His players are happy and fans are relieved after Lars Lagerbäck agreed to stay on as head coach of Norway’s national men’s football team last week. “When they take the chance, I’ll take the chance,” the 71-year-old coach told news bureau NTB.
Lagerbäck is well past retirement age and Swedish as well, but that doesn’t bother the Norwegians a bit. He’s credited with injecting new spirit and cooperation into the national team (landslaget), and Norway’s national football federation didn’t evaluate any other candidate to take over for him as his contract came up for renewal.
Both Lagerbäck and his assistant coach, Per Joar Hansen, have won high marks from players, football bosses and sports commentators. Joshua King, who plays professionally for Bournemouth, had made it clear that Lagerbäck is highly respected and that everyone wanted him to continue.
“The main reason is his knowledge of football,” King told NTB already in mid-November, when Lagerbäck was still undecided about staying on. “And he’s also like an old father figure, a grandfather, for many of the guys.”
The mild-mannered Lagerbäck admitted that the praise he’s received from players “means a lot.” He had his doubts, though, claiming that he began thinking about retirement back in 2010, “and whether it was time to step aside.” Since then he’s had great success, not least in getting Iceland to the European Championships and beating England, and he was warmly welcomed when he came to Norway in 2016. He has also successfully coached his own national team in Sweden.
He’s acutely aware that he’ll be 74 when the finals of the next World Cup start in 2022, but is also willing to take the chance that he’ll “still be healthy.” He and Hansen will first try to get Norway into the European Championships. Then come the World Cup qualifiers in 2021.