Nathan Thomas likes Mansfield Town and their boss, Adam Murray. But the 21-year-old loves Hartlepool United.
Thomas will come up against former club Mansfield for the second time when the Stags come to the Northern Gas & Power Stadium this Saturday.
“I enjoyed my time at Mansfield - (but) I love Hartlepool“Nathan Thomas
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 Field Mill 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.
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 in SportMail 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.
“Massively,” he told SportMail
“For any attacking player, if you are loved by everyone it makes your job easier.
“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.”