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Thompson opens up on Brid role

We caught up with Mike Thompson around five weeks ago after he announced his retirement – and just a few days ago, interviewee expert Stephen Burgess from Through The Turnstyles Of Non-league Football caught up with the new Bridlington Town coach.

Stephen Burgess, Interviewer: An interview with the Bridlington Town coach, Mike Thompson. Are you looking forward to your new role? 

Mike Thompson: I can’t wait. I think for the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to pre-season! That’s thinking about the past few years when I knew I’d be getting to the point of retiring; it gets a bit more difficult. 

Look at you! You’re only young! I think you’ve got another couple of seasons yet! Is it something that you really want to do? 

My knees have been a bit poor for a while so I had the conversation with myself midway through the season that they weren’t getting any better. I spoke to Brett about it round about February time. I said, “Look. This is going to be me. This is my last season”. I said to myself I’d keep going as long as I could and I think I got to that point that I had and I spoke to Brett about it and said, “I want to go out on a high. I want to win something”. We were still in the hunt for winning the League at that point. We finished third but to go out winning the East Ridings Cup was massive. I’ve played at this level for ten-odd years and never won anything! That was really, really important and, like I say, it was in my own mind that my knees weren’t great and it was going to be my next step really. 

How long have you been in football? 

At this level, just under ten years. I played for a couple of different teams. I’ve played for Hall Road, Bottesford, Barton and Brid and I had a short spell with Westella. I started my men’s career with Westella in the Central Midlands League then I went to Bottesford from there. I’ve spent most of my time at Bottesford, to be honest. 

Is this the highest level you’ve ever played at? 

Yes. 

What’s it like working under Brett? 

It’s been great. It’s been fantastic. Brett was also in a position where it was new to him, when he took over from Curtis, when Curtis walked away at the beginning of the season. Brett wanted it. He always said that he wanted to manage and Pete was good enough to give him the opportunity and I think that kind of galvanised the lads at that point in the season. Brett threw himself into it majorly. He had the support of Bows, which was fantastic because he had that season the year before with Curtis and he had that under his belt. He’s done quite a bit before with Brigg Town and teams like that, where he’s player-managed as well. I think them as a team have been outstanding and you saw the turnaround in our season last year with those two guys at the helm. 

For me, it wasn’t necessarily going to be Brid Town. I spoke to Brett and said, “Look, this is me done for playing. I want to coach and I’m going to speak to a few people”. If it was going to be with Brid I’d have been absolutely over the moon. When he came and to have the chat with me and said he wanted me to stay and transitioning that way, I was absolutely over the moon. 

Are you a Hull lad? You started off with Bottesford so I always thought you were from the Scunthorpe area. 

No, I’m a Hull lad. I did start originally with Hall Road Rangers when I was a lot younger, when I was a teenager and played in the reserves under Gary Allison for a few seasons. It was when I was playing for Westella that a friend that was local in Hull and was playing for Bottesford… they needed a left back and the rest is history really! I spent a good five years there. 

Going back to Bridlington last season – not the season that’s just gone – the top three went up: Mansfield, Pickering. This season Brid finished third, staying in the League. Next season you finish third again, you’re up. Do you think that’s a bit unfair? 

It’s crazy. It’s the one thing that’s so frustrating about our level of football that it’s the first rung of the ladder in non-league football that doesn’t have consistent play-offs. We don’t really know where we stand with that sort of thing. We don’t know whether it’s going to be in or out, year on year. I think there needs to be a little more done at the level of committee to work out what’s going on there with that league. 

This year – the season that we’ve just had – finishing third it’s probably the most competitive season I’ve seen at this level for a good few years because Pontefract have run away with it and Cleethorpes, Tadcaster, Scarborough… you know. In recent years you could be second and third at Christmas with nothing to play for because you knew you weren’t going to go up. It was a refreshing change this year that there were so many teams that were involved in the shake-up and it’s unfortunate to look at it and see teams like ourselves and Penistone that have had great seasons but we knew we had nothing to show for it. 

I wouldn’t take anything away from Worksop because to win the last twenty games on the bounce is unbelievable but teams all the way down to tenth in our League could have something to play for until the last few weeks of the season if we had play-offs. I think that’s a change that could be made but next season, knowing that three go up, you know, I’ve already seen what’s going on with a few different teams in the League that are starting to bring players in, starting to announce players already. People are taking it seriously and the fact that three go up will really make it interesting next year. 

Have you got a replacement for Jake, because his goalscoring ability will take some replacing? Is Joe still with you? 

Joe McFadyen is still with us. Brett, Bows and myself are meeting later tonight to talk about a few different things. We aren’t going to mention any players until you can! You can’t sign until 01 July. We’ve talked to a number of players. Brett’s spoken to a number of players. He hasn’t been off the phone with me for a long, long time. We’re speaking regularly. We’ve got players that we’ve got committed but it doesn’t really mean anything really until they sign on that dotted line. 

Replacements-wise, Jake wanted to go. He wanted to test himself at a higher level. You hold your hands up to that if that’s what he wants to do. Good luck to him. 

You can’t stop anybody at this level who wants to improve themselves, going into the EvoSik or wherever. We all know where he’s going to but nothing’s been said yet. 

With us, we want to do that this year. We want the players that have been fantastic for us last year to be those players that take us to that next level next year. We’ve a couple of good, quality additions that I think we won’t be far away from that. 

To lose Jake is tough because, like you say, his goal record speaks for itself but we’ve got irons in the fire. It’s the same with T.J. in goal. He was Players’ Player of the Year last year and that says it all when your peers vote for you to be that Player of the Year. He wanted to move up a level and he’s gone to Frickley – that’s on his doorstep. It’s difficult to say no to that and we wish him all the best but we want to be playing them next year. That’s where we’re at. 

You’ve just made a statement, the same as Andy did in his interview, that you can’t sign players until 01 July. 

They may have agreements with the players and they may have gentlemen’s agreements where they’ve shook firm and know where they stand but that’s absolutely fine. If they want to do that, that’s totally up to them. We want to do things by the book. You’ve seen it in the past where some players have been swayed by an extra bit of money here and there and you’re not going to know until you get them down to that first pre-season training session and get them to sign on the dotted line. 

We went out with a game plan of a certain number of players that we wanted to approach. There were certain players that were paramount to us improving for next year. We’ve spoken to them. We’ve told them what our intentions are and they’ve let us know what theirs are. Just watch this space because the information will come out when it’s legally allowed to! 

Would you want to go into the EvoStik? Some say they don’t want to go. The finance is more but you’re getting gates of 100-plus, 150-plus. If you go in now, I think you’ll get gates of 300/400 like Worksop. 

We’d hope so. Some of the conversations that Brett and myself had last year – we used to travel to games together because we’re both East Hull lads – we’re really wanting to engage the community a bit more. What Worksop do, you can’t argue with. They have got the set up for the EvoStik. They’re getting people through the gates. The only plus-200 crowds we had last year were when Worksop came. You can tell that they’ve got that fan base and it brings regular money into the club. 

From Bridlington’s point of view, we need to engage the community a bit more. We need to get those guys through the gates and playing good attractive football. Being up there the way we have been this year I’m hoping will do that for next year. It works the same with sponsors. Pete works tirelessly, along with a few of the other Committee members to get local sponsors in that fund what it is that we do at this level and it would be impossible to do it without Pete and those guys on board. 

I can only talk for myself but I’ve spoken to Brett about it: we wouldn’t be doing it if there wasn’t an option to go up. That’s what we want. We want it for the club. We want it for ourselves. We want it for the players. It wouldn’t be worth your time if that wasn’t the end game really. 

Your season starts very early with pre-season this month: on the 27th with a match against Hull United. I believe it’s at St. Mary’s. Then you’ve got Scarborough and that’s the Howard Brown Trophy on a Tuesday evening. Then you’ve got Bitton in the Two Stations Cup, going all the way down to Somerset. Is that something you’re looking forward to? 

I think we’ve got a jam-packed schedule. We come back into training on the 20th. We’ve got a couple of sessions and then we’re straight into local games with Hull United and Chalk Lane, playing teams like that that have played locally. Chalk Lane, for example, that have won the League for the past few years; it’s going to be a good test locally. We play Worksop as well, who have gone up this year. 

We’ve got the opportunity, as crazy as it sounds, to win three competitions because we’ve got the Hull City Academy Trophy. We’ve got the ones that you’ve mentioned. We play Scarborough in the Memorial game every year. We then play in the Toolstation Cup where we go down south. We’ve been invited by Hull City to play in their Academy tournament with Pickering and Huddersfield Under-23s. 

The way that pre-season’s been geared, if you look at it we play a couple of local games. We play Worksop who we know about from last year then we’ve got some real tests again with the Toolstation Cup, Scarborough and the professional teams that we’ll be playing in the Hull City tournament. It’s fast and furious, to be honest! Training Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and if we’re not training we’ve got games. Before you know it, it will be 03 August! 

The League starts 03 August. With the local derbies, the main focus will be on that Division One with three teams from this area. One thing that will be good this year will be the Humber Premier League. Billy Gill’s gone down to Live Supplies, Westella’s got a new manager with Chris. It’s going to be a good season of local football. 

I think it’s great. We look at ourselves and we do a lot of travelling anyway in our division. The local derbies are grudge matches because a lot of the lads know each other anyway. The Barton ones are very much a Hull affair. The majority of the lads from Brid last year were from Hull and the majority of lads from Barton are from Hull so that’s got some spice to it. With Ferriby going into Division One, Hall Road being relegated, there are a lot of games going on in that League as well. It’s interesting. 

We try and just look after ourselves. We go game to game. We know what to expect from the majority of the teams that we’re playing in the Prem. There will be some changes. Everyone brings players in so there’ll be some teams that surprise and there’ll be some teams that we know an awful lot about. 

With the Humber Prem, if I’m being brutally honest, I don’t know too much about it. I know Spinksy really well; I’ve played with him quite a bit. I know Palmsy was brought in to work with him as well. I know a lot of the guys down at Chalk and between them and Pock and Bev, I think it’s going to be a shootout again at the top between those guys but I don’t know, to be honest. 

I think it’s a great stepping stone for the lads to progress because we’ve seen it with Joey Mac this year. He was outstanding for us: he won Manager’s Player of the Year at the presentation night. He was a talisman when Jake wasn’t firing and when Jake was injured.  He’s made an amazing step up after playing for Chalk the year before so it proves that there are lads at that level that are good enough to make that step up. It’s testament to some of the guys in that league that manage those teams to keep those leads there because the opportunities are available. 

I think it’s a strong league when you look at the top of it. Between Chalk and Pocklington and potentially the likes of Beverley it could be a competitive league. 

And, of course, you’ve got Bridlington Reserves in that Division One. Is that a feeder club to your first team? 

We’ve seen players come through the ranks and we’ve had the likes of James Faulkner that played for the first team last year and the year before. We don’t do a lot together, if I’m honest, from a training point of view. It maybe something that changes. A lot of the lads that are based with the reserves are Bridlington-based and I think previously they’ve been given the opportunity to come down and train and it didn’t happen. 

That was before my time even as a player so whether Brett’s got any changes in mind with that, I’m not too sure. From the conversations that we’ve had we’re strengthening the squad already and the lads that we’re bringing in are going to be competing on a level with the lads that we had last year. 

One last question: what was the favourite ground you’d been to last season? 

My favourite ground I’d been to last season was probably Worksop, just from the set up point of view and the fans that they’ve got. It’s beautiful but I think, without blowing our own trumpets, set up wise what we’ve got at Brid I don’t think it can be beaten this year, for what we’ve got in our League. I’m hoping that everyone’s interested to come to us and give us a battle. 

Mike Thompson: I can’t wait. I think for the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to pre-season! That’s thinking about the past few years when I knew I’d be getting to the point of retiring; it gets a bit more difficult.

Look at you! You’re only young! I think you’ve got another couple of seasons yet! Is it something that you really want to do?

My knees have been a bit poor for a while so I had the conversation with myself midway through the season that they weren’t getting any better. I spoke to Brett about it round about February time. I said, “Look. This is going to be me. This is my last season”. I said to myself I’d keep going as long as I could and I think I got to that point that I had and I spoke to Brett about it and said, “I want to go out on a high. I want to win something”. We were still in the hunt for winning the League at that point. We finished third but to go out winning the East Ridings Cup was massive. I’ve played at this level for ten-odd years and never won anything! That was really, really important and, like I say, it was in my own mind that my knees weren’t great and it was going to be my next step really.

How long have you been in football?

At this level, just under ten years. I played for a couple of different teams. I’ve played for Hall Road, Bottesford, Barton and Brid and I had a short spell with Westella. I started my men’s career with Westella in the Central Midlands League then I went to Bottesford from there. I’ve spent most of my time at Bottesford, to be honest.

Is this the highest level you’ve ever played at?

Yes.

What’s it like working under Brett?

It’s been great. It’s been fantastic. Brett was also in a position where it was new to him, when he took over from Curtis, when Curtis walked away at the beginning of the season. Brett wanted it. He always said that he wanted to manage and Pete was good enough to give him the opportunity and I think that kind of galvanised the lads at that point in the season. Brett threw himself into it majorly. He had the support of Bows, which was fantastic because he had that season the year before with Curtis and he had that under his belt. He’s done quite a bit before with Brigg Town and teams like that, where he’s player-managed as well. I think them as a team have been outstanding and you saw the turnaround in our season last year with those two guys at the helm. For me, it wasn’t necessarily going to be Brid Town. I spoke to Brett and said, “Look, this is me done for playing. I want to coach and I’m going to speak to a few people”. If it was going to be with Brid I’d have been absolutely over the moon. When he came and to have the chat with me and said he wanted me to stay and transitioning that way, I was absolutely over the moon.

Are you a Hull lad? You started off with Bottesford so I always thought you were from the Scunthorpe area.

No, I’m a Hull lad. I did start originally with Hall Road Rangers when I was a lot younger, when I was a teenager and played in the reserves under Gary Allison for a few seasons. It was when I was playing for Westella that a friend that was local in Hull and was playing for Bottesford… they needed a left back and the rest is history really! I spent a good five years there. Going back to Bridlington last season – not the season that’s just gone – the top three went up: Mansfield, Pickering. This season Brid finished third, staying in the League.

Next season you finish third again, you’re up. Do you think that’s a bit unfair?

It’s crazy. It’s the one thing that’s so frustrating about our level of football that it’s the first rung of the ladder in non-league football that doesn’t have consistent play-offs. We don’t really know where we stand with that sort of thing. We don’t know whether it’s going to be in or out, year on year. I think there needs to be a little more done at the level of committee to work out what’s going on there with that league.

This year – the season that we’ve just had – finishing third it’s probably the most competitive season I’ve seen at this level for a good few years because Pontefract have run away with it and Cleethorpes, Tadcaster, Scarborough… you know. In recent years you could be second and third at Christmas with nothing to play for because you knew you weren’t going to go up. It was a refreshing change this year that there were so many teams that were involved in the shake-up and it’s unfortunate to look at it and see teams like ourselves and Penistone that have had great seasons but we knew we had nothing to show for it. I wouldn’t take anything away from Worksop because to win the last twenty games on the bounce is unbelievable but teams all the way down to tenth in our League could have something to play for until the last few weeks of the season if we had play-offs. I think that’s a change that could be made but next season, knowing that three go up, you know, I’ve already seen what’s going on with a few different teams in the League that are starting to bring players in, starting to announce players already. People are taking it seriously and the fact that three go up will really make it interesting next year. Have you got a replacement for Jake, because his goalscoring ability will take some replacing? Is Joe still with you? Joe McFadyen is still with us. Brett, Bows and myself are meeting later tonight to talk about a few different things. We aren’t going to mention any players until you can! You can’t sign until 01 July. We’ve talked to a number of players. Brett’s spoken to a number of players. He hasn’t been off the phone with me for a long, long time. We’re speaking regularly. We’ve got players that we’ve got committed but it doesn’t really mean anything really until they sign on that dotted line. Replacements-wise, Jake wanted to go. He wanted to test himself at a higher level. You hold your hands up to that if that’s what he wants to do. Good luck to him. You can’t stop anybody at this level who wants to improve themselves, going into the EvoSik or wherever. We all know where he’s going to but nothing’s been said yet. With us, we want to do that this year. We want the players that have been fantastic for us last year to be those players that take us to that next level next year. We’ve a couple of good, quality additions that I think we won’t be far away from that. To lose Jake is tough because, like you say, his goal record speaks for itself but we’ve got irons in the fire. It’s the same with T.J. in goal. He was Players’ Player of the Year last year and that says it all when your peers vote for you to be that Player of the Year. He wanted to move up a level and he’s gone to Frickley – that’s on his doorstep. It’s difficult to say no to that and we wish him all the best but we want to be playing them next year. That’s where we’re at. You’ve just made a statement, the same as Andy did in his interview, that you can’t sign players until 01 July. They may have agreements with the players and they may have gentlemen’s agreements where they’ve shook firm and know where they stand but that’s absolutely fine. If they want to do that, that’s totally up to them. We want to do things by the book. You’ve seen it in the past where some players have been swayed by an extra bit of money here and there and you’re not going to know until you get them down to that first pre-season training session and get them to sign on the dotted line. We went out with a game plan of a certain number of players that we wanted to approach. There were certain players that were paramount to us improving for next year. We’ve spoken to them. We’ve told them what our intentions are and they’ve let us know what theirs are. Just watch this space because the information will come out when it’s legally allowed to! Would you want to go into the EvoStik? Some say they don’t want to go. The finance is more but you’re getting gates of 100-plus, 150-plus. If you go in now, I think you’ll get gates of 300/400 like Worksop. We’d hope so. Some of the conversations that Brett and myself had last year – we used to travel to games together because we’re both East Hull lads – we’re really wanting to engage the community a bit more. What Worksop do, you can’t argue with. They have got the set up for the EvoStik. They’re getting people through the gates. The only plus-200 crowds we had last year were when Worksop came. You can tell that they’ve got that fan base and it brings regular money into the club. From Bridlington’s point of view, we need to engage the community a bit more. We need to get those guys through the gates and playing good attractive football. Being up there the way we have been this year I’m hoping will do that for next year. It works the same with sponsors. Pete works tirelessly, along with a few of the other Committee members to get local sponsors in that fund what it is that we do at this level and it would be impossible to do it without Pete and those guys on board. I can only talk for myself but I’ve spoken to Brett about it: we wouldn’t be doing it if there wasn’t an option to go up. That’s what we want. We want it for the club. We want it for ourselves. We want it for the players. It wouldn’t be worth your time if that wasn’t the end game really. Your season starts very early with pre-season this month: on the 27th with a match against Hull United. I believe it’s at St. Mary’s. Then you’ve got Scarborough and that’s the Howard Brown Trophy on a Tuesday evening. Then you’ve got Bitton in the Two Stations Cup, going all the way down to Somerset. Is that something you’re looking forward to? I think we’ve got a jam-packed schedule. We come back into training on the 20th. We’ve got a couple of sessions and then we’re straight into local games with Hull United and Chalk Lane, playing teams like that that have played locally. Chalk Lane, for example, that have won the League for the past few years; it’s going to be a good test locally. We play Worksop as well, who have gone up this year. We’ve got the opportunity, as crazy as it sounds, to win three competitions because we’ve got the Hull City Academy Trophy. We’ve got the ones that you’ve mentioned. We play Scarborough in the Memorial game every year. We then play in the Toolstation Cup where we go down south. We’ve been invited by Hull City to play in their Academy tournament with Pickering and Huddersfield Under-23s. The way that pre-season’s been geared, if you look at it we play a couple of local games. We play Worksop who we know about from last year then we’ve got some real tests again with the Toolstation Cup, Scarborough and the professional teams that we’ll be playing in the Hull City tournament. It’s fast and furious, to be honest! Training Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and if we’re not training we’ve got games. Before you know it, it will be 03 August! The League starts 03 August. With the local derbies, the main focus will be on that Division One with three teams from this area. One thing that will be good this year will be the Humber Premier League. Billy Gill’s gone down to Live Supplies, Westella’s got a new manager with Chris. It’s going to be a good season of local football. I think it’s great. We look at ourselves and we do a lot of travelling anyway in our division. The local derbies are grudge matches because a lot of the lads know each other anyway. The Barton ones are very much a Hull affair. The majority of the lads from Brid last year were from Hull and the majority of lads from Barton are from Hull so that’s got some spice to it. With Ferriby going into Division One, Hall Road being relegated, there are a lot of games going on in that League as well. It’s interesting. We try and just look after ourselves. We go game to game. We know what to expect from the majority of the teams that we’re playing in the Prem. There will be some changes. Everyone brings players in so there’ll be some teams that surprise and there’ll be some teams that we know an awful lot about. With the Humber Prem, if I’m being brutally honest, I don’t know too much about it. I know Spinksy really well; I’ve played with him quite a bit. I know Palmsy was brought in to work with him as well. I know a lot of the guys down at Chalk and between them and Pock and Bev, I think it’s going to be a shootout again at the top between those guys but I don’t know, to be honest. I think it’s a great stepping stone for the lads to progress because we’ve seen it with Joey Mac this year. He was outstanding for us: he won Manager’s Player of the Year at the presentation night. He was a talisman when Jake wasn’t firing and when Jake was injured. He’s made an amazing step up after playing for Chalk the year before so it proves that there are lads at that level that are good enough to make that step up. It’s testament to some of the guys in that league that manage those teams to keep those leads there because the opportunities are available. I think it’s a strong league when you look at the top of it.

Between Chalk and Pocklington and potentially the likes of Beverley it could be a competitive league. And, of course, you’ve got Bridlington Reserves in that Division One. Is that a feeder club to your first team?

We’ve seen players come through the ranks and we’ve had the likes of James Faulkner that played for the first team last year and the year before. We don’t do a lot together, if I’m honest, from a training point of view. It maybe something that changes. A lot of the lads that are based with the reserves are Bridlington-based and I think previously they’ve been given the opportunity to come down and train and it didn’t happen. That was before my time even as a player so whether Brett’s got any changes in mind with that, I’m not too sure.

From the conversations that we’ve had we’re strengthening the squad already and the lads that we’re bringing in are going to be competing on a level with the lads that we had last year.

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