An Interview With Mikkel Andersen
There are not many players who only ever play for a club on loan, more than fifty times, and achieve the sort of cult status normally afforded only to club legends.
One man who has achieved that very feat for Bristol Rovers however is Mikkel Andersen.
"I still look out for Rovers when the results come up" he admits.
Not many players end up in the Football League via the same route as the Great Dane either.
"I played for AB Copenhagen from the age of 11, and got promoted to the senior squad when I was just 15."
Mikkel to this day has the honour of being the youngest goalkeeper ever to appear in Danish football, a stat which was helped no end by his first coach.
"I worked with a very tough goalkeeping coach at Copenhagen, called Jens Petersen. He worked us very hard, both physically and mentally, but I learned a lot from him, and we are friends now. He toughened me up a lot."
Mikkel`s lucky break came during a training camp at the age of 15, in which one of AB Copenhagen`s opponents were Reading, a club who have scoured the Scandinavian market with success in the past.
"They liked what they saw, and offered me a trial. I also had trials with a few other teams, including Tottenham and Udinese."
It wasn`t until Mikkel turned 18 that he left his motherland, a decision made more difficult by the potential suitors on offer.
"There was interest from Liverpool, Chelsea and several others. In the end I chose Reading and signed for them in 2007."
For goalkeepers, joining the Royals is a sensible choice. In recent times they have nurtured many highly rated custodians, including Ben Hamer, Alex McCarthy and Adam Federici.
The flip side of a successful coaching team though is that Mikkel has yet to play a game for Reading.
"It`s very frustrating. I want to play for the club that brought me to England, and I`m still hoping to do that in the near future."
Mikkel has had short-term loan spells with Torquay, Rushden, Brentford and Brighton, staying no more than a month at each. A difficult situation for any player, but Andersen`s highly acclaimed attitude is rather more reasoned.
"It`s just something that, as a footballer, you have to deal with. I love playing in front of a crowd though, and I love showing people what I`m good at."
Mikkel`s first taste of regular first team action came after a call to arms from the West Country.
"Lennie Lawrence and Paul Trollope brought me to Bristol Rovers and I was buzzing with the opportunity to go out and play first team football."
"If I`m honest, I didn`t know much about the club, but was looking forward to getting my career going."
Mikkel caught the eye with some impressive displays at the Gas, and this allied to his professional approach to the game didn`t go unnoticed.
"I cant describe how much it meant to me. I loved playing in front of the fans in the Blackthorn End at the Memorial Stadium, it was special and I felt lucky every time I took to the pitch."
"I`ll always remember my time with the fans at Rovers as something very, very special."
Mikkel acknowledges the influence of others at the club too though.
"I could mention lots of people. Lennie Lawrence and Paul Trollope believed in me, and gave me my chance as a young keeper. I still stay in contact with them today."
"Steve Book, Rhys Evans and Len Bond also had a massive influence on me. I`m still very close to Len. Plus all the other staff; Keith Brookman, who helped me with everything off the pitch, the kit man 'Dodge`, and Phil Kite."
"It sounds cheesy but I still have some very warm emotions towards the club and the staff."
This season, Mikkel is part of a Portsmouth squad battling against the backdrop of financial meltdown.
"We have had chats since last season regarding the loan move, and I`m just glad that it worked out in the end. It was hard work for everyone involved, my advisors, Portsmouth and Reading."
A difficult situation on the South Coast, but Mikkel is remaining positive.
"I`m enjoying my football. The fans get behind the team and support us all the way. Everyone tries not to think too much of what`s going on outside the pitch, but it`s there."
And so to the future. "In five years time, I`d like to have been playing in the Premier League for a few years, and still going on and getting better."
Though still only 23, Mikkel has already thought about life after hanging his gloves up. "I`d like to stay in the game, but at the moment I don`t know in what capacity. Maybe as a manager, I`m not sure."
Just how far does Andersen think he can go? "I believe I can play for a Premier League top four club".
From some of his performances at the Gas, it`s possible that given time to blossom, we may yet have another Premier League star to claim as one of our own.
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