Feature by Tony Scholes
Updated Wednesday, 6th February 2013
Date and Place of Birth
2nd October 1964 - LUTON
Transfers to and from Burnley
from LUTON TOWN - 1st July 1999
released - 23rd April 2002
First and Last Burnley Games
WYCOMBE WANDERERS (a) - 7th August 1999
COVENTRY CITY (h) - 21st April 2002
replaced by Gareth Taylor
LUTON TOWN, TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR, WEST HAM UNITED,
Burnley Career Stats
|Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Others||Total|
Profile by Tony Scholes
An unbeaten run of eleven games at the end of the 1998/99 season had saved us from dropping back into the bottom division, and that summer manager Stan Ternent continued his rebuilding of the squad.
One of the new signings totally baffled me. The left back position had been a problem for us but it was one we looked as though we'd solved with the capture of Tom Cowan, so I really couldn't understand why on earth we chose to bring former Spurs and Luton defender Mitchell Thomas to Turf Moor.
Thomas had been a good player, no doubt whatsoever about that. He'd started his career at Luton and his form at Kenilworth Road earned him a big money move to White Hart Lane. He played in the 1987 FA Cup Final for Spurs during a five year stay and then moved again in 1991, this time to West Ham, in a transfer worth over half a million.
He didn't have quite the same success at West Ham and after just over two years returned to Luton. For almost six years he was an important member of the Luton side. He scored on the Turf for them in one game but on his last visit looked a shadow of the player who had graced the top division.
Luton fans almost expressed relief when he left and I don't think I was alone in not quite understanding why, heading towards his 35th birthday, we were bringing him to Burnley. At least it was only a one year deal.
By the time the season kicked off at Wycombe I was beginning to change my mind on him. He'd impressed in the pre-season games and had even played in the centre of defence. When the teams were announced at Wycombe on the opening day of the season that's where he was, and with Cowan failing to make the starting eleven Paul Smith played at left back.
The centre of defence was where he was destined to play for Burnley and such were his performances during that promotion season he would have been a leading candidate for any of the player of the year awards but for one certain goalscorer in the side.
Often playing in a back five, he was inspirational alongside the likes of Davis and later in the season Ian Cox, and it was hardly a surprise when he was offered a new two year deal to take him to the end of the 2001/02 season.
If I was surprised by his signing a year earlier, I would have been even more so had he not been offered that second contract.
Nothing changed after promotion, his performances were of the same level, and with the defensive three settled he helped see the Clarets to a seventh place finish in the first season after promotion.
He'd missed only two games in the first season, and he was only out of the side for three during the 2000/01 season. However, he was forced off through injury in the game at Blackburn and in the remaining games looked to be struggling at times.
It was a groin injury and it came close to ending his Burnley career. He wasn't fit enough to join the rest of the squad for pre-season but was declared fit in September. He came back into the side for the 5-2 home win against Walsall and then made substitute appearances in two of the next three games.
But a further problem with the groin then ruled him out for another spell and kept him out until March. Fit again, he made a surprise return at Stockport at left back as we won 2-0 and he remained in the side until the end of the season.
In the last game, at home to Coventry, we were chasing goals and he was replaced by Gareth Taylor who came on to score the winner. From coming back into the side those were the only minutes he missed in the remaining games and as in the previous two games he turned in some excellent performances.
I think the Burnley fans probably knew his time was up at Burnley and he received a wonderful standing ovation from the big Turf Moor crowd as he left the pitch. Everyone in the dug out, from manager Stan Ternent, joined in that applause.
The fans were right and it did prove to be his last appearance in a Burnley shirt and indeed his last appearance in professional football. With the club hit by the loss of income following the collapse of ITV Digital the players out of contract were always going to be vulnerable and Mitchell, after three years at Turf Moor, was released.
He played 99 league games for the Clarets and he almost scored a goal. That was at Huddersfield in the 2000/01 season but it was strangely, and incorrectly, disallowed.
A few years on Burnley fans still remember him with some affection, and Mitchell also made one other telling contribution during his stay at Turf Moor. That came in his first season when he was involved in persuading his mate Ian Wright to sign for us, and I think we all know just how important that was.
I was, as I wrote above, baffled by the signing of Mitchell Thomas. I thought it was a bad move. Today I consider him to have been one of Stan Ternent's best signings for Burnley and my only regret is we only had him here for three years.