Attention turns to the Emirates FA Cup this weekend as Derby County travel to the Coventry Building Society Arena to face Coventry City in the Third Round and midfielder Liam Thompson is accustomed to the trials and tribulations of the competition already.
The 19-year-old was part of the Rams’ squad which faced National League North side Chorley in the Third Round of last year’s competition.
After an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Rams’ first team camp, Academy coach Pat Lyons led a side of Under-23s and Under-18s players that were forced to fulfil the fixture.
It was a hectic period for the youngsters, who themselves were also hit with positive COVID-19 cases in the lead up to the tie.
But, the match presented Thompson with an opportunity to showcase his talents at senior level in a televised tie, and he was a standout performer in a spirited performance by the Rams.
Although they ultimately fell short, losing 2-0, the day will be remembered by Thompson as he made his professional debut for the club.
“I remember the occasion really well because it was my first involvement in a professional game,” he recalled, chatting to RamsTV. “It was a bit of a weird one because the whole of the first team was wiped out.
“I remember that I just chilling at home one afternoon and receiving a random Zoom call request and Pat Lyons basically said: ‘you lads are playing’.
“We didn’t know anything, we didn’t know if we could come in and train because the Training Ground was locked off so we had to train elsewhere.
“The weather was awful, we had to train on AstroTurf but we just got on with it and all the lads were buzzing because it was a great opportunity and we got on with it - but it was crazy.
“I thought in the game itself we did ourselves proud. Maybe in terms of the result we should have done better but I feel we did the club proud.”
Since that game, Thompson has kicked on and proven his worth in the first team.
He was part of the squad during pre-season and has impressed manager Wayne Rooney and his staff, especially with his performances for the Under-23s this term, and he was handed his first senior start against AFC Bournemouth at the end of November.
The midfielder put in a man-of-the-match display at Pride Park Stadium and rose to the occasion, with the side running out 3-2 winners, and has since then gone on to be a consistent performer as the Rams have fought back from their 21-point deduction.
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for Thompson and asked if he would have believed he would have come so far in that time, he replied: “Probably not, no.
“You always have to back yourself but I think in just how quickly it has happened, I was thrown straight in the deep end.
“The gaffer dropped me straight in and that’s done me the world of good. I’ve been involved in training with the lads for a long time, so that’s helped me massively.
“It’s changed so quickly. Playing in these games now in the Championship is a whole new level in terms of the quality and the fans. It makes such a big difference and it’s certainly been a big change.”
The Rams face Coventry City away from home in the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday 8th January (12:30pm kick off).