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INTERVIEW: ex-Viking manager speaks as defender leaves Sunderland to embark upon European dream

Following the news today that Michael Ledger is set to leave Sunderland on a permanent basis, in order to sign a contract with Norwegian club Notodden FK, we spoke with his former manager Ian Burchnall to provide some insight on the move.

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As revealed today by the Echo, Sunderland youngster Michael Ledger has cut short a loan at Hartlepool United in order to join up with Norwegian second division side Notodden FK on a permanent basis.

The Consett-born academy product has made 11 appearances this season for our neighbours just down the A19, but recently has found playing time hard to come by due to injury problems and leaves the cash-strapped County Durham club with their best wishes.

Prior to joining ‘Pools, Ledger spent a decent stint out in Norway with Viking FK under the tutelage of English manager Ian Burchnall, who was kind enough to speak with Roker Report last summer about how the loan spell worked out and his admiration for his abilities.

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With the news breaking today the versatile defender was set to leave Wearside on a permanent deal, we caught back up with Ian to ask him what he knows about the deal and how he thinks Ledger’s gamble might play out.

RR: Hi Ian! Thanks for catching up with us again. So, Michael Ledger - what do you know about his move to Notodden FK?

IB: I don’t know all the details about how it happened but I know that Michael was keen to go back to Norway again to play. Several clubs in Norway contacted me for references and to know about Michael’s situation, as although he came in to Viking at a difficult time he did well in the time he was there.

Notodden were a club that were really interested in him - they’re newly promoted into the OBOS league and are a small but progressive club, and will probably give Michael a good platform to develop. In my opinion he will do well out there, he has a great attitude and good qualities as a player!

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RR: It’s an interesting path he’s taken, because the choices he was faced with were to go the he has or try and find a contract in non-league, which doesn’t exactly excite. I noted the amount of lads who had been through lower & non-league playing in the Ostersunds team against Arsenal. What are your thoughts on young English players testing themselves in Scandanavia as opposed to playing well down the ladder in England?

IB: I think it’s a very mature and smart path from Michael. The importance of staying in full time football is key. Also Scandinavia as a platform is great, as the technical qualities of the league are better than the lower leagues in England and the environment and facilities are very good. It is also a league which is scouted heavily by clubs in Germany and Holland among others, so it’s a good shop window to perform and step back up to better European leagues.

RR: Michael played a fair bit of his football at Hartlepool at full back. Would you say he’s more of a central defender or is he better suited out on the right?

IB: In terms of position I believe he is better as a central defender. He is comfortable on the ball and has many good defensive qualities, I think he can play right back but depends on what the coach would want. His defensive qualities are probably better than his offensive so it depends on the system he is in.

RR: It’s also interesting to me that Michael has opted to leave Sunderland instead of waiting to see whether the club’s fate lies in the third tier next season, where he’d have undoubtedly had more opportunities to play. Do you think he’s made the right career choice in moving to Norway?

IB: I think it’s a good move for him. Sometimes you have to take a step out of your comfort zone. To move abroad and play is a brave move, and also one which shows he is willing to go and do something different to succeed.

Of course it has been a difficult season at Sunderland and with such uncertainty I think securing a short term future when you know you will play first team football and develop is important. But if I know Michael like I do I am sure one day he will want to be back wearing the ed and white of Sunderland as I know his goal was to succeed there. But, this will be a new challenge on his pathway to his end goal, I think.

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