When Garry Thompson came on for Wanderers in the 75th minute away to Barnet on Monday night, it wasn’t significant merely as a tactic to use his pace to exploit a tiring opposition as they chased the game – it was also Thompson’s 700th appearance as a professional footballer.
The 36-year-old forward made his debut before the turn of the millennium, on September 11, 1999, coming on for Morecambe against Yeovil Town as a 58th minute substitute. It’s a moment the Chairboys veteran recalls as “nerve-racking.”
Pondering the enormity of his achievement in joining the likes of Phil Neal, Martin Peters, Alan Ball and Teddy Sheringham in the extremely exclusive 700 club, which has less than 60 other members throughout the entire history of the game, Thompson said: “First and foremost it’s a proud moment. When I started out all those years ago, I never thought I’d get to this landmark.”
‘Thommo’, as he is inevitably known among his peers, has scored 128 goals in his career and made a habit of being a man for the big occasion. He scored at Wembley for Morecambe in a playoff final, for Bradford against Arsenal in a League Cup quarter-final, and recently netted for Wycombe at White Hart Lane this season in the heart breaking 4-3 defeat in the fourth round of the FA Cup against Tottenham Hotspur.
In spite of this impressive CV, Thompson is humble about his achievements, “I’ve been blessed to have had some really good experiences,” he said, adding, “I’ve had more highs than lows.”
While mulling over the career highs, the midfielder, originally from Kendal in Cumbria, selected the 2006/2007 season as his finest, when he helped his first club Morecambe, whom he clearly still has much affection for, get promoted into the Football League for the first time in their history.
“To get promoted into the football league with that club was a massive highlight. I remember the Wembley game like it was yesterday,” he said.
Lots has changed over the last two decades in football, particularly regarding the impact of science and technology. Thompson was clearly amused to think about how things compare today to when he started out.
He added: “I remember you’d show up on a Saturday, do a couple of laps of the pitch, have a little stretch and smack balls around,” before welcoming the modern approach.
“Here we get GPS data. That’s something that has helped. Sports science is probably the biggest part of the game in terms of preparing yourself.”
The Wycombe star isn’t ready to retire yet either, “I think I’ll have to get told before I retire,” he joked.
In terms of their hopes for the rest of the season, Thompson commented: “There’s nine points to play for and if we get nine points then I think that will get us in the playoffs.”