Academy graduate Liam Thompson is hoping to build on his impressive league debut on Sunday as Derby County beat high-flying AFC Bournemouth 3-2 at Pride Park Stadium to move the club back to zero points.
Wayne Rooney’s side had been deducted 12 points for entering administration in September, whilst they were dealt a further blow during the recent international break as they lost another nine points for breaches of the League’s Profitability and Sustainability (P&S) rules.
The Rams are back on the road on Wednesday night as they head to the capital to face Sky Bet Championship table toppers Fulham (7:45pm kick off).
Sunday was a momentous day for Thompson as he made his long-awaited Rams league debut and was a shining light in the midfield on a dramatic afternoon in the East Midlands.
He was composed on the ball and took to the division like a duck to water as an early header from Jason Knight and a second half brace from Tom Lawrence secured the vital win.
Thompson, who came through the club’s illustrious Academy, could not hide his delight at helping the Rams to victory on his first league start.
“I am still buzzing,” he admitted, chatting to RamsTV ahead of the clash against Fulham.
“I was told on the Thursday beforehand that I would be playing and it was quite a long build up to the Sunday so I just wanted the day to come quickly. Waiting was difficult because I wanted to play but I was buzzing. I still am now.
“I found out in the team meeting. I played against Reading for the Under-23s on the Monday and just expected to come in and train. I went straight into the meeting and the gaffer just said: ‘Tommo, you’re starting’.
“I didn’t tell anyone. I just wanted to keep it to myself, keep my head down and focus on my game more than anything.
“I did go to my mum and dad and tell them and they were happy as well. They were in the crowd and so was my agent so it was really good.”
Off the pitch, it had been a tough week for the Rams after they had learned of the further nine point deduction, but, on it, there was still a job to do.
AFC Bournemouth approached the game knowing that a victory would take them back to the summit of the division following the previous day’s results.
However, Rooney’s side showed real grit and character to grind out a deserved three points.
There were nerves in the build up for Thompson, which was to be expected, but he could not have wished for a better afternoon.
“To be fair, my nerves weren’t bad but they really started to kick in in the tunnel,” he said. “I could hear the fans and you could see the lads that I would be playing against and that’s when it started to kick in - but sometimes they’re good nerves. The adrenaline was there and that lasted most of the game as well.
“Tom Lawrence’s penalty to go 3-2 up was a highlight from the game. It was just crazy. I thought the fans were excellent and they have been all season and it made me feel at home, especially in that moment because it was massive.
“You can tell the togetherness with the team as you could see in the celebration as everyone was together so that was the main stand out.”
The midfielder has had to wait patiently for his opportunity in the first team. The manager had stated publicly on regular occasions that the 19-year-old would have been offered his debut earlier had it not been for strict rules against the football club, whilst Rooney also invited Thompson’s family into the training ground to explain the situation earlier in the season.
So, when Thompson delivered his impressive performance on Sunday, he certainly proved to the manager and coaching staff that he is more than ready to help the club fight out of the position that they find themselves in.
“It was difficult not being able to play because it’s good training, but you only get so much out of it but I have certainly learned a lot just by training with the team,” he explained.
“The gaffer has been really good, even though he hasn’t been able to play me, he still kept me around on game days, in the changing room and seeing all the lads react. I’ve learned lots from that, but you just want that final push to play. That’s what it’s about.
“It has been difficult but I’ve kept my head down, kept working hard and kept doing the basics well and all the quality shines through.”
And he will be hoping he can carry the momentum from his debut into Wednesday’s clash against Fulham, who sit top of the Sky Bet Championship table following an impressive start to the season.
“You want to play against top teams,” Thompson concluded. “Bournemouth was a top team but we showed great character, especially in the second half, and I think we deserved the win. It goes to show what we have got here. We are here for business and we will give anyone a good game.”