Syd Thomas: Footballer for Wales and Fulham

 

There wasn't much of Syd Thomas, the Welsh international winger who helped Fulham rise to the top flight of English football in 1948-49, but on his day he was a captivating entertainer. Standing 5ft 6in and slight of build, he looked as if he might be eaten alive by some of the brawny full-backs plying their trade in the immediate post-war era, but often his sleight of foot and sudden bursts of acceleration, allied to a fierce determination which belied his diminutive stature, would leave them toiling impotently in his wake.

Sadly for Thomas, his Craven Cottage prospects were blighted by the substantial presence of his rival for the Fulham No 7 shirt, the far more prolific goalscorer Arthur Stevens, and then, shortly after a promising fresh start with Bristol City, his playing days were terminated by tuberculosis.

Thomas, a former baker's boy in the small Welsh market town of Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire, built a local reputation as an outstanding teenage footballer and played for Wrexham reserves in 1937-38, but was not offered a contract. However, his breakthrough was not long delayed. In August 1938 he was invited to take part in a trial game by Fulham of the Second Division and so impressed the Cottagers' watching manager, Jack Peart, that he was signed from the Welsh League club Treharris at half-time, thus completing the first 45 minutes as an amateur and the second period as a professional.

A thrilling future beckoned, only for the Second World War to intervene.At either end of the conflict he madea handful of appearances for Fulham in unofficial emergency competition and he played frequently duringhis RAF service as a driver at an airport construction site in Africa's Gold Coast, but his senior debut was delayed for eight years.

It finally arrived in a home draw with Tottenham Hotspur in November 1946, but soon he drifted to the fringe of the team, occasionally making fleeting returns as an inside-forward, a role in which his precise passing stood out. Thomas's most consistent first-team run came in 1947-48, when he played 35 times, including an FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Blackpool, and that season, too, he made his full international entrance, against England at Ninian Park, Cardiff. The visitors, boasting arguably the finest forward line in their history – Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Tommy Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – cantered to a 3-0 win, but Thomas was retained for the next three games, two defeats by Scotland and a victory over Northern Ireland, before losing his place to Tottenham's Ernie Jones.

In 1948-49, which Fulham finished as Second Division champions, he took up his favoured right-wing position in the autumn when Stevens was switched to centre-forward, only to lose it again when the dashing Londoner moved back to the flank following the arrival of Arthur Rowley, who was on his way to becoming the top scorer in English football history.

Still languishing in Stevens' shadow, Thomas was selected only three times in the First Division, and in June 1950 he was sold to Bristol City of the Third Division South for £9,000. At Ashton Gate he made a positive early impact, gelling instantly with the skilful German inside-right Alous "Alec" Eisentrager, a former prisoner of war who remained in England after his release to become a Robins favourite. Soon, though, Thomas fell victim to TB and never played professionally again, his eventual enforced retirement giving rise to a dispute over his fee between Fulham and City.

Thomas, who returned to his home-town to work in the family bakery business, was recently reported to be the oldest surviving Fulham footballer, but this has not been confirmed.

Ivan Ponting

David Sidney "Syd" Thomas, footballer: born Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire (now Powys) 12 November 1919; played for Fulham 1938-50, Bristol City 1950; capped four times by Wales 1947-48; married (one son); died 19 January 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'