At 21 years of age, Louis Thompson has made over 100 first team appearances for home-town club Swindon Town, scoring six goals. On top of that, he has received recognition of his form and ability in the form of call ups to the Wales under-19s and under-21s. Since making his debut under Paolo Di Canio in 2011-12, Thompson has quickly developed into a key man in Swindon’s midfield and when fit must be one of the first names on the team sheet each week.
Despite making his debut in 2011-12, Thompson’s real breakthrough came in the 2013-14 season. After having lost in the play-offs the previous year, boardroom struggles and the sudden loss of funding that came with the departure of former owner Andrew Black, Swindon parted company with a large proportion of the experienced players that had almost led the club to promotion. The then 19-year-old Thompson was forced to step into the large gap left by the departures of popular and influential figures such as Simon Ferry and Alan McCormack.
Alongside incoming figures such as Massimo Luongo and Alex Pritchard – both brought in from Tottenham Hotspur – and Yaser Kasim who arrived on a free from Brighton, Thompson made 33 league appearances in a Swindon side that was predicted to struggle in League One, but which ended up finishing the season in a comfortable eighth place. His form during 2013-14 saw Thompson attract interest from teams higher up the footballing ladder, and on 1st September 2014, Thompson signed for Premier League team Norwich City for a fee in the region of £600,000, potentially rising to over £1 million. This was a huge show of faith in the potential of youngster, even though he was immediately sent straight back on loan to Swindon for the remainder of the season.
The following season was even more successful for Louis Thompson and for Swindon, as the club massively overachieved by finishing fourth and qualifying for the play-offs. Thompson played a major part in the success of the team, making a total of 35 league appearances and scoring two goals. He spent the last few weeks of the season recovering from an injury and therefore missed Swindon’s epic 7-6 play-off victory over Sheffield United, but had recovered enough to make a substitute appearance for the club in Swindon’s dismal 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Preston North End in the final.
This season, Norwich did not give Thompson a squad number, raising the possibility of another loan spell with the Robins. Whilst initially this seemed unlikely – Norwich reportedly wanted to get Thompson Championship level experience – in mid-September Thompson made his return to the club. Since his return; and a subsequent extension of the initial loan until the end of the season, Thompson has made 21 appearances in League One, and has helped drag Swindon away from the imminent threat of relegation.
Being such a consistently effective and talented performer for Swindon over the past three years suggests that Thompson will thrive at a higher level of football. It remains to be seen whether Norwich will give Thompson a chance next season.
Norwich are currently two points above the relegation zone in the Premier League, and the two clubs below them, Newcastle and Sunderland, have a game in hand over them. They are far from safe from relegation this season, and the way the remaining games play out will play a significant role in whether or not Thompson will get his chance.
Should the Canaries go down, Thompson’s chances will increase dramatically. Norwich’s finances are not in such a state that they will have to sell players to keep the club afloat, but it seems likely that some of the current squad might look to try and remain playing in the Premier League. The chance for Thompson to play his way into contention over pre-season in this situation is far greater than if Norwich manage to survive in the top flight.
If Norwich stay up however, the club’s ability to attract better players is dramatically increased, and the likelihood that they will turn to an untested youngster are much lower. In this situation, another loan move is likely to be in the cards for Thompson. As Swindon are almost certainly not going to be in the Championship next season (barring a miraculous string of results), it seems unlikely that he will return for a third loan spell. Instead, expect to see Thompson playing for a team in the mid-to-upper reaches of the Championship, so that Norwich can really see how far his talent can take him.
At this point, Louis Thompson needs to make the step up to a higher division as soon as possible to avoid stagnating. He is clearly a talented midfielder but in order to continue his development he needs to challenge himself at a higher level. Whether or not that is in the Championship or the Premier League remains to be seen, and depends heavily on the fortunes of his parent club.
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