Exclusive Interview: Simon Thomas

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

Our man James Rowe spoke to Simon Thomas. The Canadian goalkeeper who plays for Norwegian club Sarpsborg 08.

(image source:sarpsborg08.no)

JR ''You recently signed for Sarspborg 08 in Norway. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe a club such as Sarpsborg 08?''

ST ''My first few weeks at the club have been fantastic and I am really enjoying my time here. I have been in Norway since 2015 and I know a fair bit about Sarpsborg 08 and I have also played against them over the years. I know that they are a relatively new club in the grand scheme of things and they always strive to do things right and they have always tried to push their level of professionalism and player development. I had a really positive outlook on the club and we have a very good squad and I know quite a few of the players having played with them before. I really feel at home we have a great bunch of guys and the atmosphere around the squad is really positive and then mentality is very much one of that we are going to work hard and be on it and in my opinion such an attitude starts with the players and that they demand that in every training session and that matches up with my mentality and the way in which I like to work as well.''

JR ''You played three seasons for FK Bodø/Glimt. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any particular highlights and special memories?''

ST ''Yes, I think I saw a bit of everything at FK Bodø/Glimt. We suffered relegation which was tough but we also made it to the semi-finals of the Norwegian Cup which was a big achievement and then when we won promotion which was really good. I enjoyed my time at the club. I said in my first ever interview when I arrived at the club that FK Bodø/Glimt have a really good group of young, talented players and you can even see now as a club that they are flying and their current squad is still relatively similar to the group that I was there with. So you see that with a little bit of hard work and that when the players are pushing their level what it can do for a club. I watched them play in their Europa League qualifier away at AC Milan and while I was watching the game I did not think that they were the second best team on the pitch and I thought they took the challenge on having earned their reward to play in such a game. They missed some chances late on in the game and had they took those chances it could have been a different story.''

JR ''You have been capped by Canada. How do you look back on representing your country and what are your highlights and memories from playing international football?''

ST ''I have been fortunate to have earned eight caps for my country and that is fantastic and they have definitely been some of the highlights of my football career. I got my first two caps very quickly early on in my career and I think about those caps fairly regularly and I use them as a motivation to push on and I really enjoyed being in such an environment and I believe it is one of the best environments that you can be in where everybody is driving towards a common goal in terms of World Cup or Gold Cup qualifying. There is something about the energy in the group, it is hard to express sometimes but it gives my motivation to be called up again in future for the Canadian national team and push my level as a professional footballer and get back in with the squad.''

JR ''I can imagine in your position as a goalkeeper that you have played behind many good defenders and also playing in different countries too. Could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?''

ST ''Yes. It is tough because I have played alongside some very skillful players and some of the ones that stand out right now are Atiba Hutchinson watching him and the ability to give him the ball anywhere on the pitch and you know that if he is under pressure his ability to control the ball is fantastic especially in attack and

I think in terms of raw talent Alphonso Davies his athletic ability and his ability to go past players which you see now even at Champions League level are second to none.

He is doing it on the world stage and credit to him he has been fantastic. If you look at what Bayern Munich now Alphonso has won five trophies in a year and I guess the that Club World Cup is the last one to round off the year so if they could do that it would be a fantastic achievement even the top players can only dream of that.''

JR ''I can imagine in your position as a goalkeeper that you have come up against many difficult opponents through the years, could you say which opponents have stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?''

ST ''Yes, Playing against Hakim Ziyech internationally against Morocco you can see how well he uses the space and the quality of his passing range is something that you look at and you can understand why even when he was at Ajax that he was destined for bigger things and I believe Chelsea FC expect big things from him. I have been on the bench during World Cup qualifying and Chicharito you could see that the space that he makes for himself is why he has played at the top level and why he has some much ability.''

JR ''Finally Simon, could you say who are the goalkeeping coaches and the coaches and managers that have meant a lot to you and who have played a key role in your development as a professional footballer so far in your career?''

ST ''Yes, There have been a couple of coaches for me that I hold quite dear in the way that they have molded my career. I have had a few different coaches over the years and also at different points in my career development and maturity wise so I think one coach that really changed my game in terms of a professional standard was Mike Salmon who played for Charlton Athletic and also Arsenal reserves goalkeeping coach. The way in which he got me to be more technical and understand the in's and out's of my technique and using it in the game that really made me add a level to my professional game. After that I moved to England and the period after I came back to Canada having been professional for a while. I had a Norwegian coach Darius Rubin at Vancouver Whitecaps and he was the one that instilled a mentality in me of needing to work so much harder to maintain a level in the professional game and he opened my eyes to what needed to be done and always strive to push myself physically to become better and better and when I came over to Norway for the first time I had a goalkeeping coach in Orne Nemourn and he was fantastic in tweaking my game to get the best out of me and to be playing which I think at that point as a young goalkeeper you train and train and it is about taking what you know how to do in training and take that into a competitive game and he really pushed me and my level and getting me to a high standard positional and crossing wise and that is what held me in good stead during my professional career so far. We worked very closely together day in and day out and taking me out og my comfort zone and pushing me towards a higher standard.''

James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.