Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on why Christian Eriksen's sensational return means the time has come to focus solely on football; watch Brentford vs Tottenham live on Saturday Night Football from 5pm on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off 5.30pm
Saturday 23 April 2022 07:11, UK
The images of Christian Eriksen collapsing at Euro 2020 remain as shocking now, 10 months on, as they did when that unimaginable incident unfolded. Perhaps they always will, particularly to those team-mates, those friends, who saw the near-tragedy unfold in front of their eyes.
Not even the passage of time has made revisiting the harrowing events of June 12, 2021, any easier, which is why Tottenham's Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who was just yards from Eriksen on that fateful day, does so reluctantly.
"In my head, a picture of that moment is not too clear," he tells Sky Sports. "Obviously that whole scenario was very heavy.
"It was a counter-attack, I tried to play him in, someone cleared the ball out for a thro- in, and I turned to go back into my position. When I looked around, I saw Christian was on the ground. I thought he'd been pushed or something, obviously.
"Then, suddenly, I saw team-mates run very fast over to him, and then, as you have seen, the situation became very serious. There were so many questions going on in that period, in that situation. You just think it's a bit surreal in the moment."
Hojbjerg would much prefer to shift the focus onto one of the greatest comeback stories football has ever seen. His team-mate Eriksen has traversed an uncertain road to recovery to reach a destination few dared to dream would ever be possible.
"I've said it many times, the main thing is that Christian is with us today," Hojbjerg added. "That he and his family can have peace with it, that he's back doing what he loves to do and getting pleasure out of it, and that he and his family can get the peace and comfort they deserve.
"The main thing me for and the players around him is that he is back doing what he loves, that he is here with us today, that his family can have peace in mind and heart and that they can breathe and enjoy Christian playing well on the pitch, that is the most important thing."
Signing for Brentford on Deadline Day in January 2022 sealed Eriksen's return to elite-level football just seven months on from his cardiac arrest, and his performances back in the Premier League helped lay the foundations for an emotional reunion with his Denmark team-mates for March's friendly double-header against the Netherlands and Serbia.
Brought on at half-time at the Amsterdam Arena - the stadium he called home during his days at Ajax - with Denmark trailing 3-1, Eriksen produced a trademark arrowed shot into the top corner to score just two minutes into his fairy-tale international comeback - with his very first touch.
Three days later back at Parken, the scene of his greatest battle on a football pitch, Eriksen scored on his homecoming against Serbia in a moment of unparalleled emotion and accomplishment which, in a way, saw this most challenging of footballing chapters reach such a satisfying conclusion.
"It almost completed the circle a bit, you could almost put a lid on it," Hojbjerg reflected. "It was beautiful - honestly, it was very beautiful. It was a fantastic goal as well. It was just nice, really good him for, for us.
"The home game we played against Serbia when he scored, the reaction of the crowd was very special. I'm so happy we can enjoy those moments together.
"When it comes down to the game, Christian is a very important player for our country. His qualities are never in doubt, and he has so many which, in the end, help us achieve our ambitions as a country and as a team.
"He is the main focus point. Christian is Christian. Like before, like now. This suits him well; it suits us well. Bless him, I hope he always keeps going like this."
With top-four chasing Tottenham preparing for a reunion of their own with former midfielder Eriksen when they travel to Brentford in the Premier League on Saturday Night Football - live on Sky Sports - his qualities are not lost on Hojbjerg, and neither are those of the healthy Danish contingent playing alongside him in west London.
"There is Christian, the other Christian (Norgaard), Mathias Jensen, the coach (Thomas Frank), there are many Danish players so it will be difficult," he continues.
"Brentford have a very good team, they are on a good run, they are well organised, their home crowd is fantastic. They are living in the moment and have a lot of confidence from this moment they are in. It will be a great challenge.
"It's important for us to stay calm and cool and to focus on what is important - to explore the weak points of Brentford, try to punish them, and gain the points we need because we want to keep going forward."
Spurs' trip to Brentford comes after defeat to Brighton saw Antonio Conte's side lose ground in the race for Champions League qualification, a result which has since been compounded by Arsenal's victory at Chelsea.
Other than boosting morale in the red half of north London, Arsenal's victory changes very little when it comes to the objectives Tottenham are trying to achieve. Hojbjerg's challenge to his team-mates is this: rise to the occasion and show just how much they want the prize on offer.
"There is no hiding from the top-four race," he added. "In the end there are three or four teams in the race - who wants it? There is no hiding.
"We can all sit and talk as much as we want but it's about getting the points on the pitch, to show the consistency, the quality, the desire, to make sure the points end up in your pocket and the achievement comes in your favour.
"It's difficult for me to sit here and talk because the target is very clear. It's important our actions speak much louder than words.
"There are many great teams in the race, in the Premier League, which is why it's an honour and a great challenge to play in the Premier League. But I trust my team a lot and I am sure we have the quality to achieve this.
"That doesn't mean we will automatically do it. We will have to suffer, to fight, to come through this challenge, but I believe we can do it."
Watch Brentford vs Tottenham live on Saturday Night Football from 5pm on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event; kick-off 5.30pm.