Having signed a new one-year deal on Monday, a smiling Joe Thompson has told www.rochdaleafc.co.uk that he’s looking forward to getting back at it after a summer break.
This time last year, Thompson was taking small steps in his recovery, having only just been given the cancer free nod for a second time. Having missed pre-season and spending much of his time working on his own, he can’t wait to join back up with the rest of the players ahead of the start of a new season.
He said: “I remember Brian Barry-Murphy came in to see me while I was in isolation, and he was there when they told me that I could go home the next day, and he jokingly said to me ‘do you fancy getting on the plane to Tenerife?’ I was like ‘Murph, I can’t even stand up, never mind get on a plane’!
“This pre-season, I’ll do as much as I can with the lads. I’ll be honest with the Gaffer and the physio, but I’m going to make sure that I’m fit and ready, so that when I’m called upon like this season, I can give me all.
“I’m also looking forward to working hard. I did a lot of it on my own last year with Kevin Gibbins and the physio, so I’ll be looking forward to bouncing off the lads and competing in training and getting in amongst everyone, as it was quite a lonely road last year.”
The players are due back for pre-season next week, but Thompson has been keeping his fitness ticking over during the summer break, after enjoying a well-deserved rest.
“After the last day of the season and how it all panned out, it was overwhelming. And then what came after it for a couple of weeks was a bit too hectic, so in the end it was nice to get away. I went away as far as possible, took stock and had a good time with family and friends. My body, especially after the 12 months that I’d had needed a rest.
“But then the World Cup comes around and you start thinking about football again. If you love the game, you’ve got the passion, you want to achieve things and you want to play, then that’s when you start to think and your feet get going again, so you start going on a few runs and getting back into it.”
Thompson, whose contract was due to expire this summer, opted to sign a new one-year deal, putting pen to paper on Monday. After a gruelling year personally, he admits that there was part of him that wondered whether or not he should bow out of the game on a high following his exploits on the final day of the 2017/18 campaign, but quickly came to the conclusion that he’s still got plenty that he wants to achieve in the game.
“I’d be lying if I said otherwise. I sat down with my family and friends and the manager. I had been through a lot, and especially after how emotional the season had been just for Rochdale and being a part of it, it had taken its toll. I needed a mental re-charge to get my batteries going again, but when it comes down to it, all I’ve ever done is football since I left school. I went away and took stock and realised that I’m not done. I’ve had opportunities and will have other opportunities in media or public speaking, but it’s every boy’s dream to play football, so why give it up?
“I also feel like I’ve maybe not reached my potential yet, because I’ve always had the reigns on or been playing catch up, so I’m excited for the future and I can’t wait to get back out there.
“It comes from within. I’m not crazy and I’m not insane, but it’s a burning desire to help, achieve and do well for your club, your friends and family and for all the supporters. The fans have supported me more than they can ever imagine, and I’m truly grateful to have got that goal on the last day and to have had that moment, so I was able to share with everyone.”
With pre-season set to begin shortly, Thompson says everyone is looking for progression this year, and says that the bond between the players will be stronger than ever.
“Last season was a reality check. We all knew that we had a squad capable of competing and doing well in League One, but we dodged a bullet. We stayed in League One and it’s like anything, you’ve got to look then to progress, so we’re looking to kick on.
“Although we were struggling for so long during last season, there was a magical moment at the end, and that’s what I had tried to stress to the lads during the week leading into the Charlton game.
“All you can take from life is memories and it’s nice to be able to share memories and relay stories and experiences to one another. I think you’ve seen that with the lads this summer– they’ve been away together and we’ve seen each other on various days and occasions, so it has been really nice to share in each other’s company.
“It can be quite intense in the changing room, so when you can let your hair down and enjoy some down time, it’s brilliant. I think it will only make the changing rooms stronger moving forward.”
Watch the full interview on iFollow.