Famous name is no substitute for hard work, says Schmeichel Jnr

The Leeds keeper heads to Arsenal in the Cup today determined to remind people of his top-flight potential. Phil Shaw reports

By trains, planes and automobiles they will descend on north London, 8,500 Leeds United supporters all hoping to see Kasper Schmeichel defy Arsenal's big guns.

But late arrivals for the lunchtime tie at the Emirates Stadium should look out for a celebrity addition to their ranks arriving by a less orthodox mode of transport.

"Dad's on Soccer AM in the morning," explains Schmeichel Jnr. "I believe he's jumping on the back of a motorbike to get there in time." Dad is, of course, Peter Schmeichel, who will be in the unaccustomed position, for one irrevocably associated with Manchester United, of wanting Leeds, one of their bitterest traditional rivals, to match the stunning victory over his former club a year ago.

At 24 it would asking a lot for the younger Schmeichel to have achieved what his father did at Old Trafford and with Denmark, or indeed attracted the vilification his brushes with Ian Wright brought him at Highbury. However, he has already acquitted himself well in the Premier League and is established in a Leeds side lying fifth in the Championship.

Like other sons of legendary fathers, such as Nigel Clough, Schmeichel is proud of the old man but bored with being constantly asked about him. "He's my dad," he will say, fixing you with piercing blue eyes, "not my coach." Yet his approach to his craft proves he is a chip off the same block.

"I was brought up with the mentality of being first on to the training ground and last off," says the boyhood striker who went between the posts in his mid-teens. "As a kid, watching the Man United players practising had a massive impact on me. Growing up with one of those guys as your dad, and Steve Bruce as your neighbour, you saw how they conducted themselves. David Beckham would still be out there, long after everyone went in, practising free-kicks. I try to do the same. Working hard is the only way you improve."

After joining Manchester City at 15, he studied a succession of top-class custodians, including David Seaman, David James, Tim Flowers and Shay Given. "Again, things rub off on you; professionalism, presence, technique. It sounds nerdy but me and Joe Hart, who's the same age, talked for ages about things like how long you stay on your feet when opponents run at you."

Hart, now England No 1, has remarked only half-jokingly that he "stole" his technique from close friend Schmeichel. "We took things from each other," laughs the Dane. Sven Goran Eriksson initially favoured Schmeichel, who, at 19, kept clean sheets in his first three games, including a victory over United. In the fourth, at Arsenal, he appeared to psych out Robin van Persie by stretching his arms high and pogoing before saving his penalty. A late goal by Cesc Fabregas – "in the top corner," he recalls ruefully – finally beat him. Even then he almost equalised, going up to get in a header from a corner which Manuel Almunia saved.

"That time was a whirlwind. Looking back it's all a blur. Maybe I was too young, but the experience served me well. I was disappointed I didn't stay in the side, though more so with the way it was done. One day I was told, 'We believe you're the man for the future; we know you'll make mistakes but we'll keep playing you'. I signed a new contract and next day I was left out and didn't play again. Some honesty would've been nice."

A string of loan spells maintained his competitive edge before Eriksson, "a great manager and great guy", took him to Notts County as part of their five-year plan to climb from League Two to the Premier League. Although the title was won, the promised funding did not materialise. The two Scandinavians departed, yet Schmeichel views his year at Meadow Lane positively.

"People who say it wasn't a testing enough environment for me are talking nonsense. A shot from 15 yards or header in the six-yard box is the same at any level. With 6ft 4in strikers challenging for high balls, and playing as though livelihoods depended on it – which they do – it taught me about the physical aspects of the game. It's not the Premier League but the alternative was being third-choice at City. I could've stayed at the richest club in the world and picked up my money, but I wanted to play."

Simon Grayson, the Leeds manager, noted his 25 clean sheets and took him into the second tier with the promoted club. Their progress has fuelled hopes they will soon be contesting points at the Emirates again. "We have to manage expectations," cautions Schmeichel, "but I see no reason why we can't do it. Everything's in place: the facilities, the volume of fans, the quality of the squad and a great manager. The difficult part is actually getting the results."

It will be harder still against Arsène Wenger's free-flowing side, but he remembers returning from Sunday training last January to watch a Danish keeper called Casper (Ankergren) stop everything for Leeds that Wayne Rooney and Co threw at him. "That's what the FA Cup can do," grins Schmeichel, although for many the sight of a crash helmet being removed to reveal a famous blond thatch will be proof enough of the competition's enduring capacity for surprise.

News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal