Port Vale: Thompson aims to follow in Rooney's footsteps
TEENAGER Steve Thompson has already experienced the bitter taste of rejection during his short career, but is now plotting to become the Wayne Rooney of Burslem.
Having spent the first three years of his career at Middlesbrough, the 19-year-old striker was cast aside by the Premier League outfit earlier this year as he neared the end of his three-year scholarship deal.
Thompson was left devastated, but with no time to waste, he had to pick himself up and fight to save his career while still turning out for Middlesbrough's reserves.
And his resilience paid off when Vale scout Steve Joesbury was among the crowd to witness Middlesbrough's second-string clash against Manchester United in February.
Panasonic Store Camera•20x Optical Zoom LEICA DC Lens from 24mm...View details
What Digital camera Gold award winning DMCTZ40
SAVE £20 off our store price ONLY with this voucher
Plus you can also claim a SD card or spare battery
Choice of colours, free parking behind store
Terms: Print this voucher and hand in at Panasonic Store Hanley to save £20 off our store price ONLY £269.90
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The striker was then invited to Vale for a trial towards the end of last season, and impressed enough to earn a two-year contract with the club.
Thompson explained: "People were always asking me if I thought I would get a deal at Middlesbrough and I kept saying 'I don't know, I'm not sure'.
"Then, at the start of last season, I wasn't getting many reserve-team games under my belt. As the season went on I got more games, I thought I was doing pretty well and all the lads were telling me I'd definitely be getting a deal.
"In the end, I didn't, and I was really devastated because I didn't know what I was going to do.
"I had to keep working hard and a Vale scout came to watch me play against Man United in a reserve match. We lost the game, but I did really well, hit the bar, had a few chances and I was playing against Gerard Piqué which was a really good opportunity to test myself against somebody of his quality. Of course, he could have absolutely killed me in the game, but luckily I did all right.
"I didn't have any back-up plan, so it was football or nothing.
"I haven't got a clue what I'd be doing now if I hadn't got a contract with another club.
"I've got a coaching badge and that's about it. I had to do 20 hours of coaching and a final exam to get that badge which is a level two and the first part of the Uefa B standard."
But Thompson has endured a frustrating start to his Vale Park career having suffered two hamstring strains since the beginning of pre-season.
His latest injury, which he picked up in Vale's final summer friendly against Walsall, will see him ruled out for the next month, as he waits to make his competitive first-team debut.
Thompson was raised in the town of Peterlee which lies six miles outside Sunderland.
And despite being a loyal Sunderland fan, he is not too proud to look for inspiration away from his hometown club.
He added: "I also enjoy watching Manchester United and especially Wayne Rooney because I like to base my game on his style.
"I think I have a similar style to Rooney, in that he gets the ball at his feet, likes to run at people and cause problems which I hope I can do. I like running into channels, I like having the ball played into my feet or playing off another striker. I also like getting out to the wings and getting at full-backs, so I play wherever really, and I'll play wherever the gaffer wants me to play.
"When I was younger I also really liked Alan Shearer, even though he is a Maggie (Newcastle United player)."
Despite failing to break into the Teessiders' first-team, Thompson feels he benefited greatly from his time there under the guidance of reserve-team coach Steve Agnew and academy director Dave Parnaby.
Thompson said: "I definitely benefited from being at a Premier League club like Middlesbrough.
"If you're released from a lower league club the odds are you're only going to go down to an even lower level.
"Middlesbrough have a lot of good young lads coming through and they have a very good academy, and that gave me a good chance of finding somewhere else to play. Yes, I've dropped down a few levels, but that doesn't mean I can't go back up.
"There were a lot of younger players like Adam Johnson (21-year-old midfielder), who is a good friend of mine and I don't know why he isn't getting his chance up there. He went on loan to Watford last season and really boosted their promotion challenge, and when he left they seemed to go downhill.
"I also trained with a lot of the first-team players like Stuart Downing, Yakubu and Mark Viduka, who are absolutely awesome finishers.
"There was Luke Young who has just gone to Villa and he was fantastic in training.
"Playing against defenders like him and Woody (Jonathan Woodgate) is only going to help you improve because you've only got to have the slightest bad touch and they were on top of you."
But Thompson is now relishing the task of making his mark in the Football League's basement division, although a return to his roots, one day, does appeal.
"First of all I need to start playing here and I've got two years on my contract," said.
"My first ambition is to win promotion with Vale this year and to see what we can do next season.
"Everybody is here to improve and to move up a level if they can.
"I'd love to go back home one day. When I'm down here I still miss being at home. I enjoy it down here, but if I could play for Sunderland, who wouldn't love to play for their hometown club. But we'll have to see what happens in the future."