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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nice Retrospective: Burnley Profile of Dave Thomas

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Burnley Mad profile of one QPR's greatests

Burnley MAD/By Tony Scholes - Dave Thomas
Date and Place of Birth 5th October 1950 - Kirkby-in-Ashfield

Transfers to and from Burnley
apprentice then pro October 1967 to Queens Park Rangers October 1972 £165,000
First and Last Burnley games
Everton (h) - 13th May 1967
Luton Town (a) - 30th September 1972 replaced by Geoff Nulty

Other Clubs Queens Park Rangers, Everton,
Wolverhampton Wanderers, Vancouver Whitecaps,
Middlesbrough, Portsmouth

Burnley Career Stats

Season League FA Cup League Cup Others Total
apps gls apps gls apps gls apps gls apps gls
1966/67 1 - - - - - - - 1 -
1967/68 3 - - - - - - - 3 -
1968/69 37(2) 4 2 - 8 3 - - 47(2) 7
1969/70 34(2) 4 - - 3 1 - - 37(2) 5
1970/71 34 3 1 - 1 - 2 - 38 3
1971/72 33 4 1 - 3 - - - 37 4
1972/73 11 4 - - 1 - - - 12 4
Total 153(4) 19 4 - 16 4 2 - 175(4) 23

Player Profile by Tony Scholes

It isn't often supporters would get excited about the signing of a 15-year-old schoolboy, but that was definitely the case in 1966 when Dave Thomas joined the club as an apprentice.

He'd already played at Turf Moor in a schools match and that was enough for the fans to see there was another player with some potential joining the club.

Thomas, born in Nottinghamshire but brought up in West Auckland, had something of a football pedigree. Years earlier his grandfather 'Ticer' Thomas became something of a legend in the north east having played in the Bishop Auckland side that won the FA Amateur Cup. He was also in the West Auckland side that became the first team to win the 'World Cup' which was depicted in the TV programme "A Captain's Tale" starring Dennis Waterman.

But for the young Thomas, his Burnley career started at the beginning of the 1966/67 season and he already came with great expectation with Jack Hixon, the scout who had found him for Burnley, describing him as the finest prospect he had ever seen.

Such were the hopes for him that he went straight into the reserve team and was almost immediately a regular in the Central League. Playing on the left wing those who went to the games soon saw his ability to beat players and cross the ball as well as his powerful shooting.

Incredibly, on the last day of that season, he was named in the Burnley side for the home game against Everton. At 16 years and 220 days of age he was 46 days older than Tommy Lawton was when he made his debut, but Thomas became the youngest player ever to play in a top flight game for Burnley, a record he still holds to this day.

That appearance didn't win him an automatic place in the side for the following season, but it was still one to remember for Thomas and the younger players at Burnley as we lifted the FA Youth Cup for the only time in the club's history.

With Steve Kindon on the left wing he played in an 'inside forward' role during the cup run but found himself in the first team the following season on the right wing as a replacement for Willie Morgan who had been sold to Manchester United.

One game stands out in that first full season, the 5-1 win against Leeds that came during a run of eight successive wins. Thomas was brilliant that October afternoon and beaten manager Don Revie, not one for offering praise to the opposition, described him as the finest talent in Britain and possibly the whole of Europe.

He won international honours at both youth and under-23 level but as Burnley headed towards relegation his form suffered. There were always rumours that of a rift between himself and Jimmy Adamson, who replaced Harry Potts as manager in 1970, and they were strengthened when he found himself playing a midfield role to accommodate the youngster Leighton James as well as Kindon.

Even so, he played more often than not in the side and was there at the beginning of the 1972/73 season. He played in the first eleven games that season, and scored four goals, but in a 2-2 draw at Luton he was substituted after receiving a booking that led to a suspension.

Geoff Nulty came in for him in the next game as he was forced to sit it out, but there was to be no return for Thomas. He'd played his last game for us and was sold to our promotion rivals Queens Park Rangers for £165,000. I bet they couldn't believe their luck they got him for that price.

As we won the second division, Thomas was in the QPR side that finished runners up. He picked up his runners up medal but also qualified for, and received, a winners medal. On his returns to Turf Moor he would always be greeted with chants of 'Thomas, Thomas, runner up'.

Back in the top flight he found his stage, and took a QPR side close to the title in the 1975/76 season as Burnley headed back down. By then he'd become a full international, making his England debut in Revie's first match in charge. He came on as a substitute for Frank Worthington against Czechoslovakia and almost immediately set up the first goal Mick Channon with an inch perfect cross.

After almost five years at Loftus Road he moved back to the north west and joined Everton in a £200,000 deal and was again in the same side as his former Burnley captain Martin Dobson. He spent two years at Goodison Park and seemed to set up goal after goal for Bob Latchford.

His next move took him to Molineux. Wolves paid £325,000 for his services but it proved to be an unsuccessful move. He hardly played for them and he was eventually released. From there he signed for Vancouver Whitecaps and on his return to England played for both Middlesbrough and Portsmouth.

They were his last club but he stayed after his retirement and joined the coaching staff and was later a coach at Brentford before dropping out of the game.

I always bemoan the fact that we never saw the best of him at Burnley. That I think was reserved for the QPR fans. In the end he was never able to deliver the promise at Turf Moor, but whether that was down to him or others we'll never know.

An in form Thomas was worth the admission money alone. He had pace, and a fantastic turn of pace. He could beat players with ease and could find the heads of strikers with unerring accuracy.

He only played for his country eight times and his career at the top was over far too soon. But at his best he was simply a class act.

Clarets Mad

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