Thompson does his homework to give Queen's students a Steel Cup boost
It’s rare to find a manager who will take an opponent in a forthcoming cup tie lightly - but it’s also rare to find one who will put in as much preparation as Queen’s University manager Peter Thompson.
The students boss, who famously lead Queen’s to an Irish Cup semi-final 18 months ago, will have his players well versed when it comes to this Saturday’s Toals Steel & Sons Cup fourth round against Crusaders Reserves - as he has personally been to watch them twice in the past week.
Despite their previous cup exploits, few people would put the university side among the favourites to actually get their hands on the old trophy come Christmas morning. However, that is not even a consideration for Thompson, who makes sure that no stone is left unturned for any fixture, regardless of competition or level of opposition.
He said: “My opinion is that as the manager, you have to be the hardest working person at the club. If the players don’t see that happening, then they’ll not give you 100%.
“You have to be prepared, so that if the game doesn’t go according to plan, the players have no excuses.
“Going to check out other teams isn’t an issue for me… I love doing this job. I love football, Queen’s are my team, and I will do everything I can to help them win.”
And after seeing the Crues second string lose narrowly to NIFL Reserve League leaders Linfield Swifts and draw with Coleraine Reserves on Friday night, Thompson believes his side could have their hands full this weekend.
He said: “It’s difficult to know what sort of team they will have out for the game, but there is a chance they will have two or three first team players in there.
“Knowing Gavin Arthur and how he sets his teams up, they will be technical, fit, young and well organised. It will be a very hard game for us, and from what I have seen, they could be the favourites. The one good thing for us is that we don’t have to go to Seaview.”
Of course, Queen’s proved with a run to the last four of the 2013/14 Irish Cup, that they were capable of great feats in knockout competition, before finally succumbing to a 3-0 defeat against Ballymena United at the Oval.
Yet Thompson insists that glorious journey has been confined to the history books as he endeavours to drive both his club and his managerial career forward.
He said: “To be honest, we don’t even think about it anymore. There is a big turnover of players - but that is the nature of this club.
“Last year, we had seven academy players, and at the end of the season, six of them moved on. It’s a big adjustment, but that’s how we work, and myself, Noel (Corrigan, assistant) and Neil (McGaughey, coach) enjoy it.”
With such an ever-changing and challenging environment, does Thompson ever consider moving on to another club with different demands?
He replied: “I think there is a shelf-life for all managers. Just look at Tommy Breslin at Cliftonville. I used to laugh at the saying ‘I’ve taken the club as far as I can,’ but if any manager is doing the job right, it does make sense over time.
“I’m completing the second part of my A-Licence, and I’m doing that for a reason. But I’ve never had any offers or phone calls. It is difficult, because it is a risk for an Irish League club to take you on-board if you are not known or haven’t played for them.
“But just because you’re not a Glenn Ferguson, a Gary Hamilton, or a Warren Feeney, the skills are still transferable.”
In the meantime, Thompson will continue to strive to give the edge to his Queen’s side, and if his homework pays off on this occasion, they will find themselves with a place in the quarter-finals of one of local football’s most celebrated competitions.
Belfast Telegraph Digital