Australian teenage football prodigy Alex Gersbach has made a flying start to his new life with Norwegian champion Rosenborg as the former Sydney FC defender embraces the challenge of flourishing at a club used to making waves in Europe.
After inking a three-and-a-half year deal for an estimated $500,000 in January, the 18 year-old left-back has featured heavily in four pre-season friendlies so far as he leaves his “comfort zone” behind him on a steep incline to the promised land of Europe’s football summit.
The Australian youth international, currently in Marbella, Spain where his new club beat Russian Rostov in another pre-season outing on Wednesday, is aiming to “hit the ground running” when the new Eliteserien season kicks off against Odd on 12 March, with the domestic cup competition also to come along with much anticipated UEFA Champions league qualifiers in July.
Still in a daze after his whirlwind move from the Sky Blues – the team he broke into while still studying at school - Gersbach said: “Rosenborg are a big club and to be gaining experience with them will hopefully take me to a higher level.
“There’s nothing wrong with the A-League … it’s a good competition and it’s getting better all the time but I was comfortable at Sydney FC and I thought it was time I stepped up and tried to improve my game, and this move to will really help that.
“I could have stayed at Sydney another year or two and it probably wouldn’t have hurt me but I guess I am ambitious and want to get better and better and not just stay in my comfort zone.
“I came here to make a difference, and focus in getting into the team and playing well. The training is intense and there are some really good players here.”
So far, Gersbach has garnered game time in the 1-0 win over Norwegian rival Odd and the 2-1 to loss to FC Copenhagen. He also played 45 minutes each against lower league Norwegian sides Byiasen and Kristiansund.
The feedback from coach Kare Hedley Ingebrigtsen has been positive for Gersbach, who has been given the freedom to make his trademark slalom runs forward and whip over his tantalising crosses.
“The style is the very similar to way most A-League teams play … a lot of emphasis on going forward and attacking teams, so it’s pretty familiar,” Gersbach said. “The aim is to be involved with the first team and hit the ground running when the season starts. I’d love to be involved, get some experience and make an immediate impact.
“The coach has said he’s really happy with how I’ve been going and he’s even more sure about me now that I’ve arrived and he just wants me to keep going, keep working hard and keep improving.”
Gersbach knows success will not come easily in a European football environment which can be harsher than Norway’s bleak winters.
“It’s not going to be easy by any means but I am up for the challenge ... there will be some tough times and some bad days and days when I am lonely and missing home but I just have to be strong, embrace it and focus on my football.”
Asked to assess the differences he's noticed so far between the Norwegian and Australian ways, Gersbach said: “It’s hard to judge yet but here the players here are generally a bit younger than say Sydney FC, for example, everybody is fast, fit and strong and the intensity is maybe higher.
“The A-League is different in its own way with some older foreign players who are brilliant technically but maybe don’t have the legs of some of the players over here. It’s hard to tell really, it’s different.
“It’s exciting to be here, not just for my football but my life in general in a new culture.”