JAY EMMANUEL-THOMAS is accustomed to spending 90 minutes desperately trying to escape the clutches of Marvin Bartley.
Now Livingston’s latest signing can’t wait to share a dressing room with him.
Former Arsenal prospect Emmanuel-Thomas has penned a one-year deal with the Lions with the option of a further season and, while he had never even visited Scotland prior to sealing the move, he needed no introduction to Bartley.
The duo crossed swords four times south of the border, twice as Bartley’s Leyton Orient faced Bristol City and twice as Burnley took on Emmanuel-Thomas’ Ipswich Town.
And Livi’s lastest number nine has revealed that his new skipper never gave him a moment’s peace.
“I played against Marv a few times in England and in a couple of those games he was allocation to mark me for the duration of the game,” he smiled. “I’m not exaggerating. It was literally a case of him being told ‘you follow him everywhere he goes until you hear a whistle – then you can have a break’.
“We’ve already had a little chat about that! It’s a coincidence that we are on the same team now.
“It’s nice to be able to walk into a dressing room and have someone who you can have a laugh with and reflect on games against them.”
Simply being back in a dressing room is a blessed relief to Emmanuel-Thomas. The 29-year-old has not trained with a senior club since July 2019 when a challenging but satisfying six-month stint in sweltering Thailand with PTT Rayong came to an end.
“The hardest thing in Thailand was probably playing in 30-degree heat,” he said, reflecting on his Asian adventure. “I think I’ll adjust to the weather in Scotland better.
“It was a different life on the other side of the world due to the different timezones and limited chances to speak to your friends and families, but I had to get my head down and play. It’s all in the mind.”
‘JET’ – the name his jersey will sport – did recently enjoy two friendly run-outs for English amateur side Hullbridge Sports, for whom his brother, Caiden, plays.
And any fears regarding his fitness or ability were allayed during more than a week on trial at Livingston. Boss Gary Holt is not taking a punt; Emmanuel-Thomas earned this deal the hard way.
“Due to how long I have been out of the game – leaving Thailand and then the whole Covid situation – I knew that my next club would probably request that I come in and train,” he continued. “That meant they could see where I am physically and make sure the ability is still there.”
That did not faze him.
Emmanuel-Thomas, once considered among the Gunners’ top prospects, has lost none of his belief despite seeing a promising career somewhat stall following a 2015 move to QPR.
He played for the Loftus Road club just 15 times in three-and-a-half years – scoring a respectable five times, it should be noted – and was farmed out to MK Dons and Gillingham.
It was not the fate expected of a man once hailed for his ‘outstanding quality and potential to be a great player’ by Arsene Wenger – who afforded him six appearances for Arsenal.
He then starred with Ipswich and Bristol City and looked more than capable of fulfilling that early promise.
“There were situations which occurred at QPR that meant I was sent out on loan, came back, then sent out on loan again,” Emmanuel-Thomas explained. “I’m not going to dwell on it.
“People don’t need to know everything that went on – they just need to know this is the next part of my career and I mean business.
“There is no problem with my belief. I know what I can provide and I know what I can bring. I’ll never doubt my ability and I want to come here and show that to everybody.”