ANDY Thomson has bid a reluctant farewell to the Newcastle Eagles - but says he may be back on Tyneside one day.
The BBL’s British player of the year was a revelation in his first year with Newcastle, maintaining the kind of consistency which was key as the Eagles scooped a clean sweep in his debut campaign at Sport Central.
He was widely tipped to return to Newcastle and turned down an offer from the newly-formed Manchester Giants earlier in the summer.
The Eagles hopes of bringing him back, however, were sunk by a counter-offer from French Third Division side La Rochelle, however.
Although Newcastle will be disappointed to lose a player of Thomson’s calibre, there was little they could do to stop the 6ft 9ins star from leaving.
The move gives Manchester-born Thomson a taste of European basketball while also giving him wages far in excess of what the Eagles could afford.
He said: “It is a big move for me and I hope the Eagles supporters realise it is just business.
“I have enjoyed my time in Newcastle and the North East and everyone has been fantastic to me since I joined the club.
“That is the club, my team-mates, Fab and the coaching staff and the supporters, who welcomed me with open arms.
“I would really just like to thank for everything.
“They were always hostile when I was with Mersey Tigers – not in a nasty way – but then as soon as I signed they were great to me and a few have said they will come over to see me in France.
“I have had a great time but this offer was really just too good to turn down.
“I have spoken to people at the club and Fab said he was very happy for me – there is no problem there and I will be coaching for him at one of his summer camps this year. It is sad for me to be leaving Newcastle because I thought I would be coming back but sometimes you just have to do what is right for your career.”
That, inevitably, means the chance to play in Europe where basketball is a much more developed sport.
While his new club La Rochelle might be starting next season in the third division, they have ambitious plans which include the recruitment of overseas stars. Thomson admits the lack of European basketball was a key factor in his decision, but believes Newcastle are handily-placed to play Continental competition at some point over the next few years.
He added: “They are a big enough club with good enough organisation to do it and if they do and they give me a call I would love to come back.
“It is one of my main career aims, to play in Europe, and hopefully if you play abroad it takes you closer to that goal of playing in European competition.
“The club looks excellent and the place looks great too so I cannot wait to get over there and get started now.”
The Eagles will now begin work on trying to source a replacement. The 6ft 9ins power forward averaged 14.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in the 2011/12 season.