Hibs star Kevin Thomson today revealed how he mistook Scotland boss Gordon Strachan for a man trying to sell him a car. The midfielder spotted a missed call on his mobile, but, as it was a number he didn’t recognise, assumed it was a car dealer he’d been introduced to by best pal Scott Brown. All thoughts of a new motor, however, disappeared when he discovered the mystery caller was, in fact, Strachan, anxious to break the news he was wanted for Scotland’s World Cup double header against Belgium and Macedonia.
Given it was the first time in more than three years he’d been summoned for international duty, it was little wonder a call from Strachan was the last thing on the Easter Road player’s mind. But within minutes he was on the road, dropping into Hibs’ East Mains training centre to pick up his boots and shin guards before heading for Scotland’s base in a luxury hotel on the banks of the Clyde.
Today, the stunned 28-year-old explained: “I’d come out the shower yesterday morning and noticed I had a missed call. I didn’t check the voicemail as I didn’t recognise the number, but then Scott texted me to ask if I’d had a phone call. I’m trying to get a new car through a dealer Scott uses, so I assumed the call had been from him and texted back to tell Scott I’d phone him soon, only to receive another message saying ‘no mate, it’s not about the car’.
“I’d also missed a call from Pat Fenlon and when I phoned him he told me that Gordon Strachan was looking for me. It was only then it dawned on me that the number I didn’t recognise was his. It was the last thing I expected, but I phoned him straight away and he said if I could make the training session it would be great. It was a wee fairytale for me.
“I collected my boots and shin guards and headed along the M8. I was really happy as I drove through, but also a bit nervous and anxious.”
The call from Strachan completed a crazy weekend for Thomson, who played for Hibs’ East of Scotland side as they romped to a 9-0 win against Hawick Royal Albert at East Mains, the former Rangers and Middlesbrough player having pestered head of academy coaching James McDonaugh into giving him a game as he was suspended following his red card against Dundee United a fortnight earlier.
He said: “I don’t think there’s been too many who have gone from playing in the East of Scotland to the Scotland squad in just 48 hours. It was a new experience for me against Hawick, as was winning 9-0. That had never happened to me before either. I’d been badgering James all week to play. He said he’d never seen anyone so hell-bent on playing and pestering him so much, but I think that shows what I am about. I want to play football – I want to be out there with the boots on.
“I played on Saturday for no other reason than I wanted to play football. I could easily have sat in the house and gone to the first team game to support the boys and no-one would have batted an eye-lid, but I wanted to play. There was a bit of banter from some of the Hawick boys, but I really enjoyed the game.”
Having found himself surrounded by a bunch of kids, Thomson was in more familiar company at the Scotland camp, sitting with former Hibs team-mates Brown and Steven Whittaker, and expressing his desire to impress Strachan sufficiently to hopefully earn himself a place in his next squad.
Aware that it was only injuries to West Brom pair James Morrison and Graham Dorrans and Hull City’s George Boyd, which had opened the door on this occasion – Strachan also called in Derby County’s Craig Bryson, Chris Burke of Birmingham City and Rangers’ Lee Wallace – the Hibs midfielder believes he has much to prove. He said: “I have missed a lot of football through injury and, possibly, a lot of caps. I’ve also said I hope the years I missed at the start of my career I can get back at the end. I am only 28 and I feel as if I am at my peak. A Scotland recall has been a long time coming, but I have always had aspirations to be part of the squad again and I am going to enjoy it.
I was hoping I might squeeze into the original squad because I feel I have started the season reasonably well. Although we have struggled for results, I feel on a personal note my performances have been good. I feel fit and strong. I thought with another couple of games under my belt, I might have a chance, but then I thought the suspension had ruined it entirely.
“It’s been a wee bit surreal sitting with the likes of Scotty and Whitty again, but I’m delighted to be back not only with them, but other guys like Allan McGregor, Alan Hutton and Steven Naismith. I know the majority of the boys in the squad but I haven’t played with a lot of the current squad.
“I look at the number of caps Scott and Steven [Whittaker] have and think that but for injury I might have been lucky enough to have played as many times for Scotland. I don’t think anyone would begrudge me more caps. I haven’t lost my ability. You lose match sharpness and so on when you are sitting in the treatment room, but not your ability. I’ve always said that if I could get a run and a bit of consistency then people would see the best of me. I do feel I have started the season relatively well. Gordon Strachan knows me, he signed me for Middlesbrough. He paid a lot of money for me and he has seen me when I am fit and strong.
“It’s nice to know he’s been keeping an eye on me, although I don’t think he was among the 30 or 40 who watched me against Hawick! When people were asking him about James McFadden and Kris Boyd last season, he also mentioned my name which was good to hear.
“I’m delighted to know he appreciates me and hopefully in the next seven or eight days I can show him what I am all about and hopefully be part of the next squad. I’m not taking anything for granted, though. I have to work hard while I’m with Scotland and then keep playing well for Hibs. Gordon has been brave enough to put me in his squad so hopefully I can keep producing and stay in the squad.”