Craig Hignett has told Nathan Thomas to “do a Messi or Ronaldo”.
The Hartlepool United forward has been the most fouled player in the opening two matches of the season.
And the Pools boss has warned the 21-year-old there will be more of the same to come for the in-form attacker and implored him to get pick himself up and damage opponents with his skill.
“Nathan’s a known quantity now and people will target him – that’s something he’s going to have to deal with,” said Hignett, who will be looking to Thomas to do the business at Exeter City tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).
“He’ll get kicked, he’ll get whacked, he can’t let it affect him.
“All the good players get on with it and don’t moan about it – do you ever see Messi moaning?
“Ronaldo might but then he will go and bang a hat-trick in. If Nathan gets to that point he will be all right.”
Thomas has started the season in vintage form.
He was brought down last Saturday for the Pools penalty after being involved in a neat exchange with Nicky Featherstone and Lewis Alessandra, while he gave U’s right-back Richard Brindley the proverbial good going over.
That play came as the left-side midfielder in a 4-4-2 while on Tuesday at Deepdale in the EFL Cup he was deployed slightly higher up the park in a 4-3-3.
Again, he caused problems for the Preston North End defence, drawing a number of fouls.
“People know Nathan now and what he is all about,” said the boss.
“Teams look out for him. Sometimes he gets past two and then tries to beat three or four, that’s the level of confidence he has at the moment.
“He needs to learn to beat two and then lay it off to other people in better positions.
“They are the little bits and bobs we try to do with him.
“He’s playing well, so it’s the finer details with him now.”
Those finer details are the ones Hignett and his right-hand-man, Curtis Fleming, are working on with the ex-Sunderland youngster at Maiden Castle.
That work Hignett hopes will pay dividends for not only Thomas but his comrades in the final third, the likes of Billy Paynter, Padraig Amond and Lewis Alessandra.
“We have worked in pre-season with him on what he needs to look for when getting behind people,” said Hignett.
“To be fair, in the first two games, there’s evidence he’s learning because he’s put good balls into good areas.
“He’s delivered type of ball we want – not the type Nathan wants!
“There is a difference!
“It helps our players massively as well because then they know where it’s going and what runs they need to make.”