Wayne Thomas was born in Bloxwich on August 28th, 1978 and played football from an early age before being taken on at Walsall FC . A promising playing career was curtailed by injury but the hard working midfielder has enjoyed a successful business career since setting up his own coaching academy network and spells as commercial manager at Walsall FC. Wayne takes up his story..
"I was brought up in Shelfield and joined Walsall FC aged 15, the youngest you could be, on August 28th, 1993. As a 14 year old, the legendary scout Ron Jukes took me to Wolves. They released me and I was a part time window cleaner. He described me as fattish who needed to lose a stone, but he was a fat git himself, bless him! Maybe I should have put his windows through, instead of cleaning them!"
"Dean Keates and I were playing together at various stages of our development from 8's to to full pro debuts and we played for the likes of Forest Star, Creswell etc. My first pre season at Walsall, Marshy and Wacker looked at me and said, 'pressure off, we've got a big 'un here!' But Skip defended me and picked me in his five a side team with Kenny Hibbitt."
"Then came a successful period as Chris Nicholl took a shine to me at youth level and by the time I reached my second year was a regular at reserve level. My first year as a pro I was along side the likes of Darren Bradley, Charlie Ntamark, Martin O'Connor and Mark Blake and by the November time I had made 11 or 12 starts before I came out for a rest."
"I was selected for a Wales U18 Milk Cup game against Ireland. Eric Mc Manus encouraged me to keep going however that summer Chris Nicholl left and I was wounded a little bit. Jan Sorenson arrived who took an instant dislike to me in that 1997-8 season. I was expecting to start games. Dean Keates had not previously played in central midfield in a game and I was left scratching my head.. I went on loan to Kidderminster Harriers to play games for Graham Allner. I remember scoring a 25 yarder at Bournemouth in one cup game that gave us a 3-2 win. "
"There was a time in Marbella where I wasn't very professional. We all went out the night before when we shouldn't have. On the official night out the day later, we forgot we had a photo taken the night before it that was in the bar. Jan was not best pleased!" "Next season I was pulled to one side by Jeff Bonser who led me to one of the boxes and said he really rated me and was going to give me another year's contract. It may have only been a year but I was still buzzing. Ray Graydon came in but I was benched 28 times and only given one game against Bristol City at home, There was a five game loan spell at Mansfield before a move to Shrewsbury." " There was also interest from Rochdale. Whilst at Shrewsbury I had two knee operations. Then I was run over whilst on a night out and had further knee operations. and I had to rebuild my life. I made around 80 first team appearances for my clubs. I loved it. I kept out of the way for 10 years and raised 4 boys. Ryley was at Aston Villa at the age of 11." "I always had a passion for coaching. I set up Ace Academy 4 years ago this September, I waited 6 months to do so as I was still commercial manager at Walsall FC. I didn't want to miss out on the opportunities to be commercial manager at Bescot but wanted to do some thing different. We have coached 150 / 200 kids participating at U14 level. It is inclusive as it builds their confidence and 15 players went on to sign for professional academies and 9 or 10 went to train with them. Ace have currently supplied 5 boys who have been signed by Walsall FC."
"When football finished in March it was terrible timing. We were diversifying with 1-2-1 training sessions and all we asked was for people to donate what they could and people supported us. Ace hope to have a professional club next year but we must take the positives from the situation. and with the diversification will be stronger for it. In future there will be coaching foundation players of younger ages. I have done my UEFA B licence and pro clubs will see how coaching pathway goes."
A fund raiser was set up to help Ace Academy......
"I also enjoy running events like 'Always A Saddler' and plan on doing 2 or 3 events a year around the borough of Walsall. I have done events for both Walsall FC and ISSA at the Railway Club. I had lined up what would have been a terrific night in getting back Jeff Peron back in May which had to be cancelled due to the lockdown. Hopefully that can be rearranged when things get back to normal. Regarding the involvement with ISSA I thank them for the support they have given to Ace Academy and Little Aces but it works both ways. I have enjoyed engaging with fans at both Bescot Stadium and the Railway Club. I hold Stefan Gamble in high regard and we are very good friends which is important." "Regarding current events at Bescot, I was on loan at Mansfield when Darrell Clarke was playing for them, all those years ago. He gave Alfie Bates his chance last season and he has taken his opportunity well and been successful in the games he's played in. I was gutted it didn't work out for Dean Keates so early in his management career but I think people like Keates, Viveash, O'Connor, Kelly and Walker all have places in the game as they have a wealth of experience and personality."
" I now have a partnership with West Bromwich Albion in developing the future."