NOT many footballers in the National League South can claim to have played with England stars Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher.

And only one from Weymouth can lay claim to that fact. His name is Jared Thompson.

The goalkeeper only arrived at the Bob Lucas Stadium three weeks ago but his Dorset destination is the latest step on an absorbing footballing journey.

Born in Swindon, Thompson was picked up by Chelsea scouts while playing for his hometown youth team.

He was only 12 but his life was about to change dramatically.

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Lucky then, that Thompson comes from a family of goalkeepers and therefore had some idea of what to expect.

His dad Paul donned the gloves with Swindon in the old Division Two and in his son’s words “bounced about” a catalogue of clubs in the south.

Jared’s brother Conor was in the thick of the EFL with the likes of Newport County and Torquay United.

So, when Jared was signed up by Chelsea, which of the three keepers had had greater success?

Weymouth’s current number one believes his career is the best of the lot.

“To be fair, I think my dad would like to say himself,” Thompson told Echosport.

“I don’t think he ever quite made his potential. Likewise with my brother, they both had maybe a little bit of bad luck in their careers.

“They were top, I really looked up to both of them. I’ve gone on to probably have the most success but they were pretty good keepers in their day.”

And how did Thompson’s career between the sticks begin?

“I obviously started quite young and had a good footballing background,” he said.

“I just followed on and was lucky enough to get picked up by Chelsea pretty young. Scouts came, saw something they liked, thankfully it was a successful trial and that was it.

“I was then at Chelsea for about eight or nine years. I’ve had a lot of youth success along the way, pretty good memories and experiences there.”

Thompson’s reference to his success is pretty modest.

Dorset Echo: Jared Thompson warms up before making his debut for Weymouth in the 1-1 draw with WellingJared Thompson warms up before making his debut for Weymouth in the 1-1 draw with Welling (Image: MARK PROBIN)

The 24-year-old is a two-time UEFA Youth League winner and an English Under-18 Youth League champion. Not a bad hat-trick of titles to have on your CV.

Thompson’s glittering domestic career is also supplemented with experience at international level.

He has dual nationality with England and Northern Ireland, representing both in his formative years.

However, Northern Ireland have enlisted his services more readily and most recently, taking Thompson on in the under-21 group.

“I played with England at youth level having been born in England and most of my family is English,” he said.

“But my mum’s dad is Northern Irish and that gave me the opportunity to be able to represent Northern Ireland internationally.

“It is great being able to represent both, it’s an honour.”

And Thompson, despite playing in the sixth tier of English football right now, has not written off his chances of an international future just yet.

“I’ll see how my playing career goes,” he said. “Now that I’m playing games again, hopefully I’ll start jumping up on radars.

“If that is something in my future, that would be fantastic. Any time you’re able to represent a country internationally is a great honour.”

Thompson’s international dealings were no doubt enhanced by the experience he enjoyed with Chelsea.

His era at Stamford Bridge coincided with the seemingly limitless money thrown toward the senior team by Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

But Thompson dismissed the notion that chances for emerging young talent were limited due to the Blues’ transfer policy, and this is where Mount and Gallagher come in.

“It’s a prime example with my age group,” he recalls.

“We had people like Mason Mount, Trevoh Chalobah, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek. All these youth players went on to make appearances in the first team.

“It was a little myth that Chelsea were more of a team that would look to buy in, rather than play their homegrown talent.

“I do think that out of a lot of clubs in the Premier League, Chelsea especially have gone on to play and have a lot of success with their homegrown academy players.

“You know what it’s like with a lot of Premier clubs with the money there is. They look to buy the best talent across the world.

“But in my age group especially, it was quite evident that they did look to try and bring through the youth players.

“I wasn’t one that managed to break through but there were lots of cases where it did happen, so I don’t think it’s discouraging for any young players. There are opportunities there.

“I played with a lot of them and a lot have gone on to great success. Players like Reece James are still at Chelsea, players that I played with.

“But a lot of them have gone on now, players like Tammy Abraham, playing in Italy along with Fikayo Tomori.

“Conor Gallagher is still at Chelsea. So, there are a lot of big names that I’ve played with who have gone on to the top level.”

And does Thompson still keep in touch with his ex-teammates?

“I’ve tried to keep in contact with some,” he confessed.

“Like with anything, you move on and players are with different clubs and have different career paths so you do lose contact. But I try to keep in contact with a lot.”

Every youth player must eventually learn the ways of the senior game, though.

Thompson’s first assignment came at Chippenham in the National League South during the 2017/18 season.

He said: “I had a loan from Chelsea to Chippenham, that was my first experience of first-team adult football.

“Then, when I left Chelsea (in 2019) I went on to Exeter and Brentford where I was part of a full-time first-team environment.”

Thompson’s career then took a European twist.

The goalkeeper was unfazed when, through Brentford’s association with FC Midtjylland, he was offered the chance to play in Denmark for the 2021/22 season.

That included the rarefied air of Champions League and Europa League football, although Thompson was not fortunate enough to play even a single minute in either.

However, just being on the bench for the Wolves allowed him to experience what some believe are the greatest club competitions in the world.

“It was something I was willing to go and try, playing in Europe,” he said.

“I made the move and I have nothing but positive things to say about it, to be honest. It was a really great experience.

“The culture in Denmark is fantastic and it’s a wonderful place to live.

“The football out there as well, the standard is incredible and I was lucky enough to go to Midtjylland with Champions League and Europa League campaigns.

“We went on to win the (Danish) cup that season and then I moved to Vendsyssel in the second division.

“It was a move where I was hoping to get some game time but it didn’t quite work out.

“Still, in terms of an experience and the culture, it was another great club to be at.”

But for the uninitiated, what is Denmark like?

“The temperature did drop around the winter time but it wasn’t too much of a problem,” Thompson insisted.

“The following they have for football out there is fantastic. The media, the fans, they’re all really good.

“The facilities, the stadiums, everything revolving around football is a really elite level. For any young players considering a move to that country to play, I would be all for it.

“I do think it’s a top, top level of football and professionalism out there.

“When we knocked Celtic out of the Champions League, we then lost to PSV so we went to the Europa League. We were unlucky not to progress through the group stages of the Europa League.

“I thought we deserved to go through, but we didn’t. But to be involved in the campaigns was great.”

The Danish Cup represented Thompson’s first senior trophy but there was a slight tinge of regret about the Superliga season.

“It was a good end to a good season,” Thompson said. “We were disappointed not to go on to win the league but we had a bad run of form towards the back end of the season which cost us to Copenhagen.

“But to win the cup was something special and something I’ll remember forever. I’ll have that piece of silverware to cherish.”

As Thompson mentioned, he only spent a year at Midtjylland before dropping down a level for more game time at Vendsyssel.

“From me already being out in Denmark, my goalkeeping coach was very much in agreement with me that I needed to go and get some games,” Thompson explained.

“He helped me with the move and unfortunately it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. I wanted to go there and get some games, then work myself back up.

“But now I’ve jumped back to the UK, which is nice. Having lived abroad, it is tough being away from your family.

“The second season really nailed it. Not playing the games, you start to consider why you’re out there.

“If you’re not progressing too much and bulking up the CV, then it probably is right to come home and at least be with family and try and make it work in the UK again.

“If the right club came about there might’ve been a consideration to stay out. But with the lack of game time I did start to ask why I was there.”

And so the next step on Thompson’s journey took him to Weymouth, with manager Bobby Wilkinson’s enthusiasm finally making the goalkeeper feel wanted again.

He said: “He gave me the call and he did let me know how eager he was to bring me into the club, which was nice to feel wanted and to come straight in and be playing again.

“I have to thank Bobby for his belief in me. His want for me to come to the club was a big part of why I came here.

“It is a great squad he’s got and the boys all work really hard for him and each other. It was quite an easy decision.

“It’s a fantastic club. The players and staff are very professional. You can’t knock anyone’s work ethic.

“To come into a team like that, who just want to work for each other and give everything, it’s so easy to settle in.

“I’m someone who wants to give everything I’ve got every day, so to have a team that’s on the same wavelength is really easy.”

Thompson certainly is a happy goalkeeper right now and his performances demonstrate that.

In just five games, he has already saved three penalties and kept his first clean sheet for the Terras in the 2-0 win over Truro.

Dorset Echo: Jared Thompson saved two penalties in the 4-1 shootout win at Dover in the FA Trophy second roundJared Thompson saved two penalties in the 4-1 shootout win at Dover in the FA Trophy second round (Image: MARK PROBIN)

“I’ve dusted a few cobwebs off,” Thompson joked.

“I’ve pulled out a few good performances I think, but it’s more credit to the team.

“The clean sheet, I had barely anything to do so that’s credit to our team and our work rate.

“The penalty saves are fantastic because that’s my job to try and help the team out. There’s a little bit of luck involved with penalties but when you can make saves like that it’s nice to help out.

“We’re finding a good bit of form at the minute so hopefully we can kick on and start climbing up the league.”

Thompson’s efforts have helped Weymouth into 17th place in the National League South and the shootout win at Dover propelled the Terras into the FA Trophy third round.

Does Thompson consider himself a penalty-saving expert, though?

“It’s something I’ve always been strong with,” he said.

“I do think a lot of luck is involved but after training I’ve always been happy to go in goal for any penalties the lads want to take.

“Over time, you start to develop. I like to be psychological with the players, get in their head and try and put them off.

“It is a guessing game and committing to one side, hopefully that is the right side you go to.”

Such is the impact Thompson had made in 21 days alone, many Terras fans are already yearning for the goalkeeper to lengthen his stay.

His deal runs until January and he revealed he would be open to extending his spell at Weymouth if the stars aligned.

“Going forward, my full commitment is to Weymouth,” he insisted.

“I don’t know what the future holds right now but all I’m focused on is Weymouth.

“I came initially and me and Bobby agreed until January just because I hadn’t played a lot of games and it was only right for me to come in and at least prove myself first so that he and the club was happy with me.

“Obviously, in turn I need to make sure I’m happy at the club as well. Everything’s really positive at the moment.

“I’m not sure where my future holds but as it stands I’m very happy where I’m at, so hopefully we can keep going where we’re going.”

Who knows, if Thompson keeps progressing and pulling off superb saves he might just get another chance in the full-time game.

Given his ambition, you would not rule out him rubbing shoulders with Messrs Mount and Gallagher once more in the future.