“John Salako and Mark Bright had a big influence on me while I was at Palace. Having coaches that have played at the top level in the game always helps.”
Name: Kyle Spence
Role: Left Winger
Previous clubs: Crystal Palace, Coventry City, Hampton and Richmond Borough, Kingstonian, East Grinstead Town
Current club: Valdres Fotballklubb
In 2011 Kyle Spence played alongside Jeremie Boga (recently signed for Sassuolo from Chelsea) and Patrick Roberts (Manchester City) as part of the Surrey Schools FA U14 county team that went on to win the National County Cup. His career has taken a different route to the aforementioned since then. The midfielder now plays his football in Norway for Valdres Fotballklubb but at least he is getting first team football. It wasn’t a move that Kyle hesitated over.
“I’ve been wanting to play abroad from when I was 15/16 years old. I think from going to play tournaments abroad made me want to play in another country. Different mentality’s and style of plays in different countries caught my eye, I wanted something different for myself, so my agent presented a few opportunities abroad and I didn’t hesitate to say yes!”
His football club is based in Fagernes which is approximately 3 hours North-West of Oslo. The idyllic settlement in the valley of Valdres is a far cry from the fast paced life of his hometown Croydon. With a population of just 1,800 Spence is enjoying the chilled out feel of Norway.
“I’m loving life out in Norway. Everyone is nice, no distractions at all, I’m in a small city with nice scenery everywhere you go. It’s different to London less busy but I like it and it’s a change, personally it’s good for me because all I do out here is eat sleep football and repeat.”
The midfielder isn’t the only Brit in the Valdres squad with Ryan Nelson and Dominic McGiveron also on board which has made it easier to settle in since his move in February. A hat-trick on his debut did no harm either!
“It was comfortable having teammates speak the same language but the Norwegians are very good at speaking English and friendly so it’s all good.”
“I’m happy with the start that I’ve made personally and the team also. Scoring a hat-trick on my debut was a dream start for me , especially it being my first one. Then going on to beat Lillestrom; a top team out in Norway with good young players and some who play internationally as well, so it was a good test for us but a good boost for the team also winning that game.”
“I’ll develop anywhere, I’m not afraid as long as it’s a good standard. I believe in my own abilities that I can play anywhere in the world at the top level, it doesn’t just have to be in England!“
Despite the cultural difference among many other things, the 21-year-old believes the level of football he was experiencing in England isn’t too different to the game he’s playing now.
“In my opinion from the little experience I had in England with Coventry , when we played a few League 2 teams in pre-season and when I made one appearance in League 1 last season , I don’t think there’s much difference between the league I’m in here. It’s physical men’s football but it’s very technical as well. There’s a lot of smart players who have had experience in the higher tiers also and there’s very good teams in our league so it isn’t easy at all , especially the top division second teams such as Stromsgodset 2 and Lillestrom 2 who compete in our league. The manager I’m under, Ole Anders Ulven is a very good coach who knows the game well and he just wants us to play quick football with a lot of movement involved and smart play which is good for me because I like to do link up play and come in and play one-two’s. I’ve got good teammates around me which helps as-well and the Norwegian boys could definitely do a job out in England.”
Valdres play in Division Three in Norway, the fourth tier, and it has been good for Spence to have a sustain run in the team at one club after a stop start period with some moves after leaving Coventry City last year.
“Yes I spent a little bit of time at three different clubs in the Non-League, just to maintain my match fitness. It’s no different to going out on loan from league clubs to be honest and I learned a lot and it has made me more professional because things that you would take for granted you have to organise yourself. I always knew I was going abroad and that’s the beauty of Non-League you can play with having no ties to the club which would allow me to leave whenever I want. I was also keeping up my training in the week to stay sharp and fit so I was working with my sprint coach Idris Ojuriye who improved my sprint technique and explosive power which really helped me.”
At youth level with Crystal Palace he had some Eagles legends to help guide him along from young age, even showing him literally how to do things a lot of the time.
“John Salako and Mark Bright had a big influence on me while I was at Palace. Having coaches that have played at the top level in the game always helps. Salako was my coach throughout the whole season, and he had a good energy about him when we trained and played matches, sometimes in the training sessions he couldn’t help but join in. But me being in a similar position to him was a good thing because he would always have advice and tell me what I’m good at and what I’m not good at and how I can improve as a player on the left wing , with Mark Bright he would take the attacking players at the start of sessions maybe twice a week or more and help us all with all different types of finishing , and again he would show us how it’s done sometimes and stick the ball top bins which was amazing to see he has still got it. Having two Crystal Palace legends around was a huge positive.”
“Making my professional debut at 17 was a proud moment for me and my family, it was also crazy because it was my 3rd game of the week.”
Despite being born in Surrey, Spence’s international honours so far have come with Scotland. The head scout for Scotland had spotted him at Palace and before he knew it he had been called up to represent them in a tournament.
“I was U16 playing in the Category 1 status , and I have Scottish on my Mum’s side through my Grandad and it got around to Mick Oliver who was the Head Scout for Scotland. So he came down to watch a few of my games, from there my coach at the time Ben Garner came up to me after a training session one day and said there is interest from Scotland and they’ve invited you to a training camp with the year above (u17) coached by Mark Wotte and Dean Gorre. Then all of a sudden 2 weeks later I’m off to Moscow , Russia for a tournament where I made my debut against Latvia and scored my first goal vs Turkey”.
A couple of years later, and now at Coventry City and he was making his professional debut in a Football League Trophy win against Wycombe Wanderers as an 80th minute substitute.
“Making my professional debut at 17 was a proud moment for me and my family, it was also crazy because it was my 3rd game of the week. Playing for the U18s, 21s then being involved in the first-team game. I really enjoyed it and motivated me even more to work harder and see if I can get more game time or stay in around the first-team , but after I made my debut I was in a few squads and training maybe once or twice a week with the first team but didn’t make another appearances till the following season. So, I was with the U21 and U18s for the rest of the season, getting in a lot of game time. We had really good coaches and I was playing alongside James Maddison, Cian Harries and George Thomas, so it was all good development.”
So what next for the young winger making his way in Norway? He’s getting great first-team experience in a different climate, which has to be better than playing reserve/youth football in most other places.
“My aims for the season are to perform to my best for the team every week and improve individually as a player and so far I feel this is happening as I’m learning a lot already and still have a lot more to learn. I want to score as many goals and create as many assists as I can to help the team and possibly win promotion.”
With everything going so well for him at the moment, Spence sees know reason why his immediate future would lie anywhere else. When asked if he sees his career in Norway extending he is very open to the possibility.
“Yes why not? I’ll develop anywhere, I’m not afraid as long as it’s a good standard. I believe in my own abilities that I can play anywhere in the world at the top level, it doesn’t just have to be in England!“