Thomas Thogersen: The Big interview

Thomas Thogersen
Thomas Thogersen

It’s rare when a player is no longer part of the club’s plans that he agrees with the decision.

When Graham Rix was dismissed and Harry Redknapp took command of Pompey towards the end of the 2001-02 season, the popular Dane Thomas Thogersen knew his time was up at Fratton Park.

The hard-working midfielder arrived at the club under Alan Ball in 1998 for £100,000 from Brondby.

He returned back to his homeland when Redknapp was persuaded to give up his role as director of football by Milan Mandaric in 2002 in search of the promised land of the Premier League.

In between, Thogersen played regularly under Tony Pulis and Steve Claridge in a productive spell that culminated in 119 appearances and eight goals.

Although he started as a right wing-back under Ball, Thogersen was given more of an opportunity to attack – the role he had always played in Denmark – the longer he remained with the club.

And while Pulis and Claridge saw him as an important member of their side, Rix turned his attentions to younger players before Redknapp decided he needed almost a whole new team and allowed him to leave.

Thogersen said: ‘I don’t really have any regrets about my time at Portsmouth.

‘Perhaps I would like to have stayed there for the promotion season with Harry Redknapp.

‘But I was ageing and I probably wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, so that was fair enough.

‘I went on the transfer list – like 17 other players!

‘Harry didn’t say anything to me but I knew there was no room for me.

‘It’s football. I understood how it worked and there were no hard feelings. I just enjoyed my time.

‘I was 30 when I came to Portsmouth so I thought my career was at the end.

‘I was playing in Denmark and then I got the offer, but I was really happy about that as I had always wanted to play in England.

‘I think we went to Ireland in pre-season and I went over for a trial. Then Alan Ball signed me straight away.

‘My first impressions were they were a great set of lads – amazing.

‘They took good care of me and I was surprised about that.

‘The English mentality is similar to the Danish. There is a lot of jokes so it was quite easy to fit in.

‘But it just went well in the beginning and I went from there.

‘At the start, I hung out with the older guys like John Durnin and Alan McLoughlin.

‘They treated me really well.

‘I started as a wing-back under Alan Ball and then I moved further up.

‘He used me out there in pre-season and I did okay, so I stayed there for a while.

‘I was used to playing central midfield or just behind the strikers so it was a bit different, but I enjoyed it.

‘Alan Ball was great to work for but so was Tony Pulis.

‘They both had this really good energy and were great motivators.

‘Then Steve Claridge took over and he was our best player at the time. I liked him a lot.

‘He was so clever but had that bit of pace to get away from defenders and was a good finisher.

‘He was a scruffy player with one sock always up and the other one rolled down but I really admired him for what he could do.’

Thogersen was still in the plans in the 1999-00 season after Mandaric had taken control of the club and netted his first goals in a 5-1 thumping of Walsall when he struck twice.

But despite the club’s promising start to the campaign, the form tailed off and Ball was subsequently replaced by Pulis with promotion plans ditched for another battle to avoid relegation to the third tier.

Thogersen said: ‘We always seemed to start every season on fire and then we would just crash after 10 games or so.

‘We seemed to have a few relegation battles while I was there but we managed to escape every time.’

With Pompey still in trouble under Pulis in March 2000, Thogersen scored in consecutive wins – one in a late turnaround as they claimed a 2-1 victory against Nottingham Forest at Fratton Park – and then in a 3-1 win at Crewe as the Blues made a late surge towards safety.

Thogersen said: ‘I didn’t score that many but I scored a few important ones along the way.

‘It’s funny because I don’t remember the good games that well.

‘But I remember the really bad games.

‘I still remember that we lost 6-0 against Barnsley when we had Andy Awford and Fitzroy Simpson sent off. That was a bad day.

‘For some reason, I remember that one. Most of the rest were quite good!’

When Rix then controversially replaced Claridge, he allowed the midfielder to join Walsall on loan at the start of the following 2001-02 season.

But Thogersen returned for one final flurry, although his final game was remembered for the wrong reasons – the 5-0 defeat at West Brom in February 2002, which effectively signalled the end of Rix’s reign.

After leaving Pompey, Thogersen returned to his first club BK Frem but after one season, retired at the age of 34.

And he has since embarked on a completely new career.

He explained: ‘I’m a joiner and carpenter now.

‘I did an apprenticeship at 35. I needed work after football. I have always been interested in building.

‘I do windows and doors and I enjoy it but I had never done it before I retired from football.

‘I knew I didn’t want to have anything to do with football when I finished playing – it just wasn’t me.

‘Coaching and management didn’t interest me at all.

‘It’s quite common in England to go down that path, but not for me.

‘I had been in football long enough and I wanted to try something else.

‘I enjoyed playing football very much.

‘To do something you like that much for a living is unbelievable.’

In keeping with his unassuming character, Thogersen remains relatively shy about his career and his time with Pompey, even doubting whether he would still be remembered by Blues fans.

But many who saw him play remember him as a quality professional who always showed total commitment as he went from a scary-looking skinhead to a popular shaggy-haired midfielder.

He said: ‘I didn’t get too many bad shouts from the supporters.

‘They were always pretty good to me, although I’m not sure they would remember me now!

‘I’ve seen what has happened to the club and it’s been a tough time but I’m sure they will come back up again. It’s a great club.

‘There were a lot of good people at the club and it’s good to know that they are still involved.’

He added: ‘I still get recognised sometimes.

‘I don’t say anything but people ask me about my football career.

‘Denmark is a small country so compared to England, I was a big star here.

‘But I had a good time at Portsmouth.

‘The people were so friendly and that’s the thing I remember most.’