OWNER Tony Smith has assured Sheffield Steelers' fans he is working round the clock in order to make the "best possible" coaching appointment for the club.
After a stuttering start to the season, head coach Paul Thompson resigned on Monday afternoon, citing ‘personal reasons’ – the previous weeks had seen him come under growing pressure and fierce criticism from some fans after a summer overhaul of his roster which brought in 16 new faces had failed to bring the desired results.
Player-assistant Mark Matheson was asked to step up by Smith on a temporary basis, taking charge initially for this weekend's games against Glasgow Clan and Fife Flyers,with the club already having received a high volume of job applications from coaches looking to succeed Thompson on a permanent basis.
Smith said he was disappointed his close working relationship with Thompson had been brought to an end but vowed he and his staff were working hard to bring the "best possible people" into the club.
"I was disappointed that this was the outcome to what has been a difficult period of time," said Smith in a club statement released on Friday afternoon.
"Paul and I had a very good working relationship and communicated well with one another. I supported Paul fully, as I have every coach under my tenure.
"I do believe that Paul has improved our club since his arrival and we have moved on as an organisation, something he he has played an instrumental part in. So, it was with regret that I accepted Paul’s decision.
"We have received many applications for the job, and at the present time we are taking references and carrying out due diligence on some different options. No decision will be taken in haste as this is too much of an important decision to rush into."
Smith said he was convinced that until a permanent successor to Thompson was appointed, the team was in safe hands under the experienced Matheson.
He added: "The club is fortunate to have Mark at the helm. I spoke with Mark, together with the captains after Paul’s decision on Monday. Their professionalism was welcomed and admired."
In a clear reference to the, at times, fierce criticism Thompson received from a small minority of fans in recent weeks - most notably on social media - Smith hoped that any differences of opinion could be set aside for this weekend and going forward.
"The Steelers are a special club and collectively we haven’t been shown in a great light over the past few weeks," added Smith. "This is time for that to stop and for us all to unite and put differences behind us."