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Dublin: 4°C Tuesday 26 January 2021

Age Hareide: 'It’s fair for Ireland to continue with Mick because he has been successful'

The outgoing Denmark boss will now miss the Euros because of their own succession plan, but says Mick McCarthy should finish what he has started with Ireland.

Age Hareide and Mick McCarthy ahead of last November's Euro 2020 qualifier in Dublin. Denmark drew 1-1 to pip Ireland to automatic qualification.
Age Hareide and Mick McCarthy ahead of last November's Euro 2020 qualifier in Dublin. Denmark drew 1-1 to pip Ireland to automatic qualification.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STOP US IF you’ve heard this one before. 

A football federation sketch out a managerial succession plan to take effect after Euro 2020. An experienced boss with oodles of club and international experience as a player and a manager would be followed by an attack-minded young coach who has made his name in domestic football after an indifferent stint with a club abroad. 

We’re not talking about the FAI’s plan here, but the country with whom they have spent the last three years in cosmic union: Denmark. 

It was announced in June last year that incumbent Age Hariede would make way after the conclusion of Euro 2020, at which point Nordsjælland manager Kasper Hjulmand would take charge. 

Those best-laid plans have now been smithereened by the postponing of the Euros to 2021.

To start with the FAI: they have yet to announce what they will do with the Mick McCarthy/Stephen Kenny handover, due to happen on 1 August.

Niall Quinn kicked the can down the road last month when the Euros play-off with Slovakia was rescheduled for June, but the game has now been postponed a second time and the FAI will have to make a call before the senior side plays another game.

So will the board stick with the terms of the handover plan they inherited, or will it be redrawn to retain the spirit of the plan in the first place and allow McCarthy see out the European Championships campaign?

Denmark, in contrast, have already acted. They are pressing ahead with the initial agreement, so 66-year-old Hareide has coached Denmark for the last time and will have to watch on as Hjulmund takes them into the competition he qualified for. 

“Of course I was disappointed”, Hareide tells The42 over the phone from his home in Norway. 

“I was thinking of the European Championships at home in Denmark and to finish up with that would have been perfect, but the coronavirus came. But you look at the people with problems and the people dying, it’s just a small part of it. It’s a small thing in a big world and you have to accept it. At the moment it’s not so bad, but I know when the kick-off comes in the first game next year it will be difficult.” 

Hareide has said farewell to his players over the phone, and hopes to gather them in Copenhagen when this storm passes. He will, if his circumstances allow it, attend the delayed Championship games to be held in Denmark. 

Although that is a poor alternative to standing on the sideline, Hareide says he did not explore revising the succession agreement. 

“No, I didn’t do that. I think it’s difficult for all parties, as everything is closed down. It’s a very strange situation, we don’t even know when we will start again. It’s difficult for everybody.”

So what of Ireland?

Although Hareide has stepped away from his job, does he understand if McCarthy wanted to stay on? 

“Of course I would. Absolutely. For him, it’s even worse than for me, as it’s half-finished as the play-off is so important for Ireland. 

“We are already there and it’s a little bit different, and so the practice matches and the Nations League can be played under a new coach to prepare the team for the Championships. For Mick, if the match is played, say, next March, it would be a pity for him as he’s not there yet. It’s a bit different.” 

What does he reckon the FAI should do? 

“They should take me!” laughs Hareide. “If they want to get rid of Mick they should take me to take Ireland into the European Championships!

“I think it’s fair for Ireland to continue with Mick because I think he has been successful, he has done well with the team. He has brought back the enthusiasm, the team was a bit changed from the World Cup play-off in 2017. 

“I think the enthusiasm was down in the play-off loss in Dublin. The team that played in the Nations League was different, there was no enthusiasm in that side.” 

Hareide’s specialist topic Mastermind topic at this point is probably Ireland, and some of the Irish press pack have seen more of him than they have members of their own family since the autumn of 2017. 

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Under Hareide, Denmark faced Ireland six times across three competitions, drawing five of them and scoring five times in the other. 

denmark-players-celebrate-winning-with-aage-hareide Hareide is hooisted high by his players after the 5-1 World Cup play-off win in Dublin in 2017. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“When I was preparing for the last game in Dublin, I was seeing the green and white shorts and waking up in the middle of the night dreaming of Ireland!

“To be fair, it’s always a tough match against Ireland. Ask any coach in Europe and they will say the same thing. They are hard to beat and hard to play against, as they have this fantastic atmosphere in Dublin. It’s a marvellous atmosphere to play in.” 

Hareide’s experience of Ireland isn’t solely adjacent to games: he played at the old Lansdowne Road for Norway in a 1986 World Cup qualifier.

It finished goalless in a sour campaign that brought an end to Eoin Hand’s time in charge with a 4-1 hammering to…Denmark. 

Hareide can reflect on a job well done with the Danes: he brought them to two major tournaments, went on a 34-game unbeaten streak and were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup on penalties by eventual finalists Croatia. 

For now he is like the rest of us, hunkered down and waiting for the storm to pass. He desperately misses the thrill of live football amid a slew of retro games on Norwegian TV, but did enjoy stumbling across the 1999 Champions League final, watching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who he would later coach, score the winner. 

And when all of this is over? 

“I think I will look for jobs in football, as long as my health is okay. I feel the last six years – two with Malmo and four with Denmark – everything has gone well.

“And when everything goes well in football, you get more energy and you feel that you can work on and continue.” 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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