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Halifax Herald:Thomas Lindley to NCAA ?

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Lindley returns to action at home after UK soccer adventure

By GORDIE SUTHERLAND / Sports Reporter

After almost a year of being in limbo, Thomas Lindley is finally settling into soccer again.

Lindley spent three years in England as a keeper with Sheffield United's youth program before returning to Nova Scotia last summer.

But the 20-year-old from Tantallon didn't see competitive action again until making his debut this past weekend with Halifax Celtic of the EastLink Premiership.

It was a successful start for Lindley, who recorded the shutout in a draw against Scotia M-I.

"Thomas is one of those people who you put on your team who just brings the standard of play up," said Celtic coach Jack Hutchison. "He makes everyone better."

Lindley wanted back on the pitch sooner, but his experience overseas complicated his status for the university season.

The former Halifax Grammar School student left Nova Scotia after Grade 10 and attended public college in England while playing with Sheffield. But the credits he earned weren't enough to get him into university for the 2004-05 season.

He's completing his Grade 12 and ultimately wants to go south this fall to play NCAA soccer. Lindley has received interest from more than a dozen schools, but is still trying to iron out his eligibility.

U.S. schools want to make sure he was purely amateur in England and didn't unknowingly violate any regulations. Lindley said he was careful to stay eligible, turning down agents and walking away from a pro contract.

"It has made my situation quite unique in terms of trying to set up a college opportunity because I didn't go the textbook route through high school and then look to apply," he said. "It has made things a little difficult for me to figure out what I'm going to be doing for university, but I wouldn't say I have any regrets - definitely not."

Making the move to England put him in an intense soccer environment where he could train daily and get a steady diet of top-flight matches.

Lindley saw first-hand the rivalry between Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday.

He played his first season with United's under-17 side and the next two with the under-19s.

"I really enjoyed the soccer over there," said the six-foot-one Lindley, known for his stunning shot-stopping. "I was playing and practising five days a week being in that environment. I had a great time over there."

He said the pro contract with Sheffield, which would have put him with the reserves, was only for one year and didn't give him the security he wanted.

"It was a tough decision. But I decided that in the long run it would be better for me to come back, get an education and play in the States. Afterward, I could always try to go back and make it professionally."

Unfortunately, his inactivity likely cost him a chance at making Canada's under-20 team for next month's world youth championship in the Netherlands.

Canadian head coach Dale Mitchell focused on players who were staying sharp with competitive teams and clubs.

Lindley had been a regular in the national program, but didn't get the call for recent camps.

"I was disappointed because since I was 14, really, I've been going on almost every trip for my age group and everything was quite well established there," he said. "But I knew there would definitely be an issue coming back and obviously not being in an environment that would keep me at my prime."

With Celtic, Lindley will share time with Matt Landry.

Hutchison said the two already have a healthy competition going.

"With Thomas here, now Matt has upped his game," Hutchison said. "Thomas has forced Matt to push himself and they're working well together."

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