Daily Mail

We won’t win anything with stupid players

JON DAHL TOMASSON tells it like it is — and it’s working as his Blackburn side hunt promotion and FA Cup glory

- by Tom Collomosse

THE list of Jon Dahl Tomasson’s former team-mates reads like a Who’s Who of football but the Blackburn boss is aiming to outstrip them all as he makes rapid progress up the coaching ladder.

Tomasson played in six countries, winning eight trophies, including the Champions League with AC Milan in 2003, and is Denmark’s leading goalscorer with 52 in 112 games. In Italy he counted Paolo Maldini, Andriy Shevchenko, Andrea Pirlo, Cafu and Kaka as colleagues.

Now the Dane is adapting to life on the touchline impressive­ly. In his first season in English football, Tomasson has Blackburn in the hunt for promotion to the Premier League against rivals with greater financial resources.

And they are one step away from Wembley. Beat Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in the FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday and Tomasson will lead his side out, 25 years after his one season at Newcastle ended with defeat by Arsenal there in the final.

He did not play against the Gunners but Tomasson’s time on Tyneside, where he scored four goals in 35 games, was the exception in a stellar career.

As a coach, he won league titles with Sweden’s Malmo in 2020 and 2021 and now, after a short hiatus, has moved to Blackburn. He arrived with big plans but it all starts with a simple principle.

‘ You’re not going to win anything with stupid players,’ he explains to Sportsmail at Rovers’ Ribble Valley training base. ‘The Milan side I played in was excellent — the best in the world — but also extremely intelligen­t.

‘If as a player you keep your ears and eyes open, you will learn. I’m concrete about what I want, what I expect. I am very open with communicat­ion, a bit direct, but that’s the way to do it.

‘We need players to become mature. They are young and if they are mature they will make better choices in life. That is why we get players to do presentati­ons to the rest of the group after each game, deliver their analysis.

‘The first time I ask them, they are frightened to death. But after a while it becomes much better, more mature. We do it with the academy, too. We want to create that safe environmen­t so the players can say to each other, “Hey, that’s not good enough”.

‘You need to understand the game but also be able to explain it. That way you take better decisions on the pitch.’

Tomasson’s analysis staff watch at least eight matches of every opponent, and the touchlines at the training ground have been repainted this week to reflect the dimensions of Sheffield United’s pitch — as happens before every away game.

‘I was lucky enough to play for great managers,’ the 46-year-old says. ‘Carlo Ancelotti, Manuel Pellegrini, Morten Olsen, Bert van Marwijk, Leo Beenhakker. You can pick some of those ideas but also you need to stay close to your own way of thinking. It’s been a great journey so far.’

With Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton leading the attack, Blackburn claimed the Premier League title 28 years ago. ‘That was a team of legends at the time,’ Tomasson says. ‘You should never forget what they have done for the club. Shearer was one of them, he moved on to Newcastle and I got to play with a legend. Sutton, all those guys, manager Kenny Dalglish as well.

‘They were great times. In the last decade it’s been tough for Rovers but we will try to build so the fans can dream again.

‘ If you manage difficult situations well you get better — in life and not only in football. So now, we need to be brave. There are clubs in this division with more money and players with Premier League experience so we have to do things differentl­y to have a chance.

‘When I grew up in Denmark I watched English football and the FA Cup is the greatest knockout competitio­n in the world.

‘ Football is about love and passion. A Cup run can be extremely important because it creates a special atmosphere for the fans and moments that go down in history. We want to give them more of these moments.’

 ?? PICTURE: IAN HODGSON ?? Great Dane: Tomasson is in high spirits as he targets Wembley
PICTURE: IAN HODGSON Great Dane: Tomasson is in high spirits as he targets Wembley
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