DAN Thomas probably feels like he has just gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson.
Cherries’ unassuming teenage goalkeeper will have experienced all the emotions in the book during a hectic
A surprise debut in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Northampton was sandwiched between eventful youth and reserve team outings as Thomas represented Cherries at three different levels.
And it is not as if the youngster is used to the rigours of the professional ranks, having only been invited to join the club as a late starter around 20 months ago.
Thomas, who only turned 18 in September, was catapulted into the first-team squad following the departure of back-up goalkeeper Ryan Pryce at the end of August.
And as Cherries’ head of youth Joe Roach would say, it has certainly been one steep learning curve for the former Portchester School pupil.
“It has been a multitude of variants for Dan,” said Roach. “Coupled with playing a lot of games, he has also been attending Brockenhurst College.
“He’s a good lad and he listens. A lot has happened to him in a very short space of time and he hasn’t had the longest grounding.
“But he is thoughtful about the situation and knows where he is in the grand scheme of things. He isn’t cocky or arrogant. He was back in college at nine o’clock in the morning the day after he had
made his debut for the first team. He isn’t one to take liberties.”
Thomas hardly had the ideal preparation before taking his bow at Northampton. Just days previously, he had conceded nine times as the reserves were slaughtered by a powerful Plymouth second string.
Roach added: “After that game, Eddie (Howe), Neil (Moss) and myself had a chat about Dan coming back into the youth environment for a couple of days.
“He played against Swindon and Hereford, which was almost a relief for him at the time because it gave him an opportunity to relax a bit.
“He was then elevated back to the first team for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and he looked very settled in the game.
“I was delighted with his attitude and response because it was a difficult day and the weather wasn’t the kindest for a goalkeeper.
“What he was asked to do, he did well. His kicking was good, he came for some crosses and made a couple of great saves in the second half.
“At college the following morning, I showed him the Echo and his eyes lit up when he saw he had been given a mark of 8.5 out of 10. I was so pleased for him.”
Thomas, who played his youth football for Redhill Rangers, has flourished under the tutelage of Cherries goalkeeper coaches past and present, Vince Bartram and Neil Moss.
His whirlwind education continued at the weekend when, having helped Cherries to a 2-1 win at Yeovil in the Youth Alliance, he raced back to sit on the bench for the first team against
And despite shipping seven in another reserve team mismatch against Bristol City in midweek, Thomas’s exploits between the sticks prevented the Robins
from reaching double figures.
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• See tomorrow's Daily Echo for an interview with former Bashley and Cherries star Wade Elliott and a feature on how the village club has stormed to the summit of the Southern League.