The death was announced last Saturday, 16th March, of one-time St Albans City player Michael Thalassitis, one day after he is believed to have died. We take a look back at the football career of a very talented individual whose full potential was, sadly, never to be realised.
Born in Edmonton on 19th January 1993 his family was of Cypriot origin and he was later to represent that country at football. His rise to prominence started in Hertfordshire when he joined the Centre of Excellence of our county rivals Stevenage in 2010 and a return of 17 goals in 26 games during the 2010-11 season secured a two-year contract for him the following summer.
Although he made his First team debut early in the season, as a second half substitute during a 1-0 Football League Championship 1 defeat at Milton Keynes Dons on 27th August 2011, it was not until towards the end of March that he reappeared in the side during a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth at Broadhall Way. Manager Gary Smith included him once more before the season was out; a 1-1 home draw with Preston North End.
In between his lengthy spell out of the team he was loaned out to Conference South side Boreham Wood for two months, the Wood manager at that time was our current manager Ian Allinson. Michael’s spell at Meadow Park was highly successful and included a hat-trick during a 4-2 win over Dover Athletic.
Although his contract with Stevenage was later extended his chances at Broadhall Way became increasingly limited and he was frequently loaned out to clubs in this area. Before making his second appearance of the season for Stevenage he spent a month with Hayes & Yeading United, then members of the Conference National, and, as with his spell at Boreham Wood, scored on his debut.
The 2012-13 season began encouragingly as he featured in Stevenage’s opening two league games and also in the First and Second Round League Cup ties, in the latter of which he scored his only goal for the club just five minutes after coming off the bench in a 4-1 defeat at home to Southampton. It was to be his last appearance for the First team, all of which had been as a substitute.
The remainder of the season saw him continue to gain experience at a lower level with further loan spells at Cambridge United, Bishop’s Stortford and, again, at Boreham Wood where he added another seven goals in 19 Conference South matches. The following campaign, 2013-14, saw him spend the entire season on loan to Ebbsfleet United who just missed out on promotion from Conference South when going down to Kent county rivals Dover Athletic at Stonebridge Road in the play-off final. He came on as a substitute in that game, played in front of a crowd of 4,294, but picked up an injury in the closing minutes.
He suffered a further setback seven days later, 17th May, when Stevenage announced that he would not be retained for the following season. At this time Stevenage also released another player who later joined the Saints, Matt Ball.
During his time at Broadhall Way he did gain international honours when making three appearances for Cyprus at Under-19 level and four for the Under-21s.
By now, although still only aged 21, his football career was in decline and there was to be no return to the Football League of a player possessing unquestionable talent. Following spells with Bishop’s Stortford, Chelmsford City and Concord Rangers he signed for St Albans City on 29th January 2016 at a time when we were facing relegation from Conference South. The following daysaw City lose at home to Truro City on Michael’s debut, two more defeats led to manager Harry Wheeler being replaced by Ian Allinson.
Teaming up again with Ian coincided with an upturn in Thala’s fortunes with the striker scoring in IA’s first match in charge, a 2-2 draw at Clarence Park with Concord Rangers. By the time the season had finished Thalassitis had played a significant part in an astounding escape act that saw City, having appeared to be in a hopeless position, avoid the drop. His six goals in 17 games during the run-in for that season can be seen on Youtube.
Michael left the Park at the end of the season and headed back down to Kent to join Margate. He ended his footballing days with Margate, having two spells at Hartsdown Park during the 2016-17 season. He scored five times in 22 games for the club that season but failed to find the back of the net in two appearances for Welling United and 17 for Hemel Hempstead Town. Quite fittingly, he scored in his final appearance at Clarence Park when giving Margate a second minute lead during a 1-1 draw on 8th April 2017.
This Saturday’s home game against Gloucester City will be dedicated to Michael and a minute’s applause will be held prior to kick-off to honour the former Saint. The club will also be holding collections around the ground for local mental health charities Its Ok to Say and Youth Talk.