In the summer of 2016, Slaven Bilic looked to make improvements to his West Ham United first-team squad as the Hammers looked to press on after an impressive 2015-16 campaign.
One of the players that the Hammers boss decided to bring in was Norwegian international Havard Nordtveit.
West Ham beat off competition from several other clubs to snap up the utility man from German side Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer, following the expiry of his contract with the Bundesliga club.
The Norwegian has now spoken to The Boot Room exclusively about his time at West Ham, the Olympic Stadium and the Hammers’ fans.
It would be fair to say that Nordtveit’s season with West Ham may not have gone to plan. He played just 21 times for the club in 2016-17 and never quite achieved the form he had showcased in the Bundesliga with Gladbach.
But, despite his struggles, he insisted he was happy with his time at West Ham:
“It was perfect,” beamed the Norwegian. “I always dreamt to be in the Premier League. When I got the chance to go to England with West Ham it was an easy choice.
“Slaven (Bilic) was quite open that he wanted me. I had some good games and I had some bad games and it was a bit up and down. But all over I am really happy I took that choice. West Ham is a fantastic club.”
Nordtveit simply never seemed to settle at West Ham. The Norwegian was perhaps a victim of his own versatility. With injury problems at right-back for Bilic the utility man was asked to play as a makeshift option on occasions for the Hammers:
“There (at West Ham) I played a little right-back. Slaven said he needed me because we had a lot of injuries. When the manager asked me, of course I tried my best.”
His inexperience in the position showed and it was tough for the Norwegian international, but he knuckled down and did a job for the club in a desperate situation.
In general, last season was a struggle for West Ham. An 11th place finish perhaps sugarcoated a mixed campaign in which they finished just five points ahead of Watford in 17th.
It was the first season West Ham played at the Olympic Stadium, leaving their beloved Boleyn Ground.
It has been a constant source of controversy since, with many West Ham fans unhappy with their new home.
Nordtveit never had the pleasure of playing at Upton Park. However, the importance of the old ground was never lost on the new recruit:
“I never played at Upton Park but what I heard was that the atmosphere there was amazing. What I got to know is that the fans were not that happy to change the stadium after such a long time and being such a traditional club.”
The move has certainly seen West Ham’s management of David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady receive some hefty criticism since.
In March, it boiled over during a defeat to Burnley, when fans invaded the pitch and many hurled abuse and projectiles at the director box.
However, Nordtveit understands why the move went ahead:
“Everything is up to the chiefs at the club and they have a great deal on the Olympic Stadium, I am sure they only want the best for the club. So I think it is hard to say no to that.”
Speaking from Hoffenheim, where he is now back playing in the Bundesliga, the 27-year-old continued:
“I hope West Ham can get the same feeling at the Olympic Stadium as they did at Upton Park.”
The former West Ham man clearly enjoyed his time in London, even if his Premier League dream did not come true with the Hammers.
What is clear is that he understood the frustrations of the West Ham fans in what was an odd and difficult transition season in 2016-17.
For Nordtveit, that may have also been part of the problem regarding his ability to settle at the club.
Now, back in Germany, his career is still on the right track and he appears humbled by the experience of playing for such a traditional club.
The defender, who came through the youth ranks of Arsenal, is now playing regularly in Germany for Hoffenheim, who are chasing the Europa League places in the Bundesliga.
After previous success in Germany with Nurnberg and Gladbach, it seems that German football is what suits the Norwegian international best.
When it comes to a potential return to England, one day, it seems the West Ham experience was the end of his Premier League career:
“After it all, we made the conclusion that I fit better to the Bundesliga than I do the Premier League,” admitted the 27-year-old.
“I have now been in Germany for seven years, maybe more than that. I like it here. I like the stadiums, the atmosphere in the games, the way of play.
“How we’re playing now it is real entertainment.
“I can see in front of me that I spend my last years as a professional football player here in Germany before I go home and put my legs high up on the table.”
But it is not a dig at West Ham, more a reflection on his troubled season with the club.
“I always watch them (West Ham),” Nordtveit admitted. “I hope they can take some points now and get out the danger of going down.”
He will never go down as a West Ham great, but Nordtveit truly appreciated the chance to play for West Ham in his career.
No Hammers fans would begrudge him any success in the future, which looks set to be in Germany until he hangs up his boots.