What a difference a year has made for Bobby Thomas.
Twelve months ago, the defender pulled up lame in pre-season as he struggled to make a sustained impact in the Clarets’ youth system.
That followed earlier set-backs in his career as he tried to make the grade at both Everton and Crewe.
But the Merseysider is made of stern stuff and having regained fitness and caught the eye of Under-23s’ boss Steve Stone, he has never looked back.
A month on from being sent off in an FA Youth Cup exit to Oxford United last December, Thomas started out as a regular in Stone’s Professional Development League line-up.
And after ending the season as the Clarets’ Young Player of the Year and with a two-year professional contract under his belt, he is spending this July as dominant figure in the U23s setting up currently embedded in their pre-season training camp in Poland.
“Last pre-season I was injured in the first two or three weeks and not doing very well and going under the radar a bit,” Thomas re-called.
“I was out for about eight weeks and that was just after I’d got back from a back injury.
“It was quite disappointing, and I was really playing catch-up after missing a lot of the first year as well.
“I had a few unfortunate injuries and I just had to keep myself going and it’s worked out well.
“The second half of the season I got my opportunity and stayed in the team since, so it’s been good.”
Thomas hasn’t rested on his laurels, putting in the work over the summer to come back fit and strong.
Swapping the blue training kit for the claret of the professionals has underlined his new-found status and whether running or with the ball at his feet, the powerful centre-back has looked the part.
“I feel like I’ve come back really fit. The week has been enjoyable, but tough. We work hard in pre-season to get it in the bank,” added the 18-year-old.
“I’ve had a good time with the lads, getting to know a few of the new ones and bonding with the lads we haven’t seen for a few weeks.
“We virtually live with each other, being with each other every day, so it’s good to be back together.”
Thomas is now looking forward to some game-time, with a work-out against local side Pogon Szczecin scheduled to finish the week away before Stone’s squad starts their domestic build-up at Staybridge Celtic next Wednesday night.
The real thing, as far as the PDL is concerned, then kicks off on the same weekend as the Premier League in a month’s time.
And Thomas is eager to pick up where he left off on an upward curve towards senior football.
“Hopefully I can keep playing and adding to my experience, whether that’s with the Under-23s or they put me out on loan,” he said.
“I wouldn’t mind going out on loan, but I’ll wait and see what they think is going to be the best path for me.
“I need to keep looking forward and working hard.”