Scouting Report: Adam Thompson – The Jewel in the Crown?

2016/2017 stats (for Southend United in all competitions): 4,016 minutes, 45 starts, 0 sub appearances; 1 goal, 1 assist.

The second signing of yesterday, Adam Thompson was a surprise to both Shakers and Shrimpers fans. For the former contingent, it’s because he hasn’t played under Lee Clark previously or for Huddersfield Town and for the latter, it’s because he turned down a two-year contract extension at a side that only narrowly missed out on the play-offs to join another whose safety was only assured on the final day despite losing at Roots Hall on a three-year deal.

Only several days prior to his move, Thompson earned a call-up to the senior Northern Ireland squad for the first time in six years, both serving as recognition of his burgeoning talent and vastly increased gametime. Initially struggling to find form in 2016/2017, he looked much more assured once Anton Ferdinand was his regular partner in the heart of the Southend backline. The latter’s experience helped bring on his game signficantly and the pairing helped Phil Brown’s charges to be one of the meaner defences in the division, shipping a little over a goal per game.

A slow start to his playing career with only sporadic appearances out on loan from Watford, it was kicked into life once he joined the Essex outfit in 2013, which was initially on a temporary basis but he impressed Brown enough to make the move permanent in the next transfer window. It was the past season when things really started coming together and his name was regularly mentioned as being one of the stand-out performers in an upwardly mobile team.

Despite only scoring once last season (an expert finish into the far corner in the home game against Chesterfield), he is definitely an aerial presence in the penalty area from set pieces, a phenomenon that was sorely lacking in Bury’s recent campaign. His ability to disrupt the marking system the opposition employs could be just as important to his new side as any more ‘concrete’ contribution he makes in the goals for column. Reasonably quick on the ground and strong in the tackle, Thompson might opt to ‘mix it up’ more than Nathan Cameron would normally choose to do but in a first-choice back four that increasingly has a safety-first feel to it, there is nothing wrong with hitting it long or out of play if the pressure is concerted and it’s the most sensible option.

Like Cameron, he is coming into his peak years as a footballer, which is backed up by the length of the deal (putting my misgivings aside about the finances for a moment). Clark’s two signings yesterday have directly addressed problem areas both in terms of adding competition for places and more apparent solidity. His above-average speed also adds credence to my previous speculation that the defensive line will be more flexible in 2017/2018, which is a good tactical aid to call upon in a pinch. If the pair play together as seems likely to be the case, expect Cameron to be on the left, covering any gaps the box-to-box midfielders leave behind when possession is unexpectedly lost and Thompson on the right, sticking to the task at hand by keeping the defensive shape and not straying too far from his post.

Whilst not always the best barometer, the reaction of the vast majority of Southend’s fans online, both to his departure and Will Atkinson’s move to Mansfield, could be hints that some work needs to be done behind the scenes at Roots Hall to curtail the number of departures of players considered to be regulars in the first XI. Of course, there is plenty of time for Brown and his coaching staff to turn things around…

My next blogpost will be looking at the (dwindling) number of potential signings Bury could still make this summer.

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