RR: First and foremost, thank you for chatting with Roker Report, Tommy! It’s a real pleasure. Nice easy one to begin with: what’s your SAFC XI from your time at the club?
TS: That’s a hard one. I’ll go back to front. Quinn and Phillips have to go up top. Johnston, Bally, Stefan Schwarz and Summerbee in midfield. Steve Bould at centre half 100% alongside Jody. Micky Gray at left back. I have to have Julio in, so I’ll shoehorn him in at right back, like a wing back almost.
RR: So are you choosing yourself in goal?
TS: (Laughs) Of course.
RR: You joined the club as a young boy aged only 21 from Odense. What did you know about the club before you joined and how did the move come about? Did Peter Schmeichel’s success have anything to do with it?
TS: I had heard of the club for sure, they had been in the Premiership only a few seasons before, but I didn’t know the club in detail.
I had been in discussion with a few clubs and Sunderland invited me over to talk to them. To be honest, at the time, I really wasn’t sure on the move but I thought "what have I got to lose?" by accepting the invite to go up there. I am so, so glad I went. I knew straight away that’s what I wanted - to be at Sunderland.
I met with Peter Reid and we chatted. He was very honest with me, said I’d be given a chance - no promises - but I’d be given a shot and that’s all I wanted. I knew straight away it was the place for me, after that conversation.
I had been at Manchester United to train a few times actually, which maybe caught the attention of Sunderland. But what Peter’s success did is highlight the quality of young Danish goalkeepers. So yeah, I’d say his success helped.
RR: You broke the clubs clean sheet record that season with 29 in total. How did it feel to not just win the league in your first season in English football, but to win it in the fashion you did?
TS: It was a fantastic season for everyone. It was the first time I had played in front of big crowds with big expectations and I wanted to adapt to the English game as soon as possible.
The season before I arrived, they had lost the Play off Final and to be honest, the whole team just had such a huge hunger to go up. They had a desire to not let up. We never stopped game after game. For me personally, it was a great learning curve - a springboard for all of the boys really - to go on and achieve what we did the two seasons afterwards as well.
I remember the bus ride through the city. All those people that had turned out to see us, the red and white just everywhere. That was something I had never seen before! It was amazing. That passion from the fans is something I’ll never forget. It’ll stay with me forever.
RR: How special were nights like Bury and Barnsley for you? Do you still look back on it as one of the best times in your career?
TS: Again, the promotion at Bury was the important thing, getting promoted. In terms of the record, that was just the icing on the cake. The results we got over the season really were impressive.
It was a really special time to be at the club. The season we had just set us up for the Premier League perfectly. The results that came after that just show you what that season did for us as a team and individually. It was just a special, special season that had everyone pulling in one direction.
RR: Who were the biggest characters in the squad that you could rely on? Do you think it was the character of the team that enabled to club to have such success?
TS: I think to be successful; first and foremost, you have to have the right culture. Each player has to take accountability for their role on the pitch. The team that year had the culture exactly where it should be. We had that accountability and we had lots of character.
You need different types of personalities in the dressing room. There’s no use have twenty jokers, or twenty serious guys - you need each component. You had Quinny and me who were the sensible ones who would take a step back; you had the hot heads and the lads like Micky Bridges, Micky Gray and Alex Rae who brought the banter and light-hearted side. You need to have each different type of personality - it’s so important. You need that blend, I needed that blend.
Even with that though, the boys had the right attitude. We all worked hard for the team, each other, the fans, and the club - but if someone didn’t do their job, they were told in no uncertain terms.
I mean, it is different now, back then you could go out for a drink on a Tuesday, but that said it’s still all about the teams character - even now.
Join us tomorrow for Part Two of the interview where we discuss THAT penalty save, Kevin Ball almost scoring the most bizarre derby goal ever and leaving the club he had grown to love.