Last updated on .From the section Leicester
|Date: Saturday, 15 May Kick-off: 17:15 BST Venue: Wembley Stadium Coverage: Live on BBC One, iPlayer and BBC Sport website|
Kasper Schmeichel grew up watching his dad Peter win the lot.
The younger Schmeichel is already a Premier League winner himself, but now has the chance to add an FA Cup to his CV when Leicester face Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.
In a wide-ranging interview with former Foxes forward Dion Dublin on Football Focus, Schmeichel talks about his childhood, learning from his dad, and how Leicester’s owners deserve praise for the club’s progress over the past decade.
‘I learned so much watching United train’
Peter Schmeichel joined Manchester United in 1991 and left after winning the Treble in 1999. That gave Kasper the chance to see greats of the game close up.
“Being around those kinds of people and being at the training ground, I learned so much. I was absorbing all the time – watching how people behaved, how they acted, how they trained.
“I always remember the finishing sessions after with yourself Dion, Mark Hughes and all the other top-class players. I was stood behind the goal saving anything that missed – which wasn’t a lot!
“It was that era when Eric Cantona came in. As a kid you are looking up at this guy and he looks like a giant, he had that aura – I was half-petrified of him in a way, but he was such a sweet guy.
“Just watching the youngsters – the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham – their hunger, their enthusiasm, how much they trained and the extras they did.”
‘I never felt pressure of who my dad was’
“I never felt pressure in that sense, but what I did feel is judged, very early and very quickly.
“I had grown up in a harsh environment, because back then United was a harsh environment and you wouldn’t get away with that these days. But that does teach you something – it teaches you to be tough, to be resilient, which I always was and still am.
“Because I had studied goalkeeping, I had watched it from such an early age and really gone into the depth with it, I was never out to prove anyone wrong – I was out to prove myself right.
“My dad did say to me when I chose to become a professional footballer that people would judge you beforehand and will have this preconceived notion of you, and it will be much tougher for you than anybody else so you are going to have to work harder than anybody else.
“That was already in my DNA because I had seen it from a young age, that if you want to reach a certain level you have to put in the work.”
‘You need to have uncomfortable conversations’
“The world has changed so much, football has changed so much. I still have a lot of the old-school in me.
“As a six, seven, eight-year-old I heard the way players spoke to each other and it was to the point and very direct. You have got to have a bit more finesse these days, say it in a constructive way.
“For us older players it is great to learn from the youngsters and the way they interact. When we were young, we used to hammer each other and rib each other all the time, now they are so supportive and complimentary.
“It’s really important you move with the times and educate yourself all the time. No-one is the finished product so we are learning as well as telling them: ‘You don’t have to do this, don’t have to Instagram your whole life – this is about football, it’s not about everything else.’ Because it is so easy these days to get caught up in that world.
“When you are playing in a team like Leicester, when we are fighting for trophies, you need some grit and determination, you need to be able to dig deep, to be able to have uncomfortable conversations, be tough with each other and demanding of each other, in a proper way.
“When you do point the finger, it is never personal. It is about winning and us getting better.
“Brendan Rodgers has been an inspiration. I really can’t praise his skills as a manager and as a person enough.
“The clarity in his messages, the way he wants us to play, the way he wants us to act on and off the field, the standards he demands all the time, that’s the kind of thing that will bring a club forward.”
‘It is time to praise the owners’
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought the club in 2010 and oversaw their 2016 Premier League title win before his death in a helicopter crash in 2018. His son, Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha, subsequently took over.
“There is one person who did see where the club could go and that was Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. That’s what he said to me the day I signed: ‘We’ll be in the Champions League within five years.’ We were in the Championship at the time! He saw it, he had the ambition and he backed it up, and the family are still backing it up.
“This time more than ever, it is probably time to recognise their ownership because of what’s happened in these last few weeks. You see how unhappy fans are with owners of clubs. It is also a time to praise the owners of clubs as well, because look at what can happen when you run a club properly, when you come in and you don’t just treat it as a business.
“The business side has to run, but you also treat is as a passion project – it is something you enjoy, you come to games, you interact with fans.
“That level of respect Vichai put on everything and everyone at the club, really recognising everyone has a role – it doesn’t matter what job you have, you are important to what we are doing.
“For us to get to an FA Cup final is a dream come true, but everyone has contributed, whether it is the kit man or the groundsman. Everyone has had a part to play and it is really important to recognise those things, and this club does.”