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Pedersen: I'll never regret staying at Blackburn Rovers
PROFESSIONAL footballer, businessman and pop star. There is more than meets the eye to Blackburn Rovers stalwart Morten Gamst Pedersen.
He arrived at Ewood Park from Norway as a relative unknown some eight years ago.
Now, approaching 100 international caps and more than 300 Rovers appearances, he is still going strong in his English career.
Loyalty is a rare commodity in today’s footballing world of big money, fast cars and agents, but Pedersen has shown more than most by staying faithful to the club who gave him his big break.
It is not as though he hasn’t had the opportunity to leave the club either.
Pedersen remains coy on links with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in the past.
But, with his trademark smile, he is the first to admit things could easily have been very different.
He said: “There are not many players who have stayed at a club for so long. The main thing is I have been playing all the time. There have been a few managers but I have played under every one.
“I am not going to say everything I know but I know there were clubs watching me and big clubs. At the time we did well here, we were two points from the Champions League.
“They offered me a new contract and maybe I showed some loyalty by signing.
“There is not so much loyalty in football, maybe I should have been like some other footballers and not be the best guy and left.
“But I have had a good time here, I never regret being here.
“I could have left under Hughes, there were offers. I could have left when I was with Sam Allardyce as well when I was a free transfer. I had loads of opportunities to leave here but I have had a good time here.
“There was loads of interest and I had loads of offers. I could have gone to loads of places. I could have earned more money.
“I could have gone to different leagues, I could have gone to other Premier League clubs.
“I had offers from every big league in Europe, I had offers from Asia. I was excited at that moment at Blackburn though because we did well. Sam came in and we went up to 10th. We did well and I felt staying was the right thing to do.
“I liked Sam as the manager and he was a big part of that decision.
“I have always been treated well and I like the people. It has always been a family club from day once since I came in.
“People have always taken care of me and I try to pass that to other people coming in.”
The 31-year-old was one the first of the current crop to commit himself to the club following last season’s Premier League rele-gation and, contracted until 2014, he is desperate to be part of an immediate return.
Few would have predicted the career at Rovers that was to follow though when he quickly found himself on the fringes of things upon his arrival from Tromso.
“I signed on a Thursday night and made my debut against Manchester United on the Saturday,” he said. “Then I went with the national team and on Monday morning I got a call saying Souness has gone to Newcastle. I can’t use the word I said but I was thinking straight away, ‘What now?’.
“I returned and Tony Parkes was in charge for a game against Newcastle and I got subbed at half time. Then Mark Hughes came and in a game against Portsmouth I got tackled and I went off and Matt Jansen came on and scored.
“That was that, I didn’t play for three months.I was coming in and smiling every day though.
“I had played 20 months non stop without a break. Mark Hughes said I need to get used to the Premier League and I wasn’t ready for it.
“When I came back I did well and since I have been playing most of the games.
“It was a good time and extremely fun to play. The way we played I was like a wing/striker. I was always in the box. I would love to score more goals again but systems change. I am always involved in goals and that is a big part.”
Pedersen may not have regrets about still being Ewood but he can’t help looking back on his career and reflecting on a number of ‘what if’ moments.
Especially an FA Cup semi final against Chelsea, where Pedersen missed a golden opportunity to fire Rovers into the final.
“I don’t know how we didn’t beat Chelsea,” he said. “If that had gone in we would have won the game.
“This is a good club and has always treated me well. There have been ups and downs, we have been close to Champions League, in semi finals, and we have been relegated. There has been Europe.
“Relegation is the low point. That is not fun. We went down once with Tromso and it was a really tough time financially. We went straight back up again, kept every player.
“To win the league was a great feeling.
“If we got promoted here it would be one of the best moments. The Premier League is where we want to be. It is a big part of the club, we all know Blackburn are one of the few clubs to have won it.
“I will always be proud of saying I am from Blackburn and when I go back to Norway everyone knows I am a part of Blackburn because I have always been an ambassador for them.
“Of course I have had arguments with managers and players but it is not important for me to put everything in the press. Every manager knew what I was about and I would just be honest.
“I don’t agree with everything they do and they don’t agree with everything I think. But it is important we work together.
“It has not always been a song and a dance here. It has been tough at times but in the end I have had a really good time.
“There were times when I thought I might not be here but I never gave up. Even when I was out of contract I always gave everything because I won’t let my friends down.
“You want to give everything back to the fans who supported you. Blackburn will always have a special place for me.”
Pedersen has a range of interests away from football. He formed a Norwegian boyband The Players, alongside fellow footballers Freddy dos Santos, Raymond Kvisvik, Kristofer Hæstad and Øyvind Svenning, to release a hit single in aid of the Soccer Against Crime campaign.
He also has an active interest in property.
“Football has been a part of my life. I like other things, I have other companies back in Norway. I think it is important you have something else other than football,” he said.
“Too many players just sit and do nothing. There has to be a life after football and you have to be ready. I’m not saying you should take your attention away from football but you have to realise there is life after it.
“You have to look after your money, invest. I like property, I think it is very interesting and I am lucky to have people around me who do the same and I learn from that.
“I want to do things after football.
“Media is very interesting. I still enjoy my football and want to play for as long as I can stay fit though.”