We spoke with Stjarnan assistant manager Brynjar Gunnarsson last Friday to get some insight into our European opponents:
Brynjar told us:
“We are a mix of young and experienced players, we have mature players but fairly young players as well amongst them. We have a 17-year-old playing in midfield. Our bench is fairly young, 18, 19, 20 year olds. Individually, we’ve got Guðjón Baldvinsson who played for KR Reykjavik and played in Sweden and Denmark for two or three seasons. He’s our captain and a strong player but we try to build our team around the team shape and that’s our main aim. Overall the season is going well. We had a good start, a bit of a blip in the last three games but nothing serious. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way but we’re looking to get back into the mix for the top three.
In terms of the club’s history and age, it’s a fairly young Icelandic club. We were only in Europe for the first time in 2014. It was a great run. Being in that competition for the first time, it was fantastic. We won the league that year as well, it was a bit of a dream season for all of us involved at the club. We were in the Champions League in 2015, we didn’t do as well as we would have liked that season and we missed out and we’re back now in Europe for the third time.
It’s a long way to what we did three years ago, what we did was unbelievable. It is our hope and our aim to get there but it’s a long way. Once we get there, it’s a great occasion but when you’re playing the Inter Milans it’s very difficult to get into the group stages, maybe as Rovers know, they played Spurs in 2011. I remember watching that game on television.
Not having seen much of Irish football my feeling is the leagues are very close to each other in quality and the players that are playing in the league are sort of similar. I think the UEFA ranking between Stjarnan and Rovers wasn’t an awful lot with Rovers not far from being in the seeded group. Dundalk and Cork played FH and KR Reykjavik a few years back and they were tight games and they could have gone either way. I’ve played with loads of Irish players, at Reading there was Stephen Hunt, Noel Hunt, Shane Long, Kevin Doyle, the list goes on, so I know the attitude and how they approach the game, they’re all in and they try to do their best every time.
Reykjavik as a city and the surroundings are great. It will be a great trip for the fans that are going to travel, it’ll be a good experience. The ground is small, it only holds about a thousand seats but that’s just what we have to work with. The people in Iceland watch the football in England and I think it’s the same here, that’s where the players want to go and play in the biggest stadiums but we still have a fairly good team out there”.
Brynar has 74 caps for Iceland and last played for KR as a midfielder. Brynjar had previously played for Nottingham Forest, Stoke City, Watford and Reading in England as well as Vålerenga and Moss in Norway and Örgryte IS in Sweden. More here.