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Featured Player: Chris Thompson
By: Richard Hubbert
FORGET the signings of Phil Jevons and Stuart Campbell this summer, because it's the signing of Chris Thompson from cup-treble winners Liverpool that could prove to be one of the shrewdest buys by a Town manager in recent years. But why? That is the question I hear yourselves asking.
Why is this kid different from the rest? This is a question we hope to answer...
First of all, let's get the facts right. Thompson is a young, English bred forward whom last season got the chance to mingle with the likes of Robbie Fowler, Jari Litmanen, Michael Owen and Emile Heskey in Liverpool's reserve team. Not bad experience for a player at just 19 years of age. Even better, he scored 14 goals for the Reds in that campaign, and better still, he was out of position on the right wing!
Then a player's worse nightmare, as he was released by the Merseyside club. This left him to choose between Port Vale, Wigan, Bury and the Mariners for a contract next season.
It didn't take long to choose Town, as Thompson explained : "I came down here first and they were the first to ask me. I liked it straight away.".
So, he chose the Mariners and is now looking forward to working under Lennie Lawrence, who he says 'is a manager who is known to give youngsters a chance and there are lots of opportunities here'. But although Lennie Lawrence has said that Thompson and the rest of the young players will probably not feature in the first team this year, there is no doubt that Thompson and Co will play an integral part in Town's future.
So, what is the reason for Thompson being handed a two year contract and the rest just a one year deal? Reserve team coach Paul Wilkinson explains that the Warrington born striker could easily have been on a one year contract like the rest of the 'young guns', but his eye for goal and goal scoring prowess makes him more valuable in todays transfer market.
This certainly seems a very good move by Lennie Lawrence, who clearly believes that this young lad could become a real talent. This goes for the rest of the players, and the fact that they will be training with experienced pros such as John McDermott, Steve Livingstone and Paul Groves will only enhance their preparation for what they hope will result in a first team place in years to come.
Thompson is eager to show Lennie Lawrence just what he can do, and indeed he did when he came to Blundell Park on a trial that resulted in a two year deal. In that trial he scored two goals in two games, but made his disappointment at not getting more goals public, when he explained "I should have got more goals when I was here, and I know in myself I can score goals."
This clearly indicates how keen this young lad is to make his mark. Most strikers coming for a trial would be satisfied with getting two goals in two games, resulting in a contract, but not he. He knows that he can score, but he also knows that this great inner belief of his has to be shown on the pitch in order for him to get anywhere near a first team place.
A daunting task it may seem, with five strikers ahead of him in the pecking order, but come a few injuries and suspensions in the next year or two, Thompson could get his chance and Town fans could be ranting that Lennie Lawrence has unearthed a diamond.
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