Wednesday, May 18

Who should train Norway in the World Cup?

Christian Berge’s time as national team manager may be coming to an end. The Norwegian Handball Association has asked for a clear answer as to whether he wants to continue or not within three weeks.

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Trønderen has a contract with NHF until 2025, but there are many indications that he is very eager to be part of the adventure in Kolstad. The question is whether he will join from the start or whether he will come in in a year or two.

If the 48-year-old were to agree with NHF to end the employment relationship to take over Kolstad, he will go out with his head raised.

For Berge, the right man was in the right place when he took over from Robert Hedin in 2014. He has taken Norway to the top of the world. Norway has taken two World Cup silver and one European Championship bronze under his leadership. These are the only medals Norway has won on the men’s side.

His dream was to take gold with Norway. And if he now gives up that dream of embarking on a new adventure in his hometown, then Berge will be praised for the work he has done for Norwegian men’s handball. He will not go out with criticism after three championships without a medal.

Now it is not entirely certain that he will choose to resign. In this European Championship, Norway has lost two matches with one goal. Both where you have been the best and led the matches, but messed up the victories in the end. Victory in one of the matches and Norway would play the semifinals, and now two teams from Norway’s main round group will play the European Championship final. Therefore, it may be that Berge still sees that the opportunity to fulfill the dream of gold is still alive, and chooses the national team.

But if this European Championship is to prove to be his last as national team manager, then it is natural to look at who can be relevant as his successor.

I have made a list of coaches I think can be both relevant and who can be good candidates. (It is not a ranked order).

ASSISTANT: Jonas Wille is the assistant coach now, but can be promoted.  Photo: Annika Byrde

ASSISTANT: Jonas Wille is the assistant coach now, but can be promoted. Photo: Annika Byrde

Jonas Wille, Kristianstad
Østfoldingen is probably the most natural candidate. Took over as Berge’s assistant last year, and has been involved in learning for a year. Jonas Wille has grown as a very skilled professional. Overperformed season after season with Halden, before he went to Danish Central Jutland. It was a short stay when the club’s commitment ended. The trip continued to Sweden and Skövde. There he led them from relegation to the playoffs. After that, he trained Danish Mors / Thy for a sensational cup championship, before taking over the Swedish big club Kristianstad. Professionally very skilled. Has given a new dimension to the Norwegian defense after he joined the coaching team around the national team. Then it is asked whether Wille was intended as Berge’s successor already when he was brought in as an assistant.

Børge Lund, Elverum
The former national team captain is currently having great success with Elverum. They impress a lot in the Champions League and have become a dreaded team also for the big teams around Europe. He knows the job well after several years as an assistant for Berge, and enjoys great respect in the player group. The question is whether you want a break in style and a little innovation. Lund’s philosophy does not differ much from Berges.

Glenn Solberg, Sweden
When we talk about Berge’s assistants, we have to bring the person who had the job first as well. Glenn Solberg can point to fantastic results with Sweden after he took over as national team manager there. With the World Cup final and now the final in the European Championships, you can safely call the old national team captain a success. But it is asked if he wants to give up the adventure he is now experiencing with Sweden.

Ole Gustav Gjekstad, Vipers
Norway’s most deserving coach. Has won the Champions League with both Larvik and Vipers. A very thorough tactician, who has buckets of experience. Has also trained Norrøna and Drammen’s men, so he is not inexperienced with men’s handball. But it can be an appeal against him that he has mostly trained women’s teams.

Kristian Kjelling, Drammen
One of Norway’s best handball players of all time. And has had success since he became coach for Drammen’s men. As a player, he was known for a good understanding of handball and that he tried the spectacular. He has taken this into the coaching role. Wants his teams to play at great speed, and he is not afraid to think new and try out ideas on the field. Can be a very exciting choice if NHF dares to go for him.

INNOVATIVE: Michael Apelgren is not afraid to try new things on the handball court.  Photo: Fredrik Hagen

INNOVATIVE: Michael Apelgren is not afraid to try new things on the handball court. Photo: Fredrik Hagen

Michael Apelgren, Sävehof
My favorite for the job. Came to Elverum as an undescribed coach magazine and led Norway’s club flagship from being the best in Norway to becoming a dreaded team in Europe. Very innovative and daring as a coach. Dry other hesitants. Has continued the success after he returned home to Sweden and Sävehof. I suspect that NHF would rather have a Norwegian at work, but if Sweden can have a Norwegian, then we can definitely have a Swede at work.

Magnus Andersson, Porto
One of the smartest players I’ve ever seen on a handball court. Was the brain of the legendary “Bengan Boys”, the Swedish national team that dominated the handball world in the 1990s. Also has a very successful coaching career. Has made Porto one of Europe’s most successful teams, and has experience as a national team coach from Austria. It is asked if he is willing to give up the job in Portugal to become national team coach, and NHF will hardly accept that he combines the two jobs.

Stian Tønnesen, Malmö
Stian Tønnesen is another dark horse in this field. One of Norway’s most unknown handball stars. Is probably better known in Sweden and Germany than in Norway. Was an extremely handball-wise playmaker, who unfortunately for him had his best years at the same time as Glenn Solberg and Christian Berge. But in the big club Magdeburg he has god status after his many years in the club. After he resigned, he has impressed as a coach for Malmö. Among other things, he has been named coach of the year in Sweden. A very exciting type, who has announced that he will leave Malmö after this season.

ICELANDER: Erlingur Richardsson has had a good hand with the Dutch national team.  Photo: BERNADETT SZABO

ICELANDER: Erlingur Richardsson has had a good hand with the Dutch national team. Photo: BERNADETT SZABO

Erlingur Richardsson, The Netherlands
Norway has had success with an Icelandic coach on the women’s side, so why not invest in Icelandic for the men as well? Erlingur Richardsson has had success both as a club and national team coach. Led Füchse Berlin to victory in the Super Globe (World Cup for club teams) when he was coach there. Now he is the national team manager for the Netherlands, which was the big surprise in the European Championships. Swears by a fast and offensive handball, which could have been exciting with the Norwegian boys. Is on outgoing contract with the Netherlands.

Nicolej Krickau, GOG
I steal this from Viasat expert Joachim Boldsen. I must admit that I had not thought of the Dane before Boldsen launched him. A young and very committed coach. A guy who thinks handball 24 hours a day. One who is not afraid to let go of young players. Has established GOG as one of the very best teams in Denmark by focusing on young players such as Mathias Gidsel and Emil Jakobsen.

«A very honest role model»

I could also bring my absolute favorite coach, Icelandic Dagur Sigurdsson. But I have a feeling that he earns as good as national team manager for Japan, that he is almost impossible to attract to Norway.

I write that Michael Apelgren is my favorite. He took Elverum up a level after he took over from Christian Berge there, and I think he can do the same with Norway.

If NHF insists on hiring a Norwegian, then I hope for Kristian Kjelling or Stian Tønnesen. They are also offensive and tough coaches with a great understanding of handball, which I think can help take Norway a step further.

I think it might be okay with a little more rock’n roll around the Norwegian men’s national team. One that can come in with a little more ideas in the attacking game, and give the team a new dimension offensively. There, I think all three can be exciting types considering the player material Norway now has.

In three weeks, Berge will give NHF a final answer on whether he will continue as national team manager or become coach in Kolstad. Then NHF should already be well underway with the mapping of a possible successor.

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