Thomas Sorensen - the Great Dane - officially retired from playing today, aged 41.
Sorensen made 101 appearances for his country, and since leaving Sunderland over 14 years ago he has played for just three clubs since - Aston Villa, Stoke City and then, finally, Melbourne Glory of the A-League.
It seems like two minutes since he made his debut in England as a fresh-faced youngster, blissfully unaware of the journey that he was about to be taken on, and I thought that I’d spend some time talking about what he meant to me as a young supporter that was just beginning to fall in love with the football club.
It’s not often that I grow attached to footballers, and even as a child I was wary over who I ‘picked’ as my favourites. Despite growing up watching Peter Reid’s entertainers of the late 90s/early 00s, it was the less fashionable players from that time that I was drawn to - Alex Rae, Kevin Ball, Niall Quinn and, of course, Tommy. I attribute it to meeting him when I was just a kid at our branch Christmas party - a perfect gentleman that always had time for the supporters. I still have a photo in house of me with Sorensen from that day, decked out in my Sunderland gear with a great big cheesy grin on my face as one of my favourite players poses with me for a snap.
I think that what endeared Sorensen to the fans the most was the way that he embraced the club and the supporters from such a young age. Moving to a different country when you are young is obviously daunting, and for Tommy to step straight in and show that he knew what it meant to play for our football club was pleasing.
It was due to unfortunate circumstances that Sorensen even left Sunderland, as with relegation came the inevitable fire-sale of our best players. £2m for a ‘keeper of his ability seems an absolute bargain, even at the time, and I certainly look back upon his departure with sadness. Had we been more stable and stayed up I have no doubts that Sorensen would have stayed on for a few years more at least.
That day in the away end at St James Park when Tommy saved Alan Shearer’s late penalty will live long in the memory and I guess it’s that what we’ll remember him for most - coming up with the goods in a pressure situation, against a world class player, in a high stakes game.
Bodies all around me fell down rows of seats because he saved the penalty that won us the game against our closest rivals. It was one of the most perfect moments that I have ever experienced as a Sunderland fan, up there with getting to the cup final in 2014 or celebrating winning the league down at Luton in 2007.
He was one of the good guys; he treated his profession and the clubs that he represented with a level of respect sorely missing from the modern game and it’s no surprise that he went on playing into his forties.
I hope he enjoys his retirement, and in some shape or form it would be nice to see him back involved with the club at some point down the years.