Why new Hull City MD Nick Thompson says he is right man to lead club
THERE were "dark moments" during January when Nick Thompson could be found staring out across an empty KC Stadium in search of solace.
A typically chaotic transfer window left Hull City's recently-appointed managing director exasperated, tired and irritable. On one occasion, he even admits to have felt unsuited to the role.
"January was my learning right angle," Thompson reflected this week. "But I enjoyed it in a strange, dark way."
Then, importantly, comes a smile.
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"There's the old adage what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger. And I've survived."
For a man with a history in marketing with News International and, until recently, as a director of Kingston Communications, Thompson was tossed in at football's deep end when named City's MD on December 18.
Tasked with leading the Tigers through a New Year trading storm, it was sink or swim time for the 54-year-old newcomer.
Completing deals for six signings ensured Thompson kept his head above choppy waters and, more importantly, provided manager Steve Bruce with a squad he feels can finish the job he has started in the promotion race.
An air of serenity has returned to City's offices at the KC Stadium after the closure of the transfer window last Thursday and finally allowed Thompson to catch his breath.
"It was almost like a quantum leap in understanding the business dynamics of the game," he said.
"It surprised me. Of course I was expecting January to be busy but I didn't appreciate just how busy it would be."
Thompson's baptism of fire eventually ended with six players in and another six out. Missing out on a recognised striker, most notably DJ Campbell, was the only cause for regret.
Permanent deals for Robbie Brady and David Meyler, as well as second loans for David Stockdale and Ahmed Elmohamady, means Bruce's promotion-chasing squad is fully intact from a breath-taking December. The low-risk, but potentially high-yielding, captures of Egypt internationals Gedo and Ahmed Fathi on loan serve to add gloss.
"We can certainly look back at January being a success," said Thompson, his Norfolk accent undiluted by almost a decade in East Yorkshire.
"The owners invested the thick end of £4m to make sure David Meyler and Robbie Brady would be with us. Players for today and players for the future who can be built around.
"Getting David Stockdale back from Fulham was very good business too. He wants to be a Premier League player and if we were to get into the Premier League, I'm sure Steve would want to him to be with us next season.
"Elmo came back from Sunderland as well and we all know his ability and influence. Gedo and Fathi will aim to be with us by the end of this week and they can be excellent additions. That's six players who bring something extra."
The elephant crouched in the corner of Thompson's office is a certain Dudley Junior Campbell.
Six days ago, the 31-year-old visited the KC to iron out the final details of his proposed move from QPR. A done deal, thought Thompson, with good reason.
Then came Campbell's alleged deceit and a dart across the Pennines to Blackburn. A lucrative deal failed to hit the deadline but the damage had been done.
A furious reaction followed from Bruce last Friday before an equally defiant response came from the Twitter account of Campbell. Thompson opts for diplomacy, but there is no mistaking his annoyance.
"I'd spent an awful lot of time on the phone with his agent on the Tuesday and Wednesday and my understanding was that we had an agreement," he explains.
"Provided his medical was done and dusted, we thought he would be with us at Millwall on Saturday.
"When they arrived there was a second agent there as part of the team. My understanding was he wanted to renegotiate and expected us to move.
"That may have been the case with Hull City in the past, but as far as I was concerned we had a deal.
"We'd agreed everything beside a few minor details. Then they wanted to shift it and that's not the way I do business.
"I would estimate Blackburn's weekly wage is 50 per cent more than we were offering and our offer was generous. He's getting what he was earning in the Premier League in the Championship."
Thompson has lived and learned.
His business experience appealed to owners Assem and Ehab Allam upon his unveiling in December and he will need every ounce of it to turn around City's effectively flawed business model.
Recent years have seen City live far beyond their financial means and dependent entirely on the support offered by the Allam family. The club's latest accounts, announced last month, showed an annual loss of £8.7m up to July 2012.
Financial Fair Play rules mean something has to change and Thompson is the man who will carry that responsibility. He says "a fair bit" needs to change to bring City in line with new regulations but he believes it can be done.
January was an opening challenge sent to test Thompson's resolve, but after six weeks in the job he believes the future can offer few more daunting demons than those conquered last month.
"There was a time when I went home to my wife and said 'I don't think I can do this' because I was tired and couldn't see a way through a deal for Robbie Brady," he explained. "I only had a few hours sleep but then I woke up in the night and thought of a way forward. That was a deal-breaker and it came off.
"To go from not being sure I could do it to then being in a position to get the deal done was a turning point. It was a fantastic learning experience and great fun in a dark, manic way.
"Even in the darkest moments, and there were some in January, I would walk over to the pitch and look around. This is every bloke's dream."