Egil 'Drillo' Olsen's arrival as stand-in national team coach caused a stir in Norway, but captain Brede Hangeland is sure the 1990s icon has moved with the times, saying: "He hasn't been sat on his sofa for the last 15 years."
Now 66, Olsen made a massive impact in his first spell as Norway coach from 1990 to 1998, guiding them to two FIFA World Cup finals tournaments. However, his controversial views on tactics – which urged zonal defence and rapid counterattacking, often using long balls – made him an unexpected choice to take over from Åge Hareide for the nation's next three friendly games.
While he has been appointed as a caretaker, Olsen has made no secret that he would like to keep the job on a permanent basis. On the basis of early reaction, that would be a situation many Norwegian fans would relish. There has been a notable renewal in interest in the national team since his appointment and his first home game, against Finland on 1 April, is expected to be a sell-out.
Even so, there have been dissenting voices elsewhere, not least Kjetil Rekdal – whose goal against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup gave Olsen's side a legendary 2-1 win. Now a coach at Aalesunds FK, the 40-year-old said: "Drillo is a good coach, but I can't see him taking the national side forward now. The team needs to progress, even though the appointment is only temporary."
Viking FK coach Uwe Rösler had reservations too, saying: "Drillo has been a great coach, but he has been out of top-level coaching for some time." Sure enough, Olsen has not had a prestigious job outside Norway since an ill-fated Premier League spell with Wimbledon FC in 1999/00, though he was in charge of Fredrikstad FK in 2004/05 and the Iraq national team more recently.
Current Norway skipper Hangeland, however, is excited at the prospect of working with a domestic coaching legend. The 27-year-old Fulham FC centre-back said: "For me, Drillo stands for a style of football with lots of movement and a compact defence. This style gave Norway unprecedented results in the past, and at international level all that counts is results."
Moreover, he is convinced that Olsen's tactics will have evolved over the years. "He hasn't been sat on his sofa for the last 15 years," he noted. "He has worked in the Premier League with Wimbledon, and in the Norwegian league with Vålerenga [IF as a consultant] and Fredrikstad as well as with Iraq.
He has seen a lot of football, and I am sure that he has a plan."
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