‘It was said the first day I came here: We don’t mind you using us as a stepping stone’

IT BEGAN WITH a Facebook message from a Derry City legend.

It was Paddy McCourt, now a coach with the Candystripes, who got in touch with Norwegian striker Tim Nilsen.

“He wrote a long message and told me he was hoping I would answer it,” Nilsen tells The42. “I didn’t have him as a friend or nothing. I just saw the notification by accident, so that was maybe my luck.”

The 27-year-old has spent much of his career playing in Norway. His last club was Fredrikstad, a team currently playing in the third tier and for whom Nilsen scored on a regular basis during the year he spent there. He admits to not knowing who former Celtic player McCourt was, but has since become familiar with the man affectionately known as the ‘Derry Pele’.

“After the message, I looked him up and then I saw what type of legend he is.

“Paddy convinced me that this was a good place for me to come and really enjoy the football game again. Of course, Europa League qualification was a big factor as well.”

Derry have had plenty of success signing players on short-term deals in the recent past. Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe and David Parkhouse both made a significant impact amid loan stints at the Brandywell last year, with the former finishing the season as the Premier Division’s top scorer. Nilsen hopes to replicate their success.

“They had so many chances last year to score goals, and they scored like one out of three, the last strikers who were in the club. They said that they were brilliant.

“So [I was told] I would have a lot of chances if I came to the club and of course, that is what a striker wants. 

“I don’t feel the pressure [to be better], actually, I get motivated by the pressure. I just like it.”

Despite Derry losing 1-0, Nilsen enjoyed an eye-catching debut away to Dundalk last Friday, and was lauded by manager Declan Devine afterwards. The talented attacker is one of nine off-season recruits, five of whom started at Oriel Park.

“I really enjoyed it. It was an upbeat game, of course. There’s a lot of intensity going out on the first match of the season. But I think both us and Dundalk will get stronger every week.

And does he find the League of Ireland considerably different to Norwegian football?

“It’s a big difference. In Norway, it’s much more tactical football. Of course, it’s tactical here as well, but in Norway, everything is about how to play against a tactical team, you need to know where you’re going to run to open the space.

“But here in Ireland, this kind of football will suit me very well.

“It’s not less tactical, but a little bit more direct, which suits me the best. I am that kind of player that loves running in behind and loves staying in the box.”

Off the pitch, he is also enjoying life. His girlfriend is studying in Oslo, but plans to visit regularly, while he is sharing a house with three team-mates — Peter Cherrie, Colm Horgan and Sheffield United loanee Stephen Mallon.

“The group has taken to me very well. They had a big welcome when I came and when I arrived, we had a training camp in Dublin right away, so we were with each other 24/7 for three or four days, and that really helped me.”