Martin Smith salutes the Brummie ice hockey innovator

Paul Thompson meets Sheffield United's Nigel Adkins
Paul Thompson meets Sheffield United's Nigel Adkins

It’s time the rest of us woke up. Time Sheffield realised that a sporting superstar is creating something special in this city.

Sheffield Steelers’ coach Paul Thompson is beginning to weave more of his magic.

If you follow ice hockey you’ll be rolling your eyes right now because you’ve known this for weeks, but bear with the rest of us muggles. Paul Thompson, the kid from the rough end of Birmingham, average player, good laugh, down-to-earth decent bloke has made himself a managerial phenomenon.

A Steelers player in his earlier days Thommo was never a star. Described by Star writer Bob Westerdale as a ‘rough and ready terrier type player, optimistic on the puck’ his modest playing career was ended by back injury.

But from that agony Tommo eventually built a new career that would make him one of the most successful managers in British hockey history. His 14 trophy-laden years at Coventry and medals with the GB team at international level tell you he is someone special. So special that he could hold down coaching jobs in hockey hotbeds in Sweden and Denmark. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that he’s got the Steelers on a winning streak, but there were those who weren’t keen when he came to Sheffield this summer.

Seven wins from eight games later the fans are starting to get that feeling and Steelers are threatening to carry all before them.

Like other top strategists Thompson combines innovative preparation, forensic attention to detail and fresh coaching techniques with an innate instinct learned the hard way in the backstreets of Birmingham. He’s impressed everyone at the club as he has wherever he’s been.

Steelers’ British, European and North American players have all been impressed by his approach to preparation, tactical awareness and decision-making.

When Steelers sacked title-winning coach Gerad Adams this summer there were many who doubted the club’s wisdom. But Steelers wanted an all-rounder: a head coach and a club manager and saw Thompson as the natural choice.

Some questioned Steelers’ mainstay Dave Simms’ motives in appointing his best mate to be head coach. Of course it helps when your best mate is the ice hockey equivalent of a 47-year-old Alex Ferguson.

Now they’re asking if Simms has any other mates he can give a job to. He may well have, but you can bet your life there won’t be any more like Paul Thompson.