Tuesday 2nd April 2019
“YOU never know what’s round the corner.”
Dom Thomas has just said that, or a variation of it, for at least the third time during our conversation in the foyer of the C&G Systems Stadium.
But this time he’s saying it in response to a question concerning a possibility which, however remote it seems, Dumbarton fans may just be clinging to.
That question being: “Not entertaining any extension to the season for the time being, will Arbroath on Saturday, May 4 be the last time we see you in a Dumbarton jersey?”
It’s not a yes, it’s not a no. He’s just keeping his options open because, as he says, you never know what is round the corner.
And even aged only 23, the on-loan Kilmarnock forward should know that. At pro-youth level he went from being a regular to being sidelined for being too small.
At his second senior club, he went from being player of the year to being sent out on loan, to being released at his own request.
Now, with Sons, he is on loan again, from his third permanent club. But if having to go on loan again was the negative extreme, what has followed has been the positive.
There have been times this season when defending against him in League One has been something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, so impressive have his performances been.
The decision-makers in the SPFL awards process clearly agree, with Dom being the division’s player of the month for February.
With Jordan Jones leaving Rugby Park for Rangers in the close season, that frees up a forward position at Kilmarnock when Dom – who still has a year on his contract with the Ayrshire side – goes back there.
So is he going to get his chance? Will he go out on loan again next season? Is there even the slimmest possibility that could be with Dumbarton?
The response: “I’ve always said that you never know what’s round the corner.”
Speaking to www.dumbartonfootballclub.com, Dom said: “You just take each game as it comes, but I’ve really enjoyed my time here and who knows what the future holds?
“We’ll wait and see what the pre-season brings. I want to play football at the highest level I can play at, and with Jordan away to Rangers it frees up a position.
“If the manager wants me to fill it I’ll be happy.”
It is almost a full month since Dom won his player of the month accolade, with gaffer Jim Duffy also recognised as League One’s manager of the month for February.
But although some weeks have passed, in victory and defeat – although we are talking before Dumbarton’s 2-1 defeat to Stenhousemuir on Saturday – the delight of winning the award hasn’t subsided.
Dom continued: “It’s great to win anything, but even better with the manager winning his award as well.
“He really deserved it after a good month for the club. We got a good few wins and I chipped in with a few goals.
“It’s my first time as player of the month as well, and to win it at the same time as the manager makes it more special.
“I definitely feel I’m a better player now than when I came to Dumbarton. I’ve been playing every week, working with good players, and the manager has been great with me.
“I’m growing in confidence and it just makes you a better player when that happens and you’re getting a game every week.”
There is one other element of Dom’s time at Dumbarton which it would be interesting to see if any player can match. All of his first three games were under a different manager.
Stevie Aitken oversaw his debut at Stranraer before parting company. After Ian Durrant managed in his second game at Arbroath, it has been Duffy ever since.
Keeper Robbie Mutch could have said the same, having played at Stranraer and Arbroath as well, but did not stay for Duffy’s debut at home to East Fife.
It may have been a turbulent start, but Dom knew from his old mate and current Kilmarnock colleague – and former Sons loanee – Stuart Findlay that he was doing the right thing.
“That’s just what football is like – you don’t know what’s round the corner,” said Dom, using that phrase again. “I’ve enjoyed my time under every manager.
“Stevie Aitken brought me here and I’m thankful for that; unfortunately he lost his job after my first game.
“Ian Durrant took charge in the interim and I enjoyed working with him as well – he’s a legend in the game.
“But the gaffer has come in and I’ve enjoyed that. Training has been really good in the last few months and we’ve picked up results.
“Stuart came here a few years ago and keeps a good interest in how they’re getting on. He spoke very highly of Dumbarton.
“We’ve been friends for a long time and he was happy to hear I was coming here.
“I went to Queen of the South last season and thought I did really well there. I’d been playing at Kilmarnock at the start of the season but things just change.
“You’ve just got to take what comes. I wasn’t wanting to sit about on the bench and Dumbarton were interested. I wanted to play football and I feel it’s really worked out.”
At 5ft 6in, you could not accuse Dom of being especially tall. And for some in Scottish football, that’s a hindrance.
It was at Celtic, where he learned his trade before leaving in 2010 after being removed from the team for not being tall enough.
Motherwell was his next stop, but brick walls were run into there as well, although this time they weren’t height-related.
He continued: “I loved it at Celtic, where I was playing every week before my game time just stopped. I asked why that was.
“The response was that it was to do with physicality – they wanted to play the bigger boys. You hear that too much in Scottish football, I think.
“You get knock-backs and you’ve just got to come back from them. I wasn’t just going to stop there – I went on to Motherwell where I really started my senior career.
“I picked up one of the fans’ player of the year awards there. The first team had a poor season but the award made it a good year for me.
“The fans are everything at clubs like Motherwell and Dumbarton and for them to name me player of the year was special.
“Then I was on loan at Queen of the South the first time around, and when I went back to Motherwell I thought I would be playing. The team wasn’t doing well and I thought I would get a chance.
“I spoke to the manager, who wanted me to go back out on loan. I felt I was due a crack in the first team.
“Kilmarnock were interested and when I spoke to them it was a no-brainer to go there.”
Next season might well be the one where he makes progress with Killie but, well, you never know what’s round the corner.
But there is potentially one way that Dom could be seen back in Dumbarton beyond the end of this campaign.
He’s already passing on his skills to younger footballers. It had been planned to run a soccer school in West Dunbartonshire this week, but it proved not to be possible.
However, the hope is that the soccer school he runs can come to the area during the summer holiday.
He added: “I started it maybe a year and a bit ago. It’s something I’ve always been interested in.
“I’ve seen coaching in Scotland, some of which I don’t agree with. I just think it’s wrong that you need to be six foot to play.
“The national team’s results show that something is going wrong, and if I can put my thoughts across and help players along then that would be a positive.
“I want to get as many places around Scotland as possible. The people here at Dumbarton have been good to me so it would be good to give something back.”