Wes Thomas might be remembered at Notts County as the man who refused to play due to covid-19. Thomas recently refused to train with the club, concerned for himself and his family that his health couldn’t be guaranteed, and now the striker who scored 10 goals in 38 appearances for the Magpies since signing in 2019, has had his contract terminated by mutual consent.
The club say they have ‘reluctantly’ accepted the players request to terminate his contract after the forward cited his family’s reasons for deciding to stay away from Meadow Lane following the 34-year-old’s ongoing fears after first contracting coronavirus initially back in November, when Notts were forced to postpone league matches and withdraw from the FA Cup.
Thomas is said to have a young family and has been concerned for their well-being after no guarantees given in the National League despite following a number of County’s opponents calling off fixtures in recent weeks with illness. The striker had been training alone with Notts Manager Neal Ardley setting up a personal plan for the player but two weeks into his solitary self-confinement, Thomas departs Notts with the clubs best wishes and understanding.
It is an extreme case, where a player has refused to play, worried that football is not doing enough to provide a safe environment to continue throughout a National lockdown, surprising that Thomas hasn’t been followed by many more, as the National League has stuttered into chaos this season, the two divisions below (North & South) have already been halted mid-progress but down more to financial reasons than safety fears.
Every right however must be given to any player not wanting to play during a pandemic. Whilst people are told to stay at home, the game has simply carried on, even at the fifth and sixth levels in English football, so called ‘elite’ although far from elite testing which has not been near to the levels of the Premier League and Football League in the combined pro/part-time division of the National League. Many clubs simply relying on the National Health Systems checking process to find out if their players are fit to play.
After London born Thomas, who last played for Notts against Aldershot on November 7th, first stated his worries over Christmas, his Manager Neal Ardley said “we accepted his request, and are looking out for him and his concerns”.
Ardley saying at the start of January “He has come to see us and tell us that he does not feel comfortable. As a club we need to look carefully at doing the right thing given the pandemic is bigger than all of us.”
But with no improvement, and no reason to suggest the National League, or Notts County can do anything to guarantee the player and his families health stays covid-free, the man himself has made what is a brave decision, to ensure that he now takes matters in to his own hands.
One that might be seen as the one that stayed away, should not be blamed for putting family first.
*Main image @Official_NCFC Wes Thomas in action for Notts County last season.