Player Profile: Henning Berg
Date of Birth: 1/9/1969
Height: 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)
National Team: Norway
International Caps: 100
International Goals: 9
A central figure in three Premier League triumphs for two different clubs, Henning Berg is often wrongly overlooked in debates concerning the great Premier League defenders.
Henning Berg began his career at the KFUM academy in Oslo, the sporting arm of the YMCA in the city. He would go on to play in the youth set-up for eight years from the age of nine. Berg was never particularly tall, especially not for a centre-half, but unlike most defenders at the time, it was his decision making and awareness which made him an excellent footballer, rather than his physicality.
After graduating from the KFUM academy, Berg signed his first professional contract with Vålerenga in 1998. He would play for the club – who, like KFUM, were also based in Oslo – for three years, making 66 appearances in the Eliteserien and scoring twice.
After particularly impressing in his final season with the club, Berg was signed by Lillestrøm. He played one more season in his homeland with the club before making a long-anticipated move to England.
Kenny Dalglish signed Berg in 1993, two seasons before the club would go on to win the Premier League title. In his first full season with the club, Berg would become a goliath presence in the Blackburn Rovers defence. Although Tim Sherwood was the club’s captain, many referred to Berg as the true leader in the squad.
With Berg’s commanding presence at the back, Rovers improved on their second-place finish in the 93-94 season to win the league in a historic title triumph. To this day they remain the only non-city club to have won the Premier League. Though they were financed by owner Jack Walker’s millions, their story was still something of a fairy-tale, having played in the second division just a few years prior to their success.
The Rovers flame burnt brightly but briefly. They were unable to replicate their achievements in the 95-96 campaign, finishing in a lowly 7th place. The following campaign, which was also Berg’s last at Ewood, saw Rovers end the season in the bottom half of the table having fought relegation for most of the season.
For Berg, however, the best of his career in England was still to come. He signed for Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United for £5-million, a joint-record British fee for a defender at the time. Though he was not so much the ‘main man’ for Fergie that he had been at Rovers, Berg was still a vital cog in the Manchester United machine that won back-to-back Premier League titles in the 98-99 and 99-00 seasons.
The most impressive achievement on the Norwegian’s CV came in the first of these two seasons. Manchester United won a treble – a clean sweep of the league, FA Cup and Champions League. Unfortunately, Berg was ruled out of the finals of the FA Cup and Champions League through injury, but the medals in his trophy cabinet are evidence of his place in Manchester United history.
After three full seasons with the club, Berg’s playing time began to decrease and he sought a transfer. Blackburn Rovers came calling once more for his services. He moved back to Ewood initially on a loan deal but made the switch permanent at the mid-point of the 01-02 campaign.
By this time, Rovers had fallen into the second tier but upon Berg’s return they were promoted as Division One runners-up; they reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in the same season.
Back in the Premier League, he helped Rovers to a very creditable 10th place finish. Even more impressive were the clubs exploits in the League Cup which they won after beating Tottenham 2-1 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. This was Berg’s second honour with the club and the sixth of his playing career.
In Berg’s last season in English football, Rovers improved on the league position of the previous campaign, finishing in 6th place and qualifying for the UEFA Cup. Berg’s role in the side was reduced, however, and at the end of the season he was transferred to Rangers where he would see out the remaining year of his career.
With exactly 100 caps from 1992 to 2004, Henning Berg is the third-most capped player in Norwegian football history, bettered only by Thorbjørn Svenssen and John Arne Riise.
Berg scored nine times in his international career, giving him a goals-to-games ratio of just shy of one every ten games, a very respectable tally for a defender.
He represented Norway at three major international tournaments: the 1994 World Cup in the USA, the 1998 World Cup in France and the Belgium-Netherlands co-hosted European Championships in 2000.
Where is Henning Berg Now?
Since retiring from the playing side of the game, Henning Berg has held managerial positions at seven different clubs.
He first managed Lyn to a 3rd place finish in Norway in 2008 and was then snapped up by his former club Lillestrøm. While his time at the club started relatively strongly, he was dismissed from his post in 2011 with the club struggling in the bottom half of the league.
This wasn’t enough to put off Blackburn Rovers owners the Venkys, however. Berg returned for a third stint with the club, this time as manager, in 2012. His reign was short, winning just one of his ten games at the helm and being dismissed less than two months into the job.
Since then, Berg has worked as a scout for Norwich City as well as manager of Legia Warsaw, Videoton, Stabæk and Omonia.
Did You Know? Interesting facts about Henning Berg
– Eat Your Words: Before taking the Blackburn Rovers managerial position, Henning said “there are no real managers with credibility who would accept a job like that”, referencing the club’s poultry-producing owners, the Venkys.
– A Long-Standing Record: Until 2010, Henning Berg was the only player to have won the Premier League with two different clubs.