Nathan Thomas was already minded to join Sheffield United when news of their interest first broke.
But, speaking after agreeing a three year contract with the League One champions, the former Hartlepool winger revealed how Chris Wilder’s powerful oratory helped seal the deal.
“When you sit down in front of the manager, you just immediately buy into what he wants to do. The way he speaks about the club, I know he’s a local lad and his background with it, just grabs you straight away.”
Thomas, aged 22, became United’s second new signing of the close season after finalising his move to Bramall Lane on Monday. Previously of Newcastle and Sunderland, Middlesbrough hoped geography would help them win the race for the youngster’s services; especially when combined with financial clout. Thomas, however, told The Star that South Yorkshire was always his preferred destination having played against Wilder’s Northampton Town team 15 months ago.
“Another reason I came here is because I know the manager has seen me,” he said. “I played against his Northampton team for Hartlepool two seasons ago. I think we ended a really long winning run they were on so he’s obviously forgiven me! Seriously though, other managers and people who want you have only seen you on video or read reports. He spoke to me about what he wants, what he thinks I can bring and how he thinks I can improve. That was another big thing for me.”
“That really made an impression,” Thomas continued. “Persuasive isn’t the right word because I didn’t have to be persuaded. But he leaves you in no doubt what this club is about, what it means to play for it and what it means for the people here and the fans. And about what he wants for it, how he wants to keep pushing forward, as well. It’s a great club and I can’t wait.”
Thomas’ decision to reject the chance to represent his hometown club - he was born on Teesside before entering the youth system at St James’ Park - is a real coup for United given Middlesbrough’s financial clout. A well-travelled player, he enjoyed spells with Plymouth Argyle and Motherwell before arriving at Victoria Park, via Mansfield Town, a year ago.
“I just want to thank Hartlepool for everything,” Thomas, whose impressive displays were unable to prevent Hartlepool sliding into the National League, said. “When I was at Mansfield, where things started to go really well, I needed to go home for personal reasons.
“They let me do that and Hartlepool gave me a the opportunity. They couldn’t have done enough for me and I’ll never forget that. I’ve gone from the lowest low to a real high in a month. Probably the biggest high I’ve ever had in the game. But I also hope they come back because the club and the fans don’t deserve what happened. They should be a league club, without a shadow of a doubt.”