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Mikkel Bischoff's 'derby day' is all set

Wolves and Manchester City were both very different clubs when Mikkel Bischoff was representing them.


Mikkel Bischoff and Paul Hurst
Mikkel Bischoff and Paul Hurst

And, sadly, due to factors largely out of his control, namely untimely injuries, the affable former defender didn’t get to represent either as much as he would have liked.

But, when on broadcasting duties for Danish television in recent times, that hasn’t stopped colleagues clocking the personal significance of this particular fixture on the Bischoff calendar.

“If I am working on the game they call it the Mikkel Bischoff derby,” he says with a laugh.

“That is quite funny, but I always look out for Wolves and Manchester City results and especially when they come up against each other.

“They are obviously both very different clubs from when I was there.

“When I signed for Manchester City, they had just been promoted and were a middle club in the Premier League while Wolves were still in the Championship.

“I do a bit of coaching with my kids at a local club and the other players know me from television and when they hear I was with both Manchester City and Wolves it sounds really big.

“Obviously it all sounds a bit better than it actually was, but I keep that bit quiet!

“I was certainly proud to have been at both and when I do get to commentate on games between them it is a bit special.”

It was Manchester City who first offered Bischoff, a Denmark Under-21 international, an opportunity in English football back in May, 2002, for the princely sum of £750,000.

New Wolves defender, Mikkel Bischoff, in training today

Growing up in Copenhagen with a dream to play football, his talent stood out at junior level, but he was still never really sure he would actually make it.

Starting out with FC Copenhagen, it was when he moved and featured regularly for Akademisk Boldklub (AB) that Bischoff’s talents, his ball-playing ability coupled with his 6ft 4in frame and defensive capabilities, made him hot property for a raft of scouts from the Premier League.

“I had probably only played a few games for AB Copenhagen who were among the top three clubs in the Danish league and all of a sudden a few English clubs were interested,” Bischoff recalls.

“I went for a meeting with Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, and also to talk to Aston Villa whose manager Graham Taylor actually picked me up himself from the airport!

“I didn’t even have a car back in Denmark, and everything happened so quickly with all these big managers wanting to talk to me, but it was Manchester City who agreed a deal with my club and that is who I joined.”

City, then managed by Kevin Keegan, were still a decade away from their return to the top of the tree and the Premier League title, but boasted plenty of quality within their squad having just won the Championship in a season when Wolves fell away from the automatic promotion race and were beaten in the play-offs.

It wasn’t long, ironically 20 years today, that Bischoff actually made his City debut, in a 2-2 draw with Blackburn in front of almost 35,000 at Maine Road.

Memories of the opposition strike-force that day raises a particular smile.

“When I was young and watching a lot of football, I followed Manchester United a bit, particularly as they had Denmark keeper Peter Schmeichel in goal,” he explains.

“And Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole were among my idols.

“They were a dream strike partnership and one I looked up to when I was a teenager even though I played as a defender.

“There they were, playing together for Blackburn, and it was great to line up against them having watched them on telly so much.”

Sadly however, it was to prove the only Premier League appearance of Bischoff’s career, and he would only make one more for City at all, in a UEFA Cup victory at TNS.

Not for the first time, he suffered an injury at the most inopportune moment, during training the following week, and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

“At that time, when I was close to getting a sniff at City and perhaps a chance in the team, to get injured when I did was very unlucky,” Bischoff recalls.

What perhaps his lack of subsequent opportunities did open up was the chance to move on loan to Molineux.

It was October 2004, and Wolves boss Dave Jones was under a spot of pressure – indeed he would lose his job during Bischoff’s temporary stay at Molineux.

He linked up initially with Joleon Lescott, shades of the current Kilman/Collins partnership with both players happy not only to do the defensive side of the job but show their technical ability as well.

Mikkel Bischoff is denied a goal scoring chance by John Mullin.

But, just after scoring in a 2-1 win against Nottingham Forest, Bischoff suffered a dislocated shoulder in a victory by the same score away at Rotherham, ending his spell after seven games of which four had been won.

By this time Stuart Gray was in caretaker charge, but when Bischoff returned after recovering to make a further four appearances Glenn Hoddle was at the helm.

Results stayed positive – of Bischoff’s 11 appearances in Wolves’ colours the team won seven – but playing at right back as Lescott was now linking up with Jody Craddock. And very few ever took Craddock’s shirt when he was in full flow!

“I enjoyed very much the time at Wolves, we had some good games and won a lot of them and it was good to play alongside Joleon,” says Bischoff.

“There was a lot of quality in the squad and Wolves is a fantastic place to play, a big club with a big crowd.

“I can still remember my first training session.

“I had the ball and brought it out of defence as I liked to do and played it to one of the strikers.

“I then noticed that Paul Ince had been coming towards me wanting the ball and straightaway he told me, ‘if I come and look for the ball then you ****** give it to me!

“That was my first training session and from there I knew who I needed to give the ball to, but I learned a lot from Paul and the other players at Wolves at that time.

“I enjoyed playing alongside Joleon who was on his way to a great career and I enjoyed playing in front of the Wolves crowd and felt I had a decent connection with the fans.

“I look back at that time as a very good period for me.”

Bischoff’s elegant defending technique looked as though it could help clinch a permanent deal from City with an agreement in place after the second loan spell, only for Hoddle to decide not to press the button.

Dean Sturridge beats off Mikkel Bischoff.

“I think I would have stayed longer in the first loan if I hadn’t got the shoulder injury but the second loan didn’t go as well,” he explains.

“There was a settled central defensive partnership by then, so I was playing at right back and I think I’m a bit too tall to play that position!

“The club wanted me back but I’m not too sure Glenn did, and the deal didn’t get done in the end.

“Would I have liked to stay at the club on a permanent basis? Well yes, definitely, if it had been as a centre back.”

Bischoff wasn’t completely finished at Molineux, however.

During another loan spell, this time with Sheffield Wednesday, he came back and was part of a winning away team, a 3-1 victory helping the Owls secure their Championship status and putting a dent in Wolves’ hopes of reaching the play-offs.

Ultimately Bischoff’s time in Manchester would reach its conclusion after four years.

He played a lot of reserve games but found the likes of captain Richard Dunne and Sylvain Distin - the overseas defender with the most ever Premier League appearances - a formidable obstacle to the first team.

And those injuries, particularly in their timings, proved pivotal.

In total Bischoff underwent seven operations during just four years in England, in itself a barrier to progress, but also causing further difficulties for a young man pursuing his footballing dream thousands of miles away from home.

“The injuries made life difficult, so often working individually on my rehab and not on the training pitches with my team-mates,” Bischoff adds.

“A lot of people think it is very easy being a footballer, because of getting lots of money, a dream lifestyle, just training and playing matches, and everyone adoring you.

“But when you can’t play, and are a young lad away from home without any family with you, it can get very lonely.

“It toughens you up for sure.

Mikkel Bischoff today

“At the time there was no social media, no video calls and no way of being close to family other than travelling home or buying a telephone card and paying two pounds a minute, or even writing a letter!

“Many things have improved since then but it was very tough for me mentally in those difficult periods when away from home.”

After departing City Bischoff had a short spell with Coventry before returning to Denmark, spending four years with Brondby which while also unfortunately affected by injury, also featured plenty of European experience in UEFA Cup and Europa League, including a tie with Sporting in Portugal.

Eventually, though, persistent injuries forced him into an all-too-premature retirement at the age of 30.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think my body was built for football,” he acknowledges.

“Every time I had a good run or was close to the team or having good chats with the manager, suddenly something bad seemed to happen.”

Bischoff, however, is nothing if not forward-thinking, with an intellect extending well beyond football and had already set the wheels in motion to ensure he was well prepared for the day his playing career came to an end.

Having enjoyed life at school, and particularly getting his head deep into books, he started studying again whilst at Brondby including attending evening courses and going on to to complete qualifications in law.

That has paved the way for a couple of different chapters to life post-playing, combining television work for the Discovery Denmark channel with working for the players association for the sport of handball in Denmark, the equivalent to the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) – but obviously with a different sport - in England.

“I always felt it was good to do something else alongside football, very good for your mind,” Bischoff explains.

“When you play football and something happens at a game you can think about it for days afterwards and it can influence the whole of your next week.

“I think it is important to have something else to think about and it is healthy for players to have a hobby or interest to take their mind off the pressure and stresses of football.

“So, my interest in law developed into what I do now with the Danish Handball Association, working in what is a very popular sport in Denmark, where we are world champions.

“It is like the PFA but for handball, we actually sit in the same office as the football equivalent in Denmark but I don’t work in football as it would offer a potential conflict with my television work.

“If there is a dispute with the club or something happening with players’ rights I will defend the players, so if that was happening in football, and I was then turning up at a stadium to cover a game, it could cause issues!

“I also really enjoy the television work which I’ve been doing ever since I finished playing, and for most of that time we had rights to the Premier League.

“That meant that every other week I would be in England commentating somewhere in the Premier League but unfortunately we have lost those rights and don’t cover the Premier League at the moment – hopefully those days will return!

“Instead, I am still covering the Danish league and sometimes the national team which is something I still really enjoy.”

That television work and other visits to England have seen Bischoff renew acquaintances at times with some of his former Wolves colleagues.

He has met up with Lescott whilst covering games at the Etihad, Mark Kennedy once showed him around City’s Academy for a documentary whilst he was working within the youth set-up there, and only a few weeks ago Bischoff bumped into Seyi Olofinjana who was looking after a team of young Nigerian players.

Away from the football, Bischoff enjoys family life in Copenhagen, with wife Sabine, daughter Mila, 13, and son Mateo, 10, both children of whom are talented footballers.

So even now, those football memories are never too far away and, even if events outside his control perhaps prevented him enjoying the career which his promise and application deserved, as the ‘Mikkel Bischoff derby’ rolls around once again at Molineux this Saturday lunchtime, there are certainly no regrets.

“It was good to be part of such great clubs and provides many happy memories as not many players get the chance to experience those things,” he concludes

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