All great unlikely football romances seem to come to an end — Wimbledon thumbing there noses at the Premiership purists, Coventry defying the odds to remain in the top flight year after yearÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦
Both have taken a fall in the last two campaigns while their international equivalents are also feeling the strain.
It seems a long time ago that a Norwegian commentator reeled off an exhaustive list of English icons and finished his tub-thumping by declaring "Margaret Thatcher — Your boys took one hell of a beating!"
Norway did hold something of an Indian sign over England for some time as often bit-part players from English League clubs played like men possessed in a Norway shirt, causing maximum embarrassment to a number of England coaches.
Now, England might just fancy their chances of cracking the Norse code as the Norwegians are reeling from a shocking start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.
The irony is, Norway are struggling with perhaps the best set of players available to them in their history. Top end players playing in the elite leagues of Europe rather than the route one Rottweilers of yesteryear.
As Norway prepare to attempt to salvage something from their campaign against Sergei Rebrov’s Ukraine on Saturday, long-serving campaigner Oyvind Leonhardsen believes the expectation placed on the now higher-profile players has contributed to the team’s demise.
"I think the players are better now," pondered Leo. "But the expectation is higher and that makes it difficult and a lot of players are playing for big clubs in Europe who ask a lot from the players.
"Before we had nothing to lose, we just went in there and tried to beat the best — as we did."
Leo has not given up hope of a World Cup Swansong in Japan and South Korea, but accepts the odds are stacked against his nation heading eastwards at the end of next season.
"We are struggling in the qualifying and have to win, we probably have to win all of our last five games to have a chance to go through, so it looks very difficult.
"We are playing away against Ukraine first of all and if we can win that it will give us hope, but it’s very difficult. We are playing Ukraine and then Belarus — we have to win these two."
After his lengthy injury absence, Leo returned in a confidence-boosting friendly win for Norway over Bulgaria — our midfielder scoring twice in two minutes.
"I scored a couple last game and it’s nice to be back, I hadn’t played for Norway for half a year," said Leo who then attempted to explain the reasons for Norway’s meagre points total of two points.
"It’s been disappointing of course, but if you look behind the games we haven’t played brilliantly, but we had a lot of chances and we could have won almost every game we lost.
"It’s difficult, we have been on the up for many years and now we are going down a bit. Maybe we have to go down to come up again."
By Richard Hubbard
Oyvind Leonhardsen and Sergei Rebrov form the Tottenham connection as the Ukraine play host to Norway in a vital World Cup qualifier on Saturday.