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Bristol City unveil Thomas; Welshman quit T&T Women’s job to work as youth development manager

What offer did Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach James Thomas find so tempting that he walked away from the Women Soca Warriors, before the start of their campaign for the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympic Games?

Thomas’ new job was unveiled today as Bristol City Women and Girls youth development manager. Bristol City confirmed, on the club’s website, that Thomas turned down the chance to work with the likes of T&T professionals like Kennya Cordner and Victoria Swift to instead help develop ‘homegrown players’ in the academy of the second division club.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach James Thomas.
(via TTFA Media)

Thomas rejoins current Bristol City Women head coach Lauren Smith, after working as her assistant at Bristol City up until 2017. Thomas also followed Smith to Wales in 2018, where both worked as assistants to head coach Jayne Ludlow on the Women’s National Senior Team.

Bristol City are a second-tier team in England Women’s Championship and occupy seventh place in the 12-team standings at present. Only one team is assured of promotion to the Women’s Super League.

However, Thomas’ job appears to be primarily to develop youth players rather than steer the first team into competitive battle.

“James [Thomas] brings a wealth of experience in developing the next generation of talent in the women’s game,” Smith told the club website. “Having worked closely with him both here at Bristol City and with Wales, I believe he’s going to add great value to the future of our club.”

Thomas, who described the Bristol opportunity as ‘too difficult to turn down again’, told his new employers that he was thrilled at his brief.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach James Thomas rejoins his former boss Lauren Smith (right) at Bristol City.
(via Bristol City FC)

“I am delighted to have been presented with the opportunity of re-joining the club, and to work alongside Lauren once again,” he said, “as we re-establish the club’s reputation of being able to build a sustainable first team squad with a strong core of homegrown players.

“Bristol City WFC has played a huge part in my development as a coach, and to be given the responsibility to create and manage a successful pathway within the club is something I am very proud of.”

Despite having no previous experience as a head coach, Thomas was selected by the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee to lead the technical staff of the Women Warriors in April.

“I am honoured and delighted to be given the opportunity […] as Women’s Senior National Team Head Coach,” Thomas had told TTFA Media at the time. “There is a terrific blend of experience and youth within the pathway and my experiences of working across all age groups from youth to senior at both club and international levels will allow me to develop both the individual and the teams to help us reach our goals as a nation.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team players utilise EPTS devices during a training session.
(via TTFA Media)

“As well as working with the Senior National Team in their quest to qualify for major tournaments, I feel a fundamental part of a head coach’s role is to influence the domestic and international age-group player pathways to support the development of the game in Trinidad and Tobago and give all players and fans a Women’s National Team programme everybody can be proud of.”

In the end, Thomas lasted barely six months in Trinidad and Tobago. Named as interim Women Warriors head coach in Thomas’ absence is his compatriot Charlie Mitchell, whose coaching experience consists of a solitary season as assistant coach/performance analyst at Pafos FC in Cyprus.

Thomas and Mitchell both controversially beat out a host of local applicants for the position, including former Women’s National Senior Team head coach Richard Hood.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, which is run by the normalisation committee at preset, said it is exploring its coaching options for the Women Warriors. The local football body has some extra time to make a decision as Concacaf today announced that the Concacaf W Qualifiers have been postponed from November 2021 to February 2022.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Afiyah Cornwall (left) tries to win space from St Kitts and Nevis defender Kaleah Smith during Concacaf U-20 Championship action on 23 February 2020.
Cornwall scored four times as T&T won 6-0.
(Copyright MexSport/Concacaf)

“The scheduling change has been made by Concacaf due to challenges associated with travel into and within certain countries in our region due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” stated a Concacaf statement. “The Confederation believes this is in the best interests of the tournament, players and officials.

“These matches are the first stage of Concacaf new women’s national teams ecosystem and will be part of a hugely important year of Women’s football in our region. In addition to the Concacaf W Qualifiers, 2022 will also include the Concacaf W Championship, the Concacaf Women’s U-20 and U-17 competitions and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica.”

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