Player Profile #1
Born: 5th March 1989 in Rochdale
What better way to start a new section of the site than with the new flavour of the month – Joe Thompson? Or Joey if you’re familiar, or even Josh if you are a Virgin Media commentator.
At the time of writing, young Joey has scored four goals in two matches. To put that into perspective, in the previous 41 appearances Thompson had scored just twice. This unexpected burst of free scoring will go some way to convincing the Dale masses that Thompson actually has a place in the team. As we will see, it has taken longer than usual for the young lad from Cutgate.
Thompson’s first Dale appearance came against Carlisle United in May 2006, a completely demoralising 2-0 defeat which over 4000 saw – most of them Carlisle fans, bubbling and boystrous in anticipation of the Division Three championship. With the season already over for Dale, safe but soul-sapping in mid-table, manager Steve Parkin decided to blood a couple of young, unseen wingers in the shape of Theo Coleman and Joey Thompson. Thompson himself only saw seven minutes of the match as a late substitute for Chris Dagnall, but Parkin had clealy earmarked him for possible inclusion in the first team.
Indeed, in early 2006/07, Thompson played twice in August for the Dale, both defeats against Swindon and Notts County. He didn’t gain a lot of playing time mind, only seventeen minutes in total, before he disappeared into reserve football once again. These were the final days of Steve Parkin’s difficult second album, and Thompson didn’t see proper first team action until the dismissal of Parkin and the arrival of the Messiah, Keith Hill, in December 2006.
To say Joe’s initial forays into proper first-teamery were problematic is perhaps an understatement. Skipping airily down the wing, Thompson resembled a new-born giraffe, to put it bluntly, all shin and skiddiness. Like so many other youth products before him at Dale, Thompson didn’t exactly win over the fans. Even Matt Gilks never had the full support of the home crowd despite being generally excellent, and Thompson suffered similar abuse. People to this day still think he isn’t good enough, despite his recent displays. “We thought he were shite, but now he’s alright” – a chant spawned earlier this season – is so summative of the Rochdale supports opinion of Thompson.
He was probably put into the first-team far too early, looking back. Keith Hill was Thompson’s youth team trainer before he became Dale’s full-time manager, and would have seen the displays in training which saw young Joe claim the “League Two Trainee of the Year” award in March 2007. However, Thompson was far, far away from first-team standard when it came to it, and looked a fish out of water in League Two. This led some, including myself, to question Joe’s first-team credentials, indeed to question his credentials as a professional footballer full-stop. Some saw him as another Ben Kitchen, on his way painfully to Rossendale Utd, or Radcliffe Borough. Thankfully, the one man who saw him in training was the one guy who stood up for him, and eventually decided his future – Keith Hill.
Another season of mostly reserve football followed in 07/08; Thompson picked up 13 appearances, mostly as a sub, and still Thompson didn’t seem to be improving, indeed this very website said that “[Thompson] will not make it in the League, [and] shouldn’t be brought on in a match like this”, after his bringing-on against Chester City in a match Rochdale eventually lost 2-1. There were, however, glimpses of promise later on in the season; Thompson scored his first goal against Darlington on New Year’s Day 2008 and played well against Notts County in a 4-2 home win. And then came this season.
It would be a lie to say that Joe Thompson has played consistently well all this season, he’s been a bit hit and miss if anything, but the most pleasing thing about him is his determination and attitude. When almost universally derided, Thompson worked hard to improve the weakest areas of his game; his strength and his positioning, so much so that I believe Thompson could quite comfortably handle playing full-back for a spell. The more people abused him, the harder Thompson worked, and now we are beginning to see the fruits of his labour.
Joe himself should feel rightly proud. Unlike Will Buckley, who’s bad games are largely ignored by the Spotland support, Thompson’s every touch comes under close scrutiny due to his perceived lack of quality. Thompson should hate the Dale crowd in all honesty, including myself, for long-held, stubborn refusal to let him grow. Perhaps he was blooded too early by Hill; but maybe we should all take a long, hard look at ourselves for every time we’ve shouted “That bloody Thompson, he’s SHITE”.
Mr. Thompson, I salute you.
Written by Matt Boothman on 5th Feb 09