90′s Time Tunnel: Øyvind Leonhardsen
Today, we look at a certain player. Think back, to the 90′s – the Premier League. Beckham, Wright, Di Canio, oh the memories. It’s not any of them. Think of that player that you remember, the guy that you always saw in random games on Match of The Day. Ignore him, then think of the other guy that you remember. That man… is Øyvind Leonhardsen.
Øvyind was very successful in his homeland of Norway, where he began his career at provincial club Clausenenge,n before he moved as a 19-year-old to Molde, and then Norwegian champions Rosenburg. He was one of the most highly regarded midfielders in Norway in the early 90′s, winning the prestegious Kniksen award for best midfielder in 1991 and 1993, followed by nabbing the Players’ Player of the Year award in 1994.
He then began his odyssey into England’s top flight by signing for Wimbledon in 1994. Imagine going from the tranquil beauty of Scandinavia to the pure insanity that was ‘The Crazy Gang’ in South London. If you haven’t heard of the antics of Wimbledon, do some research on them, it’s worth it for the pure ridiculousness. He managed to get his head around the mayhem and made an instant impact at Selhurst Park, scoring 13 goals in 76 appearances, and helping guide Wimbledon in his first season to sixth and the quarter finals of the FA Cup, followed by consistent league finishes in the next three seasons.
He was then signed by his boyhood team Liverpool in 1998 for £3.5 million – and was a regular fixture for the club in his first, before becoming a bit part player, making a number of substitute appearances.
I always seem to remember him being the bloke that would be the last guy to join in goal celebrations, or scoring the final goal in an absolute rout when Roy Evans was in charge, before the awkwardness ensued of bringing in Gerard Houllier as co-manager; they were trying to get rid of him but didn’t want to seem rude. It was like trying to usher a boring house guest by bringing in a more refined one, you could see the Liverpool hierachy trying to almost literally shove him off the bench. But I digress…
Leonhardsen made 37 appearances, scoring seven goals, but was shipped off to Tottenham Hotspur, when Spurs were signing many a European talent. Oh, the glory years of Iversen, Rebrov and Leonhardsen down at White Hart Lane (I jest, Rebrov and Iversen were decent)… But he failed to make much of an impact at White Hart Lane the same way he did at Liverpool, playing 54 times, again scoring only seven.
His final club in his Premier League journey was Aston Villa, where he played even less, just the nineteen times and bagging three goals. He was 32 by the time he came to England’s second city – and by 2004, he bid the Premier League adieu and went back to his native Norway.
He moved to FC Lyn Oslo, where he came the club’s captain. He then moved down to second division side Strømsgodset IF, where he guided them to promotion to Norway’s top flight, the Tippeligaen, and played his final season with them in Norway’s top division aged 37.
He played in two World Cups for Norway (1994, 1998) and put on the Norway shirt on 86 times, scoring 19 goals and is one of the famous symbols of Norway’s international success in the 1990′s.
He is currently coaching the youth of his former club FC Lyn Oslo and is a cult hero in Norway. They have an expression there called ‘a Leo run’, which is derived from Leonhardsen’s running capacity and intellegent movements.
A great player, who always ran his heart out – and really should be recognized as one the best Scandavians in the Premier League. But, he will be forever known as the guy that everyone remembers, but only fuzzily in the background of goal celebrations. Shame really.