Thompson eager to make up for lost time with England

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The Independent Online

England may just have found the answer to their lack of a left-sided midfield player. And oddly enough, given that the country was supposed to have been clean out of the species since the retirement of John Barnes and Chris Waddle, he is a naturally left-sided midfield player.

England may just have found the answer to their lack of a left-sided midfield player. And oddly enough, given that the country was supposed to have been clean out of the species since the retirement of John Barnes and Chris Waddle, he is a naturally left-sided midfield player.

At 30, Alan Thompson - once of Bolton and Aston Villa, now one of Martin O'Neill's European success stories for Celtic - was beginning to think that his prospects of being called upon by his country had passed.

"Yeah," he said before flying out to Gothenburg for tonight's friendly with Sweden. "I think I did feel my chance had gone. I didn't expect a call at all, so when it did come on Saturday it was a pleasant surprise. I thought for the last game, the Portugal game, I had a slight chance. But when that one didn't happen I thought that was it."

Any involvement in tonight's match would round off an outstanding week for him, given that he was in the Celtic team which progressed to the Uefa Cup quarter-finals last Thursday by holding Barcelona to a goalless draw in the Nou Camp.

Thompson's composure on the ball has long marked him out as an outstanding operator in midfield. And his fearsome shooting has been employed to telling effect - this is not a player whose contribution is always limited to assists.

However, it has taken an occasion on which, arguably, 10 of Sven Goran Eriksson's first-choice players are absent for Thompson to get a look-in.

He has learned to live with the seemingly endless complaint about the dearth of possibilities on the left of the England midfield, although he has found it frustrating at times.

"It is when you're not getting picked and you'd like to be, but you just get on with it. I didn't want to make a song and dance about things. I just carried on playing football and enjoying it, and thankfully now I've been given a chance.

"I'm naturally left-sided. I don't think there's been too many in recent years that have been."

Thompson's move to Scotland has not had the slightest effect upon his North-eastern accent - but many believe the same cannot be said for his international prospects.

"It is difficult with the Scottish league," he said. "Everyone knows that it's not the standard of the Premiership and other leagues in Europe, where you are playing big games week in, week out. But I think with Celtic in the last few years we've done reasonably well in Europe, which is a big plus point and stands me personally in quite good stead.

"I'd had a bad 12 months at Aston Villa. Then Martin O'Neill gave me the opportunity to play for a big football club under a good manager, so I wanted to do that." It was an opportunity Thompson made the most of, and he is determined to do all he can to make similar headway at international level.

"You have to be positive," he said. "This is a chance for Sven to have a look at some new faces, and me being one of them I'm just delighted to be given the opportunity."

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