Pilgrims magic earned move to Mansfield Town for new boy Nathan Thomas

Nathan Thomas - Pic By James Williamson
Nathan Thomas - Pic By James Williamson

When Nathan Thomas was announced as Mansfield Town’s fifth signing of the summer at the beginning of June, images were immediately conjured of Lee Beevers’ flailing on the floor after being bamboozled by the winger’s elusive footwork.

The aforementioned piece of play earned his then employers Plymouth a 96th minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw during February 2014, the Stags’ first season back in the Football League for five years.

Thomas has admitted that it was his role in providing that assist that first caught the eye of Adam Murray, who at the time was assistant manager to Paul Cox.

Thomas said: “Adam had been interested in me for a long time before I signed.

“On a couple occasions I was in talks about coming down but just never got it across the line.”

At the time of securing his signature, Murray revealed that Thomas had been on trial towards the end of last season.

“I spoke to him (Murray) and he invited me down to train for a couple weeks,” said Thomas. “I just hit it off from day one and knew this was a club I could do really well at.”

At the tender age of 20, the winger joined his fourth club when putting pen to paper on a contract with Mansfield Town.

Thomas was quick to praise the influence Adam Murray had on his decision.

“My biggest praise for Adam is he believes in me as a person and understands me, even more so as a player,” he said.

“I’ve never really had anybody believe in me like he does. I’ve worked with some incredible people in the past such as Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) and Kevin Ball but nobody has really put the time in to understand what makes Nathan, Nathan.

“It has been a hard couple of years for me, but Adam took the time to get to know me and really wanted me to be part of this football club, so hopefully I can repay his faith in me with my performances on the pitch.”

With the first team squad producing impressive performances against both MK Dons and Leicester in the last two outings, optimism has inevitably rose among supporters.

Most fans are simply hoping for an improvement on last season’s style of play, along with a slight upturn in results leading to a mid-table finish.

With 13 new signings to bed in, it has come as a bit of a surprise as to how quickly the group appear to have gelled.

Thomas explained how the club, facing the prospect of Adam Murray’s first full season in management, went about getting to know each other

“We’ve done a lot of team building exercises which have brought us really close as a group,” he said.

“It’s a great dressing room to be part of, with some big characters that help the younger players like myself.

“We have two players who’ve played at the the highest level of English football, Nicky (Hunt) and Brian (Jensen) that I can look up to and learn a lot from.

“I think the majority of the team at some point in their career has won promotion and knows what it takes to do so. We have a team who are hungry for that feeling.

“Obviously the change has been massive but when you bring the volume of new players in like Adam has, you have the chance to change the whole philosophy of how the club plays football.

“It has not been easy. We have put the hours in, doing up to four or five sessions a day in our first week to set in concrete what we want to do and achieve this season. There is still a lot more to come.”

Thomas has been one of the stand out performers of the pre-season schedule - bright and inventive against Rainworth and Barnsley, with a couple of sumptuous strikes against Tamworth and MK Dons.

He was also the width of the woodwork away from a hat-trick of friendly goals following a fine save by Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel.

While admitting his confidence is high, the ex-Sunderland trainee feels he still has a lot more to offer.

“I think I’ve only scratched the surface on what I can do so far. I’m comfortable on either wing and as long as I can get on the ball, I can play anywhere across the front line,” he said.

“I’ve scored a couple of goals so far which have got my confidence very high, but my main strengths are my goal creating and I haven’t really had a chance to do that yet.

“In the past few games, we’ve worked so hard on our shape and defensive responsibilities that all of us have got things to show the crowd going forward.”

Looking ahead to the new season, Thomas had a clear message to the supporters of his new club.

“I would like to see everybody turning up to support us because the fans have a massive part to play this season in our success,” he said.

“Personally, I hope I can keep performing to a high standard and that everybody enjoys watching me play and like what I bring to the team.”

Thomas’ confidence in his own ability is refreshing, especially after a few years of watching players who were perhaps not as comfortable with the ball at their feet.

His low centre of gravity and desire to commit defenders is a trait which has been missing from the Stags since the departure of Sam Clucas, who has of course this week completed a move to Hull City, netting the Stags a rumoured £260,000 in the process.

Thomas is the type of player the Stags were crying out for last season and from the moment he got on the ball at Rainworth you could see he had a sort of ‘X-Factor’ about him.

Here’s hoping for a successful season for both club and player alike.