by Ben Baker
HIS friendship with captain Paul Hayes might have led him to Wycombe Wanderers, but it is Garry Thompson’s relationship with Bradford City’s Nick Allenby that he believes will allow him to thrive at Adams Park.
Life certainly began at 30 for Thompson, with the veteran striker – now aged 34 – enjoying the most fruitful campaigns of his career in the last few seasons.
And the dividing line can be attributed to life before and after Allenby – the Bantams fitness coach who is still at the League One club.
While with Allenby and Bradford, Thompson – who arrived at the age of 31 – helped the club reach the Capital One Cup final and win promotion from League Two. And he left to go on and become Notts County’s top-scorer last season, with 12 goals, as the Magpies fell out of League One.
Now Thompson finds himself playing for last year’s League Two play-off final losers Wycombe, where he once again joins forces with Hayes after the pair helped fire Scunthorpe to the Championship six years ago.
But, while he admits the Chairboys captain was influential in seeing him put pen to paper, Thompson is adamant it is the teachings of Allenby that will help the Kendal-born front man flourish down south.
“I’ve known Paul from our days at Scunthorpe,” said Thompson. “He is a good friend of mine, a good lad and a good player to have on the pitch and around a football club.
“I spoke to him a week or so after the final disappointment and he had some great things to say about the club, even though he was still obviously down about what had happened.
“So I came down, as Paul’s wife Abbie and my wife Chelsea are good friends, and got a good feel for things, because that is important at my age when you are moving south for the first time.
“It was a big decision and Paul played a massive part in that, as did the gaffer because he rang me the day after the final, and when someone wants you that much it really adds to your level of confidence.
“I’m convinced that this club is right at this stage of my career, and now I’m here I am feeling as fit and healthy as ever and confident I can contribute – even though I’m 35 in November.
“I have met some very good fitness coaches at all my clubs.
“But the one that had the biggest impact on me was Nick Allenby at Bradford, and that has stayed with me until now.
“He urged me to be leaner and I went down that road and have benefitted from it ever since.
“And since I turned 30, my games-to-season ratio has been massive. I have played about 300 matches in the last five seasons.
“Nick told me to look after myself, eat the right things, taught me the proper stretching and fitness work, and it is something I have taken on board and it has helped me become the player I am now.”
After last season’s relegation with Notts County, you could excuse Thompson for only looking up the League Two table after the Chairboys came so close to a dream day out at Wembley.
But the ex-Morecambe trainee is not about to get carried away, despite Wycombe being one of the early front-runners again this year.
“We are not setting our targets that high this season,” he added. “When I joined Wycombe they said that this was the second year of a five-year plan and, while plenty of people thought we overachieved last season, from our point of view the primary success of the year was staying up.
“We did that and this season we are first and foremost looking to finish mid table. We are looking at 61 points and then we will take it from there.
“We over achieved last year and expectation from everyone else might be to push on this year.
“But we know where we want to be and we will see what happens.”