Ageless Archie: Archie Thompson has battled back from a knee injury and could play a significant role for Melbourne Victory in the second half of the season. Photo: Tony Feder/Getty ImagesHe is 38 next birthday and has only been back for a couple of weeks, but it is already clear that Melbourne Victory veteran Archie Thompson could play a far more significant role in the champions’ title defence this season than anyone thought possible.
There were grave fears for Thompson’s career when he was carried off the AAMI Park turf after sustaining a serious medial ligament injury in Victory’s FFA Cup quarter-final win over Adelaide United in September.
The evergreen forward, who refers to himself as the Benjamin Button of the n game (a reference to the film character whose life goes in reverse, starting off old and growing younger as he lives longer) spent the first four months of the A-League season in recovery and then rehabilitation, hoping he could get back into action to continue his age-defying career.
Thompson made his return off the bench in a cameo in the Melbourne derby just before Christmas, when he came agonisingly close to finding Victory a late equaliser.
He then got 20 minutes in Victory’s disappointing home draw against Perth Glory in late December before starting in the scrappy 1-0 away win over Newcastle.
He again came off the bench in the classic 3-3 draw with Central Coast Mariners last Friday night, showing his predatory instincts were as sharp as ever when he swept home the rebound from Kosta Barbarouses shot for Victory’s second goal.
Age certainly does not weary Thompson, who has retained much of the pace and enthusiasm as well as the good technique and trickery that made him such a lethal striker in his younger days when he returned to Melbourne from Belgium to become one of the faces of the new club and league.
Of course Thompson cannot be expected to make the same sort of extraordinary goal-scoring contribution that he once did.
But with 216 appearances for Victory under his belt, and 91 goals to his credit there is not much he does not know about the quality and standard of the competition, nor what is needed to score regularly.
It is more likely that these days he will be used off the bench, especially when the sting has gone out of the game and his speed and ability to run directly at tiring defenders can bring his team rewards.
With so many youngsters – including young striker Conor Pain – away on Olyroos duty Thompson is likely to get plenty of opportunity during the next few weeks and months, both in the A-League and the Asian Champions League.
Fifth-placed Victory are still stuttering along in the league, seven points behind leaders Brisbane Roar who they play on Friday, and three behind cross-town rivals Melbourne City.
If Thompson continues to have an impact during the next few months then there is sure to be a lively debate about his playing future with the only club he has played for in the A-League.
Speculation about whether he would be offered a new deal hung over Victory’s finals campaign last season and was still causing friction in the lead-up to the championship decider itself against Sydney. Victory boss Kevin Muscat would probably settle for a similar outcome in the second half of the season if he knew Thompson could score seven or eight goals and help the team regain a top two spot on the ladder.
*Reports on Dutch websites have claimed Eredivisie club Feyenoord and German Bundesliga side Hamburg are tracking Victory’s young Olyroos defender Scott Galloway, who is with Tony Vidmar’s squad in Qatar trying to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games.
*Football Federation has confirmed the W-League semi-final featuring premiers Melbourne City will be played as a double-header at AAMI Park before City’s A-League game against Wellington Phoenix on Monday January 25.