Former Stags winger Nathan Thomas said he would be forever grateful to Mansfield Town boss Adam Murraay for allowing him go home to his native North-East last season.
He also described Murray as ‘a brilliant coach’, but all that will be forgotten when Thomas, 21, lines up against the Stags for the second time for Hartlepool United tomorrow.
The ex-Sunderland, Plymouth and Motherwell winger was an inspired signing by then Pools boss, Ronnie Moore, in the early stages of the January transfer window.
Murray, reluctantly, let Thomas leave the One Call Stadium with the player desperate to return to his native Teesside and the boss saying he was unsure as to his long-term future at the club.
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Thomas is, of course, thriving at Pools, where he has been an automatic selection under Moore and Craig Hignett.
And Thomas has not got a bad word for Murray or Mansfield, but says the fact he’s playing every Saturday here is a world away from his time at the Stags where eight of his 17 appearances were from the bench.
“It was more like one week in six!” he joked. “Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time at Mansfield and I’m glad they signed me.
“Adam Murray was brilliant. He didn’t have a problem when I went in and asked if I could have a move home.
“He wanted what was best for me and I will forever be grateful to him.
“He’s a brilliant coach, he’s like Higgy, he’s young and hungry and very good at what he does.
“But the end of the day I’m a Hartlepool United player now and everyone knows how I feel towards the club.
“Pools is from my neck of the woods and Hartlepool people are my sort of people.
“I want to perform as best I can for them and the club and see where that takes us. I love Hartlepool.”
Given his pedigree, skill, pace and age - and his form - Thomas looks destined to attract some serious interest in the next transfer window.
Hignett said on Monday that he expected bids for the team’s leading scorer.
But for Thomas, he is relaxed about the situation and his only thoughts are for Pools.
“Obviously, if I move in the future comes then it comes,” he said.
“But for now my priority is Hartlepool United and trying to make us a better team than we were last season, hopefully finishing in a position that we feel we should do.”
Thomas says the esteem in which he is held by the Pools management and supporters makes him a better player.
“For any attacking player, if you are loved by everyone it makes your job easier,” he said. “I know how much faith the gaffer has in me and the fans too.
“I could have a bad game one week, of course I try not to, I know next week they will all be there in force again shouting my name and driving me past the full back.
“When it’s like that, it’s the best feeling in football, you don’t want anything else.”
Hartlepool will be aiming for a first home win of the season on Saturday and boss Hignett said: “We have had a couple of games we should have won at home, which ended in draws and then that disappointing loss to Notts County.
“We should have won last time out to Newport, which was two points thrown away
“We are only a win off a play-off spot, that shows how tight the league is.
“We need to sort out our home form out and become hard to beat, we need this to be a place where teams don’t relish coming. You only do that by getting results.
“Mansfield are similar to us, with some good wins, Leyton Orient away being one, but some losses you wouldn’t expect.
“The league is tight, you can beat anyone on the day.”