Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Plymouth, Motherwell ... gifted footballer finds happiness at Hartlepool
Nathan Thomas has travelled far in a bid to discover footballing happiness.
However, he may just have found it on his doorstep.
The 21-year-old, from Middlesbrough, educated, football-wise anyway, in Sunderland, is in the form of his young life at Hartlepool United.
After leaving the Black Cats at the age of 18, Thomas has been to Plymouth, Motherwell and Mansfield Town, with varying degrees of success.
But since Ronnie Moore signed the winger from the Stags for an undisclosed fee at the start of the January transfer window, he has never looked back.
Thomas has played 10 times in 11 games, created a number of goals and, after fluffing his lines multiple times, finally got off the mark himself.
“I’m absolutely loving my time at Hartlepool,” he said.
“I’ve been all over to try to get regular football and it looks like I might have found it.
“I’ve played 10 now and I can only really think of one or two bad games and I’ve never really been able to say that before.
“I think I’m playing well and obviously I have finally got that goal, I probably should have had seven, but I shouldn’t be greedy!
“That first goal was massive, I’ve been dying for it for weeks.
“I have got a fair few assists, four or five I think, and I want to kick on, on both fronts.”
His transfer has proven a masterstroke by Moore and the club owners, JPNG, and new boss Craig Hignett is certainly getting the best out of the young man with the magic left foot.
“For years, I’ve been dying for years someone to put their trust in me and give me that regular football,” Thomas said. “I’m only a young lad and with young players, you may not get the best out of them every week.
“From day one, I played well in my first game and had a slump at Accrington and then wasn’t picked for the Cambridge match.
“Since then I’ve not looked back really, I’ve had good game after good game, I hope I can keep it going and keep progressing.”
And Thomas has praised the man who signed him AND the boss who now coaches him.
“I’m surprised Higgy knew who I was,” he laughed.
“He’s been brilliant but, to be fair, so too was Ronnie.
“He signed me and gave me the opportunity to come home and I’ll be forever grateful to Ronnie for that.
“But with Higgy being an attacking player, he sees what I can bring to the group.
“He’s been a massive part of me playing as I have been.
“He gives me bits of advice which have helped me, I’m getting in more scoring positions now, getting in the box more.
“I was allowed to drift more last week to try to pick the ball up and I’ve never been trusted to do that before.
“He gave me the licence to go and play football and enjoy myself and not worry about what’s going on behind me.”
It worked. Thomas ended his Pools goal drought just after the hour mark at Barnet.
Collecting a sweet ball from Jake Carroll, Thomas broke across the box before smashing a brilliant left-foot shot into Jamie Stephens’ right corner.
“It was great to finally get that goal, I’ve been waiting for it for a few weeks now,” he smiled.
“But the main thing was getting the three points and opening a bit of a gap between us and the bottom two.
“That bit of breathing space will do us the world of good.”
Pools tomorrow have a vital home date with Dagenham & Redbridge – and Thomas would “love” the same scenario as last week at the Vic.
“We have the chance to extend the gap with the bottom two by winning against Dagenham,” he said.
“If we can get seven or eight points clear then we should not be going down from there.
“I’d love to get another goal and get one in front of the home fans.
“The supporters have been great with me so far.
“I think I am quite liked already so would love to get a goal.
“I’ll try to get my boots on the right feet and see what happens!”