Nathan Thomas: Dave Jones told me I wasn’t good at my job – but now my confidence is back

Nathan Thomas against Barnet
Nathan Thomas against Barnet

Nathan Thomas might not be the next James Bond, but don’t think he couldn’t do it!

But the Hartlepool United number 007 has been given the licence to thrill.

Pools have missed the mercurial talents of the ‘League Two Messi’, the man with the golden left boot.

Yes, he’s been on the field throughout this dreadful run of results, but the flair, the life and confidence have been sucked out of the 22-year-old by previous boss Dave Jones.

But the chirpy Teessider is back and ready to excite and perform.

Who says? None other than the man himself.

“You will see the old Nathan back now, 100%,” said the dazzling winger, who will be one of the proverbial first names on Matthew Bates’s team-sheet at Cheltenham Town tomorrow.

“Confidence is the biggest thing in football.

“You can be the best player in the world but if you don’t have the confidence, you are not going to perform.

“Batesy has instilled the confidence back.

“People actually feel they are good players again.

“I actually questioned myself last Saturday after we lost to Barnet, I have never questioned myself before. Never, ever.

“Everyone knows when I am at my best I have a bit of a licence to go and play, but he [Jones] didn’t work like that.

“It was hard. It was literally ‘you do this or you don’t play’.

“Previously I would get the ball and drift into areas across the pitch, I would get involved all over.

“I’d score from all areas, right, middle, left. If I wasn’t involved, I’d go and get involved.

“Recently it was about staying in position and it didn’t matter if I didn’t touch the ball for 90 minutes. It didn’t work, did it?”

Thomas has always benefited from an arm around the shoulder, a pat on the back, a box of Terry’s All Gold, call it what you will.

“He wasn’t the type of man,” he said of Jones

“When you go from a manager who tells you the sky is the limit and then you get a manager who tells you the only way you are going is down, how does that make you feel?

“If I said you weren’t very good at your job, how would you feel?”

Seeing his flair stifled has made for painful viewing.

But Thomas says it has not only been him who has been affected.

“It’s not just me,” he said. “Lewie [Alessandra] was brilliant early on, he had a dozen assists after 10 games!

“It dried up and there’s a reason why and a reason why midfielders stopped scoring goals and we started conceding more and more goals.

“As a group, when this team was put together at the beginning of the season, it was a team of really good technical footballers and we have strayed so far from being a technical team to a side that wanted to get the ball forward quickly, a lot of long ball football.

“I think, no disrespect to Dave Jones, but I think he got the tactics wrong.

“We didn’t have the players to be putting the ball up top to players like Podge [Amond] and Rhys [Oates] – their games are in the penalty box.

“If we had Billy [Paynter] then it’s a different story.

“It took the onus away from the likes of me and Lewie, Nicky Featherstone and Michael Woodsy who are all good players and want the ball on the floor.

“We want to pass teams and play through gaps and we didn’t.

“As as a forward line we were always too far from the centre-forwards and that was because we had to be. We were told to do it.

“We couldn’t get close to the [main] forward.

“We’ve not looked like a team that could score goals and I’ve not felt for a while I could score.

“I wasn’t getting the opportunities of six months ago because we were that deep as team.

“As players we could have taken more responsibility for it but it’s hard when there’s a management team set in their ways of how they want to play.”

Thomas though says the change in atmosphere at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium has been dramatic following the appointment of Bates, Paynter, Stuart Parnaby and Ian Gallagher.

“There’s a belief here now. It’s a totally different place. It’s crazy,” said the ex-Sunderland player.

“Everyone could see confidence was low, everyone was hurting and we couldn’t drag that hurt into a performance.

“Now we have people in charge who believe in us and we believe in them and there’s a style of football which suits us.

“We feel like a team all together and going for something. The difference will be huge from last week to this.

“I honestly believe we will go to Cheltenham and put in a really big performance take it to the last game and then come here and do the same again.”

“We will be a totally different team – we will be the Hartlepool of old, not the Hartlepool of the last two months.”

But is it not too late, given Pools are two points behind Newport, who visit Carlisle, and four shy of Cheltenham.

“We have the time to do it,” said a confident Thomas, adding: “We will back out of the bottom two on Saturday night.”