Make a list of the Honduran players currently plying their trade in Europe and the first names that spring to mind will be Wilson Palacios, David Suazo, Maynor Figueroa and Julio de Leon. Yet, there is one other Catracho export who is making a name for himself in one of the most competitive leagues in the world and is seemingly poised to join that select band.
The man in question is Hendry Thomas, a reliable defensive midfielder who has impressed the English Premier League’s demanding fans since joining Wigan Athletic in June last year. And with the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ looming ever closer, the 25-year-old international will soon have the chance to introduce himself to an even larger audience.
Given Thomas’ footballing lineage, it is no surprise to see him forging a successful career in the game. A cousin of the free-scoring Suazo, he can also count two other professional footballers among his relatives: Maynor Suazo and Allan Lalin.
Precociously talented as a youngster, Thomas made his debut in the Honduran top flight for Club Deportivo Olimpia at the age of only 16. After turning 23 he was given a trial by French first division outfit Toulouse, only for his lack of experience to prevent him being offered a contract.
Thomas would learn from the setback, however, as he recently explained. “I felt awful when that happened to me. I didn’t want to go back to Honduras and I wanted to give up football. My family rallied round though, and they convinced me to keep going.”
Every week we come up against great players but as soon as the whistle blows you have to be professional and get on with the job of competing against them.
Yet that was not the end of Thomas’s travails. A serious knee ligament injury threatened to cut short his career and it was only when he had overcome that obstacle that his luck began to change. At the end of last season Wigan strengthened their ties with Honduran football by spending £1.75m to bring Thomas to the DW Stadium, where he would join compatriots Palacios and Figueroa.
The move was the fulfilment of one of the midfielder’s biggest dreams. “It’s amazing,” he says. “This is a dream come true for me. Every week we come up against great players but as soon as the whistle blows you have to be professional and get on with the job of competing against them.”
Since his arrival in Lancashire, Thomas has successfully bridged the gulf in class between the English and Honduran leagues, gaining the confidence of Latics coach Roberto Martinez and earning a place in the starting XI. “The game is much faster here and I struggled with that at first,” he said recently. “I’ve got used to the way they play here though and I feel great now.”
His Spanish coach is delighted to have him around. “He’s a kid who has come on really well,” commented Martinez enthusiastically. “I can honestly see him succeeding at a big team in Europe. He has a lot of qualities.”
A move to one of the continent’s giants could come around sooner rather than later if Thomas shines with La Bicolor in South Africa. The Wigan man hopes to do just that but is keen not to get too far ahead of himself.
“We need to take each game as it comes,” he said. “We don’t want to go and try and win the second match before we’ve even played the first. We’re not outsiders but we can’t go there just thinking about Spain. Chile and Switzerland are strong teams too and we need to show them respect.”
It is that kind of maturity that has impressed Martinez so much during Thomas’s short but productive career with the northerners so far. Having seen the Honduran close up in one of the most testing leagues in the world, he knows perhaps better than anyone that the 25-year-old could be poised for even greater things following his South African adventure.