Before their despised Norwegian owners came in and moved the club to Milton Keynes, Wimbledon were a regular fixture in the top flight. Known as the “Crazy Gang”, Wimbledon upset Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final, with Dave Beasant becoming the first keeper to save a penalty in the final. Known as lovers of route one football, Wimbledon’s team featured the likes of Robbie Earle, John Hartson and Neil Sullivan in the 1990’s, before financial difficulties forced the players to all go separate ways. One of these players went on to have a successful career at Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa and starred for Norway in the 1998 World Cup. What happened to Oyvind Leonhardsen?
Leonhardsen moved to England in 1994 after a successful stint in his native Norway with Molde and Rosenburg. An industrious midfielder with a keen eye for goal, the Norwegian’s incisive runs and passing skills saw him somewhat at odds with Wimbledon’s long ball game. Leonhardsen then earned a move to Liverpool in 1997 for £3.5 million. A regular fixture in the side in his first season at Anfield, Leonhardsen’s second season saw him relegated to the bench because of fierce competition for places in Liverpool’s midfield.
Unable to command regular first-team football, the Norwegian joined Spurs for £3 million in 1999, and became a valuable player at White Hart Lane because of his versatility, as Leonhardsen could play anywhere across the midfield or in the hole behind the striker and managed to score 7 goals in 54 games for Spurs. However, injuries took their toll and Leonhardsen was used as a squad member under then-manager Glenn Hoddle.
Leonhardsen then moved to Aston Villa in 2002 and spent a lone season at Villa Park. The midfielder then moved back to Norway, spending a few years at Lyn Oslo before retiring in 2007 whilst at Stromsgodset.
Capped 86 times for Norway in his career, Leonhardsen was part of Norway’s “golden generation”, so to speak, that saw them qualify for the 1994 and 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, and consisted of Premiership players Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Tore Andre Flo, Henning Berg and Ronny Johnsen. Leonhardsen is admired by Premiership fans for his ultimate professionalism and versatility that made him a valuable asset for his teams. He is now youth coach of Lyn Oslo in Norway.
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