Sheffield born inside left Len Thompson began his football career with Shiregreen Primitive Methodists in 1916 and played for Norfolk Amateurs in 1917 and Hallam in 1918, spending time on the books of Barnsley in 1919-20 without making their first eleven. But it was at First Division Birmingham that he made his Football League debut, which came against West Bromwich Albion in December 1921, playing once more the following month at Cardiff, both games ending in defeat.
He joined Swansea Town in the summer of 1922 and he had a strong impact on the team. After two near misses in his first two seasons Swansea won the Third Division (South) Championship in 1924-25, Thompson scoring the final goal to take them into the Second Division against Exeter in May 1925, as well as 4 goals against Brentford in November 1924. He was part of the team that lost the 1926 FA Cup semi final to eventual winners Bolton Wanderers at White Hart Lane. His goalscoring numbers also got better, being the club’s top goalscorer in 1926-27 with 30 goals. Further hat-tricks came against Blackpool in February 1926 and in an FA Cup tie win over First Division Bury in January 1927.
On 17th March 1928 he was signed by Arsenal for £4,000 but his career at Arsenal was plagued by a knee injury. He made his debut in a 2-0 defeat by Portsmouth on 28th March and at first shared the inside left position with Harold Peel, playing 17 times in 1928-29, scoring five goals as the side’s penalty expert. However, with his injury restricting him, despite many operations, he only made nine more appearances in four seasons for Arsenal, scoring once more, and spent most of his time there regularly coaching the reserve team. Under him they were the London Combination Champions from 1928 to 1931, and they won the London FA Challenge Cup in 1930-31. After not making any appearances at all in 1932-33 he left Arsenal for Crystal Palace, having made 27 appearances and scored six goals in total. He retired from professional football the following season having scored twice in 3 appearances for Palace.
After Thompson retired, he reinstated as an amateur briefly at Islington Corinthians and later coached Tottenham Hotspur’s reserve team, as well as a spell as a scout with Arsenal. Between 1947 and 1956 he was Arsenal’s so called ‘man in black’ who watched the team Arsenal was to play the next week.