I didn’t want a dog’s life in the city! Leicester forward Guy Thompson explains why he’d have been barking mad not to pursue rugby career
- Guy Thompson will make his full debut for Leicester against Wasps on Sunday
- He is still living a mile away from the Ricoh Arena despite his summer move
- The 31-year-old openside flanker is the blueprint for a late bloomer in rugby
- ‘People ask now, “Are you happy you made it?” But you’ve never made it,’ he says
Jax the 44kg puppy has an appetite for raw chickens and vinyl flooring, which is not ideal when Guy Thompson is trying to sell his house.
Despite making the switch from Wasps to Leicester this summer, Thompson is still living a mile away from the Ricoh Arena.
His eight-month-old ‘American Bully’ ripped up the kitchen floor twice in two days, either side of viewings, so Thompson has decided to lay down dog-proof tiles.
Leicester’s Guy Thompson and his 44kg puppy Jax in the garden of his home in Coventry
Thompson in action for Leicester Tigers during their match with Newcastle Falcons last week
‘There have been a couple of trips to Carpetright,’ says Thompson. ‘I’ve started calling him Mini Manu.
‘He’s worked out he can get into the lounge by charging at the door. He’s the softest dog but a block of muscle. I blame Jax that I haven’t moved yet!
This morning Thompson will drive eastbound across the M69 only to come straight back on the team bus — with one of the academy players primed to drive his car back to Coventry. He will make his full debut for Leicester against Wasps.
It will mark the latest stop in his rise and, afterwards, his mother, who told him not to get a dog, will pop in for tea and say ‘I told you so’. Thompson has signed for two years. The chance to play primarily at openside flanker helped seal the Tigers deal, since he was frequently deployed as a No 8 by Wasps.
His eight-month-old ‘American Bully’ ripped up the kitchen floor twice in two days
Thompson pictured during the Tigers’ 49-33 Premiership victory over Newcastle last week
He is the blueprint for a late bloomer and offers a point of difference as one of the country’s fastest forwards, with an ability to wreak havoc in wide channels.
‘You can fall into the trap of being a utility player,’ he says. ‘Leicester said they see me as a No7 and I thought that was the best way to push my career forward. I’m 109kg [17st 2lb]. Am I going to be a top-end No8 at 109kg? Probably not.
‘On day one I knocked on Dai Young’s door and told him I was looking at other clubs because I didn’t want to do anything behind his back. I love Dai.
‘He’s the one who took me from the Championship and gave me my opportunity. Mum said my Wasps debut was one of the proudest days of her life.
‘I had the best five years there and I respect every person at that club, but I’m Leicester now. I’m fired up because it’s bragging rights. You’re motivated for every game but this one in particular, I know I’ll get a load of s*** if we lose. There’ll be hugs after, but it won’t be chummy chummy on the pitch.’
Despite leaving Wasps this summer, Thompson is still living a mile away from the Ricoh Arena
His journey to Leicester has been anything but smooth.
In his living room hangs an England U18 photo from 2005 — the same team as ‘Daniel’ Cole — but he soon slipped away from rugby’s production line.
His CV includes bar work in Aiya Napa and IT recruitment in London, before making his Premiership debut aged 26. Now 31, he claims to be fitter, faster and stronger than ever.
Thompson can be the pin-up star for academy rejects. He has played his way through every league from National Three to the Premiership.
There is an old school touch; fetching a new shirt from Burton Menswear for this interview, cleaning the living room and doing a supermarket run to stock up on chocolate biscuits.
The 31-year-old Leicester forward talks about his late rise to Sportsmail’s Nik Simon
‘I’m proud because there were plenty of times when I could have knocked it on the head,’ he says. ‘Spending a summer in Aiya Napa probably wasn’t the smartest decision but I came back to play sevens in Dubai, then my old schoolteacher offered me £50 a game to play for Hereford.
‘The following summer someone offered me a job in the city. I lived rent free with some friends in London on the agreement that I played rugby for Richmond.
‘In the office at half seven in the morning, Waterloo and City Line, half an hour lunch, then bought some boots to train in the evening. I could have had a nice life playing semi-pro rugby and working in London, but Jersey offered me a deal.
‘I didn’t want to be that guy sat at his desk in 30 years’ time saying “If I’d just given it a go”.
‘I took a pay cut to move there and I started getting a few write-ups in the Rugby Paper, so I decided to go for it. I’d sit on my laptop for hours putting video clips together, emailing them to Premiership coaches.
‘Wasps came along and I bit their hand off. I turned up two hours early on my first day, petrified, and ended up playing 100 times.
The back-row forward will make his full debut for Leicester against Wasps on Sunday
‘People ask now, “Are you happy you made it?” But you’ve never made it. There’s always a next goal. Now I want to win the Premiership. Then you want to win Europe. Then play for England. Then win the World Cup. The day you say you’ve made it is the day you retire.’
Thompson is striving to help Leicester return to the play-offs. Matt O’Connor signed him but, following his sacking, interim coach Geordan Murphy has instilled a sense of optimism.
‘We owe it to Matt to turn this season around,’ says Thompson. ‘Geordie’s massively respected. He stood up in front of everyone to give his first speech and he was… not in tears, but you could feel his passion for the club.
‘I hadn’t seen that before. Him and Matty were good friends and he didn’t want the job in those circumstances.
‘We talk about building our own legacy but harnessing the tradition and history. Top four is the minimum and I came here to win the Premiership. Jax loves it, too. He fetches the table tennis balls in the team room.’
You suspect Thompson will soon feel at home in his new surroundings, although there is not much hope for the vinyl flooring.
Photo by Mike Sewell