By Michael Lewis
Former Rochester Lancers midfielder Davie Thomson, who played four seasons with the soccer club in its original incarnation, including its 1970 championship team, has passed away.
A native of Scotland, Thomson passed away last week after a long illness. He was 76.
Born on Valentine’s Day in 1943, Thomson was the one of the Lancers’ most talented players, but probably never realized his full potential.
The 5-10, 155-lb. Thomson performed for the Lancers from 1967 through 1971 in the American Soccer League and North American Soccer League, before joining the Toronto Metros for two years and then Toronto Italia in the National Soccer League of Canada for another three years.
“When he was on his game, Dr. T was outstanding,” said his long-time friend and former Lancers and Metros teammate, Dick Howard, said on the radio show, Soccer Is A Kick in the Grass on Monday.
After retiring from soccer, Thomson retired to become an accountant with the Foundation Company, a construction firm in Toronto. He was the Toronto Blizzard’s full-time statistician in 1979.
Howard, along with former Lancers captain Charlie Mitchell and radio show co-host Joe Sirianni, the Lancers trainer at the time, reminisced about Thomson Monday night.
“He made love to the ball,” Sirianni said.
“Davie was more fun off the field, than on the field,” said Mitchell, who spoke with Thomson once a week before the midfielder passed away.
“Off the field Davie was kind of quiet until he had a couple of beers,” Mitchell said. He became a Jekyll-Hyde. He became a different person. He became the life of the party. He was quiet on the field. He liked the ball to do the work.”
On a team that was more like a mini-United Nations, the players got along, whether they were English, Scottish, Brazilian, Ghanaian, Argentinean, Canadian or American. The players would gather for parties on a regular basis, with Thomson usually at the piano leading sing-alongs.
“The connection was that we all supported each other,” Mitchell said. “We were the smallest club in the league at the time. We didn’t have the best club. We were looked at as the bottom … of the league.
“Eventually, teams hated coming to Rochester because they knew we were going to give them a hard time. The fans were crazy. … We scared the living daylights of the teams on the field and off the field.”
As talented as Thomson was as a soccer writer, he had a great passion — to be a songwriter.
“He loved music, he loved The Beatles,” Howard said.
“He was in England when The Beatles became popular,” Mitchell said. “He was a much better soccer player than songwriter, so he had to become a soccer player again. He was so talented. It was so easy for him. Davie was just a talented player who wanted to be a songwriter and we had to work hard as players. He was an unusual guy. He was an insecure guy. When he was on the soccer field, he wasn’t insecure.”
“He did enough to get by. He was very talented a player.”
A day before Thomson passed away, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson gave him a call.
“That’s something doesn’t happen to too many people,” Mitchell said. “The most popular manager in the world calls you up … a day before he died.”
There was a good reason why he called.
While growing up in his native Scotland, Thomson was one of the top schoolboy players, even forcing former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson out of position for an Under-16 game.
In his autobiography, “Managing my Life: My biography,” Ferguson recalled what transpired in the late 1950s when his youth team recorded a 1-0 win in the U-16 semifinals of the Scottish Amateur Cup.
“We put a further dent in his assumptions by defeating the Under-16s 1-0 in the semifinal of the Scottish Amateur Cup after a real battle at Kilbowie Park, Clydebank. By the time the final came we were no longer suffering the depletions caused by our strongest team. When that happened, I was put back to left-half to accommodate our brilliant first-choice inside-left, Davie Thomson. In a period remarkable for the volume of Scottish schoolboy talent, Davie Thomson ranked as utterly outstanding, along with Bobby Hope, Billy Bremner and Willie Henderson. He was really tremendous but like a lot of schoolboys, did not realize his potential as a professional. After a spell with Clyde, he gave up the game and emigrated to Canada to become a songwriter.”
Thomson was so proud of the write-up that he had copies of that particular page, according Howard told this writer several years ago. “Tremendous accolade from one of the most experienced managers in world football,” Howard added.
Well, Thomson did emigrate to Canada to play the beautiful game.
“It’s amazing,” Howard continued. “Here you’ve got this guy who rates you so highly. So much potential, but never realized it. He always wanted to play at cruise control. Never wanted to raise his game. Natural ability, vision, technical skills, outstanding. But he never pushed himself. If he had done that when he was playing in Scotland as a junior, he could have played for the top clubs.”
Thomson is survived his wife and a daughter.