"Hello, this is Teddy"
Conor Thomas thought his mates were trying to pull a prank on him by posing as Teddy Sheringham, inviting the midfielder to join his Indian Super League (ISL) side ATK.
Turning out to be the former England international himself, the 24-year-old did not waste any time to pack his bags and join the two-time ISL champions, an opportunity to play under the tutelage of his childhood icon in the subcontinent.
"I did not have his number saved, of course. Never interacted with him and my WhatsApp showed Teddy Sheringham! Must have been a prank on me I thought", recalled Thomas.
"But it was really him, a person I have grown up watching since I am a Manchester United fan. My first game at Old Trafford was United v West Ham (2000), a 7-1 result and Teddy must have got a brace I think. Yes, it is a dream come true of sorts but this is a massive challenge in India now," he said.
On hearing Thomas' version of the story, Sheringham had a wide smile on his face and recounted the entire story of how he got the talented midfielder to sign for his team. "I was actually approached for the Swindon Town job but that never materialised. However, the chairman told me they had this player that they couldn't keep and I must have a look at this talent."
He fell out of favour gradually and that is when I made my move. So yes, Mr Lee Power (Swindon chairman) is the force behind Conor's transfer to ATK", he revealed.
Thomas, who made the move from Coventry City to the Wiltshire club last summer was a regular feature. But, in a season where the Robins were relegated to the fourth-tier of English football, Thomas found himself down the pecking order under new coach Dave Flitcroft after the arrival of Amine Lingazi from Portsmouth in the new season.
With two years still on his contract, Thomas and Town annulled their agreement by mutual consent on 23 August not before he already had made two substitute appearances in League Two.
"I had spoken to Peter Ramage and James Bailey to gain some ISL experience before I flew down but there has been a massive culture shock in terms of spice in Indian food", Thomas expressed.
The midfielder was left impressed by the infrastructure and assessed that the standard of the ISL was equivalent to those in the bottom half of the Championship. He hoped to play in front of a sixty thousand strong crowd soon, something which he has never experienced in the Football League.
Defending champions ATK kick-off their campaign on the opening day at Kochi against Kerala Blasters on 17 November.