Euro journey shows how far Steelers have come...

Paul Thompson and Tony Smith
Paul Thompson and Tony Smith
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Last Sunday evening I was driving back from iceSheffield after our successful opening weekend of the season; two sold out exhibition games sponsored by the Holiday Inn Royal Victoria.

Here we were in mid August selling exhibition games out, selling our Champions Hockey League replica shirts out.

We had watched a brand new team play some exciting, fast and entertaining hockey, two nights in a row - under the new regime of the best coach ever to stand behind a bench in the Elite League era.

Our on and off-ice team had worked in military procession all week through a tough training camp, coaches, trainers, fitness gurus and admin, all working towards the same goal - to make the Sheffield Steelers the best club we can.

Now this week, we embark on the latest journey for the Steelers - the Champions Hockey League, where we’ll pit ourselves against the very best teams in Europe and, in Frolunda, one of the elite sides on the continent.

A Real Madrid, an Inter Milan of the hockey world.

Every night on my drive back home from a Steelers game, I call the owner Tony Smith and I did so again last Sunday.

Remember it’s just four years ago - this is his fifth season - since he took over the club.

We touched on all that I have written above.

“God, we have come a long way Tony,” I said.

And isn’t that the case.

The Steelers of today is night and day different to the club he took over. To be fair, the team side of things is night and day different from the one that ended last season.

Every year the club grows; more fans, more season ticket holders, more sponsors.

This season we have more players, a deeper squad. All summer we have spoken about the coach and his backroom staff. More of them, too - all of them professionals, employed to use their skills and expertise to make the players better.

There is just a different feel about the Steelers as we embark on this new campaign. Are we there? No. But we are getting there and getting closer every day.

You feel now, after four years, that Smith is starting to see the club he really wants the Steelers to be; stable, strong and a leader in the British game in everything we do.

Thompson was the missing piece of the puzzle in my view. A coach he felt confident with, one that shared his vision and work ethic.

A coach that would push Smith and not visa versa. A coach that would test the owner, not an owner that would test the coaches.

Smith was always ready to deliver anything the coaches wanted, as long as they would and could manage it.

As long as it was designed to make the players better, and thus the club, and the improve the product of fast and exciting hockey for all to see.

Thompson has driven Tony Smith all summer and no one is happier than that has happened more so than the club’s owner.

The Steelers fly to Sweden and Finland to play the two toughest games in their 25 year history, a hugely different club in recent years but one totally focused and determined to make a difference.

You walk into the Steelers now and it’s a proper club, a proper sporting club.

Like I say, still a long way to go to be where we want to. But, by God, haven’t we come a long way.