Wayne Thomas leaves Worcester City for New York Red Bulls
Worcester City defender Wayne Thomas, one of the stars of the Conference North side's heroic autumn FA Cup run, has left Aggborough to take up a coaching job with New York Red Bulls.
The 35-year-old ex-Stoke City, Burnley and Southampton player is to become an academy coach with the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference club.
"It's fully deserved," City boss Carl Heeley told BBC Hereford & Worcester.
"It's a wonderful opportunity that he couldn't turn down."
Thomas played his last game for City in the 1-1 draw with Guiseley at Aggborough earlier this month, since when he has missed two matches through injury.
Signed by Heeley from Tamworth in January 2014, he has played a key role for the non-league club.
|The best of Wayne Thomas|
|Played over 500 games in a career that took him all the way from Torquay to the Greek Super League, enjoying his best days at Stoke City, Burnley and Southampton.|
|Until being part of Worcester's FA Cup first-round giant-killing against Coventry in November, his finest hour was in January 2005, when he scored from close range to briefly put Stoke 1-0 up in an FA Cup third-round clash at Highbury against then reigning league champions Arsenal.|
He starred in their headline-making autumn FA Cup run, in which they beat 1987 winners Coventry City and then took League One side Scunthorpe United to a replay, which City lost after Thomas missed the key spot-kick in a competition record 14-13 penalty shootout at Aggborough.
Thomas even went in goal, keeping a clean sheet, when City were left without a recognised goalkeeper after Jose Veiga suffered an injury 30 seconds into the 2-0 league win over Harrogate in October.
"We needed an experienced central defender last season," said Heeley. "Wayne came in and was immense. You cannot underestimate just how influential that man has been for this club. He goes with our best wishes.
"Wayne is at the back end of his playing career and had an opportunity to take a coaching role with New York Red Bulls through their academy set-up. He asked me if we would release him from his contract and obviously I'm going to do that."