EVERYTHING I DO IS FOR TRAGIC JACK
YOU’RE playing for your boyhood club, managed by one of your childhood heroes. You’ve just taken apart your local rivals and even got a photo with another idol after the match. Life would appear to be pretty perfect for Ben Thompson.
Yet, dig just beneath the surface and the Millwall midfielder admits he is motivated by tragedy.
On December 20, 2014, Thompson’s younger brother, Jack, died suddenly, aged just 16, when his heart stopped while he was staying with his cousin.
Thompson marked the two-year anniversary of Jack’s death with a heartfelt Twitter message and then, just 24 hours later, was a terrier at the heart of the Lions’ midfield as they ripped Charlton to shreds in a 3-1 victory at The Den.
Steve Morison netted two of the goals and, as part of his celebration, the striker lifted his shirt to reveal a message for Jack.
Thompson admits defeating the Addicks in style was a day to remember.
“Words can’t describe it really – it’s the best feeling ever,” said the 21-year-old. “With me being a Millwall fan, playing against Charlton at home in front of 15,000 people and beating them like that is great.
“It’s unbelievable, especially after my week. That Tuesday was two years since my brother died – he used to come down here and watch all the time.
“For Moro to lift up his shirt and have the vest saying ‘this one’s for you, Jack’ is the best feeling ever.
“The memory of Jack is everything for me. If he was to watch me and I wasn’t putting in 100 per cent, I know I’d come home and he would tell me. He’d tell me straight!
“He was a massive Millwall fan, sat in the East Upper and came to every game, so everything I do is for him.”
As he has been for most of the season, Thompson was superb against Charlton and set the tone for his side with a string of biting tackles.
Already managed by Neil Harris – who he sought out for a photo and autograph in his younger years as a fan – Thompson then met another Millwall legend in the aftermath of the derby success.
“I got a little photo with Teddy Sheringham,” explained Thompson. “I was quite happy with that!
“I’d never met him before – I’ve seen him a couple of times but never actually met him. I had a little chat with him, though, and got a photo. I was buzzing. “He just said how well I’d played and congratulated us on the win.” Thompson burst on to the scene last season, becoming a regular starter in the second half of the campaign as Millwall made it all the way to the League One play-off final before losing 3-1 to Barnsley. The youngster has kicked on even more this term, his consistently impressive performances surely drawing the interest of clubs further up the Football League pyramid.
Yet he couldn’t be happier in fulfilling a childhood dream by pulling on the Lions’ jersey.
“I’m really happy with my performances so far,” added Thompson. “I was told at the end of last year that the first season is the easy one. It’s the second that’s harder because you have to build on it.
“At the end of last year, I did really well and we got to the play-off final, so to improve on that was tough. But I’ve got to go out there every week and do what I do – smash people, pass the ball and occasionally shoot!
“Obviously it would be nice to play in the Championship or Premiership, if that ever happened, but right now I’m playing for Millwall and I love it.”
TERRIER: Millwall’s Ben Thompson in action with Charlton’s Ademola Lookman
SPECIAL TRIBUTE: A pitch for Jack