Nathan and Louis Thompson: Brothers in arms…

Nathan and his younger brother Louis are two of Swindon Town’s brightest young prospects. With the younger Thompson emerging as a first team regular this season, Ron Smith takes a brief look back at their careers at the County Ground…

With 81 appearances under his belt Nathan Thompson eventually emerged from the shadows of Paul Caddis to pretty much retain the right full back / wing back position for the past two seasons. Thompson the elder made his debut as a substitute in the 2-0 JPT victory over Torquay United on 5th October 2010 and had to bide his time – and wait for Paul Caddis to be ostracised – before impressing Paolo Di Canio and us with his frenetic attacking runs and equally impressive backtracking and well-timed lunges to regain possession – he was awarded the 2012/13 Swindon Town Player of the Season.

The 23 year old Nathan has more recently had to contend in the brightest young prospect stakes with the rising stock of his younger brother Louis, who has made 33 of his total 38 appearances this season. After the 19 year old Louis made his debut in the FA Cup fourth round defeat at Leicester in January 2012 he too needed to wait before regular first team football. Four cameo appearances in 2012/13 provided impressive glimpses of what was to follow. The first being a substitute in the 0-2 home defeat to Macclesfield in which he scored an unlucky own goal, yet was roundly praised for his efforts by Di Canio for his chasing of the ball and ‘desire to tackle’. Only a few days later there was surprise with Louis was named in the starting XI in the goalless draw with Sheffield United.

With the brothers proclaiming “this where I want to be” and signing two-year contract extensions last summer, in the case of Nathan to warn off potential suitors in the Championship, 2013/14 was destined to be a key season in their fledging careers.

As the season has developed it has been a year of transition for Nathan Thompson. He’s struggled to find consistency and his position has frequently been targeted by opponents as an area in which to focus their counter attacks. He’s needed to adapt as the backline has morphed from a line of four to a three or five and Nathan has contended with playing as a right-back, a wing-back or in a back three. These factors seem to have affected his game and as a result we’ve not been treated to the excitement of the daring last-ditch tackles of last season and mazy attacking runs into the opponent’s box. Waiting in the wings has been another youngster in Jack Barthram, but generally Nathan has retained his starting position and recently secured the captain’s armband. Despite heaping responsibility on his shoulders he’s coped well, providing the true test of his potential and how he can mature as a player.

As Nathan’s ability may have found his level, the emergence of his younger sibling as an integral part of Mark Cooper’s plans is as much about the necessities of cost-cutting providing the youngster with an earlier than expected role in the first team. Clearly that trust and hard work for Louis has paid off, beating his own season target of ten to 15 games and scoring twice  so far in successive home games. The midfielder has learned quickly, key to this has been the vast improvement in his discipline of position and general reading of the game – perhaps expected given the playing experience. Add to this a solid judgement of when to attack and carry the ball forwards has provided a key central outlet of quick attacks from midfield in recent games; including a nice toe-punt when you need one…

Despite an indifferent but still successful season for the eldest brother, in my eyes Louis clearly has the greater potential to play at a higher level and for longer. He has been thrust into a promotion chasing team and held his own, displacing Tottenham loanees and experienced professionals. He’s younger than Nathan by four years and has picked up a positional discipline already that his brother is still struggling to control against his desire to attack.

Both are key players for Mark Cooper and providing they remain in 2014/15 they will be part of a nucleus of a young side that we hope will grow from their essential experiences. It’s been a pleasure watching both develop before us as there is nothing better than real home-grown talent.

What are your views on the Thompson brothers and their short careers at Swindon? Which one has the greatest potential to succeed? Please comment below…

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