Home-grown former Mansfield Town star Jack Thomas has relaunched his career with ambitious neighbours Basford United and hopes it won’t belong before he before he is back in the Football League.
It has been an emotional summer for the 22-year-old, moving on after spending his whole career with the Stags.
But, after his exciting rise hit a brick wall at Mansfield following a series of loan spells, he admitted it had been time for a change after his summer release by David Flitcroft.
He is now playing for a Basford club who are the next highest-ranked outfit in the county behind the three EFL clubs in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division, just three steps behind League Two.
“I needed a change and it’s a good project at Basford,” he said. “They have high ambitions and I am looking forward to it.
“I believe in a few years time Basford could be a Football League club. I think we can do it and I’d love to be part of that journey.
“I know the club see this as a season of consolidation. But without setting too high a target, with the squad we’ve got we could definitely get into the play-offs.”
Thomas admitted it had been strange not starting a season at the One Call Stadium and cited injuries as the reason for his career stalling.
“It felt weird when pre-season started, not going back to Mansfield,” he said.
“I have nothing but good memories there, but I’d say me and the club were both probably ready for a change if I’m honest.
“The 12 or 13 games I played at the back end of that first season I did really well, but I just kept picking up niggling injuries, which was hard.
“Then I picked up a groin injury that kept me about three or four months and after that I found it hard to get my rhythm back. It was so frustrating.”
Thomas knew it would be hard to force a way in under Steve Evans and was proved right. Then he admitted he had not played well enough to force a first team place under new boss Flitcroft.
“It was frustrating last season. I think I was a bit unfortunate too,” he said.
“When I got recalled by Steve Evans the first game against Notts County in the Checkatrade Trophy I did really well. But I never got a chance after that.
“I think he’d brought his own players in and if you weren’t one of them you didn’t really stand much of a chance, especially being a young lad too. I think if I’d been an experienced player I’d have had more of a chance.
“If we are going to be honest he hasn’t really got a reputation for bringing young players through. So it was always going to be hard under him, though I’ve got nothing bad to say about him.”
On Flitcroft, he added: “I thought it would be another chance for me and the first couple of months I started really well and trained really well.
“But then for some reason training didn’t go so well for me and everything I tried just didn’t come off, so I didn’t really deserve to be in the squad and I have got no arguments.”
Now he is looking forward to helping neighbours Basford move a step closer to the Stags, saying: “It feels very exciting, especially as I have been playing most of the full games and got quite a few 90 minutes in me which is different to pre-season last season as I was sat on the bench for most of the games.
“I feel like I am getting back to my best – I have not really played for two years. It’s all about building my match fitness up again and I can feel it coming.”
On the current Stags side, he added: “I think they are in for a good season. I always listen out for the result and from the highlights I watched of the Accrington game they looked unbelievable.
“If they have a midweek game and I haven’t I will definitely go back and watch them – though only if one of the players can get me a free ticket!”