THOMPSON’S GERMAN GIG SHOWS MORE NEED FOR BRITISH COACHES
It doesn’t seem like a few weeks ago when Paul Thompson left Sheffield Steelers, looking like a man in need of some time away from the sport.
His post game interviews where results and performances showed a man who had worryingly aged in such a short space of time, under pressure and sleep deprived.
His decision to leave Steelers wasn’t made easily so to see him unveiled as the new coach at DEL outfit Schwenninger Wild Wings was as surprising as it was welcomed.
Let’s be clear, losing someone like Paul Thompson to the sport would have been a tragedy, given everything he’s achieved through the years so to see him back behind a bench where he belongs is only right.
You can argue it’s a surprise because of the short length of time he has been out since leaving the Steelers, but if he feels ready for a new challenge, then who are we to argue.
One thing ‘Thommo’ has never hidden his desire of is learning and bettering himself as a a coach and that showed when he enjoyed spells in Sweden and Denmark after leaving Coventry Blaze in a trophy-laden 13-year spell.
So he goes to another new country on his CV and he’s more than up for the challenge of helping the Wild Wings, who haven’t had the best of starts.
One thing that shouldn’t be forgotten is how big a deal this actually is, to see one of our top coaches given an opportunity to work in Germany’s top league. This is no mean feat.
It’s clear that the Wings wanted to go in a different direction in an attempt to give their so far disastrous campaign a boost, having won only two in 16 prior to the weekend.
Turning to Thompson could be seen as a big risk, especially for the fans who may not know too much about him, but in this country, he’s very highly regarded and this cannot be understated.
If he is successful with the Wings, it could present opportunities for other coaches down the line. However with only two British head coaches operating in the Elite League, it’s a very narrow path.
Pete Russell and Paul Dixon may well have terrific success in the top flight with Glasgow and Guildford respectively, but what of the other clubs? Would they put their faith in someone homegrown?
There are some good coaches working well at NIHL level who would maybe fancy a crack at the Elite League, but would teams be willing to give someone like Tom Watkins, Martin Grubb, Doug Sheppard or David Longstaff the opportunity?
I would say not immediately where coaches can come in from North America and bring in player they’ve worked with in the past or know of through their extensive contacts lists.
Plus there’s the need for immediate success and it’s perhaps felt a North American with an impressive CV would achieve more in a short space of time than someone homegrown, who’s achievements are more modest by comparison.
As the game grows in the country, you would hope they would further down the line, but until it does, we can all hope Thompson can be a huge success in Germany and can lead to other exciting opportunities.
FLAMES ON FIRE
This is a team who have made the step up from the old English Premier League with relative ease and continue to shake things up with their results and players that still fly under the radar.
Whatever Paul Dixon does at the Spectrum, you have to hope there will be some success or even silverware somewhere down the line and let’s face it, there’s a decent argument for it.
If last season was a learning curve, then this season is all about facing the challenge head on and you have to say, they’re winning it well.
Saturday’s win at Sheffield Steelers is another landmark for the Flames and although they were beaten 4-1 at home to Nottingham Panthers on Sunday, they still notched seven straight wins against teams like Belfast and Cardiff on the way, which is good going.
So why can’t they go on and claim a trophy? They’ve got the players to do and a Challenge Cup quarter final with the Steelers will hold no fear for them.
It’s been one hell of a ride for the Flames and their fans so far. Can they bother the so-called top teams and challenge for the big prizes? This writer would love to see them do it, that’s for sure.
PHOTO: Dean Woolley