Who Were Ya? Thomas Sorensen
Danish goalkeepers have made quite the impact on the Premier League, notably those going by the name Schmeichel.
The Schmeichel family have been on a seemingly relentless crusade since Peter arrived from his native Denmark in 1991, with son Kasper, part of Leicester’s historic Premier League title in in 2016, valiantly taking on the unenviable task of emulating his father. Since arriving in England, the former has won: a European Championship, a Champions League, five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and the privilege of being the face of Danepak bacon.
However, whilst the Danish theme remains, in this edition of ‘Who Were Ya’ we revisit the career of Peter Schmeichel’s international successor, Thomas Sorensen.
Like Peter, Sorensen started his career in his homeland with a local side, Odense. However, the future Premier League stalwart did not make a single league appearance, mostly serving as an understudy to club legend goalkeeper Lars Høgh, himself a Denmark international .
After impressing in two loan spells with Danish Superliga Vedjle and second-tier Svendborg, Peter Reid shelled out £500,000, a large sum at the time for an unknown twenty-two year-old ‘keeper, to bring him to Sunderland in 1998.
Recommended to Reid by Peter Schmeichel, Sorensen would turn out to be an instant hit with the Stadium of Light faithful.
Memories of Lionel Perez’s shocker in the previous season’s Play Off Final against Charlton (incidentally who Sunderland play at Wembley this Sunday) would soon fade, with Sunderland romping to a record 105 points on their way to securing the First Division title.
Unsurprisingly, Sorensen boasted the best defensive record in the league, conceding a meagre 28 goals.
Tommy’s Sunderland career had not yet peaked as Peter Reid’s men were to secure two consecutive 7thplaced finishes, their highest since the 1954-55 season, which saw them on the cusp of the European places after a dismal post-war record in the top flight.
It was in the second of those seasons where Sorensen gained cult hero status on Wearside, saving a penalty from Alan Shearer at St James’ Park in Sunderland’s 2-1 victory in the Tyne-Wear Derby.
Sorensen would then take over from the man who was instrumental in bringing him to the Premier League, cementing himself as Denmark’s number one for the 2002 World Cup qualification campaign.
It was in the finals in Japan where he would make a rare error. Sorensen bundled a Rio Ferdinand header into his own net in a Second Round encounter with England, succumbing to a 3-0 defeat in the end.
That error was to set the tone for his domestic campaign as Sunderland, who were suffering from the decline of Niall Quinn and the sale of Don Hutchison the season before, were relegated from the Premier League with a then record low points total of 19 (since broken by Sunderland themselves and then Derby County) in the 2002/03.
Sorensen did remain in the top flight the following season, signing for Aston Villa where he was able to maintain his number one status under David O’Leary and initially under Martin O’Neill.
He also remained as Denmark’s first choice, enjoying a fantastic Euro 2004 which included a clean sheet against Italy, but missed out on the 2006 World Cup in Germany as they failed to qualify.
After a steady few seasons at Villa Park, an injury in preseason stunted his 2007/08 season before it had started and by the time he was fit, was playing second fiddle to Scott Carson who had been brought in on loan from Liverpool.
At his own request, he was sold to Stoke City at the start of the 2008/09 season and was relatively unchallenged as first choice under Tony Pulis for the first two seasons with Stoke securing their new found Premier League status.
Again though, a young and touted goalkeeper would be to the detriment of Sorensen’s place in the first team, as Asmir Begovic was pushed ahead of him in the pecking order within a couple of months of the 2010/11 season.
Despite this, Sorensen remained as his national side’s ever present, saving a penalty in a vital World Cup Qualifier against Nordic rivals Sweden and earned his place as number one for all three of Denmark’s matches at the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
This was until an injury in a friendly match against Brazil less than a month before Euro 2012 which forced the Stoke City man to withdraw from the Denmark squad and announce his international retirement after 101 appearances for his country.
Sorensen made just four league starts for Stoke in three seasons after this with Jack Butland and Asmir Begovic’s monopoly over the top two goalkeeping positions and eventually moved down-under to Melbourne City, owned by City Football Group (owners of New York City and Manchester City), in 2015.
After two seasons with Melbourne City, Sorensen was released by the club in 2017 following an exit in the early stages out of the A-League Play Offs and prompted the Denmark legend to hang up his gloves at the age of 41.