Thomas’ Danish masterclass gives Arnold a nudge

Aussie keeper Lawrence Thomas at new club SönderjyskE in the Danish Superliga Source: Svend Anker Iversen

In a picturesque Danish market town renowned more for its brewers and butchers than its footballers, former Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas is winning admirers in his bid to make the cut when Graham Arnold names his next Socceroos squad.

With the likes of Mat Ryan, Mitch Langerak, Andrew Redmayne and Danny Vukovic all seemingly ahead of the uncapped gloveman, the odds might look steep.

But consider this: the 2018 Joe Marston medal winner has started all 13 of Danish Superliga upstart SønderjyskE's games this season, winning wide acclaim as the team from Haderslev - a historical 12th century hub nestled in southern Jutland - has belied its bargain basement budget to compete with big boys.

Last year’s Danish Cup winners currently sit fourth - six points off leaders Midtjylland - ahead of next month’s resumption from the winter break.

Coach Glen Riddersholm attributes much of their success to Thomas, who whilst conceding 17 goals along with three clean sheets, has made a litany of important saves to win vital points in games Riddersholm says they would otherwise have lost.

He’s become a local celebrity in a town of just 22,000 souls, and feels he’s in the right place at the right time to enhance his status and push the boundaries of his potential after nine years and two grand finals with the Navy Blue.

“I could have signed a new contract with Victory but I didn’t want to look back in the future and wonder how far I might have gone in my career (had I stayed put),” explained Thomas.

“I really didn’t want to leave those questions unanswered.

“This is a great club in a great town and I think there’s more to come.

“It’s about testing myself at the highest level, and seeing how far I can go.”

As a byproduct of where he is, but most importantly his performances, Thomas will certainly be in the conversation when Arnold ponders the makeup of his squad for March’s planned resumption of Australia’s Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign.

He’s making no outlandish statements of instant elevation but says his displays since joining the side which finished second in 2016 “can only help”.

In affirmation of his impact, Thomas has appeared with clockwork regularity in Superliga teams of the week and player of the month tallies at his club.

“Coming here is obviously a step up and will hopefully get me noticed, I certainly hope so,” he added.

“You look at Mitch Langerak and how well he’s been going (breaking the J.League’s clean sheets record with Nagoya Grampus) ... it makes you want to lift your own game to another level also.

“Of course I’d love to be a part of the national team set up.

“The main thing for me in coming here was being able to play - I didn’t want to sign for a club and sit on the bench.

“I spoke to the club and the goalkeeper coach and they thought it would be a good stepping stone. It was time for a new challenge.”

Thomas trialled at Coventry City and signed for Sheffield United as a youngster but struggled to settle after his father’s death and returned home to join Victory.

“I’m mentally better equipped now and have the maturity and experience to take on these challenges (again),” he said.

“I’ve experienced almost everything you can in the game now in terms of good coaches, bad coaches, getting dropped, making mistakes and coming back from that.”

Thomas has another season remaining on his contract but is not looking too far beyond the next training session, let alone eyeing a move to a bigger club.

“I’m just staying in the moment and taking the most from each day,” he said.

“I’ll keep working hard and doing the right things and if, and when, the time comes and there’s a choice to move I’ll look at it then.

“Looking at where we are in the table it’s exciting times at this club.”