This has been a week that even in Steelers history will go down as one of the most bizarre in the club’s existence.
A good man, a decent, honourable and the most hardworking and committed person I have ever met felt his only option was to hold his hands up and say “I’m done, I’m out of here” – tragic.
Paul Thompson’s words to me when he called me a minute after advising Tony Smith was: “I’m empty, I’ve given you everything I have. David I’ve nothing more to give.”
In fairness anyone seeing Paul at the moment knew that was true, he looked 65, tired and haggard. His 18 hour a day workload, his nocturnal body clock as he scoured the world looking for players had taken its toll.
The Steelers knew we had the right man, we backed Paul. I sat in a meeting a week earlier with Paul and Tony when Tony told Paul to crack on with the job, solve the problem and sign new players. That’s what Paul was trying to do until the very end. In fact hours after leaving the club he was trying to persuade a player he had been speaking to to come and join us.
That’s what we lost on Monday and that doesn’t grow on trees.
I think the reason Paul could take no more was down to several things and it was a build up of them all that persuaded him to call it a day.
He has been away from home for 6 years, he has a great wife and two brilliant kids who were all feeling the heat, reading the ridiculous words, threats and abuse on social media.
Orchestrated campaigns on line were being waged against a man who in the morning would file his nails and get rid of more hockey knowledge, professionalism and class than they all collectively possessed. Shame on each one of them.
So are the Steelers a better club today? Of course not, not even close to it.
The Steelers in the last 3 years have gone from being a team to a club. A club with a structure, a development / apprenticeship system. Better facilities, a full time off ice staff all overseen by Paul. He was the boss of the hockey programme.
That’s what the ownership wanted and asked for and he delivered. That’s why Tony was remaining strong and backing his man.
Father time came down on the Steelers last year, an era ended, a great era of success. Time for a new team with 16 new faces. Only a clown would think that 16 new pieces would fit together like tongue and groove.
Were there errors in the recruitment? Of course, there was always going to be with 16 new faces. Manchester United have an £80m misfit in Paul Pogba, we paid the Ruperts a few hundred quid a week. Of course changes were going to be needed.
I’m looking at resumes now of coaches who will cost three times as much as Paul and aren’t fit to lace his boots. But don’t worry, the boo boys are happy. Those with no idea what went on behind the scenes and the workload carried out can smile and make their Twitter and Facebook posts.
A lot will say: “You’re just sticking up for your best mate.” True I know him better than anyone other than his wife, and through knowing him so well I know how good he is, how difficult to replace he will be and how right now a minority of people have made our club weaker not stronger. Look at the hockey community, other clubs, coaches and our former players are shaking their heads, laughing at us. Feeling sympathy for him. Read what Guillaume Desbiens one of our all time most respected players wrote. What Ryan Finnerty, a man who has been in the Sheffield pressure cooker, said.
But as one Twitter writer said to me: “It’s only Twitter, it isn’t real life is it?”
How foolish. Part of me looks at Arsene Wenger and think, wow you had some thick skin as you took so much for so long. The thing is Wenger was paid millions, could ignore the heat and retreat to his summer house.
Some people, those who have never been affected, those who aren’t able to hold positions where they would face public scrutiny think that it’s fair game. It isn’t. These are regular working blokes with families. Grafting, making a living not a fortune.
Say and write what you like about me, I haven’t got family who could be affected but most others have.
I will continue to work around the clock along with Tony, Shaun, Mike and others trying to bring the best people here, trying to make the club as good as it can be. I’ll be trying to live up to the standards Paul Thompson brought here.
I’ll miss my mate but we will miss Paul Thompson even more.