Highs, lows and who knows? Lee Thompson on his Boston United career... and those winners against Luton Town, Darlington and Torquay United

Little Tommo reflects on his time at York Street...
Thomspon celebrates his winner against Torquay.Thomspon celebrates his winner against Torquay.
Thomspon celebrates his winner against Torquay.

"When the whistle blew and I knew I'd played my final game for the club it broke my heart," Lee Thompson said.

The day in question was May 7, 2005. The Boston United fan favourite had completed his third and final Football League season with the club.

Already knowing his future lay elsewhere, the popular Pilgrims utility man - with family watching from the York Street stands - came off the bench one final time as his side ended the campaign with a 1-1 draw against Rochdale.

In action against ShrewsburyIn action against Shrewsbury
In action against Shrewsbury

"I'm not an emotional person, but when I got of the pitch I cried my eyes out," he added.

"I loved the club, loved York Street. It was like my second home."

The little lad for Sheffield was one of those fortunate footballers to find himself in the right place at the right time, at a club where things clicked and a memorable two-way relationship was allowed to grow.

Like all good stories, Thompson's Boston United career had an exciting beginning and a twist at the end. And he still hopes there may be another one to come one day.

Few players have made such an instant impact at York Street as Thompson did upon his arrival in 2002.

Brought in on loan from Sheffield United by namesake Neil, the nippy winger quickly earned the nickname 'Little Tommo' and found his way into the fans' hearts even more rapidly.

His debut was a 2-0 away defeat at Macclesfield in early October, the Pilgrims' first season in the Football League.

But it was his first appearance at York Street seven days later when he first made a name for himself, scoring a second-half winner in the 2-1 victory over highflying Torquay United.

"All I ever wanted to do was play in the Football League. I made my debut at Macclesfield but the big game for me was against Torqay after that," Thompson remembered.

"I scored my first league goal and that was the stuff of dreams for me as a kid. I just ran straight into the crowd."

The result lifted United off the bottom of the Nationwide Division Three table and denied Torquay the chance to go top.

Thompson's thumping effort came from nowhere, arrowing into the net from almost on the corner flag, leaving celebrity Gulls fan Helen Chamberlain questioning whether the finish was a fluke on the TV the following week.

"I got a bit of criticism on Soccer AM, saying I never meant it and it was a cross," Thompson added.

"Let's just say that, as a winger at the time, it was my job to put it into a dangerous area. I did that and nobody else got a touch, so that's my goal. I'm having it."

If a winning goal on the home debut was the stuff of dreams then Tommo was in fantasy land at Darlington the following weekend.

The Quakers' final season at Feethams saw Thompson make his own piece of history, scoring a hat-trick as Boston left with a 3-2 victory.

His first finish came from just outside the penalty area, while two more confident finishes put the Pilgrims 3-0 up by the 80th minute.

Two late replies and six minutes of time added on mate it a nervy finish, but the afternoon - and the match ball - belonged to Thompson.

"That was one of the strangest days of my life," he remembered.

"I was still a young kid, playing with senior pros, and I was very nervous, despite the goal against Torquay.

"The first goal that day was down to Neil Redfearn, he'd been at me to hit the ball from range and keep having a go.

"He kept telling me that the earlier I hit it the less time the keeper has to get himself set or expect anything."

By 2002 Redfearn, United's player-assistant manager, was a 36-year-old veteran of the game who had carved out an impressive career in the Premier League.

His words made an impact on the young Thompson. His actions even more so.

"Redders was one I watched on Match of the Day as a kid," Thompson said.

"He was playing in the Premier League. He was a Barnsley legend and he played a big part in pushing me on and helping me score goals.

"He was such a professional. We travelled in to training together and after training he would always stay behind and practice shooting for about 45 minutes. Every day.

"It was totally different for me. At Sheffield we had a set regime - train, meal and gym.

"But Redders got me to stay back and just practice shooting from all angles. He was always at me, 'hit if from there, hit it from there, hit it from there'. But you saw some of the goals he scored.

"That changed the way I thought massively and made me a better finisher."

The hot scoring streak continued as Thompson was on the scoresheet once more the following week in a 4-2 victory against Yeovil Town in the LDV Vans competition.

A 3-2 success against Rochdale followed. Boston had won four straight games and suddenly there was a feeling that the Pilgrims' inaugural season in the Football League wasn't set to be a straight return to the Conference.

The impact of Thompson, who had scored five times in that run, had not gone unnoticed. His loan was extended before his move eventually became permanent.

In total, Tommo went on to make 145 appearances and score 22 goals for United in two spells with the club.

His hat-trick at Darlington and the finish against Torquay remain amongst his favourite goals for the club, along with a rasper into the Town End against Northampton Town and late winners at the expense of Oxford City and Yeovil.

But there is also a special place in his heart for the brace he bagged against Luton Town in the 2004-05 Carling Cup campaign to set up a home tie with Premier League Fulham.

With the scores locked at 2-2, substitute Thompson put Boston 3-2 up with two minutes to go... only for the Hatters' Enoch Showumni to force extra time.

But once again, Thompson popped up to settle a 4-3 victory in the additional 30 minutes, latching onto Simon Rusk's through ball and beating Marlon Beresford at the second attempt.

"We knew we'd get Fulham if we won by then. It was a massive game for us," said Thompson. "At the full time whistle I swore live on the radio, I'll always remember that. It was just the emotion at the time.

"Then I went into the dressing room after scoring the winner and the gaffer told me I'd be playing 90 minutes for the reserves against Lincoln the next day."

By the 2004-05 campaign, with Steve Evans now the manager, Thompson's eye for a late goal and ability to play in a number of positions, from striker to full back, made him an important squad member, but not necessarily a regular starter.

In that season alone Thompson made 51 appearances, but 41 of those off the bench.

"I should have played a lot more," he reflected. "I still get on well with Steve Evans but he knew that I could do a job, I could come on and score.

"He knew he could play me in any position and I'd do a job for him. It was good to know he had confidence in me, but I think I should have played more games."

Thompson did, indeed, play more games. Despite that heartbreak in 2005, he returned - with former Worksop Town teammates Jon Froggatt and Tony Crane - in summer 2007.

United had been relegated from the Football League and financial difficulties seen them shunted down to the Blue Square North after David Newton and Neil Kempster had stepped in to rescue the club from liquidation.

The landscape was, by then, a very different one as new manager Tommy Taylor had just weeks to put a squad together from scratch.

"When I came back and the club was in the Conference North, things weren't right," Thompson told The Standard. "I was coming back from a broken leg and was never 100 per cent fit.

"We didn't really have a pre-season in the usual way and, although I scored a few goals, I wasn't ever right.

"I had a year back and I think if it'd been 18 months I could have done a bit more. But I was never going to turn down the chance to come back."

Thompson - now the assistant at Stocksbridge Park Steels, whose son Declan is hoping to earn a pro contract at Sheffield Wednesday - hasn't given up on a return to Boston.

He applied for the vacant manager's job after Adam Murray left, but missed out to Craig Elliott.

"Craig's done afantastic job. I can't fault what he's doing at all," Thompson continued.

"But in the future? Who knows? I'll always love the club."