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Thank You, Lars Olsen

As reported last week, manager Lars Olsen will step down after the final 4 European Qualifying matches. An 8 year tenure which has sadly regressed over the last year, but overall will not diminish the amazing and groundbreaking work Lars has done with the national side.

When Olsen steps down after the match away to Sweden in November, he will go down as the longest-serving Faroese manager, with 54 games at the helm (overtaking Allan Simonsen’s record of 52). He needs one more win to set the record for most victories for a Faroe Islands manager, currently tied with Simonsen on 8 wins and will no doubt see the upcoming Malta match to break the landmark.

Despite no win in over a year and 11 matches, Olsen’s influence and impact on the side have set the foundations for a bright future. Olsen was the first manager to implement playing an attractive passing based game, rather than just the normal hit and hope long ball, which the Faroe Islands had been synonymous with. Thus allowing technical players like Hallur Hansson, Jóan Símun Edmundsson and Brandur Hendriksson to flourish in his system.

In return the country has reaped the rewards of some of its most memorable sporting moments thanks to Lars; the victories home and away against Greece, the win away to Latvia and the draw versus Hungary to name but a few.

The accolades don’t stop there for Lars Olsen. He was the first manager to take the national side into the worlds Top Fifa World 100 rankings (high place of 74 in 2016) and obtained the country‘s best return for a qualifying campaign of 9 points in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers. As a result of these astonishing achievements, Lars Olsen has forever written himself into Faroe Islands history.

What Went Wrong?
As discussed in one of my previous articles, the stagnating results under Olsen’s reign come down to various factors. In modern-day football, managers move teams regularly, managerial jobs are now seen as projects more than anything else and after 8 years Lars has taken the side as far as he can. His loyalty to certain players might have been another strong reason behind the recent poor results, instead of bleeding in younger talent (such as Adrian Justinussen and Meinhard Olsen).

Olsen was also a victim of his high standards, and after 6 groundbreaking years in charge, the expectations of fans were higher, making the continuing progressive trend extremely hard to maintain. But none of these factors should take away from all the hard work, and the competitive mentality Olsen instilled into the Faroe Islands national team.

Who Next?
The Faroe Islands Football Association has arguably its biggest ever decision on whom to appoint next. The candidate cannot allow for all of Lars Olsen’s good work and the team’s gradual progression to be for nothing. Which means any appointed manager must have extensive experience at the highest level of football, to ensure the transition and direction forward is as smooth as possible.

As stated before ex-Iceland national and Stoke manager Guðjón Þórðarson would be a viable choice, and has extensive knowledge of Faroese football as he is the current manager of NSÍ Runavík.

An ambitious appointment for me would Alexander Zorniger (former RB Leipzig and Brøndby IF manager) – the young, exciting manager who managed in the Danish and German leagues successfully in the past.

Ólafur Jóhannesson, the man who performed admirably for the Iceland national team and Valur in recent years, would also be a credible choice.

Then you have left-field candidates such as former Croatian manager Ante Čačić, journeyman coach Trond Sollied, and Eyjólfur Sverrisson who failed at senior international management with Iceland in the past but also performed amazingly with the Under-21 setup.

Whoever gets the job, they have huge shoes to fill in Lars Olsen’s departure, a legacy that will be remembered for years to come!!

Article edited, 8 October 2019, 10.42

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