Is Nathan Thomas transfer to Sheffield United the start of a Hartlepool United fire sale?
Hartlepool United have said farewell to Nathan Thomas and with barely a whimper.
The gifted attacker has joined newly-promoted Sky Bet Championship outfit, Sheffield United, on a three-year contract.
Predictably, the deal was announced as an “undisclosed fee” though an unofficial figure of £300,000 has been widely circulated since it emerged that the League One champions wanted him.
While it represents a massive profit for Pools who picked up the talented winger from Mansfield Town for what is believed to be a token fee, it falls hundreds of thousands short of the prices being bandied about in the Autumn.
Back then he was in unstoppable form and it seemed inevitable he would leave in the winter transfer window, only to suffer a groin injury at Barnet at the end of October.
Surgery meant he did not return until the end of January, ruling out a lucrative deal.
Thomas struggled to regain full fitness and full speed on his resumption, and admitted he found playing for ex-boss Dave Jones difficult.
And the fact he went off the boil in the Jones era would have knocked the price down.
But even taking into account the weakening of club’s bargaining position following relegation to the National League, the price and speed at which the 22-year-old has been moved out is baffling.
With Middlesbrough known to want to add a player of his pace and flair to their uninspiring attack plus Leeds United’s monitoring of the situation meant there was scope for Pools to drive up the price.
However, the deal has been rushed through in days and still a month and a half before the summer transfer deadline actually even opens!
The situation almost has a ‘fire sale’ look to it and it would be no surprise should Thomas be just the first asset to leave the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.
Leading scorer Padraig Amond and Trevor Carson are both players who remain under contract and could, potentially, attract buyers who want excellence at either end of the field.
For Thomas, a move to the Championship represents an exciting time for the Teessider who started his career as a youngster at Sunderland.
A Boro fan, the gifted left-footer is understood to have turned down the relegated Premier outfit to put pen to paper on a three-season stay with the Blades.
Boss Chris Wilder is a known admirer of the winger and made him his second summer signing following the capture of Wales striker Ched Evans.
Thomas, who made 56 appearances for Pools, scoring 14 goals, told Sheffield United’s website that he was thriled with the move.
“I’m aware that Chris Wilder has tried to sign me before and I enjoyed speaking to him,” he said.
“I didn’t want this dragging on through the summer.
“I knew what I wanted to do and now I can concentrate on getting my head down at the start of pre-season.”
Wilder added that he was “delighted” that he had been able to fend off other clubs to sign him.
“Nathan is someone we have tracked for a long time and is a talented young player,” he said.
“He was Hartlepool’s outstanding player last season and we believe, in our environment, he has the ability to push on to the next level, like a few that we brought in last season did.
“There were a number of clubs interested in Nathan’s signature and we are delighted that he has chosen to further his career with us.”