Lovenkrands wary of Den­mark’s new Age ap­proach to Scot­land

For­mer Rangers for­ward baf­fled by de­ci­sion to snub great Dane and hire old ri­val Hareide as man­ager

The Herald - Herald Sport - - INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY - STE­WART FISHER Peter Lovenkrands was vis­it­ing Holy­rood Sec­ondary School in Glas­gow to pro­mote the Kids Group Deal for the forth­com­ing Vaux­hall In­ter­na­tional Chal­lenge Match be­tween Scot­land and Den­mark at Ham­p­den Park.

I was sur­prised. My friends and fam­ily back home weren’t happy about it – per­son­ally I hoped they’d push for Michael Lau­drup

IT is a bit like Scot­land ap­point­ing Berti Vogts – if he was English and a for­mer Eng­land man­ager. As a proud football na­tion ca­pa­ble of up­set­ting the odds to win Euro 1988, let’s just say it wasn’t unan­i­mously pop­u­lar in Den­mark when the football fed­er­a­tion looked to their Scan­di­na­vian ri­vals Nor­way to trans­form their for­tunes this sum­mer af­ter the re­tire­ment of veteran coach Egil Olsen.

The man in ques­tion, a na­tive Nor­we­gian who used to be his coun­try’s na­tional team man­ager, is Age Hareide, and to be fair his record isn’t too shabby. In ad­di­tion to be­ing Ronny Deila’s neme­sis with Malmo – re­mem­ber all that stuff about Celtic “play­ing like pigs”? – Hareide has won the top league in Den­mark, Swe­den and Nor­way and he got off to a good start with a 2-1 win against Euro 2016 qual­i­fiers Ice­land on Thurs­day night. Hav­ing said that, he is no Michael Lau­drup, Den­mark’s favourite son, who was also in the run­ning for the post. Let’s just say that Peter Lovenkrands be­lieves he still has some work to do to win over a scep­ti­cal Dan­ish sup­port.

“It was a bit con­tro­ver­sial,” said the for­mer Rangers winger. “I was sur­prised. My friends and fam­ily back home weren’t happy about it – per­son­ally I hoped they’d push for Michael Lau­drup. He knows about ev­ery­thing and he’s a name. But they went an­other way.

“Maybe he’ll sur­prise me and he’ll do fan­tas­ti­cally. But I just don’t feel he’s been enough places to con­vince me un­til I see re­sults.

“He did well with Malmo, to be fair,” Lovenkrands added. “But club football and in­ter­na­tional football are com­pletely dif­fer­ent. He was Nor­way na­tional team coach which didn’t help him com­ing to Den­mark ei­ther. But if he gets re­sults, the Dan­ish peo­ple won’t care.”

Like the Czechs, who Scot­land over­came in Prague on Thurs­day night, Lovenkrands feels this Den­mark side lack the star qual­ity of pre­vi­ous vin­tages. The ob­vi­ous ex­cep­tions to the rule are the two key pro­tag­o­nists in the Bar­clays Premier League ti­tle race in the form of stand-out Le­ices­ter goal­keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel and Tot­ten­ham mid­fielder Chris­tian Erik­sen. At the back Si­mon Kjaer, who played at Park­head this sea­son with Fener­bahce, is a main­stay and then there is new Celtic cen­tre-half Erik Svi­atchenko.

“He [Svi­atchenko] still has a lot to prove, so it’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how he copes with his move,” said Lovenkrands. “I’ve not re­ally seen enough of him to say whether I rate him but I’m in­trigued to see how he copes.”

Like Scot­land, miss­ing out on Euro 2016 was a source of se­ri­ous na­tional trauma. They fin­ished third be­hind Por­tu­gal and Al­ba­nia, then crashed out via a com­fort­able play-off de­feat to an­other of their Scan­di­na­vian ri­vals Swe­den and the in­spi­ra­tional in­flu­ence of Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic. At least, on the face of it, they now face an achiev­able World Cup group fea­tur­ing Ro­ma­nia, Poland, Mon­tene­gro, Ar­me­nia and Kaza­khstan.

“There has been big dis­ap­point­ment in Den­mark be­cause you could see the dif­fer­ence in class be­tween Den­mark and Swe­den in the play-offs and it didn’t used to be that way,” said Lovenkrands.

“We all ex­pected to qual­ify, hav­ing seen the group in which we were drawn. It was one we def­i­nitely should have qual­i­fied from, but we threw it away – we drew 0-0 at home to Al­ba­nia and 0-0 away too, that wouldn’t have hap­pened with the team we used to have three or four years ago. It’s not the same qual­ity.

“Kasper Sch­me­ichel has been fan­tas­tic for Le­ices­ter and also the Dan­ish na­tional team, while Chris­tian Erik­sen has been strug­gling for the na­tional team but do­ing well for Tot­ten­ham,” he added. “I be­lieve that’s a re­sult of the play­ers he has around him at Spurs, in com­par­i­son to the play­ers around him with the Dan­ish na­tional side. The de­fender Si­mon Kjaer is do­ing well at Fener­bahce as well, so we have play­ers there but only three or four when we used to have a whole team – when I was there, I couldn’t get into the team be­cause we had play­ers per­form­ing for the top clubs in Europe.”

A bit like the fag end of the Craig Brown era, there was a feel­ing that Den­mark could, re­luc­tantly, do with mov­ing on from Morten Olsen, who had been in post for 15 years. “Olsen never re­ally changed from the style of play he liked but there’s a new coach in and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see the style be brings with him,” said Lovenkrands.

Lovenkrands reck­ons Gor­don Stra­chan’s Scot­land have a head start on the Danes and makes them slight favourites for the match at Ham­p­den on Tues­day night. “Over the last cou­ple of years I think Stra­chan’s done a great job, they’ve been solid and hard to beat,” said Lovenkrands. “So it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how they cope against a Den­mark team who are strug­gling, be­cause Den­mark have had the up­per hand against Scot­land the last cou­ple of times we’ve met.”

Olsen was man­ager and Lovenkrands a sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute in a 1-0 win against Scot­land at Ham­p­den in 2002, the goal com­ing from Ebbe Sand. “I didn’t get booed by the crowd – here I was fine, though in Dublin I got booed!” he re­calls.

Pic­ture: SNS

SIGN OF THE TIMES: For­mer Den­mark and Rangers striker Peter Lovenkrands joins pupils from Holy­rood Sec­ondary School to pre­view Scot­land’s game against Den­mark at Ham­p­den on Tues­day.

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