Road To Wembley: Blackburn's Jon Dahl Tomasson On Tradition And Carlo Ancelotti

The Sportsman caught up with the Blackburn manager ahead of the Fifth Round
13:00, 26 Feb 2023

The Sportsman’s Road to Wembley continues in the FA Cup as we visit Blackburn Rovers, who knocked out Birmingham City in Round Four. This is a journey that began with Trafford FC in the very first preliminary round, and we are now just two wins from Wembley, as Rovers travel to 2021 champions Leicester City for a place in the last eight. 

Blackburn Rovers are flying. They currently sit 4th in the Championship, have already taken a Premier League scalp in the form of West Ham United in the Carabao Cup, and are now targeting more cup success as they travel to Leicester City. So far, things are going well for Jon Dahl Tomasson in his very first season as a manager on these shores, having performed at the very highest level as a player. 

But despite the Champions League title he won with AC Milan under Carlo Ancelotti, the fact that he has scored four goals in one World Cup and won two league titles with Malmo - the FA Cup still has a special place in his heart. 

“Now, first of all, I grew up in Denmark, I was watching the FA Cup on TV when I was a young boy,” he told The Sportsman as we paid a visit to Blackburn’s training ground. 

“So I know all about it in that way. It is one of the biggest cup competitions in the world and there's something to do with traditions. And what you have in England is of course traditions and you're great at that - the country is great at that. And that's very enjoyable because football in England is a way of living. A lot of people are connected with a local club, there are a lot of emotions, and it's about that club. So the FA Cup starts at a very earliest stage, with those maybe not the top class teams, but excellent teams who can have a bit of an FA Cup run and a lot of clubs are dreaming about it. That's also why we are truly happy that we have got so far, we haven't been so far as a club for the last six years. So we have enjoyed it so far.”


Tomasson has already worked his magic in one cup this season, after a 2-2 draw at West Ham led to a marathon penalty shootout that Rovers eventually won. With another Premier League club on the horizon, the Danish boss will get to pit his wits against Brendan Rodgers, a man who won this competition just two years ago. 

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“It's always great to be giant killers,” Tomasson smiles. “We should be proud of that, we had a great run so far in different cups. We all know that the FA Cup is probably the biggest cup in the whole world, with all the tradition. We won against Norwich away, won against Birmingham away and now we get the opportunity to play another Premier League side, Leicester. And of course, it's a great club. But on the other hand, it is cup football. Everything is possible. At the end of the day there is only one team winning the cup and a lot of losers. 

“He's had great clubs,” Tomasson says of his opposite number, Rodgers. “First of all, he's done an excellent job in different places. So he's a great manager, we look forward to having a challenge and we know that we are allowed to dream. We should dream about beating another giant in that way. We know it is going to be tough, but of course we go out and enjoy the game, try to develop which we're trying the whole time with this young squad.

“There are around 3,000 fans travelling. We need to give the compliments to our fans, because they are behind the club. And it's also a great moment to be at a Premier League ground as well. And those cup games, everything's possible in a way. You can be a hero as a player, you can write history as a player, and those things we need to chase - wouldn't be great if we could be giant killers of our time?”

Tomasson was part of a Milan side that ruled Europe and he scored 180 goals in a career that spanned 19 years. But now he has moved into management, he is keen to take what he has learnt across his career and implement it in his own style.

“I had the luck to work under a lot of good managers as a footballer,” he explains. “Morten Olsen, the Danish manager, a legend in Denmark and Germany, Leo Beenhakker won the title with Madrid three times in a row, Carlo Ancelotti, Manuel Pellegrini and so on. Of course I was at Milan when we were probably the best side in the whole world at that time, so to choose one would not be fair for all those great names. But can you learn something from those? Of course you can learn, but you always need to stick close to your own personality. But if you keep your eyes and ears open, then you always learn something in life.”

Ancelotti won the Champions League with Tomasson in 2003 and has since gone on to win three more European Cups, his latest coming with Real Madrid last year. After Madrid hit five at Anfield, the Dane heaped praise on his former boss. 

“I think he's extremely good to manage a dressing room with stars, top class. I think he's extremely good to manage above, which you also need as a leader. I think he did a really good job with the press as well. Three important things in football. And then I think of all the results and to still work at this level, we talk about a manager on a top class level.”

Tomasson takes his Blackburn side to the King Power on Tuesday night and the game is live on BBC’s red button and iPlayer. The Sportsman’s Road to Wembley will continue with the winners of that tie as we enter the quarter-final stage. 

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Blackburn are 6/1 to beat Leicester City with Betfred*
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