Player Profile: Morten Gamst Pedersen
Date of Birth: 9/9/1981
Height: 1.80 m
National Team: Norway
International Caps: 83
International Goals: 17
It was a long journey for Morten Gamst Pedersen, from the distant reaches of the arctic circle to immortality as a club icon at Blackburn Rovers. Brought in to replace the prolific Damien Duff, Rovers fans could be forgiven for the capture of a player who was then a virtual unknown. Nine years later, as Pedersen bid goodbye, he had undoubtedly removed any such apprehensions.
Pedersen started his professional career with Tromsø in Norway, breaking into the first team when he was just 19-years-old. In just his second season at the club, Tromsø were relegated from the Norwegian top-flight, but a young Pedersen played a vital role back in ensuring they were promoted the very next season.
It was during the 2004 season that he attracted attention from the continent as he had scored seven goals by August. Several big guns were watching him, including Manchester United who had previously mined Norway for the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ronny Johnsen. However, with half the season still left to play in Norway, Pedersen signed for Premier League side Blackburn Rovers.
Pedersen initially found life tough at Blackburn and spent most of the 2004/05 season on the fringes. The manager who signed him – Graeme Souness – had left and Pedersen struggled to impress the newly-installed Mark Hughes. After making his debut against Manchester United, he struggled to hold down a first-team place.
However, he had his break when Australian midfielder Brett Emerton fell ill before a game against Cardiff City. Pedersen grabbed his chance by scoring in that game and went on to score three times in his next three matches.
The 2005/06 season was when Pedersen started his ascension to the status of a club icon at Ewood Park. He became known for his magical left foot that was capable of wreaking havoc. Pedersen grabbed ten goals in all competitions including two against Manchester United during a 2-1 win at Old Trafford. That was the first time in almost 50 years that Blackburn had beaten United on their turf.
He also won the goal of the month award for his volley against Fulham. Blackburn enjoyed one of their best seasons since their historic Premier League title, finishing sixth in the league. Rovers also reached the semi-final of the League Cup where they fell to Manchester United, despite holding them to a draw in the first leg, a game in which he scored.
Pedersen did not hit the same heights during the 2006/07 season but still contributed eight goals, with six of them coming in the league. Blackburn were only able to finish tenth in the league but enjoyed some success in the FA Cup as they made the semi-final. They also reached the last 32 of the UEFA Cup. Pedersen was again among the goals in the 2007/08 season as Blackburn put the disappointment of a first-round exit from the Intertoto Cup behind them and finished a creditable seventh in the league.
The next season saw Pedersen’s fortune take a turn for the worse with manager Mark Hughes departing for Manchester City. His replacement Paul Ince did not fare well with Blackburn locked in a fight to avoid relegation. Ince left towards the end of the season and was replaced by Sam Allardyce, who gave Pedersen a more central role. The Norwegian signed a new four-year deal with the club in May 2010.
The 2010/11 season saw Pedersen put up more consistent performances, and a large part of this was down to how Allardyce used him so effectively. He scored a 40-yard free-kick against Wigan Athletic. Then, four days later in an eventful game against Newcastle United, he scored one, assisted Brett Emerton and got punched in the stomach by Joey Barton. Big Sam was sacked midway through the season and replaced by Scotsmen Steve Kean. Rovers faced the prospect of relegation all season and were only able to avoid it by a narrow margin.
That was not to be the case the next season as some disastrous management on and off the pitch led to Blackburn being relegated. Despite the drop-down, Pedersen chose to stick on with Blackburn and help them fight their way back to the Premier League. But Blackburn were in disarray as they went through three different managers. Pedersen was told at the end of the 2012/13 season that he was no longer required at the club after nine seasons at Ewood Park. He would later recall how the prospect of having to leave reduced him to tears.
There were rumours that Pedersen would return home to Norway or make a move to Sweden. But he instead turned up in Turkey with Kardemir Karabükspor. He only spent a year in Turkey as he returned to Norway with Rosenborg in 2014 and won the league title in 2015, despite only playing four league games.
Pedersen managed to secure a return to his boyhood side Tromsø in 2016 but was unable to stop them from being relegated to the second division in his final season.
Morten Gamst Pedersen enjoyed a long career with his country having made his full international debut in 2004. The match against Northern Ireland was a memorable one for the midfielder who scored twice in a 4-1 victory.
With him in fine form, Norway nearly qualified for the 2006 World Cup, reaching the play-offs. However, they lost both legs to the Czech Republic 1-0. Four years later, Norway again failed to reach the World Cup, after finishing second in their group. Pedersen did, however, have a memorable match against Scotland where he scored twice.
Qualification for the 2012 European Championship was another painful experience for Pedersen. Norway finished third in their group on the same points as second-placed Portugal but missed out on the play-off places due to their inferior goal difference. Pedersen scored just once throughout the campaign, against Cyprus in a 3-1 win. He played his final game for Norway, against Italy, in 2014.
Where is Morten Gamst Pedersen now?
Pedersen is still playing professional football in Norway for third-division side Alta IF, who he joined in March 2020. He has made public his plans to carry on playing until he is forty.
The Norwegian still has close ties with his former side Blackburn Rovers. Before he joined his current club, he trained with the Lancashire side to keep up his fitness. During that period, he also spent an evening with Blackburn fans.
Did you know? Interesting facts about Morten Gamst Pedersen
– Pedersen fronted the Norwegian boyband The Players, alongside fellow footballers Freddy dos Santos, Raymond Kvisvik, Kristofer Hæstad and Oyvind Svenning. Released as part of the Soccer Against Crime campaign, their first single became a hit across Scandinavia.
– He is naturally right-footed but his father re-trained him as a left-footer because he believed competition down the left wing would be less fierce.
– Pedersen’s father Ernst was also a footballer.