reports from Oslo
England landed in the gathering gloom of a Norwegian evening last night with revenge on their minds but, officially at least, off the agenda.
In the last 14 years Norway have twice humiliated England in Oslo. The 1981 defeat, by 2-1, will be forever remembered for the Norwegian TV commentator whose delight led him to crow "Maggie Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson, your boys took one hell of a beating".
However, that defeat, though embarrassing, did not prevent England qualifying for the following year's World Cup. The loss in 1993 did. The infamous quote from that year belongs to the manager, Graham Taylor, who accused his team of "running around like headless chickens" in Poland four days earlier, then sent them out with an unfathomable formation.
Les Ferdinand, who made his third England appearance in the '93 match, recalled: "The disappointing thing was we changed our game. We nullified our strengths to accommodate theirs."
Having also drawn twice at Wembley in the last three years Norway have thus conceded two goals in the last four meetings with England - after shipping 24 in the previous five. In addition, their club champions, Rosenborg Trondheim, defeated Blackburn Rovers in the Champions' League just a fortnight ago.
But, though Norway were at the last World Cup and England were not, they are not that good. At club level Rosenborg are the only Norwegian team left in Europe - compared to England's five - while the national team, though top of their group, will probably fail to make the European Championships unless they gain a draw in the Netherlands next month.
But, for England, the most galling aspect of Norway's recent success against them is that it has been achieved by playing English-style football at its long-ball basic. "It is certainly effective, they get good results and we have the scars to prove it," Terry Venables said .
The England coach may have meant physically as well as mentally. There is much to atone for tomorrow, but, said Venables, "looking for revenge is dangerous. You have got to have a clear head and be resolute. They are a tough side. We have got to stand up to that and play our football."
Venables' football is based on short-passing, rather than the long-ball, and he intends to continue with that philosophy. Whether he goes on to do so after next summer's European Championship, and in what role, is still uncertain.
Venables has been touted as a potential appointment as Technical Director, the new post which will oversee development of the English game. There has also been talk of his re-negotiating his contract in the wake of Internazionale's attempt to secure his services. Yesterday he said he had neither been interviewed for the new role, nor discussed his current contract. David Davies, the FA's Director of Public Affairs, stressed that, contrary to reports, a shortlist has not yet been drawn up.
However, it will be soon. Davies said the FA want to make the appointment before the European Championship next June. Venables also wishes to know his next move by then. Yesterday he hinted that his preference would be for remaining in his current job - or taking another managerial position - when he said: "I miss working on the pitch every day, but I am enjoying this job more and more. Whatever happens it is no good my coming out of the Championship with a week to sort out my future."
For now he is looking no further than tomorrow's intriguing clash of styles. England's main doubts appear to be at centre-forward and right- back, where Gary Neville's rise has jeopardised Rob Jones' position. Robert Lee and Jamie Redknapp are expected to form the midfield axis with Steve McManaman and Dennis Wise on the flanks. Nick Barmby will operate just behind either Alan Shearer - the likely choice - or Les Ferdinand in attack.Reuse content