Born: Manchester, 13th January 1993
Height: 6ft. 1in., Weight: 11st. 7lbs
Position: Central defender
Career: Denton West Primary School/ Audenshaw High School/ Manchester United Scholar July 2009 Pro. July 2010 to present
Despite captaining United’s victorious 2011 Youth Cup side, Tom Thorpe didn’t receive anywhere near the number of accolades afforded to some of his more exalted colleagues. On first viewing, the centre-back might appear to be lacking a little height or speed in relation to some of those he is expected to mark. However, those who have seen him a number of times will willingly testify that the lad isn’t often beaten in the air, his positional sense is such that he is rarely lacking when the ball is on the deck and his tackling technique is so clean and crisp that he is hardly ever penalised for free kicks.
Consequently, by the time Sheffield United had been dismantled in the second leg of the Youth Cup final, his communication skills, increased strength, on-field intelligence and natural ability as a leader were drawing comparisons to Martin Buchan, the club’s legendary captain of the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
When the club’s teenagers travelled to Anfield for the Youth Cup quarter-final tie against Liverpool, a back injury put his place in doubt and those in the know felt his absence would represent a major loss. While the likes of Paul Pogba, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Ravel Morrison had been getting lots of positive publicity, his form in the heart of the Reds’ defence was still largely unnoticed. Yet for the hardy souls who frequent Carrington at weekends he had been one of the most consistent performers in the under-18 team for the last twelve months and fortunately he was just about fit enough for the game on Merseyside, where the Reds secured a fantastic 3-2 victory.
While a pupil of Denton West Primary School, his football skills were developed when turning out for West End Boys on Saturday mornings. Originally a right winger who scored a mammoth 65 goals in his first season, they included eleven in a match against Mossley. Around the same time he attended a Friday night ‘football clinic’ at Denton’s Egerton Park School with Lincoln Delve, a local scout and coach. Only six years-old, Thorpe was initially asked to come back for a few weeks, a time period which was eventually extended to twelve months and encompassed regular visits to The Cliff on Sunday afternoons.
By the time he moved to Audenshaw High School, Thorpe had been selected for Tameside Boys. Unfortunately, every time the town team came calling the dates clashed with his training schedule at United and so the chance of securing representative honours escaped him.
He skippered the club’s under-15 team to the quarter-finals of the 2008 Nike Premier Cup and after then appearing in a few games for the under-16’s, the defender gained a first international sighting in a 6-0 win over Northern Ireland at Ballymena. Also featuring in a 2-0 win over Scotland at Lincoln to help England Boys lift the Victory Shield, his elevation into United’s Academy under-18 side followed in December.
A mainstay and captain of the Reds’ under-16 team for most of the 2008/09 season, the young Mancunian also managed a total of six under-18 appearances and collected further international honours as a member of the England under-16 side that defeated Germany on penalties to win the Montaigu Tournament in April.
The first year scholar made the transition into the under-18’s look seamless during the 2009/10 campaign. Getting off to a great start when leading the youth team to success in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup final with a 2-1 victory over Sheffield United, the following month he was elevated into the England under-17 set-up for a friendly against Turkey at Northampton. Thorpe made his Youth Cup bow in a victory over Birmingham in December. Substituted due to picking up a knock early in the game and subsequently sidelined for several weeks, by the time he had recovered the teenage Reds were out of the competition.
Upon returning, he was ever present in the Academy side until the season drew to a close as the under-18’s topped Group C. Later included in the national under-17 squad that competed in the European Championships in Liechtenstein, a progressive year ended on a fabulous high when England defeated Spain 2-1 in the final to become champions for the first time.
The 2010/11 term saw him mature into a calm and collected centre-back who distributes the ball well out of defence and looks composed in possession. Featuring once at under-18 level for England before earning an under-19 cap against Germany in February, he looks set to add to his tally due to putting in consistently impressive displays for club and country.
Present for all eight matches on the successful Youth Cup run, Tom Thorpe is definitely someone to look out for. While he may not capture many headlines, the local boy is set for a bright future in the game and his many admirers are keeping their fingers crossed that he turns out to be one of the best central defenders the club has produced in many years.