Club: Stockport County
Position: Centre Forward
Date of birth: 2 May 1984
Place of birth: Belfast
Peter Thompson represented County Down at the Northern Ireland Milk Cup in 2001. He signed for Linfield during the same season. Thompson made his debut for Northern Ireland against Portugal in 2005, and moved into full-time football with Stockport County in 2008.
With Linfield in 2004–05, Thompson managed to score 27 goals in 43 starts, inspiring the Blues to an outstanding clean Sweep of four domestic trophies.
He was the Irish league’s top goalscorer in 2005–06, scoring 48 goals in 58 games.
The 2006–07 season was equally fruitful with 31 goals in 51 games and in his final season with the Irish Champions, he hit a very impressive 44 goals in 48 starts.
On 17 July 2008, Linfield gave Thompson permission to negotiate terms with Stockport County after agreeing a fee for the striker believed to be in the region of £100,000 plus add-ons.
Thompson left Linfield as a goalscoring Legend with 152 goals in 235 games, including 33 sub appearances, averaging 1 goal every 1.45 games.
He signed for Stockport County in July 2008, and was handed the number nine shirt. Thompson made his debut against Liverpool on 26 July. He did not manage to score, however, he did impress and had one shot cleared off the line and he hit the post on another occasion, as Stockport drew 1–1. He did however manage to get on the scoresheet in the 86th minute to put Stockport 2–1 up against Manchester City, before City equalised in stoppage time. Despite the promising start, Thompson suffered a worrying setback when he suffered a spontaneous collapsed lung during training in January 2009, and was sidelined for two months. Thompson has now returned to the Stockport side, and hopes to play in the last few games of the 2008/2009 season.
Peter has made seven international appearances for Northern Ireland , scoring once in a friendly with Georgia .
In which team and what year did you play?
I played for the Premier team in 2001.
What club side were you playing for when you were selected?
St Andrews Boys Club. I joined Linfield soon after.
How did you do at the trials?
To be honest, I never did very well at the trials. In one of the games I think I scored a few goals, but they were very simple goals. Looking back, that probably convinced the manager that I may get a few goals for him.
How did the team fare in the tournament?
We didn’t do as well as we maybe could have, but the draw we got was difficult. We played Leeds United in the first game and I scored to put us 1-0 up – the only goal I got all week! They came back and beat us 2-1, although I feel we deserved more than that. We then faced a Chilean team called Palestino and they were excellent and beat us comfortably. So we went out of the Milk cup proper. However, we then beat Wales , lost to the Republic of Ireland on penalties and ended the week beating Shamrock Rovers. So we were certainly not disgraced and we all gave our best in each game – so you couldn’t be too disappointed.
What memories do you have of the Milk Cup and the north coast?
I just remember the excitement travelling up to the team hotel. I couldn’t wait for the week to start. It really was an amazing event. I can remember many things about that week including the parade through Coleraine and most details of every game. That was 8 years ago and I can still look back on it like it was yesterday. Even though I have played hundreds of games since, it shows how much it means for a young player. It really is a privilege to have been part of such a special tournament.
Do you remember who you roomed with?
Yeah, I shared with Kris Lindsay who later became a team-mate of mine at Linfield, and Daryll Phillips, who was a team-mate at St Andrews and who went to Linfield at the same time as me.
Describe your footballing journey after the Milk Cup to the present day…
After the Milk Cup I joined Linfield which had always been an ambition of mine since that was the team I went to watch most Saturdays. I joined to play in the Under-18 team and played a few months in that side before moving up to play for the Reserves. I played for a few years in the Reserves and made the odd 1st team appearance. My big break came at the start of the 2004-05 season when Davy Larmour was injured for a CIS cup game at home to Crusaders. I got a hat-trick in that game and I more or less stayed in the team for the best part of 4 trophy-laden seasons. With the exposure of playing for the biggest and most successful team in the country, there was quite a bit of speculation about me moving across the water to England . Nothing ever came of it until July 2008, when I signed for Stockport County . I also got called up to the Northern Ireland side during my time at Linfield.
Greatest achievement in football to date?
Two stand out. Being part of the Linfield team that won the clean-sweep of all domestic trophies in 2005-06. Things like that don’t happen very often, so to be part of history is nice. And also making my debut for Northern Ireland against Portugal – again a special moment.
Who’s the best player you have played with?
I have played with David Healy a few times and obviously that stands out. But I was able to have a very successful partnership with Glenn Ferguson when I was at Linfield, and that man is a legend. I enjoyed that partnership so much and learnt so much from ‘Spike’ that I would have to say he is the best player I have played with.
In my first game for Northern Ireland I came on and Ricardo Carvalho (of Chelsea ) was marking me. It was a surreal feeling. You don’t get much tougher than that on your debut!
You played with Linfield and remarkably managed to score 152 goals in 234 appearances – including 48 goals in the 2005-2006 Irish League season. In 2008, you moved to full-time football with Stockport County . How hard was it to leave Linfield, and how difficult has the transition been?
I played for Linfield during a time the club dominated Irish league football. We won trophy after trophy and it was amazing to be part of a side like that. Leaving was probably more difficult than I thought it would be. Although I knew I wanted the chance to play at as high a level as possible, when it came to saying good-bye to team-mates I had for 8 years, it was very hard. The best thing about leaving was that I was able to leave on good terms with everybody at the club and that meant a lot to me. The step up to full-time football in England has been a big one. Day in, day out you’re training hard. Unfortunately I’ve had a season with quite a few niggly injuries, but I’m really looking forward to a new season starting.
You punctured a lung in January 2009, and that kept you out of the game. How frustrating a time was that for you at club and international level?
It was a very frustrating time but also a time to reflect. Previously I had never been out too long with any injury, so I had been fortunate. When you are in hospital and you look around and see people who are much more ill than you, it puts things in perspective. Once I got out of hospital I was told I had to rest for 6 weeks with no training at all. That was the hardest bit, just sitting around when I would normally be at training. But again it helped me realise how privileged I am to play football for my livelihood.
Now that you have returned to full fitness, what are your objectives for the 2009-2010 season?
I wouldn’t say I’m fully fit. I believe I have quite a bit of sharpness to regain and this is something I will be working on over the summer break. But just to be back on the pitch again this season has been a massive boost to me. Next season, I hope for a season with few injuries, to play regularly and push on with my career.
Internationally, you scored your first goal in a friendly against Georgia in March 2008. Describe how that felt?
Well being honest I didn’t know much about it or how it went in! But it goes down as my goal and it can’t be taken away from me. To play for your country is special, but to score takes it to a new level. Let’s hope I get a few more in the future!
What advice would you give to those representing County Down at the Milk Cup?
Enjoy the whole experience, give your best in every game because you never know who could be watching. And remember how lucky you are to play in such a prestigious tournament – because no matter if you go on to play Saturday morning football with your mates, or Irish league football or professionally, that week will stay with you, so give it your all.
How much of an impact did the competition have on you?
It had a massive positive impact on me to do the best I could in my football career. Even the way we trained beforehand to get us into as good as shape as possible had an impact on me. All that makes you want to succeed.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself we don’t already know?
I was a postman before I went full-time at Linfield in 2006.
Describe your Milk Cup experience in one word…
Former County Down Milk Cup PRO Barry Greene spoke to Peter Thompson in April 2009