It’s been a long road back to football for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, the former Arsenal and Queen’s Park Rangers man left out in the cold for 18 months after leaving Thai outfit, PTT Rayong.
The big number nine took a few games to open his account for new team Livingston but after grabbing two goals against Airdrie in the League Cup last Saturday, JET is looking ahead to better things.
Speaking after the 4-1 win over Airdrie, the Arsenal academy graduate was delighted to get off the mark for his new club: “Obviously it’s been a long time coming and I’ve had a few opportunities in other games to get the first goal and it didn’t happen.
“But it’s nice to get the first one and the second. It takes time. It’s a new team and I’ve got to get used to the way the team plays and the manager’s philosophy. Week by week it’s coming together.”
Being away from football for such a long period of time can affect a player’s mentality but Emmanuel-Thomas says thoughts of hanging up his boots never creeped into his mind during the time he was without a club: “I never doubted my ability to play football.
“Certain circumstances occurred due to the current situation which meant that I couldn’t really go in anywhere and just train because obviously there are rules and then football stopped.
“If everything stops within the football league, then obviously there is nowhere for me to go so I trained by myself through that period of time when I was back home in London. After that it was about coming here and still performing at the top level.”
To keep himself fit on his return from Thailand, Emmanuel-Thomas began his own rigorous training plan to remain fit should he receive the call that clubs were interested.
Speaking about his fitness regime, he said: “Every day I got on the weights and the bench and rope and everything at home. I went around London, bike rides from east London to Knightsbridge and back. I did it six days a week for about 14 months.
“The rides became like a hobby rather than a task. We went a speed race from Forest Gate to Knightsbridge and we made it there in 34 minutes. It’s a long way, it’s literally riding across the whole of London to the other side before you go into south.
“And we were racing very fast on our bikes. When we got home, we regretted it every day especially there and then we had to ride home. We would always forget so we would speed there and then forget about the ride home.
“Obviously, it was good with my boys back home helping me with my running, coming to the house to do gym, knowing my runs and doing times for me. Everybody played a part like food and cooking at home, so everybody helped me get ready for this next stage in my career.”
Now that he has a club again, Emmanuel-Thomas has no regrets about his personal training plan. The bike rides and runs across London kept him fit, but even still, he says that it wasn’t enough to keep him at peak fitness levels for when Livingston came knocking.
He said: “If I had never done what I did before I came here, I never would have been up to speed because the intensity of how the manager and assistant wants us to play here is very intense.
“I’m not even 100% up to speed now and I was way off the pace when I came in for that first week.”
With several Livingston players in recent times going on to achieve big things elsewhere, Emmanuel-Thomas believes he has made the right career choice to head to West Lothian and he is looking forward to kicking on with Livingston.
“Over the years obviously we have seen a few players do well in the SPFL and go on to do things obviously with other clubs in England and obviously national teams, so who knows what the future holds.”