Football

The unexpected rise of FC Midtjylland

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Over the past decade FC Copenhagen have been comfortably the dominant force in Danish football. 

With nine Superliga wins in 14 years and a history breaking march to the Champions League second round, Copenhagen have flown the flag for Danish football for what seems an eternity. 

However, after missing out to AaB last season, Copenhagen's wait for another Superliga title is set to continue for another year as they trail leaders FC Midtjylland by a surely insurmountable 12 points and 16 goals with five games to play. 

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For Midtjylland it will be a significant success given the club was only formed 16 years ago when founder Johnny Rune decided to merge together Ikast FS and Herning Fremad.

Having lost four Danish cup finals since, this year's inevitable title will be the club's first major honour and these are undoubtedly exciting times for the club.

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Last summer Brentford owner Matthew Benham invested £6 million in the club, perhaps in an attempt to build a footballing network to rival Watford.

From the outside it looks a shrewd move given the foundations laid by outgoing chairman and founder Rune.

Without the necessary funds to seriously challenge Danish football's elite, Rune instead invested in the academy and forged links to clubs around the World in order to get first option on talented youngsters.

Both investments have undoubtedly borne fruit with Simon Kjaer and Winston Reid notable examples of the academy's proficiency while the clubs link to FC Ebedei in Nigeria has provided a number of first team regulars in recent seasons. 

Both of these factors were there prior to Benham's arrival. However, the club's analytical and progressive approach to recruitment and training are certainly hallmarks of Benham's vision for football, as Mark Warburton can testify to. 

In manager Glen Riddersholm, Benham and his appointed chairman Rasmus Ankersen appear to have the perfect man to implement their philosophy.

In an interview with fifa.com, Riddersholm said: "What we look to do is analyse the many factors that go towards being successful and to approach the game in new ways. And what's been really enjoyable has been seeing those thoughts - all our ideas and philosophies - transferred into actions."

From top to bottom the club appears to be on the same wavelength and along with the aforementioned academy and links to academies in Nigeria and India, the club also have an excellent spine from which they can build on for their maiden Champions League campaign.

23-year-old Danish International Eric Sviatchenko and his 21-year-old partner and academy graduate Patrick Bansgaard have formed a solid partnership at the back, as the club have conceded under a goal a game in the Superliga.

Behind them is keeper Jakob Haugaard, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season in the sticks, while Southampton academy graduate and Finland International Tim Sparv pulls the strings in midfield. 

Meanwhile up front former Celtic man Morten Rasmussen and Nigerian Sylvester Igboun have bagged 21 goals between them in the Superliga (as many as bottom club Silkeborg). 

Consequently there is plenty for Midtjylland fans to get excited about as they prepare for their first ever Champions League campaign next season.

And should they continue to defy expectation who knows Brentford fans may just start to see some logic in Benham's thinking.  

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