Coach Nielsen Remembered
Danes Will Tell You He Was Probably The Best Manager in the World…

by Rob Shepherd.

No doubt the FA will offer the family and friends of Sir Tom Finney, who passed away last week, a fitting tribute at Wembley when England play Denmark on Wednesday week.

So much has been written and said about Finney already but a fond Wembley farewell is a must.

Richard Moller Nielsen should also be offered respect before the World Cup warm-up.

Danish legend Nielsen passed away last week

Nielsen, who passed away a day before 91-year-old Sir Tom at the age of 76, was in his own way just as much of legend in Danish football as Finney was in the English game. Not as a player – Nielsen by comparison had a modest career – but as a manager.

For those who don’t recall, it was Nielsen who guided Denmark to their greatest achievement, winning the European Championships in 1992.

That such a small nation won the tournament was remarkable in itself. Even more astonishing was that they did so having prepared for the finals on the beach and went all the way to lift the trophy on the booze.

Denmark had failed to qualify for tournament, but just ahead of the finals in Sweden, civil broke out in Yugoslavia, who were forced to withdraw.

England, managed by Graham Taylor, were already at their pre-tournament camp in Finland when it emerged that their opening game would be against the Danes, not Yugoslavia.

At the time it seemed positive news because all Denmark’s players had dispersed for their summer holidays, so surely England would get off to a good start.

But Nielsen rose to the challenge.

He summoned his stars from their sun loungers in Spain, got them over to Sweden, and inspired the squad with a mixture of method and madness.

Danish Dynamite! - Goals from Jensen and Vilfort upset the Germans in the final
Danish Dynamite! – Goals from Jensen and Vilfort upset the Germans in the final

Work hard, play hard was the basic mantra.

Nielsen, who had controversially axed star player Michael Laudrup – but retained brother Brian – forged a team which rose to the occasion despite being less talented than the 1986 World Cup side.

The fierce team spirit was based on team bonding, which Nielsen achieved as much in the bar after games as on the training ground.

After grinding out an unexpected goalless draw with England in the opening game, Nielsen decided to reward his players with a post-match party that went on into the early hours and involved plenty of Carlsberg.

It proved a smorgasbord of success.

From that point on, the players started to feel they were probably the best pub team in the world.

England would fall apart – Swedes 2 Turnips 1– but the Danes just got better.

Richard-Møller-Nielsen, 1937 – 2014

And to complete the Hans Christian Andersen-style fairy tale, they eventually beat the hot favourites Germany in the final 2-0, with John Jensen scoring one of the goals and Peter Schmeichel outstanding between the posts.

But every player in the squad will point to Nielsen as the man that made it all happen.

So let’s hope Wembley offers Richard Moller Nielsen as well as Sir Tom Finney a minute’s applause. And raise a glass.

To get an idea of how big an achievement that success at Euro 92 was, click below;

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