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Monday, 1 May, 2000, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
The Crazy Gang's eccentric outcast

Former Dons owner Sam Hammam brought Olsen in
When Egil Olsen arrived in the Premiership last June, he announced that there were only two teams in the world he had always dreamed of managing - Brazil and Wimbledon.

At that point the Norwegian had landed his dream post, as he took charge of Wimbledon's notorious "Crazy Gang".

Now, less than a year after taking the job Olsen has gone - consigned to the Premiership scrapheap after taking the Dons periously close to relegation for the first time in 14 years.

The question remains, what went wrong for a man who appeared to have all the credentials to be a success at English football's most unorthodox club?

Scandinavian humour

Whether there had been a tongue-in-cheek element to Olsen's comparison of the master footballers of Brazil with the jobbing artisans of Wimbledon is open to question.

But what is without dispute is that his bizarre words signalled right from the start of his English career that his was not going to be a conventional management style.



Welly good manager? Those famous boots
With his dishevelled appearance and penchant for wearing wellington boots, he cut a slightly eccentric figure in the well-heeled world of modern football.

He appeared to eschew the trappings of the millionaire sport, preferring instead to walk to the club's training across Wimbledon Common every morning.

But after a relatively trouble-free start to his Selhurst Park tenure, things began to go wrong on the pitch in the second half of the season.

From a position of safety, the Dons tumbled down the table and the run of eight defeats that culminated in Sunday's 3-0 reverse at Bradford saw them staring at the possibility of life in the Nationwide League.

For a club of Wimbledon's famously tiny resources, the prospect of relegation could not be countenanced.

Many experts believed if they went down after an amazing 14-year stint in the top flight, they might never return.

As results went from bad to worse, Olsen's tactics began to be questioned.

Cultural clash

The man who had turned the Norway national team from Scandinavian minnows to genuine powers on the world stage could not, it seemed, adjust to the cultural gulf that greeted him in this idiosyncratic corner of south London.

As the club's chairman, fellow Norwegian Bjorn Gjelsten, said as he announced Olsen's departure: "Egil was a fan of Wimbledon long before he was manager."



John Fashanu: Original Crazy Gang member
The reason for Olsen's attraction to Wimbledon lay, of course, in the direct style of play they had made their own in the 1980s.

The original Crazy Gang, which included charismatic figures like Vinny Jones, John Fashanu and Dennis Wise, loved nothing better than bloodying the nose of illustrious opponents.

They charged their way to football's top table, with utter disregard for reputation.

And the route-one football practised by manager Dave Bassett ultimately brought them the FA Cup under Bobby Gould in 1988 with a Wembley victory over the dominant team of the era Liverpool, which remains one of the greatest upsets in the history of the competition.

Over in Oslo, Olsen was watching Wimbledon's progress with interest.



A dismal run of results cost Olsen his job
When he took the Norway job in 1990 he adopted many similar tactics as his team of beanpole forwards gorged themselves on a succession of long balls.

Norway became the Wimbledon of the international game.

And Olsen became a national hero, hanging onto the manager's job for eight years - despite fierce opposition from within the Norwegian establishment.

His passionate Marxist-Leninist political views placed him at odds with the footballing hierarchy and his love of a game of poker also singled him out as one who would not toe the line.

Players' revolt

But surprisingly, Mr Unconvential did not fit in with the Unconventional Club.

The writing appeared to be on the wall for him at Wimbledon when The Sun produced a damning headline last week in the build-up to the crunch relegation battle with Bradford on Sunday.

"Only four days to Wimbledon's biggest game in years, and where's Egil?" the headline in the tabloid newspaper asked.

And the answer? "700 miles away in Norway picking up a soccer award."

The inference was clear. Olsen was not as committed to the Crazy Gang cause as he should have been - a view that was supported by the outspoken opinions of a number of his players.

Strikers Carl Cort and John Hartson had words of criticism in the press and his predecessor Joe Kinnear also questioned the way the club was being run.

In the end, Olsen had to go.

And maybe the big problem was that he was just too crazy for the Crazy Gang.

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See also:

01 May 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Olsen axed by Wimbledon
30 Apr 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Wimbledon suffer agony at Bradford
11 Aug 99 | FA Carling Premiership
Wimbledon: Hammam's new man
09 Jun 99 | Football
Olsen confirmed as Wimbledon boss
07 May 98 | Players
Egil Olsen - Norway manager
Links to other FA Carling Premiership stories are at the foot of the page.