News and Opinons follow.
Paul Thompson has left the Sheffield Steelers for “personal reasons.”
The club today released a short statement announcing the departure of the polarising GM/Head Coach and that assistant Mark Matheson will take over coaching duties until a permanent replacement for Thompson is found.
The club also thanked Thompson for his hard work and effort.
Despite his successes within the game, Thompson remained an unpopular figure among some sections of the Steelers fanbase – and these sections grew more vocal after a poor start to the season despite a summer rebuild.
Things appeared to have possibly turned around with a rousing 3-2 victory over arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers on Saturday, but the Steelers capitulated 5-1 away to Coventry on Sunday.
Venturing into opinion corner here: Thompson can point to the trophies he has won in the past; as well as to losing players he undoubtedly would have wanted to keep (O’Connor, Armstrong, Neiley) and some bad luck with injuries to key players.
However, it was time for him to go – and he probably should have gone at the end of last year; when there were already questions from some sections of the support about the team’s competitiveness, recruitment hit-rate and some surprising selection choices.
Instead, he went all in on overhauling the roster with promises of catching up to Cardiff, but the results have been less than spectacular. In this regard Thompson ultimately fell on his own sword.
It became quickly apparent that the gulf between the two teams has never been wider, and many recruitment decisions highly questionable (not just the Rupert Brothers, let go after a mere six games); and while it certainly takes time to gel a new team it rarely felt like any progress was being made at all – the bright spark of the Nottingham result instantly doused in Coventry being the most recent – and fatal – example.
Thompson also appeared to be doing anything but engender a sense of team spirit or to raise confidence with frequent post-match attacks on players – many of whom he himself had just recruited – which only fuelled questions over recruitment strategy and man management skills as confidence levels seemed to drop to new lows. Results were not only poor but more concerns were raised about tactics and predictable play, to the increasing frustration of fans.
These factors only caused the portion of anti-Thompson fans in the audience to grow and to become more vocal.
Thompson won the league in his first season in Sheffield (with a roster mostly assembled by his predecessor) but being four years into a three year plan, with the gap to the champions widening and the home form worsening and the noise amongst anti-Thompson fans growing; today’s news, to me, feels like a good thing.
Thompson’s effort can never be questioned and some of the personal abuse publicly levelled his way was vile, but any questions about his ability to continue leading this team were valid. The Steelers were ultimately worse year-on-year during his reign, too many new signings came to nothing and this year the performances just weren’t good enough – or even entertaining enough; and his departure had a certain ring of inevitability about it. If the team has serious aspirations of challenging the dominance of the Devils, it needs a new person at the helm.
For further reading, our own Mark Duell’s personal opinion piece from September 21st pretty much sums up my feelings: Here.