Thompson, who also served as the club’s general manager, severed all ties with the club yesterday afternoon, ending an association that began back in the summer of 2015.
Last season was the first time the club went without a trophy under Thompson, prompting him to undertake a major overhaul of his roster, with 16 new faces coming in and a number of favourites moving on, either to pastures new or into retirement.
But a number of those arrivals struggled to have the desired impact, with twin brothers Matt and Ryan Rupert the earliest casualties when they were releas ed earlier this month. Results have not improved, however, although light appeared to be at the end of the tunnel after a much-improved performance brought a 3-2 home win in the Challenge Cup over Nottingham Panthers on Saturday night.
But there was further woe 24 hours later when the Steelers went down 5-2 at Thompson’s former club Coventry Blaze.
The 53-year-old former Great Britain head coach said afterwards he felt the team had moved forward over the whole weekend.
But, fewer than 24 hours later, he decided the time had come for him to move on, much to the disappointment of his players, including Phillips, who had previously played under Thompson for GB and Coventry.
“We’re the ones out there on the ice so we need to take our share of responsibility and I feel like, as a group, we’ve let him down,” said Phillips.
“I’ve played under him at various places and always enjoyed working with him. I’m gutted that he’s gone. But it is his decision and you have to respect that.”
It is unclear what will happen next for both club and coach.
Thompson may fancy some time out of the game having given absolutely everything during his time with the Steelers, often at the expense of his own family, based back in the West Midlands.
Steelers’ owner Tony Smith, who accepted Thompson’s resignation at around 1.30pm, has put player-assistant coach Mark Matheson in temporary charge and now has the difficult task of replacing one of the most successful and – despite the recent, at times, hateful criticism from some fans – highly-respected British coaches of all time.
Given all domestic hockey seasons are either underway or will be this weekend, it will be no easy task.
In a short statement, the club said: “Paul Thompson has left the club for personal reasons. We wish to thank Paul for his hard work and effort here over the past three and a half seasons.