No doubting Thomas' ambition

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Jerome Thomas, the Charlton Athletic winger, openly admits he has hopes of one day playing for England, but for now the young winger is fully focused on helping the club qualify for Europe.

Jerome Thomas, the Charlton Athletic winger, openly admits he has hopes of one day playing for England, but for now the young winger is fully focused on helping the club qualify for Europe.

Thomas's form has been one of the highlights of the season for the Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, who has been pleased by a string of impressive displays from the 22-year-old.

Thomas, who has England caps at youth level, was snapped up by Charlton for £100,000 from Arsenal during the 2004 January transfer window after finding his progress limited at Highbury.

It did not prove a straight-forward transition, though. After making his first-team debut for Charlton last May as a second-half substitute against Leicester at The Valley, Thomas was injured and had to work hard to force his way back into Curbishley's plans.

However, since his recall for the League Cup game against Crystal Palace at the end of October, the midfielder has produced consistent performances to maintain his place in the team and recently scored with a swerving 25-yard shot in the 2-0 defeat of Tottenham. He has also signed a new three-year contract with the south-east London club.

Thomas's form down the left have led to suggestions that he could do a similar job for the national team. However, the winger insists his current focus remains on helping Charlton to secure a place in the Uefa Cup next season.

"Playing for England is obviously an ambition, but I think it's a bit soon to be talking about that stuff," Thomas said. "This is my first full season in the Premiership, so at the moment I'm just concentrating on trying to keep playing well until the end of the season."

Thomas added: "Maybe from the start of next season, if things keep going well, the England thing might be a bit more of an issue - and if we make it into Europe, playing on a bigger stage will help my chances."

Charlton, though, will need to improve on their recent disappointing form to make sure a promising campaign does not once again tail off. It took a last-minute equaliser from Chris Perry at home to Manchester City on Saturday to secure for Charlton what was only their seventh point out of the last 21. Two weeks ago, they lost 4-1 at home to relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion.

Curbishley's side now stand eighth in the Premiership, but sixth-placed Bolton are just two points ahead of them in what could possibly be the last Uefa Cup place, and still have to come to The Valley on 16 April.

Thomas insisted: "A place in Europe is still up for grabs - anything can happen."

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