AFTER a couple of days dealing with the shock resignation by Paul Thompson as head coach at Sheffield Steelers, player-assistant Mark Matheson has had to quickly adapt to the new role as his temporary replacement.
The 34-year-old defenceman admits he and his fellow team-mates initially struggled to deal with the fact Thompson had chosen on Monday to step down following a sluggish start to the season, the 53-year-old citing personal reasons.
But once owner Tony Smith held a team meeting just hours after Thompson’s resignation in which he asked Matheson to step up from his No 2 role it was clear there was little time to dwell for too long on what had happened.
Thanks to the short time he had already worked alongside the former Great Britain coach, Matheson has taken on the more senior role confident he has the tools to steer the Steelers ship through some choppy waters – at least on a temporary basis.
Smith and his staff are currently sifting through the high volume of applications they have received to succeed Thompson, but if results improve in the desired way Matheson may yet find himself in charge for longer.
I wish Paul nothing but the best. I really like Thommo, loved him as a coach and loved him as a person and I’m sure he’ll take some time which I hope is good for him and help him be in a better place.Mark Matheson
While not ruling out his willingness to take the job on a long-term basis – largely because he has not had any time to think about it – the veteran is not looking any further ahead than this weekend’s games against Glasgow Clan and Fife Flyers.
“It was a big shock when Thommo resigned,” said Matheson. “I definitely didn’t see it coming and you had that initial feeling of being at a big loss over such a massive change and wondering what was going to happen next.
“Then it starts to sink in and you start to have a better understanding of what Thommo must have been going through in order to step away like that.
“I wish Paul nothing but the best. I really like Thommo, loved him as a coach and loved him as a person and I’m sure he’ll take some time, which I hope is good for him and help him be in a better place.
“But the reality is we have to move on and I’m just trying to take it a week at a time and prepare the team as best as I can for this weekend. I’m not looking any further ahead than that.”
Matheson has found willing help in the shape of long-serving captain Jonathan Phillips and assistant captains Aaron Johnson and Even McGrath, the latter two being among the 16 new faces brought in by Thompson this summer.
As if being asked to step into the shoes of his former boss so quickly was not enough to deal with this week, Matheson had yesterday to contend with the shock departure of forward Ryan Martindale, who is returning home to North America for personal reasons just five days after arriving in South Yorkshire.
Thankfully a replacement has already arrived with the return of Swedish forward Jonas Westerling, one of a number of players to leave in the summer as part of Thompson’s major overhaul.
“Bringing Jonas back takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the equation as we know we have a player who found his game in this league and knows what it’s all about,” said Matheson. “He knows the club, is excited to be here and I couldn’t be happier to have him back in the locker room.
“With regard to Ryan, there are personal reasons which are enough for him to have to go home. When it comes down to that kind of decision you just have to set hockey aside and wish him the best in life in general as a human being, not just as a hockey player.”