Per-Mathias Høgmo, who replaced Egil “Drillo” Olsen as the new coach of Norway’s national men’s football team on Friday, was already making changes on Monday. Høgmo chose the line-up for the first upcoming World Cup qualifier under his command and named a new assistant coach to replace Ola By Rise.
Rise, a longtime goalkeeper for football club Rosenborg in Trondheim, had held the assistant coaching post since 2006 but had to turn it over this week to Tor Ole Skullerud, most recently the head coach for Norway’s U21 squad (players under the age of 21).
“It was easy to jump into this,” Skullerud told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), which had been first to report on Monday that Rise was being replaced just like Drillo was on Friday. Skullerud has also coached for Oslo club Vålerenga.
Now he’ll be helping Høgmo coach his first squad as national football coach when they travel to Slovenia for the second-to-last World Cup qualifying match on October 11 and the last match against Iceland the following Tuesday at home in Oslo. The Slovenia squad will feature Ola Kamara, a high-scoring player for Norwegian club Strømsgodset who’s one of three making his debut on the national team. The other are Kenneth Høie, who plays professionally for the Swedish club Djurgården (which Høgmo most recently has been coaching) and Martin Linnes of Molde.
“I’m really excited, and very glad that I get to go along,” Kamara told NRK. He’s only 23, and messages of congratulations started ticking in on his mobile phone immediately.
Høgmo, meanwhile, seems to be hitting the ground running, with the need to pick out a team just four days after taking over as head coach. And he needed to coach a match for Djurgården in Halmstad, Sweden in between. Newspaper Aftenposten reported, though, how Høgmo’s son was waiting behind the wheel of a car to drive his dad home to Jeløy, south of Oslo, and give him some peace to make telephone calls along the way on the four-hour drive.
The 53-year-old Høgmo, who has coached for Tromsø, Moss, Rosenborg and Djurgården in addition to Norway’s women’s and U21 teams, says he continued to follow Norwegian football after leaving for Sweden earlier his year. His coaching dream came true on Friday when he was appointed as national coach. Now he says he plans to plot a new course for the squad.
“We need to renew ourselves,” Høgmo told newspaper Dagsavisen over the weekend. “I am an innovative and new-thinking person, and I want to put my stamp on how Norway plays.” His first major goal is to make sure Norway plays in the next European Championships in 2016.
Djurgården wanted Høgmo to stay but he opted to sign a four-year contract with Norway’s footfall federation (NFF). He will, though, finish out the season at Djurgården in Stockholm.
NFF was happy to bring Høgmo back home. “He’s the right man as national coach because he is professionally and tactically strong, he has good results, international experience and is always hunting for new expertise,” NFF President Yngve Hallén said on Friday.
Even Drillo, who admitted to being surprised he was asked to leave before the World Cup qualifiers were over, said he thinks Høgmo is a worthy successor. “We’ve cooperated well on earlier occasions and I know what he stands for,” Drillo said at last Friday’s press conference. “Seen from my side, he is unquestionably a good choice.”