Club historian David Bull remembers former Southampton player Eddie Thomas, who has sadly passed away, aged 87.
For Swindon-born Eddie Thomas, “football just did not exist” in his pre-teens: his school’s male teachers had gone off to war and the War Department had taken over Swindon’s County Ground.
The War over, it all changed. Eddie was soon “diving about and ended up in goal, playing for the school and Swindon Boys.” He dived about well enough to be signed, as an amateur, by Third Division South Swindon, while serving an engineering apprenticeship at the newly-nationalised British Rail.
He was playing for the Railways when a combination of factors brought him to Second Division Southampton. His father, a race-going man, had got to know Herbert Blagrave, the racehorse owner and Southampton FC director, while Ted Nash, a former Swindon goalkeeper, also recommended Eddie to the Saints’ new manager, Sid Cann.
He had yet to sign amateur forms when he first kept goal for the Reserves in December 1949. Ten months later, with Hugh Kelly away on international duty, Eddie was catapulted into first-team action, still a month short of his 18th birthday.
England Youth caps and then a part-time professional contract, worth £6 a week, soon followed. Wanting to complete his apprenticeship, however, Eddie was unable to train with his teammates during the week and felt that this held him back.
Indeed, when Cann left, Eddie was a complete unknown to the new manager, George Roughton, for whom he would never get to play. His League career was over after only eight appearances and, following National Service, he worked, back in Swindon, as a car-body designer for Austin Rover.
After a brief spell of Western League football for Salisbury City, Eddie was re-instated as an amateur to play locally in Swindon, following which he took on various secretarial positions for the Swindon & District Football League. He gave up designing cars in the 1970s, to have two stints as a self-employed contract draughtsman, either side of running three Swindon pubs, in turn.
His final go at draughtsmanship included overseas assignments – in Mumbai and then Detroit. After which, he retired in 2003 to Warwick.
EDWIN HENRY CHARLES THOMAS
9th November 1932 – 23rd September 2020