Valiants’ winger Jerome Thomas says he is just trying to help out where he can, both on and off the pitch, after he received the plaudits for his scintillating performance in Port Vale’s 2-1 home win against Fleetwood on Saturday.
The former West Bromwich Albion player was named in the Football League Paper’s Team of the Week, but he insists that it’s not all about him.
He said: “Obviously it’s nice but after the career I’ve had and playing as many games as I have, it’s not really what I focus on.
“I take the praise with as much thought as I take the criticism. It goes hand in hand, it’s more about the team.
“If we win and we move up the table then it’s a good feeling but if I get in the team of the week or get man of the match and we haven’t got the three points I won’t be interested in it.”
His coach Andy Smith has said he is the best winger in League One, but Thomas is just happy to play week in week out and be back in the thick of it.
Thomas said: “I think Andy is looking for a few free drinks at our Christmas do! Andy and Bruno [Ribeiro] are the reason I’m here. They are the reason I signed and they explained to me the freedom I’d have in terms of playing and it was important for me to get back playing after missing so many years.
“I’ve effectively missed four years of playing consistently, which is a lot when you look at a footballer’s career. Then you have people who make assumptions that when you are not playing it’s down to injures, and then you get labelled injury prone.
“They are the issues I’ve had to face but I’m not really one of those people who lets it affect me. I just stay positive and I’m just happy to be back playing.”
Having played in the Premier League and the Championship for most of his career, (Port Vale are his eighth club since leaving Arsenal) Thomas now sees experience as his greatest asset.
The Wembley-born winger didn’t get anywhere near the sort of help he offers his current teammates when he was a youngster at Highbury – except from one household name: Thierry Henry.
“If I’m honest I’ve tried to do it with all of the players, and especially the foreign players. I’ve tried to help them in so many ways. I helped five or six of them get car insurance when they came here, I’ve helped them with cycling shorts and winter wear and boots. I just try and help out where I can.
“I remember when I was young and I was looking at all of these big players and you would wish they would talk to you or help you or give you advice and to be honest there wasn’t much of that at Arsenal. Thierry Henry was the only one I had a speaking relationship with. We weren’t even allowed to go in the same entrance as first-team players.
“I think because of that I try to be hands-on and help them and that’s what I’m here to do at the end of the day I try to lead by example on the pitch and help them as much as I can off it with my experiences.
“All you can do is try and they’ll either take it on board or they won’t but that’s my job to try and give them what I’ve learnt in my career and let them take it on and become better professionals from it.”