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Wesley Thomas: Cheltenham gave me chance I needed

For Cheltenham Town boss Mark Yates the return to full fitness of top scorer Wesley Thomas could not come too soon.

Sure, there's been plenty of hype about the 'rookie' goal scoring exploits of Javier Hernandez at Manchester United and Tottenham's Rafael van der Vaart, but outside the Premier League, no-one could touch Thomas' record in the opening weeks of the League Two season.

In the opening eight weeks of his Robins' career, Thomas hit a stunning seven goals in just nine appearances to become the talk of the lower divisions. What was even more remarkable about Thomas' early season success was that before this term, he had managed only four starts in the Football League some two years previously.

The striker insists he always was capable - he just needed someone to give him a chance.

"No, I did not surprise myself at all, I've always believed that given the chance I would show I could play at this level and Mark Yates has given me that chance," Thomas told last week.

Thomas was back in the Cheltenham squad on the weekend and admits the timing of his thigh injury was frustrating. "It was very frustrating - especially to be out for five weeks, but I'm back training now and I can't wait to get back out there again.

"In the first couple games back I might be a bit rusty, but I'm sure that if I get time on the pitch I'll get back to the form I was in."

Thomas admits he's driven this season by proving some people at former club Dagenham & Redbridge wrong. The striker had two years with Daggers, but managed just those four starts - and found himself shipped off on-loan to both Grays Athletic and Rushden & Diamonds during his time on their books.

"I wasn't given a proper chance at Dagenham, other players were preferred over me," says a frustrated Thomas.

"I only got my chance when players were injured, but when they were fit again I was back out ..."

Thomas, 23, enjoyed a big reputation in the non-leagues as a younger player. He learned his football at Waltham Forest and Thurrock before a move to Fisher Athletic saw his goal scoring form explode.

"I knew if I kept proving myself in non-league, a football league club would eventually take a chance on me," he recalls.

Thomas is just the latest from outside the Football League to prove he can cut it in the pro's. The success of higher profile players like Manchester United defender Chris Smalling and Blackpool's DJ Campbell is proof of the talent out there for clubs willing to dig deeper enough, says Thomas.

"I don't follow their careers but they've shown that players from non-league can go on to play at a high level," he says.

"Personally, I would love to be eventually playing in the Premiership."

Thomas is only on a one-year deal at Cheltenham and admits he'd like to hear from the club about their plans for him.

"Well, I think it's a bit early to be discussing a new deal but I wouldn't mind sitting down and discussing one here," he said. "It's a good club.

"It would be interesting to see if clubs come in for me if I carry on scoring, but I'm just focused on doing well for Cheltenham for now.

"I think we have established ourselves as a top seven team and I'll be surprised if we ain't there come the end of the season."

And Thomas will be aiming to make that happen with more goals for the club that finally gave him a genuine chance to succeed in the pro's.

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