Terrell Thomas has had to wait a very long time for his Charlton Athletic debut. But it turned out to be one of the most epic comebacks in the club’s recent history.
The Addicks twice fought back from trailing by two goals in Saturday’s 4-4 draw with Ipswich Town. A sharing of the spoils looked unfathomable after Sam Morsy put the Tractor Boys 4-2 up in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time.
But Thomas, 27, cut the deficit and then George Dobson caused The Valley to erupt when his header looped over Ipswich keeper Christian Walton in the ninth minute added on by referee Josh Smith.
“It was a crazy game and you could feel the emotion on the pitch,” Thomas, pictured inset below, told the South London Press. “It was one of the most memorable games in my career. To get a goal and start the second comeback, on my debut, I couldn’t ask for more – except for us to get one more and win it.
“The closest I’ve had to that kind of performance was when I was on loan at Woking in the National League, we played a team up north and we needed to win to keep a chance of staying up – we were 2-1 down and won 3-2 in the dying moments.
“But Saturday was extra special – in front of the Covered End. That was something of a little dream. I grew up in Charlton’s academy and it was always in my head to play for them at The Valley.”
Rainham-born Thomas was on Arsenal’s books from the age of eight to U12 level. After being released by the Gunners he trialled with a number of London clubs, including Millwall and West Ham, before opting for the Addicks.
His senior game time came in two loans at Woking before he was released in the summer of 2017, penning a one-year contract with Wigan Athletic.
“At the time the club seemed to be going through a few managers every year,” said Thomas. “When I was a first-year pro I think it was Bob Peeters. When they keep chopping and changing the managers you can get a little lost if you are out on loan.
“Karl Robinson came in and I was hardly around the place. I knew I probably wasn’t going to get anything [a new contract] because we had Ezri Konsa, another young centre-back.
“But at the time I wasn’t too downhearted on the career side because I was playing games at Woking and I had interest from other clubs.
“In terms of not getting to play for Charlton it was a bit upsetting, but a football career takes you different places – it’s not always upwards or a clear road. I had to go away, find my feet and then come back.”
Thomas’ most recent stop off before returning to SE7 in September was Reading.
He earned a short-term deal in March with the Royals for the final eight matches of the Championship campaign.
Thomas impressed in U23 action before Reading boss Paul Ince, then in interim charge, pushed to sign him.
“Being released by them was probably the toughest period for me mentally,” he said. “I’d finished the season playing the last couple of games and I’d been told by members of staff: ‘You’ve done well, we should see you next season’.
“Mentally I thought I was still going to be at Reading. But that is what happens in football, there are staff changes at a club and people come in with their own ideas. They said they wanted to look at better options.
“It was a big kick in the teeth for me. I had to get myself back up and going again – then wait for the right opportunity.”
Thomas went on trial for a week at Morecambe, who indicated they were ready to make him an offer.
“My heart wasn’t there and I didn’t want to sign just to get a club,” he said. “There was the chance to come in and train for a good couple of weeks at Charlton and when that did happen I was raring to go. I got mentally in the right place, showed what I can do and got a contract.”
Thomas signed until next summer. He makes no secret the aim is to extend his terms.
“Definitely – that’s in my head right now,” said the Saint Lucian international. “Play as many games as I can, further extend my contract and also to be in that top six – this group of players has got it in them to do that.
“I want to elongate my stay. My family are in Barking and Dagenham and my place is just outside Bluewater, it’s just over the Dartford tunnel to see my parents.”
One thing that got lost in the craziness of Saturday’s late drama was a vital tackle by Thomas on Sam Morsy as the Ipswich skipper steamed into the box when the score was 4-3.
“I didn’t realise me making that tackle and then us going up the other end to score were so close together,” said Thomas, who has also played for 90 matches for AFC Wimbledon. “I thought they were quite a bit apart. But, watching it back, it could’ve been 5-3, if he gets past me then it is definitely game done. The great thing was that I was there, could see him running through and thought I had to cover my other centre-back.
“When their third goal went in a few of the lads were a bit down but I always felt there was time. I’ve watched football for so long and so many times you see teams coming back – I never really thought it was over. With the chances we created I didn’t feel we were on the back foot or down badly.
“I felt there were goals there for us, either one or two. I wanted to get in the box and then you hope the ball falls for you – it did. That started the energy coming back to us.
“I didn’t get the chance to celebrate. I wanted to get the ball back as quickly as possible to the centre-circle and let’s go again. I didn’t know how much time was left but their [Ipswich’s] celebrations [after scoring the last two goals] had gone on for a long time.
“They are one of the best teams in the league and we went toe to toe with them. Everyone was pumped in the dressing room. The gaffer said that we needed to use it as a catalyst for the rest of the season.”
MAIN PICTURE: PAUL EDWARDS
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