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THOMPSON: A fitting way to end his career…

There is no better way to end your footballing career than on the biggest high possible, and defender Mike Thompson has done just that, retiring this week following Bridlington Town’s 3-1 win in the East Riding Senior Cup Final against Hull City U23’s.

Mike spent most of his NCEL career at Bottesford Town, but also had spells at Barton Town, Hall Road Rangers before finishing with the Seasiders.

“I played for Bottesford Town, which is probably the majority of my NCEL career”, Mike explained. “I played for Bottesford from 2012 to 2015, then had a year at Hall Road when my wife was pregnant and I wanted to be closer to home. I played at Hall Road under Martin Thacker for a year and it was from there that I went to Brid. I got back to playing with Gary Allanson, who was my youth coach through youth football and had some really successful years at Brid. After the time that I’d had across the bridge at Bottesford, he gave me the call and asked me if I’d come down to Brid.”

“I went there in 2016 but I left there when Curtis came in and that year I went back to Bottesford and finished the season there. I captained Barton when Gary went there again with Dave Ricardo, then finished this year 2018-2019 back with Brid again.”

“Everything’s pretty local! That can make it difficult sometimes because moving from Bottesford to Barton and things like that there’s a bit of rivalry in there. The fans found it pretty funny but it’s always been light-hearted really. I’ve always managed to score against Hall Road, which is a funny one as well! I haven’t scored many in those eleven years but I’ve always scored against previous clubs, which is one to remember.”

Wayne has seen a whole host of different teams throughout his NCEL career, and we discussed the standard of 2019, “I think the standard, especially in the Prem, has become a bit more competitive. There were always one or two teams that would run away with it. Even in the past few years that’s been happening where you can see yourself, come Christmas, if you’re not in the running you’re out of everything because the main thing about the League is the lack of play-offs. Everybody talks about it and I don’t really know what the solution is but I think this year specifically has been awesome because it’s been so competitive.”

“Worksop: you’ve got to hold your hands up and think from the turn of that result at our place, they’ve gone 19/20 not just unbeaten but they’ve had a 100% record since then. You can’t take that away from them but, even during that period that they’ve had there, there were still Penistone, ourselves, Hemsworth, Yorkshire Amateur and, in years gone by, that’s not been happening. Come Christmas you had one, perhaps two, and there was nothing else to play for.”

“From that point of view I think this year’s been pretty eye-opening. There’s been a couple more that have been involved. Play-offs will be absolutely outstanding because teams down in eleventh and twelfth at the turn of the year would have something to play for. From what I’m hearing for next year, with there being three promotion spots, I think that again is going to make things a lot more exciting for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, to think they’ve still got something to play for, come February through to April.”

With only one place been promoted this season, then converting to the top three going up next, Mike is a bit aggrieved at the current non-league structure, “Exactly! And that’s why it’s so frustrating because you don’t really know where you stand. It was a bit of a debacle last year when I think it was after the season had finished that Mansfield knew that they’d been promoted.”

“It’s almost like we’re the last rung on that ladder where decisions get made and it’s difficult for managers to pull players in when they don’t know where they stand. It’s difficult for clubs to get sponsorship in if they don’t know what they’re working towards and that can be detrimental on the League. I think knowing already there are three automatic promotion spots next year will really get people’s juices flowing for what they need to prepare in pre-season to make it an exciting League again for next year.”

With a mid-term managerial change, and a third place finish in the league, Mike agree that the Seasiders can potentially go one step further next season, “Yes, I think so. The one major change I think most people will hold their hands up and say that we felt like we were underachieving when Curtis did walk away. We’d set up in pre-season and the first few games knowing what was expected of us and that we’d assembled a good squad. It was disappointing, some of the results that were coming in and, no disrespect to the teams who were taking points off us, we weren’t thinking that we were going to be dropping points against them. From that point of view it was disappointing.”

“The change couldn’t have been more seamless really because Brett and Bows are both known at the club. Bows was down last year anyway, Curtis’ assistant. Brett’s played for the club for a number of years, scored a lot of goals, really well-known and I think the only thing that could have been detrimental in their favour was the fact that they were novices in the respect that they’d never managed before. Because of how tightknit we were and the group of lads were willing to work for them it’s worked out in both respects that the results have come in and the lads have bought into Brett’s and Bows’ way of doing things, which is fantastic.” 

“There was no blame culture. We got off to a flying start and we were winning games. We were enjoying our football and when things didn’t work out too great we didn’t dwell on it. We moved on, we went into our next game and we always had a bounce if we had a bad result.”

“The very first game against Sunderland RCA in the FA Vase was massive because we were underdogs in that and, to be fair to them, they were probably one of – if not the best – team we’ve played this year. We contained them, we scored in extra time and it was a really gritty performance where you looked around at everybody thought yes, we’re playing for the gaffer, we’re playing for each other and this has got the opportunity to be exciting. We just kicked off.” 

“Every result hasn’t gone our way since then. We’ve had a bounce and we’ve come back and, until we have had a bad patch, which was the Barton game and the few games afterwards, we’d not lost consecutive games on the trot so it put us in a fantastic position to be in with a chance to win it up until March time. From that point of view, I think if we do things right in the whole season and the pre-season and keep the majority of the lads that want to stay and that Brett and Bows want, a couple of hopefully good additions then we should definitely be there or thereabouts to be up there again next year.” 

Mike then reflect on the last game of his career, and what a way to end it “Absolutely! I’m a pretty quiet guy. I spoke to Brett in private when I said that I was calling it a day at the end of the year. I had a great year at Barton last year and it was something special for me to leave that group of players there because we did great things there last year. My main reason for coming to Brid was to win something. I weighed up my options in the pre-season and thought if I want to win something, I want to go there to Brid and do that.” 

“It felt pretty fitting that we went all the way in that Cup and we won it. We were playing against an outfit of mainly under-23s second-year pros and we played well and deserved the win. Throughout the whole competition we’ve not really been challenged from the point of view of we’ve never looked uncomfortable so deserved winners of it. I think if you look through the records, apart from when we got beaten by Hull City in the same competition last year, we’ve been in the final for the last four or five years.” 

“Thinking about senior clubs in the area, we’re way up there. That again is another thing that can attract lads coming in next year that want to be successful and want to help us kick on. We can boast that!”

“It wasn’t really a “want” [about retiring]. My legs were giving in, mate! I’ve got one dodgy knee. I dislocated a knee quite a few years ago and I’ve never really fully recovered from it but I’ve been able to push on. I started to realise there was an issue at the back end of last year when we had the hot weather and we were backing up on fixtures. We were playng Tuesday‒Thursday‒Saturday by the last three weeks of the season and at that point I was really starting to struggle with it. When those pains and niggles started coming back after Christmas this year I was just starting to think that there was no way back from it. I started taking painkillers just to do training and that was getting too much.” 

“I had that conversation with Brett that I wasn’t recovering quickly enough and I wanted to do it on my terms as well. I didn’t want to start slipping down the team or the selections or even slipping down to lower clubs or anything like that. I wanted to finish on my terms and on a high. I feel like I’ve done that. It felt a bit fitting that we won something and that was my last game. It was a great decision to go out on that one and make it myself.” 

And what does the future hold for Mike, “Management would be absolutely ideal. I want to learn the ropes a little bit first. I don’t want to dive in head first and embarrass myself or not know the ins and outs of what I need to know for the level. I feel like I’ve been around the level long enough that I know what it requires from a gaffer and from a coach but it’s a totally different world from being one of the lads to making that transition over to management.”

“I’ve had a few conversations and I’m really interested in getting involved in coaching and seeing where that takes me. Management would be absolutely ideal. That’s the end game but to get a bit more experience out of it and to coach the lads would be a great starting point for me.”

Maybe Bridlington…

“Potentially. I’ve had a conversation with Brett and we’re going to talk in the summer. There are other options out there. I’m leaving it open and there are all sorts that I could be doing so I’m going to have a good think about it. I’m looking forward to a bit of downtime as well, knowing that there’s no need to get superfit for the start of pre-season! It’s going to be a nice, refreshing change for the first time in twelve years. Just to have a good few weeks and I’m going away on holiday so it’s going to be nice to relax and not think about everything, then have that conversation with Brett.” 

“The club is set up in exactly the right way. The Chairman’s fantastic. The Committee and the volunteers involved with the club are absolutely great so it would be a great starting point and I would love that. But we’ll see! “

A massive thank you to Mike for the interview and to Ellie for her superb transcribing skills.

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