Swansea City greats helping drive Josh Thomas' development
Having scored on his first start for the under-23s, learned his trade under the guidance of two club legends and followed in the footsteps of Joe Rodon, 16-year-old Josh Thomas has plenty of reason to be targeting a bright future at Swansea City.
Bridgend-born Thomas, who has been with the Swans since the age of 12, enjoyed a breakthrough 2018-19 season – forcing his way into the under-18s side before scoring in the under-19s’ record-breaking FAW Youth Cup final victory over TNS.
This led to him signing a two-year scholarship with the Swans over the summer and he made an impressive start to the new Premier League South campaign, scoring three goals in his opening two games.
As a result, Thomas was called-up to the under-23s’ squad by Cameron Toshack and Gary Richards – making his debut from the bench in the Premier League 2 clash with Aston Villa, while scoring on his first start in the following game away at Middlesbrough four days later.
His rise again highlights the calibre of work being done in the club’s academy set-up, while his development was also aided by the guidance of one Swansea City legend in particular.
At the request of under-16s’ coach Matty Jones, Lee Trundle began working with the young forward on a one-to-one basis to fine-tune certain aspects of his game.
Thomas feels that Trundle’s influence was hugely instrumental towards his development, and is hoping for further opportunities to work with ‘Magic Daps’, who scored 91 goals across two spells with the Swans.
“I found working with Lee very beneficial and I’m going to see if I can do more sessions with him,” he said.
“He was a different kind of player to me. I like to run in behind defenders while he liked to come to feet as use his trickery to beat them.
“After working with him, I now feel a lot more comfortable coming to feet and can use it to my advantage if a centre-half is faster than me.”
Thomas has been able to hone these new skills and develop further this season with the help of another Swansea great in under-18s’ coach Alan Tate.
Once again, the teenager has reaped the benefits of one-to-one sessions with the former Swans defender, who played over 300 times for the Swans.
“Last season, I felt like I missed more chances than I scored,” Thomas explains.
“As a striker, you want to get goals and, with that, comes confidence.
“Working with Alan on the training pitch has helped me a lot going into this season.
“That has given me a lot of belief and I have adopted a different attitude this season.
“As a result, I have taken any chance that has fallen my way.”
Those extra hours on the training field certainly paid dividends last Friday, when Thomas scored his first goal for the under-23s in the 3-2 defeat against Boro.
And the 16-year-old’s positive impact was highlighted by Toshack as he joined an exclusive group of players to appear for the development side at that age that also includes current first-team regular Rodon, as well as Liam Cullen and Tivonge Rushesha.
“Scoring on his first start at this level is absolutely excellent. It was a day that he will never forget,” Toshack said.
“Josh has a fantastic work ethic. He exerted that against Middlesbrough and players a lot older than him, while he didn’t look out of place.
“From an effort point of view and being direct and clinical, he has really impressed so far.
“Sometimes, it’s easier to come on and affect the game as a substitute – especially when you’re a player like Josh and quite physical and robust for your age.
“But when you start the game against two tall defenders, it’s far from easy. However, he kept going and was rewarded with his goal, for which he deserves a lot of credit.
“He will only grow from this experience and, hopefully, he can follow in the footsteps of Joe, Liam and Tivonge.
“But it’s important now that he keeps his feet on the ground and continues to focus on learning the game.”
It is no surprise that Thomas has taken plenty of encouragement and is aiming high following his recent exploits.
Nevertheless, he acknowledges that these are only small steps towards his ultimate aim of playing first-team football at the Liberty Stadium.
“These are very exciting times,” he smiles. “I’m trying to make a name for myself by playing at a higher level and, hopefully, that will make me a better player.
“I don’t want to hold back. I want to progress and develop as quickly as possible and stay one step ahead of everybody else.
“I want to score at least 15 goals this season; I think that is an achievable target.
“I am aiming to stay in the under-23s’ environment by showing what I can do and, hopefully, I can become a regular in the team.
“I know what I want. I’m just taking everything one step at a time.”