Academy goalkeeper Kjetil Haug is happy to accept the ‘crazy’ label bestowed on anyone who chooses a career between the sticks.
A summer signing from Norwegian side Sarpsborg 08, the stopper is first to admit he and his fellow members of the Goalkeepers’ Union are little bit different from the norm, and there is a larger individual element involved in the game for the team’s last line of defence.
“Goalkeepers are a bit eccentric – everyone tells me that!” Kjetil told mcfc.co.uk. “They aren’t normal people, so I think you need to be a bit crazy, yes!
“It’s almost like an individual sport being a goalkeeper. When the play is at the other end you just stand there all by yourself and yet you still need to be focused mentally.”
The psychology of a goalkeeper can be an interesting study, with youthful stoppers often placed under a harsher spotlight for any error than their outfield counterparts. They’re also expected to be excellent communicators and, crucially, to respond well to pressure - but for him, that should be listed next to joy in the dictionary.
He reflected: “There’s a bit more pressure [being a keeper] but that’s a good thing! To be a goalkeeper you need to enjoy that pressure and if you enjoy it you can change it so it’s not pressure – it’s joy.
“When you play you don’t think about making a mistake that could lead to a goal, you just play your game. If you’re always thinking about making a mistake you’ll probably make one.”
Confident and articulate, the 16-year-old took his first footballing steps alongside his childhood friends, playing in a team set up by his Dad, and it wasn’t until his teens that he was picked up a professional side.
However, his rapid development ensured that within 18 months he was catching the eye of scouts around Europe. Invited to trial by no fewer than three North West Premier League teams, the family feel he experienced at City convinced him his future lay at the City Football Academy.
“First of all I was scouted by Everton, went on trial there and then other clubs came in,” explained the youngster. “I went on trial to United and City at the same time, but I enjoyed it more here so I decided on City.”
He added: “I felt more comfortable being here and it was more like a family. At the other clubs I was more nervous, but when I came here it was just about playing football and doing what I wanted to do.
“The idea of playing in England was a bit special, because in Norway the Premier League is quite big, so going to England to play is a big achievement.”
Securing a coveted move to England at just 16 and keen to talk about the nuances of goalkeeping, Haug sounds like he’s been wearing gloves since before he could walk, but he began his career scoring goals before taking an interest in stopping them.
First encouraged to take a turn between the posts at the age of 11, he hasn’t looked back since, but Kjetil believes his early years up front have helped build his strengths at the back.
Said Haug: “I started playing as a goalkeeper when I was 10 or 11 and before that I used to play striker or centre back. I was quite tall for my age so people told me to try being a keeper. I enjoyed it and here I am!
“I think it’s a good for a goalkeeper to have played as an outfielder, because then you know more about what the striker is thinking in key situations. When you are one on one with a striker you know more about what he’s going to do.”
Capped seven times for his country at u16 and u17 level, the keeper came up against Sweden and City teammate Zackarias Faour in August’s u17 Nordic Tournament final.
That day ended in disappointment for the stopper, who finished on the losing side, but he believes no experience can ever compare to representing his homeland.
“It’s a special feeling,” he revealed. “Football is my dream so pulling on the shirt is a feeling I can’t really describe. Norway is the country I grew up in, watching every national team game.
“Playing for your country and being a part of that is amazing.”
Keen to point out that life in the City Academy system centres around a steady diet of improvement, development and education, Kjetil also takes great delight in the homework he sets himself – watching as much football as possible!
He declared: “I watch every single goalkeeper I can in the Premier League and La Liga and try to learn from each one.
“Everyone has something they’re particularly good at so if I can watch all of them and pick up a little bit from each then that would make me a better keeper.”