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The Friday Feature

Posted on 27 October 2000  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Rest days are now off the agenda for the waspish midfielder Oyvind Leonhardsen, the man who applied the sting to Derby before being struck down himself with an injury that could see him marked absent for a lengthy spell.

Leo was still mobile enough to climb off the treatment table to reflect on his career with Richard Hubbard for the latest in our series of Friday features

RH: While arranging this interview with you ahead of the Derby game, I said to you: ‘Have you got your shooting boots on?’ You said ‘Yes’ very confidently. Did you have a feeling that you would get on the scoresheet?

Leo: "I always hope, and I always know that I’ll get chances. I always like to be involved in front of the goal, it’s a bit up and down. I’ve had chances this season, but could have done better and I’m a bit disappointed because in the West Ham game I could have had two goals, so I thought it was time to score again."

What are your feelings on the way the season so far and what are your expectations?

"The away performances have been a bit disappointing. I think we have a good squad, but we probably need more to compete with the best. There was only one game where you could say we didn’t have a chance and that was Newcastle away. We have had chances to win every other game so I think we have been a bit unlucky. We have made chances and that is positive."

RH: You have tended to get played in a variety of positions within different formations during your career, which do you think is your strongest?

"I know my best position is more central, I like to be where everything is happening. I get more goals and it is easier for me playing in the centre. I can make runs both ways. In Norway I always played among a three and I think it is a perfect situation. Since I came to England they’ve played me wide in a four. I do know I can do a good job there.

"At Liverpool when I went their it was 3-5-2 and it was perfect for me because I was one of the three in the middle. I played a pre-season there and played well and in the last game I got injured and missed the first two months of the season. When I came back the system had changed and I was put on the left and it was a bit difficult to impress at a new club in that position.

"I try my best to get into good positions from the sides, last season I was mostly on the right and this season the left. If I was to choose a side, right is more natural for me. But I will always be positive and would not complain about what position I am put in."

At Liverpool there was a Norwegian society. Now, at Spurs, there are a number of ex-Wimbledon players. Are familiar faces ever a factor in the choice of club?

"Not really because I supported Liverpool as a kid and it is a massive club. It had nothing to do with that. Here we have Steffen Iversen who was already here when I came. When you have people you know from before it just helps you to settle down a bit. You know a lot of people in football."

Are the expectation levels similar at Spurs to what they were at Liverpool and how hard is it for players to cope with a demanding set of supporters?

"It’s like other big clubs - they like to see us up there with the best. I understand that, it’s no problem. It is difficult if they turn against you, the result is not coming and you’re not playing so well and they go after you. It’s not good for any club. Liverpool as well, I think it’s been a big problem for them.

"My first season with Liverpool felt like a disaster — we came third. That says a lot about what the expectation was. I think today they would be happy with third place maybe. I couldn’t believe it, third place, it was quite good. Liverpool have a history from the past. Tottenham have it too, it’s a big club, but they don’t have the same sort of history as Liverpool has. But I understand expectations - it’s as it should be at every club."

You’ve been in England now since the end of 1994, how long do you expect to stay in the English game and will you stay on beyond?

"It’s difficult to say. We’re going back one day, I couldn’t say when, but we’re going back to Norway that’s for sure. I have two years left after this one."

Is it hard to accept that when you do well in Norway that you probably have to leave your homeland to further your career and earn good money?

"Yeah, but I always wanted to go abroad for the experience. The money in Norway is getting better now, but of course it’s a big difference to here. For me though, it has not always been about the money. Since I was 18 I have been travelling from home to play football so I’m getting used to it."

You now have 69 caps for Norway and have enjoyed a good deal of success. Now, the team seems to be going through a dip in form with the manager offering to resign. What do you think is the problem?

"I’ve been with the national side since 1990 and we’ve kept going up. It’s been a great time, but maybe now the expectation is higher. We have a great lot of players and we should have done better. We will not give up and we still have a chance to make it to the World Cup.

"The manager has a lot of support from everybody. Because we were going up all the time it is maybe normal to come down a bit."

Many of your caps were won under the leadership of Egil Olsen. How do you rate him as a coach and were you surprised at the problems he encountered at your old club Wimbledon. Was it a cultural problem?

"I thought he was perfect for the job. Maybe it was a culture shock, it’s very different. He is very tactical, always on the computer, doing research and things like that. It was maybe a bit of shock to the players, he is very quiet and in a few words he can say what he means. The Wimbledon players are perhaps used to more of a Mr Motivator than a thinker. I still think he is a great man though."

When it became apparent that you were going to leave Wimbledon, the common consensus was that you were heading for Italy. Was that ever likely?

"I know there was some interest from there but I never got a real offer. Then Liverpool came in the picture and it was a dream move for me to go there."

Are you disappointed with the way your move to Liverpool worked out?

"Despite being injured at the beginning and a change in formation, I played all the games after that and we came third so I couldn’t have done so badly. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t show my best and the next season I was ready to go then Gerard Houllier came in and didn’t give me the chance. That for me was really disappointing."

Was it a tough decision to leave when Houllier said he did not want you to go?

"It was a great experience for me to be there, that’s how I look at it. In the end he gave me a chance because of injuries and I played the last seven games and did well I think. But I had already made my mind up to leave. I think he realised how good I could be at the end. I worked really hard and I think he came to like me in the end and he told me I was his best player.

"I decided to go earlier because I didn’t play and wanted to. Tottenham was a good option for me, a big and great club. I thought Houllier was a good manager, even if he didn’t play me. I was there in pre-season before coming here and it was good and I thought they would do really well."