ULTRA MAG | Issue 9 - Thomas Sorensen
Thu, Apr 07.22
Recently we had the pleasure of catching up with Thomas Sorensen at Ultra Sud in Melbourne. A man we're lucky to have down here due to his wealth of football knowledge and experience. Something that Optus Sport has wisely tapped into.
Thanks for stopping by, Thomas. It was great to have you in store with Jesper Olsen reminiscing about Denmark's past and exciting future. After a tough few years here with COVID, how was it finally getting back home to Denmark for a break?
It certainly was a tough few years being cut off from Europe. Going back to Denmark in December to finally see the family was amazing. Lets hope the world behaves, so none of us will have to be separated from the ones we love.
We're really blown away by the amount you cycle. Was this a sport you were always interested in when you were playing? Or did you pick it up after your career finished up?
I started cycling as part of a charity challenge in 2015. I had been working with an organisation in Denmark called KidsAid and I wanted to help them make a difference. So as I finished my time in English football I got the crazy idea to cycle 6000km across America with my family and some guest. It turned into an epic experience that raised $200.000 and I got hooked on cycling forever.
You seem to be a man of many talents. Your art pieces on Instagram are next level. Was art something you've always been passionate about?
I did a lot of drawing with I was little. So I guess the interest was always there. Then I played with a guy in Sunderland called Jody Craddock, who did a lot of painting and had an art degree. That spurred me on to have a go and have then since just improved my technique to where it is today. Great hobby to have and very relaxing.
Are there any other hidden talents we should know about?
I am a pretty good cook and baker. Probably learnt a few things from my brother who has been a baker for 15 years. Nothing better than some original pastry from home.
What are some other things you like to get up to away from football?
I love spending time with the family. Travelling with my wife and 2 kids is very much top of the list. Experiencing new countries and cultures with a little added adrenaline. We love to do the fast and crazy stuff.
You mentioned you like the Stone Roses which means you obviously have good taste in music. Who are some of your favourite bands and what is your favourite gig you attended?
I have a broad music taste and love to go to live gigs. Bruce Springsteen is someone I have specifically followed and seen about 10 times. I love his lyrics and live performances. Having said that….I have been to everything from One Direction and Celine Dion to Metallica and Iron Maiden. That’s pretty broad.
When we caught up you told us the fans are completely filling the stadium when the national team plays now. Something which wasn't quite that case when you played. Why do you think that is?
The danish fans have always been some of the best. It was only around 2006-08 where we didn't qualify for any major tournament that we struggled to fill Parken in Copenhagen. I guess that’s the nature of sport and a similar thing to the recent crowd for the Socceroos - Japan game. If you win they will come.
We know you're close with Christian Eriksen which must have really rocked you last year at the EUROs. Did the emotions of that moment bring the whole country together?
That moment hit everyone in Denmark. Going from the huge anticipation of a Euro game on home soil to watching our best player and a friend of mine fighting for his life….that moment made everyone vulnerable and connected the whole country. Thankfully some much good came out of a horrible situation and how good is it seeing Christian being a gun again?
How proud are you of Eriksen's ability to get back out on the pitch? Many people could easily have given up playing after such a scary setback. Are you surprised at all about the fact he's playing once again or did you know he'd target a return given the person he is?
I know it took a lot courage and soul searching. Not just for him but for his girlfriend and family. I was happy to speak to them in December back in Denmark and it gave me a great view into the process. A lot of doctors appointments and tough decisions to get to where he is now.
Who are some of the young players coming through in Denmark that impress you?
Denmark made a complete overhaul of the youth development system around 15 years ago. Similar to Belgium. I think we are seeing the result in this current team. I love players like Maehle, Damsgaard and Christiansen. The next generation looks exciting too.
As someone who became a player at the highest level in Europe, are there any particular reasons why you think Australia is not producing players of a similar quality at the moment? Do you think there are any quick wins or changes we could implement as a footballing nation in terms of how we do things to produce talent?
There is no easy fix. It takes long term planning and a collective strategy to hopefully reap the rewards one day. Australia is still a young country in football terms and football is competing with more established sports, but certainly has a lot of potential. I just see a very fractured ecosystem with stakeholders not pulling in the same direction. Everyone needs to get on the same page quickly and start planning 5-10 years ahead.
What was your most memorable club career moment?
There were a lot of great moment and memories. Right at the top of the list is my penalty save from Alan Shearer in the Wearside derby and playing in the FA cup final in 2011. Also having the childhood dream of playing at all the great stadiums come true. Anfield, Old Trafford, Highbury….just amazing.
What was it like facing up against players like Shearer? Were there any particular players you didn’t like playing against because you knew they were going to give you a hard time with their attacking prowess?
The great thing is that you are facing good players every week. Then there are the great ones that are a real handful. I always had a hard time against Henry at Arsenal. He was unstoppable in his prime. Ronaldo also whipped a few free kicks past me. It was a challenge I loved every week but also presented a few headaches.
Who was the best finisher in the league back then in your opinion?
I played with a player called Kevin Phillips in Sunderland. He won the European Golden Boot in our first year in the Premier League in 1999/2000. Best finisher I have ever faced and an absolute nightmare during shooting practice. His deception and technique was out of this world.
Was being dubbed the next Peter Schmeichel tough to deal with as a younger pro? Or did you enjoy that pressure?
I firstly took it as a big compliment. I also made sure I took my own path and stayed true to who I was. Not trying to emulate his playing style as we were different goalkeepers and personalities. But to was a true honour to continue the great danish goalkeeping tradition.
What is your advice to players who might read this in terms of pressure and outside noise? We spoke about how you got criticised in the past for a mistake playing for the national team. Was this something that affected you? Would you encourage the younger generation who are so devoted to social media to be careful with how much they digest?
Pressure is not going away and will potentially only get bigger with the ever growing exposure. My best advise to young players is to be prepared. Learn about the football environment and ask for advice along the way. There is always a lot of players or coaches who have been I a similar situation. At the same time, be smart about social media. Use it to your advantage and don’t let it ruin your career. See it for what it is….a complimentary tool. Letting the ability shine on the pitch is always KING.
How has life been at Optus Sport? Did you ever envisage as a player that one day you might end up on the TV screen in the studio?
It's great to be able to talk about football and Optus is the perfect place. A professional team with some really nice people who know their stuff. The weekly Premier League updates and the upcoming Women’s Euros and World Cup are great things I look forward to.
Finally, how confident are you that your old club Melbourne City will win another title this season?
It's so nice to see the great strides the club has made over the last couple of year. I my view the are the bench mark in Australian club football. Champions last season and on a pretty good run at the moment. Certainly look like the team to beat again despite Western United having a good year.
Photography by Aleksandar Jason.