Thomas Shanks was born in Wexford, Ireland in 1880. A centre-forward, he joined Derby County in April 1898. Although he stayed for three seasons he only played in 27 games for the club. He then spent time at Brentford before joining Woolwich Arsenal in January 1903.
Shanks became a regular member of the first-team and in the 1903-04 season played alongside Roderick McEachrane, Jimmy Ashcroft, William Linward, Tommy Briercliffe, Tommy Shanks, Tim Coleman and Percy Sands in helping Woolwich Arsenal win promotion to the First Division. Shanks was the club's leading scorer with 25 league goals. This included hat-tricks against Leicester City, Lincoln City, Burnley and four in a game against Grimsby Town.