VICTOR Palsson appears to have an insatiable wanderlust, one which far surpasses the old football adage of “have boots, will travel.” In the latest stage of the former Hibs star’s globe-trotting journey he has pitched up in Holland.
Incredibly, still just 21 years of age, the midfielder finds himself playing for his seventh club in a sixth different country, his travels having begun in his homeland of Iceland and via Denmark, England, Scotland, the United States to NEC Nijmegen in the Dutch top division, the Eredivisie.
But while he can count playing alongside Steven Gerrard at Liverpool and Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez and Tim Cahill at New York Red Bulls in addition to his spells with Fylkir in his homeland, Danish outfit AGF Aarhus along with a short loan spell at Dagenham & Redbridge, Palsson believes the year he spent at Easter Road will, ultimately, turn out to be the pivotal months in his career.
Plucked from Liverpool reserves by former Hibs boss Colin Calderwood, Palsson had his first taste of regular first-team football in a green and white shirt, playing more than 30 matches before falling victim, along with numerous others, to Pat Fenlon’s revolution which has left the home dressing room at Easter Road almost unrecognisable compared with the one he inhabited less than a year ago.
Speaking from his home in Holland today, Palsson said: “I was lucky Colin Calderwood wanted to sign me and to play as many games as I did aged 18 or 19 was pretty good.
“I’d been with Liverpool reserves, but Hibs gave me first-team football and I’m sure when I look back I’ll be able to say it was the most important time in my career. I had my ups and downs. I played well for the first couple of games, fell away a bit and then came again. That happens to every football player.
“Overall the fans were very good to me, I loved Edinburgh and miss the city a lot. Hibs were a fantastic club to play for. There have been a lot of changes, a lot of new faces.
“I watched them beat Motherwell 4-0 on television the other week and the only guys I recognised were Paul Hanlon, David Wotherspoon and Leigh Griffiths. But I am delighted to see the club doing so well, I look out for their results, watch them on television when I can and I’m as happy as anyone to see them top of the SPL.”
Palsson’s own Easter Road career came to an end shortly after Fenlon replaced Calderwood, leaving along with the likes of Junior Agogo and Akpo Sodje as the Irishman set about rebuilding the squad he had inherited, a process which continued throughout this summer as a new-look Hibs took shape with remarkable success.
Disappointed as he might have been, Palsson insisted he has no regrets. He said: “I only played four games when Pat was there and when a new manager has his own players coming in, there’s nothing you can do.”
While Palsson departed, contemplating the interest being shown in him elsewhere in Britain and in Scandinavia, his career took a totally unpredictable turn when he found himself moving to Major League Soccer and New York to rub shoulders with French internationalist Henry and Mexican star Marquez.
He said: “Red Bulls had a Scandinavian coach who knew of me and when he heard I was a free agent he gave me a call. It was a great experience. I had fantastic team-mates like Thierry, who is one of the best-ever strikers, and Rafael, another amazing player, who had been with Thierry at Barcelona.
“Pre-season training was done in Mexico and when the season started I played in 16 of the first 20 games, making eight or nine starts. The standard in the MLS is a lot better than people think. Football is on the up in the US, and every season it’s getting better and better. There are a lot of good technical players but it can also be very physical.
“But there is a hell of a lot of travelling. The longest flight was to Los Angeles where I came up against David Beckham and Robbie Keane, another great experience, but it’s six or seven hours away which is like flying from Scotland to New York. The west coast is always warm and sunny, unlike the east, then there were the different time zones you travelled through.
“Sometimes you go away two or three days before a game and if you have two or three away games on the trot you can be away from home for up to ten days. That’s hard on the married guys with families but for me with no ties it was far easier but there were still a lot of things to get used to.”
Despite his promising start in the Big Apple, Palsson found himself slipping down the pecking order when Australian internationalist Cahill arrived from Everton, another signing to again underline the pulling power of the MLS and the Red Bulls in particular, where former Scotland boss Andy Roxburgh has just been appointed sporting director while ex-Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier is the club’s head of global football operations.
Palsson, however, was spotted by scouts from NEC playing for Iceland’s Under-21 side and although an initial offer was rebuffed, the American club agreed to him heading to Holland on loan until next May.
He said: “When Tim (Cahill) arrived he was playing in my position, central midfield, as was Rafael so there’s not a lot you can do when you have players like them in your squad. Moving to Holland means I’ve now had five clubs in as many years and I have to admit all this moving around is getting a bit tiring.
“But that’s football and I’m looking on the positives. I’ve already packed in a lot of experiences and hopefully I can use all of them as my career progresses. Holland is another style of football and the chance to learn another language.”
As in New York, Palsson’s early days in Holland have been promising, the youngster having played seven times for NEC without tasting defeat. In his latest match, his new side came from behind to beat Heracles Almelo 3-2, while in his previous outing he scored his first goal in the 2-1 win away over Groningen.
Palsson said: “It’s a very good league with terrific teams such as PSV Eindhoven who are top, FC Twente, Feyenoord and so on. Then look at the results Ajax had against Manchester City in the Champions League and the performances they produced home and away. They are fifth, we are seventh but only two points behind them.”