FOOTBALLER Lewis Thompson has scored after securing his first professional contract.
The 18-year-old left-sided defender from Stalybridge has signed a one-
year deal at Blackburn Rovers with an option of a further 12 months.
“When I left West Hill School and became a scholar at Blackburn the aim was to sign a pro contract so I am delighted to have achieved that,” he explained.
Thompson, who has played for Blackburn U23s while a trainee, accepts this is just the start and he is hoping to kick on next season when newly-promoted Blackburn will play in the Championship.
A former academy player at Manchester United from U9 to U16 level, Thompson had to overcome the disappointment of being released by the club he supports.
Thompson, who has played schoolboy and youth football for both England and Northern Ireland, said: “I had offers from a few clubs, but Blackburn wasn’t too far away and is a family club.
“It has turned out to be a really good move because as a first-year scholar I played for the U23s.”
Thompson added he has played alongside former Celtic striker Anthony Stokes and Northern Ireland international Corey Evans in U23 games and played against West Brom’s Jonathan Leko.
He explained: “Leko is still a teenager but has appeared in the Premier League. He was tough to play against.
“You learn a lot both ways, playing with and against players of that quality.”
Thompson, a former pupil at Gorse Hall Primary, was spotted by Manchester United aged seven while playing for local junior side AFC Stanley. He also had a short spell with Dukinfield Youth.
He said: “I had only been playing football for about 18 months when United scout Craig Cathcart watched me playing for AFC Stanley against Curzon Ashton in the Reddish League.
“I didn’t have a great game and Craig came to my dad and asked me along to their local centre of excellence at Medlock, and that is how it began.”
Thompson pays tribute to the support from parents Ray and Amanda, saying: “They have been a big driving force and motivator by putting so much into me, and I am very thankful to them.
“Dad was a good footballer, but didn’t have the support to play at a high level so he has made sure I get those opportunities he didn’t have.
“The same applies to my mum who makes sure I eat well and looks after my well-being.”
Thompson added another motivation has been former West Hill School pupil Rob Holding who was an FA Cup winner with Arsenal last season.
He said: “Rob is about four years older and I don’t know him personally. He got a big move from Bolton to Arsenal and won the FA Cup and played in the Premier League and Europe.
“When you see someone from the same school and who lived in the same area doing so well that is also motivation and a driving force.”
Thompson has also played schoolboy and youth football for both England and Northern Ireland – he qualifies for the latter as his father is from Belfast. He doesn’t have to commit to either country until senior level.
Having been released by United, Thompson is aware football is a short career and he is already planning for the future.
He gained 10 GCSEs, all A* grades, and has studied for an extended BTech sports diploma while a scholar at Blackburn.
Thompson had already applied for a university place just in case a professional contract was not forthcoming, and he received a number of offers.
Though Thompson’s focus is on football, he is considering doing a part-time university degree and and is also studying for his UEFA ‘B’ licence this summer.
And he is already gaining practical experience coaching Dukinfield side The Albion who play in the Tameside League.
Thompson was a sporting all-rounder swimming for Dukinfield Marlins, running for East Cheshire Harriers and playing cricket for Flowery Field as well as training with United.
“There was something every night of the week, but it was always football. I wanted it to be my job since I was a kid and am lucky that the dream has come true,” he said.