In just their second year in Norway's 1. Division, Jay Needham and Alta are knocking on the door to be promoted to the Eliteserien.
The midfielder and his teammates are within striking distance of an automatic invitation to Norway's top level of soccer and are just behind HamKam for the fifth and final spot in the 1. Division promotion playoff race.
Considering how Alta started their season, Needham says the squad is thrilled to be in the hunt for promotion and energized by the chase to join Norway's elite.
"Everything is going great. We're in the thick of the promotion race and close to being in position to be in the promotion playoff," Needham recently exclaimed to YA.
"Our first month was rough. We lost to HamKam 7-0 on national television. We're a young team so it was important to get over that loss which we did when we came out and won at Moss 0-5 the next week."
Soon thereafter, the native Texan was given the honor of wearing the captain's armband, a distinction rarely held by foreigners and was also moved to central midfielder by head coach Aasmund Bjorkman.
The switch has paid dividends for Alta who have averaged two goals a game in their last nine matches fueled by the playmaking of Needham and the astounding goal-scoring exploits of striker Vegard Braaten who has tallied 15 goals in 17 games this season.
While many players would be intimidated by having to lead such a young squad into action every weekend and also switch positions, the reaction by the former SMU standout has been unflappable from the start as he clearly embraces his new role.
"I was named captain after the fifth game which was a huge honor considering I'm not Norwegian," continued Needham. "It makes it alot easier that everyone speaks English so talking with my teammates isn't a challenge. Playing in the midfield isn't that hard either because I know I can just pass it to Vegard and he'll score. He is on fire right now!"
Needham's road to the nordic club goes back to his college soccer days when he lead the Mustangs to the 2005 NCAA Tournament semifinal before bowing out to eventual champions Maurice Edu and Maryland.
Following graduation, the D/FW Metroplex resident was drafted by DC United but could not agree to terms on a contract so Needham headed to the shores of the Caribbean to play in the USL for Puerto Rico.
The 24 year old was named USL newcomer of the year and parlayed that into a contract with Alta for the 2008 season where Needham says he and his wife have enjoyed the adventure of living abroad in Scandinavia.
"My wife and I figured that since we're young and have no children that we should try to see the world while we could. It's been great living in Alta with the midnight summer sun and also learning how to do things like ice fishing and skiing which obviously I never would have done back in Texas!" he quipped.
Needham will soon be faced with the difficult situation of not knowing where his playing future may reside. With his current contract expiring at the end of the season, it is unclear if the Lone Star Stater will stay with Bjorkman's squad or perhaps venture off to another European league.
It is apparent in Needham's voice that part of him would like to stay in Alta considering that the local city council recently approved funds for a new stadium, however should a better opportunity presents itself, the ex-Islander notes that he will thoroughly take the time to explore his options.
"We'll have to see what happens since my contract ends this season. Like I mentioned, my wife and I want to see the world so for example, if I got a chance to play in England for a club in the Championship or League One, I would definitely be interested in that," he concluded.
Needham has appeared in 15 matches this year for Alta and has scored one goal. The midfielder returns from suspension this weekend as Alta travel to first place Honefoss.