Luke Thomas: Everything you need to know about Ipswich Town's latest signing
- Credit: ITFC
Ipswich Town have signed winger Luke Thomas on loan from Championship club Barnsley until the end of the season. STUART WATSON profiles the 21-year-old.
BAGGIES AND BENFICA
Born and raised in Gloucestershire, Thomas was released by West Brom as a teenager before joining National League side Cheltenham Town.
There, age 16, he attracted plenty of attention. Scouts from Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham watched him in FA Youth Cup action.
First he went on trial to Portuguese giants Benfica, then Southampton had a £50k bid rejected, before he was eventually signed by Derby County in January 2016 for a fee of £100k.
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Thomas was immediately loaned out to National League side Gloucester City, in the National League North, for the remainder of that campaign.
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Thomas quickly impressed for Derby’s Under-23s upon his return from loan and was handed a fresh three-year deal.
He made his Rams senior debut the following month, age 18, as a late substitute for Tom Lawrence in a 2-0 Championship home win against QPR.
The winger featured just once more for the first team that season, as a late sub in an end of season win against Bolton, before penning a new four-year deal.
SENT TO COVENTRY
Thomas joined League One side Coventry City on loan at the start of the 2018/19 season. What was initially meant to be a half season switch was later extended for the whole campaign.
No-one played more minutes for the Sky Blues that campaign. In 44 appearances, he scored five goals and provided five assists as Mark Robins’ men finished eighth in the League One table.
Barnsley, who had gone up automatically, were sufficiently impressed by what they’d seen to prise him away from Pride Park for a reported fee of £1.2m.
TIME AT TYKES
Thomas was named Barnsley’s August player of the month after a flying start to life at the Championship club that included a fine debut winner against Fulham.
Manager Daniel Stendel was sacked in early October though and Thomas fell out of favour under new boss Gerhard Struber before returning to the starting line-up around Christmas.
He ended up finishing a stop-start campaign with one goal and four assists from 24 starts and 15 substitute appearances as the South Yorkshire club beat the drop on a dramatic last day.
It’s been a similar tale for Thomas this season. He started five of the opening eight games, but then fell out of favour following another early managerial change (Valerien Ismael replacing Struber in the hot-seat in late October).
He’s started just three games over the last three months, the last of which was a 1-0 loss at Norwich on January 2, but has regularly been used as an impact sub.
Should arrive relatively ‘match ready’ and with a point to prove.
DIRECT AND TENACIOUS
An old-fashioned, head down, direct-running winger. His pace and power can carry the team up the field in a flash.
Although left-footed, he’s played most of his football on the right. Has shown in the past that he is capable of a neat cut-back or hammer finish after driving into space.
Looks a scrappy, tenacious player too. He’ll press high and race back to do the dirty stuff. His former Coventry boss Robins labelled him ‘incredible’ out of possession.
Represented England Under-20s twice in September 2019. Those squads included Town midfielder Andre Dozzell.
“It’s a very proud moment for me,” said Thomas, after his international debut. "It’s been my dad’s dream for a while for me to play for any England youth team and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to do it now.”
WINNING THE RACE
Ipswich weren’t the only League One club interested in landing Thomas this month. New Sunderland boss Lee Johnson was keen, while Oxford United also showed interest.
EXEMPT FROM THE CAP
Given he was under the age of 21 at the start of 2020, Thomas won’t count towards the salary cap. That’s good news for Ipswich given they have virtually maxed out the £2.5m limit.
A reminder that if a ‘senior’ player does arrive at Portman Road this month then a ‘senior’ player will have to be cut from the squad to accommodate them.
Thomas will still have two years left on his Barnsley deal at the end of this season.