Stig Inge Bjørnebye

Stig Inge Bjørnebye (born 11 December 1969) is a retired Norwegian footballer who played in Norway, England, and Denmark, most notably for Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers. His preferred position was left back, which he occupied for domestic clubs and the national team. Bjørnebye was appointed assistant manager of Norway in 2003, relinquishing the role three-years later to succeed Tom Nordlie as manager of IK Start.

For club and country, Bjørnebye was noted for his precise deliveries from the flanks. He set up Michael Owen for his first goal in a 2–1 defeat to Wimbledon in 1997. Described as a "solid, no-nonsense full-back", Bjørnebye played competitive football for 16-years until injury compelled retirement in March 2003. He had represented Norway 75 times, scoring once, and appeared in over 140 Premier League matches.

Club career

Bjørnebye was born in Elverum, the son of skier Jo Inge, who competed in the 1972 Winter Olympics. As a child, Bjørnebye exhibited an interest in emulating his father by becoming a ski jumper. His footballing career began as a youth player with home club Elverum IL before joining Strømmen IF in the late 1980s. He moved to Kongsvinger in 1989, establishing himself as a first-team regular and securing a transfer to Rosenborg in 1992. His inaugural season with Rosenborg yielded the league championship and Norwegian Cup, in the final of which he scored the deciding goal against Lillestrøm SK.

His performances merited inclusion in the national team and attracted the attention of Liverpool's manager Graeme Souness, who bought the defender for £600,000 less than one-year after moving to Rosenborg. Signed as a replacement for David Burrows, Bjørnebye debuted inauspiciously in a 5–1 defeat to Coventry City. Initial difficulties adapting to the Premier League caused many fans to question his displays on the pitch and he returned to Norway on loan to Rosenborg in 1994.

Bjørnebye's experiences as a Reds' player in the 1994–95 season under the management of Roy Evans were markedly more successful than that of previous campaigns. He gained a regular place in the senior team, supplanting the left back position from Julian Dicks, and featured in the 2–1 defeat of Bolton Wanderers in the final of the 1995 Coca Cola Cup. Subsequent injury – a broken leg sustained in a match against Southampton — terminated his season and he was replaced by Steve Harkness.

"I am not very good at [remembering what my fondest footballing memories are] but if I had to pick, I would say my time with Rosenborg, the World Cup game against Mexico in 1994 and my three cup finals - at Ullevål, Wembley and the Millennium Stadium,", 11 March 2003.
Unavailable for several-months, Bjørnebye appeared just twice for Liverpool in the 1995–96 season. Recovery and injuries to other left back candidates enabled Bjørnebye to reclaim his place the following season, in which he scored his first goal for Liverpool in a match against Middlesbrough He contributed to the club's most convincing title challenge since the inception of the Premier League by supplying club strikers Stan Collymore and Robbie Fowler with precise crosses. He was ultimately included in the PFA Team of the Year with Steve McManaman and Mark Wright. The acquisition of Steve Staunton and arrival of Gerard Houllier in the 1998–99 season limited Bjørnebye's first-team opportunities, leading to his effective marginalisation. Bjørnebye affirmed his recurring determination to stay at Liverpool that season, remarking "If I didn't have any fight in my stomach I'd have left Liverpool at least three times before".

Unable to displace Staunton and Dominic Matteo, Bjørnebye agreed to a loan move to Danish champions Brøndby IF in 2000. He decided to permanently leave Liverpool after returning from the European Championship, accepting a £300,000 transfer to Blackburn Rovers that reunited him with former manager Graeme Souness. Promotion to the Premier League was achieved in his first year with Rovers, in the process Bjørnebye scored his only goal for the club. His final trophy was gained when Blackburn defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2–1 in the 2002 Worthington Cup final. Successive injuries after the cup victory disrupted and eventually ended his career as a footballer. While preparing for the 2002–03 season, Bjørnebye fractured his eye socket in a training accident. He complained of double vision, underwent surgery, and was rendered unavailable for seven-months. Further injury inflicted during a Worthington Cup match against Wigan Athletic in December 2002 escalated while Bjørnebye was recovering in Norway, necessitating emergency surgery to avert the possibility of foot amputation. Bjørnebye announced his retirement on 11 March 2003. Blackburn manager Graham Souness reacted to the decision with a statement:

International career

Bjørnebye was capped 75 times by Norway and scored once in a friendly against the United States in 1993. Having represented his country at youth, under-21, and "B" level, Bjørnebye debuted for the senior team in 1989 against Austria. The majority of his caps were collected during Egil Olsen's eight-year tenure as manager of Norway. Under Olsen's guidance, Norway employed a "long ball" policy that was contingent on the height of Olsen's squad. The tactic of directing long passes to striker Jostein Flo, principally delivered by Bjørnebye, became popularly referred to in Norway as the "Flo Pass" (Flo-pasningen). Although criticised for employing the long-ball approach and maintaining a defensively-orientated mentality, Olsen secured qualification for the World Cups of 1994 and 1998. Bjørnebye participated in both tournaments — seven matches in total.

He decided to retire from international football after the 1998 World Cup, intending to focus on his domestic career and family. Bjørnebye unexpectedly reversed his decision after Nils Johan Semb persuaded him to return to the squad for Euro 2000. Unused in Norway's 1–0 defeat of Spain, Bjørnebye was first introduced to the competition in the second match of the group stage against Yugoslavia as a 35-minute substitute for his Liverpool colleague Vegard Heggem. He retained his place, featuring in the goalless draw against Slovenia that eliminated Norway from the tournament. His final international match was a World Cup qualifying fixture against Wales in October 2000, placing him ninth in the overall record of appearances for Norway as of 2007.

Retirement and personal life

Bjørnebye returned to football in a non-playing capacity when he was selected by the Norwegian Football Association to replace Harald Aabrekk as Norway's assistant manager, subordinate to the newly-appointed Åge Hareide. Prior to the announcement, the media in England had reported that Bjørnebye was considering maintaining a relationship with Blackburn by becoming a scout for the club. He vacated his position in 2006 to succeed Tom Nordlie as manager of IK Start. Success was forthcoming in his first season; the club competed in Europe and Bjørnebye was declared most profitable coach of the year, ahead of his predecessor Nordlie, with an income of almost seven million krone. His appointment lasted two seasons, ending with dismissal in September 2007 after a series of poor results that placed the club in serious danger of being relegated from the Norwegian Premier League. He was replaced by the experienced Swede Benny Lennartsson who was unable to preserve the club's premier league status; Start were relegated to Norway's second tier.

Bjørnebye is married to the former Byåsen IL handball player Hege Frøseth, with whom he has three children.



  • Matthews, Tony (2006) Who's Who of Liverpool, Mainstream Publishing, ISBN 1-84596-140-4
  • Career stats, Accessed 6 February 2008.
  • Past Player Profile, Accessed 4 February 2008.
  • Stig Inge Bjørnebye, Accessed 22 January 2008.

External links

Norway national football team assistant coach
Preceded by:
Harald Olav Aabrekk
Succeeded by:
Ola By Rise
IK Start coach
Preceded by:
Tom Nordlie
2006-2007 Succeeded by:
Benny Lennartsson

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