When she first stepped foot onto the Charlotte(w) campus in August 2014 as a freshman getting ready for her 49ers debut season, Martha Thomas arrived with little fanfare and just one of 10 new faces for head coach John Cullen. The Charlotte program returned to Conference USA the previous season, earning an East Division crown along the way that first year back, to help set the stage for continued success in the future.
Thomas and her classmates worked to find their place on the team, and with the first-five matches of the season away from Transamerica Field, also worked to find their place among the Charlotte faithful supporters. By the end of that five-game span, a 1-1 double overtime tie at Clemson during which Thomas netted the lone Niners’ goal, the team chemistry began to shine.
Led by the scoring prowess of the freshman from Weston, Florida, Charlotte returned home and won three of its next four through the opening weekend of league play. After an overtime defeat, the 49ers continued to win – chalking up three more victories in a row.
By the end of the season, which unfortunately ended in heartbreak with an overtime loss on their home turf as the host for the Conference USA Championships, Thomas had made her mark. She collected Freshman All-America honors, was voted the Conference USA Freshman of the Year, won over the hearts of those followers in green and white and earned the respect of opposing players and coaches.
It was the start of a magical career that has only continued. By the time she hung up her collegiate cleats in 2017, she guided the Niners to the 2016 Conference USA Championship and an automatic NCAA Tournament berth, was named back-to-back Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year and set school records for all-time goals (47), points (120), game-winning goals (14) and shots (307). She was a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, landed among Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd and named a Leader of Distinction with the Charlotte Leadership Academy.
Her Charlotte career was cut short following a knee injury just before halftime of the 2017 Conference USA Championships final, leaving her just shy of potentially consecutive postseason appearances. Before she went down, her scores against top seed and No. 21 Rice and Louisiana Tech in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, launched the 49ers back into the championship game.
The injury was setback to her American professional dreams but it did not stop her from working to come back stronger than ever. Thomas became the first player in program history to sign with an overseas professional club, inking a deal with Le Havre Athletic Club in France for its 2018 campaign. She parlayed that success into a 2019 contract with West Ham United in her native England, returning to her home nation for a chance to play in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, the highest level of competition in the country. Currently with West Ham United, she has five goals in 13 matches and was nominated for the February PFA Bristol Street Motors Player of the Month Award after a two-goal, one-assist performance in a win over Liverpool.
Her growth in the game only continued from there – a call to the U23 United States National Team in March 2019 was the next step. She became just the second former 49ers player to garner national team status. By November, she received a call to the Scottish National Team – a spot earned thanks to her mother’s heritage.
Once again, an injury got in the way. At least, initially. “When that November call-up came, I was very excited, so for it to then be delayed because of injury was frustrating. I just tried to keep my head down and I knew, if I worked hard, that the opportunity would come and then it would be down to me to take it,” Thomas commented.
As she has always done, Thomas continued to work her way back and prove she was worthy of the second call by head coach Shelley Kerr. She received that chance again this winter, joining the squad for the Pinatar Cup in Spain in early March 2020.
Showing the flashes and highlights, as well as her swagger, that have come to be her trademark, Thomas wasted little time in shining for the Scots. She scored two goals in her debut during a 3-0 triumph over Ukraine, noting that “I’m really pleased to play and score the two goals. I wasn’t expecting it but I’m really happy to contribute to a win on my first cap.” She was selected as the Player of the Match, yet another accolade for her ever-expanding trophy case.
That cap was the first by a former Charlotte women’s soccer player for any country. She continued on by saying “I want to play for Scotland as much as possible and do everything I can to get us to major tournaments.”
Scotland proceeded to clinch first in the Pinatar Cup with a victory over Iceland, locking up the tournament’s top spot before even playing in its final match. The final triumph was against Northern Ireland, completing a perfect run through the tournament. Thomas again was in the starting lineup for the match, staying on the field for 84 minutes.
And now she sits. Again. This time, however, not by injury but rather due to the Coronavirus spreading throughout the world. All future matches, tournaments, training sessions have been put on hold.
But this much is known – Thomas will continue to show her mark, wherever she plays when play is resumed.
“It’s a big honour for me to be able to put on the shirt and represent Scotland.”— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) March 4, 2020
Hear from @mart__thomas following her double-goal scoring debut this evening.#NothingMattersMore | #SWNT pic.twitter.com/lH5fsJ60cG