By Mark Scully
Hopefully the injury Garry Thompson suffered at Vale Park on Tuesday night in the 0-0 draw with Port Vale isn’t too serious, as in recent weeks and months he has started to show the type of form that persuaded Phil Parkinson to sign him last summer on a free transfer from Scunthorpe United. His goal at York City last Saturday afternoon again show what he is capable of in front of goal and, since his injury at the turn of the year, he appears to of come back a lot leaner and fitter into the team.
Having seen Thompson run rings around Stuart McCall’s sides when he played for Morecambe, and after failing to sign him when he turned us down to join Scunthorpe, I was pleased when we finally announced we had landed the player, last summer. On paper a very good player at this level, the Kendal-born midfielder had played well for Scunthorpe United both in the Championship and League One and had already proven his capabilities in League Two with Morecambe, albeit a few seasons ago now. I viewed him as another piece in the promotion jigsaw.
After a few games of the new season, I was left wondering what exactly Thompson brought to the team. I wasn’t entirely sure of his best position was it a right wing place or down the middle up top – the latter is where Thompson feels he should be playing. Having witnessed his debut at Gillingham on the opening day, I personally thought his best position would be on the bench. Hauled off after an hour, I was left wondering if we had just signed a journeyman lower league player.
On the journey back up North from Kent, it was Thompson who I was most concerned of out of the new signings – we had lost on the opening day, never a great feeling but I saw very little in a player I had high hopes for. I was worried that the injuries he had suffered whilst at Scunthorpe had meant we had signed a player well past his best.
In the early weeks of the campaign Thompson badly suffered for form – he did however, net the winner in stoppage time in the 2nd Round of the League Cup away at Championship side Watford, but aside from that moment there wasn’t really much to cheer about his overall play.
Thompson gradually improved but it wasn’t until Saturday 24th November where I really thought we had seen the real Garry Thompson, away at a rain sodden Memorial Ground at Bristol Rovers in a thrilling 3-3 draw. The first half passed by with yet again a frustrating performance from the winger, whilst myself and Jason McKeown mulled over the first half we both expected Thompson to be hauled off.
However, Parky kept the faith and by backing the player the player in return responded with a superb second half performance – with the highlight a peach of a cross for James Hanson to head home. Beckham esc crossing ability. When Thompson was eventually substituted in the second half he went off to a huge round of applause from the travelling fans, non bigger than myself. I was happy to eat my own words!
Fast forward a few weeks to that unforgettable night against Arsenal, where Thompson struck with a sweet first time volley that sent the packed Valley Parade crowd wild. That moment will never be forgotten and added yet another memorable moment to the 2012/13 League Cup experience. All of a sudden we were starting to see a confidence about Garry Thompson’s play.
Prior to getting injured just before the trip to Morecambe on New Year’s Day the former Scunthorpe man was building a head of steam up, and starting to show consistently that he was going to be a key player for us this season. He netted the opening goal in the 2-1 win over Accrington Stanley on Boxing Day with a calm sliding effort from James Hanson’s knock down.
The striker then had to wait until recent games for further goals, he scored at York which I mentioned earlier and scored a beauty at AFC Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago. Superbly bending the ball over the keeper and into the top corner. Had that been in the Premier League, they’d of been raving about it on Match of The Day.
I’m still not convinced that Thompson is a target man striker; although in recent weeks my mind has started to change. It would be him or Hanson more often than not to play that role and I personally would have the Big No.9 in the team every week – you take Hanson out of the side and we struggle. Games at home to Dagenham and away at Rochdale come to mind, where Thompson was asked to play that role and he wasn’t as effective as Hanson. I believe a Thompson/Hanson partnership could work and would get some joy, the worryingly lack of form shown by Nahki Wells over recent weeks has opened the door up nicely for Thompson and he has certainly taken his chance.
I will hold my hands up and say I got it wrong with the lad. He was poor at the start of the season, I stand by that, but for the last three /four months I have been really impressed with him. I like to be proved wrong and Thompson has done just that. Hopefully the injury isn’t anything serious and he can play a key part of the late push towards the play offs.