Nathan Thomas admits that even interest from boyhood club Middlesbrough couldn’t turn his head once he’d decided to join League One champions Sheffield United.
Thomas, the 22-year-old winger, signed a three-year deal at Bramall Lane yesterday after an undisclosed fee, thought to be in the region of £300,000, was agreed with Hartlepool United.
Chris Wilder, the United boss, hailed Thomas as Hartlepool’s stand-out player after he scored nine goals in 34 games last season - and the Blades swooped for a bargain price after Hartlepool were relegated from the Football League.
And Thomas, a Middlesbrough fan from a young age, admitted: “Sheffield United were the first team in for me and, as far as I’m concerned, the only team.
“When Middlesbrough came in I thought it was the dream but the more I sat back and thought about it, the more I realised that coming to United was a better opportunity for me and for my career.
“I had a conversation with Boro but my heart was set on joining United. I came up to meet Chris, to look around the stadium and the city and there was just something about the mood that’s hard to describe.
“Obviously, winning promotion helps with the mood but from that day, no-one else was going to turn my head.”
Thomas becomes Wilder’s second signing of the close season, following Ched Evans’ capture from Chesterfield. Former Spireite Jay O’Shea yesterday informed United that he had rejected their offer of a two-year contract.
“Nathan is someone we have tracked for a long time and is a talented young player,” Wilder 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.”
On O’Shea, Wilder said: “We thank him for his contribution and wish him all the best for the future.”
Thomas graduated from Sunderland’s youth academy before leaving in 2013 and later played alongside United goalkeeper George Long at Motherwell.
“I’m aware that Chris Wilder has tried to sign me before and I enjoyed speaking to him,” he added.
“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.”