lowest league position in Dutch football. Prior to signing off, he was able to depart on good terms, netting his final goal in Vitesse’s final home game of the season in a 6-0 rout vs FC Groningen.
From an international perspective, Tronstad has had history with The Lions, playing in the under-16s, under-17s and under-18s before being given his first – and to date, only – senior cap, which came back in 2020 in a 1-1 draw with Austria in the UEFA Nations League. Despite the absence of skipper, Martin Ødegaard and now-treble winner, Erling Haaland, Tronstad was able to notch 90 minutes in his maiden outing with his nation.
The midfielder’s stats – per FBref – from an average season for Vitesse, overall, show his ability to both regain possession of the ball, but also play progressively. Ten successful tackles in the final third shows his ability to both retain his positional sense, but also adhere to a pressing style, which Jon Dahl Tomasson has adoptive in his first year at Ewood Park. A tackle success ratio of 63% – (34/54) – further shows his tenacity and his willingness to put his body on the line for the team.
FBref have ranked him as ‘above average’ when comparing his defensive stats from the past 365 days against ‘positional peers in the Championship, MLS, Eredivisie, Brazilian First Division, Mexican First Division, Portuguese Premier League, Copa Libertadores and UEFA Europa Conference League’, proving that Rovers have indeed landed a coup in the middle of the park.
On his arrival, both Tronstad and Gregg Broughton revealed their delight to RoversTV following the completion of the deal.
“I’m delighted to get the deal over the line. It’s been a busy day but everything’s sorted and I’m really looking forward to starting now.
“I love England, my dream has always been to play in England and I think everyone in Norway knows what I’m talking about because English football is the biggest. You want to start whenever you sign for a new club as soon as possible. I’m really looking forward to it. To play in front of the fans at Ewood Park will be amazing.
“The interest was there last year and the interest carried through to this summer. I have been following the team a little bit and it’s been interesting to see. I think this is a place that will suit me well.
“I want to develop as a player and help the club reach their goals, that’s the most important thing for me. I’m looking forward to meeting the lads, having a look around and seeing what a great place this is.
“I’ve already met a few people here and all the staff seem really nice, so I’m looking forward to meeting the lads as well.
“Rovers is a club with a really good history, a big club, a nice club and a club that suits me, so I’m looking forward to starting my time here.”
“We are delighted to sign a player who was so instrumental to Vitesse Arnhem’s European run 12 months ago. Sondre is a defensive midfielder, who is at his best in a high intensity style of play.
“Equally comfortable in and out of possession, we believe Sondre will complement the group of midfielders we already have at the club.
“We hope that through his performances for Rovers, in such a competitive and high-quality league as the Championship, Sondre will be able break back into the Norway national team during his time with us.”
Velkommen, Sondre! 🇳🇴