Sheffield United: After facing some of the greatest names in world football, Robin Olsen wants to add a Championship promotion to his glittering CV
He faced Kylian Mbappe, Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski last season. His CV includes appearances at the World Cup, European Championships and on some of the grandest stages in football, including the San Siro, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and Allianz Stadium.
But Robin Olsen’s unveiling after joining Sheffield United was a pretty low key affair. Rather than being dazzled by flashbulbs, the goalkeeper found himself staring at four walls and scrolling through match videos as he whiled away the hours inside a hotel room.
“There wasn’t so much to do in there,” Olsen says, describing his time in isolation because of Covid-19 protocols. “I saw some movies, watched some games on the internet and had a lot of contact with family and friends back home in Sweden. I just tried to kill time.
“It was good that my wife and kids could go out. I can handle it, I have been in quarantine a couple of times in Italy as well, so I am a little bit used to it. It would have been nice to have them around but also pretty tough trying to keep the children happy.”
Now released from lockdown after being given a clean bill of health, Olsen is expected to make his second appearance for United when they face Hull City tomorrow afternoon. Capped 50 times by Sweden, the 31-year-old became the most experienced member of their squad by some considerable margin when he arrived on loan from AS Roma last month. Signed to fill the gaping hole created in Slavisa Jokanovic’s roster by Aaron Ramsdale’s move to Arsenal, Olsen’s knowledge, expertise and imperturbable demeanor are expected to prove invaluable as, following a chequered start to the Championship campaign, United attempt to force themselves into the promotion race.
“I will bring all of my experiences I have had,” Olsen continues, reminding why Jokanovic felt it was imperative United acquired his services after Ramsdale was lured away. “I have played some big games and really important games for Sweden as well.
“You are always under pressure as a football player. Everybody wants to win and I always want to win. I always put a lot of pressure on myself as well. And of my team mates. I have been under pressure before and I know how to handle it. I am not nervous or stressed about that. I always prefer to remain calm.”
Olsen’s confidence and composure were in evidence on Tuesday evening, during his debut performance against Preston North End. Accepting partial responsibility for the visitors’ opening goal after Morgan Gibbs-White had fired United in front - “I could have done better. I feel disappointed about that” - Olsen quickly recovered his poise; making a superb save to deny Emil Riis before Sander Berge pounced. Riis eventually restored parity again deep into added time. But on that occasion Olsen, left exposed by a defensive lapse, was definitely not to blame.
Jokanovic later described himself as being “very encouraged” by the Swede’s contribution, predicting his unflappable personality will be invaluable over the coming months.
Having spent last term with Everton after falling out of favour at the Stadio Olimpico, Olsen has also represented the likes of Malmo, FC Copenhagen and PAOK since turning professional with IF Limhahn Bunkeflo. Although much of his time at Roma has been spent out on loan - he spent the 2019/20 Serie A season with Cagliari - Olsen’s body of work in the Italian capital is still impressive; including two outings in the Derby della Capitale and matches against some of Europe’s biggest names. Counting Daniele de Rossi, Edin Dzeko and Stephen El Shaarawy as former colleagues, Olsen’s presence at United will also help maintain and drive-up standards.
“You have the derby against Lazio, that is one special game,” he says. “Or Juventus, they are really big as well. They were a tough opponent. Games in the Champions League too, against Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and others. They were really hard.
“The derbies are always special games. Everybody is talking about it. But for me, I am just seeing it as a normal game. I can not think this is a derby or more important. Every single game is really important. If you win the derby then everybody is happy. For me, I am just trying to stay focused and win a game of football.”
In England, Olsen is perhaps most famous for being a member of the Sweden side which met Gareth Southgate’s team in the 2018 World Cup - bowing out at the quarter-final stage following strikes from former United centre-half Harry Maguire and Dele Alli. Jordan Pickford, whose faultless display between the posts helped the Three Lions advance, later became Olsen’s team mate at Goodison Park.
“We didn’t really talk about that match,” he jokes. “Well, Jordan did. I didn’t. Only after telling him the fact he got the man-of-the-match award tells you why I still think we were really unlucky. No excuses though, what happened happened and you always want to compete against the best.”
Olsen, who featured in all of Sweden’s games at this summer’s Euro’s, played World Cup qualifiers against Spain and Greece before reporting for duty at Bramall Lane. Despite being relegated from the Premier League last term, he admits the opportunity to join United was too good to turn down. For both professional and personal reasons.
“I spoke with my wife and my family and we all wanted to come back to England,” Olsen says. “It suits us and it has always been a dream to play in this country, because the game here is so popular in Sweden. Everyone follows it. On top of that, the two games Everton played against us last season, they were really tough. For me, Sheffield United belong at the highest level and I want to help us get back there.”