Cult Heroes: The Great Dane - Tommy Sorensen

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Decisions, decisions... I was positively spoilt for choice for this week's Cult Heroes given the number of former SAFC players that have made the journey south to the potteries in recent years. In truth I could have used this opportunity to embark on a Michael Graham fishing trip using Danny Collins for bait, but lets be honest, he wasn't all that and he certainly should never have played for Brazil.

So instead lets focus on the first real, proper goalkeeper I had the pleasure of watching in a Sunderland shirt, I was young and naive before this fella arrived and in my ignorance believed Lionel Perez to be not just a good goalkeeper, but a great one. Oh the innocence of youth. 

Of course the man in question is the one and only Thomas Sorensen.

Being a young and talented Danish goalkeeper Tommy was inevitably referred to as "the next Peter Schmeichel" and following signing his first professional contract with Odense BK he served as understudy to a man that was a legend in the eyes of their fans, Lars Hogh, who achieved numerous accolades over his entire 23 year career with the club. Tough gloves to fill on both accounts.

Sorensen was loaned to a few clubs during the early stages of his career with his new club, firstly with Vejle BK in 1995, where once again he found himself employed as backup to another club legend, this time Erik Boye. Thomas did manage to force his way into the first team but only managed to figure in six games before he broke his arm in the summer of 1996. His second spell away from Odense was more beneficial as he played the full 1997/98 season with FC Svendborg.

Whilst Sorensen was building a name for himself in his homeland it would be fair to say that the rest of Europe was yet to hear much of the promising goalkeeper. This made his move to Sunderland in 1998 all the more surprising for just over half a million quid. I'm still somewhat shocked that we had scouts around that were able to identify such a talented player at that time in our history.

Tommy was brought in as a direct replacement for the erratic yet popular Lionel Perez who had recently left the club on a free to join that lot up the road where he achieved... absolutely nothing, zip, nada. Fans that may have been unsure of the relatively unknown Dane were quickly won around with his highly impressive debut season which resulted in 29 clean sheets, a club record, and providing a solid base for the side to go on and earn promotion to the Premier League.

Sorensen was a highly reliable goalkeeper, a great shot stopper, with a good command of his area which inspired confidence in the defensive line ahead of him. The Dane carried his impressive form, as did SAFC as a whole, into the top flight and was instrumental in helping Peter Reid's Sunderland to back-to-back seventh place finishes.

Tommy's hero status on Wearside was undoubtedly established courtesy of some heroics at St. James' Park in November of 2000 when he did the unimaginable and pushed a penalty from the usually clinical Alan Shearer around his left hand post with just five minutes of the game remaining.

The success of the last few seasons was soon to be replaced with misery on Wearside however as the 2002/03 season for Sunderland was plagued with big problems on and off the field resulting in an inevitable relegation and ultimately the sacking of Peter Reid. SAFC were in no shape to be able to keep ahold of a prized asset such as Sorensen and the great Dane chose Aston Villa from a number of Premier League suitors keen to capture his signature.

Sorensen spent four seasons with the Midlands club where he continued to establish himself as a superb number one and only missed a handful of games over the first three seasons of his spell. Lightning also happened to strike twice as in November of 2003 Thomas would once again foil Shearer from twelve yards. An injury during the pre-season of the 2007/08 term saw Villa bring in Scott Carson as cover on loan, however the situation seemingly became permanent and the Danish International stated his intention to leave in order to play first team football.

It is at this stage in the Sorensen saga that Stoke City enter the fray, initially offering the keeper a trial before going on to agreeing terms on a full time basis in the summer of 2008. Tommy managed to continue his knack of helping newly promoted sides upset the odds as Stoke managed to finish 12th in the Premier League.

2009/10 saw Sorensen continue a remarkable run of saves from spot kicks. By the halfway point of that season he had managed to stop an impressive five from the last six that he had faced, a formidable record.

Since then Thomas has had to fight off further competition for the number one jersey from Asmir Bergovic and has suffered a number of injuries along the way including a dislocated elbow and what could have been a much more serious injury to his eye following a nasty clash with former Sunderland loan star Alan Hutton.

Needless to say Tommy is always welcome on Wearside and is guaranteed a warm reception from the home crowd and I for one will always be grateful for his contribution to a Sunderland side that played some of the best football that I have witnessed whilst following this club.

If you are a social media following type you can also find Tommy on twitter - @TSorensen1

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