Why it makes sense
For the club
Thomson showed in flashes towards the end of last season that he can still be an intelligent and composed footballer. His cameo in the Edinburgh derby defeat at Tynecastle swung the game in Hibs favour and they should have rescued a point from the match had Jordon Forster’s header been allowed to stand. In pressure situations teams need someone who is capable of getting his foot on the ball and keeping possession with the smart and simple passing. Thomson still does that better than most players in the league. Sure he may have suffered through a terrible year at Hibs – cast aside by Butcher for the majority – but even in the disastrous 2-0 home loss to, where Thomson admitted to not playing well, he showed that his presence can help a team under pressure. Nobody remembers it now, but Hamilton failed to do much after his introduction and the game seemed to be petering out to an inevitable conclusion before Anthony Andreu’s 93rd minute equaliser.
Injuries have robbed him of the dynamism he once possessed which helped make him a potential goal threat from deep during his initial spell at Hibs. Regardless, he is still capable of performing that valuable role by dictating play in front of the back four. This, coupled with his great experience, make him such a valuable addition for a team that will be looking for leaders to help them through the difficult transition of going from big fishes in a small pond to hunted prey for the more established top flight teams.
For the player
Thomson just needs to keep his nose clean and rebuild the reputation which has been shattered by his former manager’s treatment of him throughout the final five months of last season. The Hibs fans may have backed the player with an enthusiastic round of applause when he entered the Hamilton game, but there remains a question mark as to why Butcher went to such lengths to keep such a reputable footballer out of the starting XI on a struggling side. If he keeps his head down, does exactly what his new manager tells him and performs to the best of his abilities – even for one year – he can convince people that the previous six months were down to a massive oversight from his former boss and not anything more sinister. If that can be achieved then Thomson can arrest the slide in his career and once again return to being a credible top six player in this league.
Why it doesn’t
For the player
Alongside fellow new recruit Simon Ferry or the incumbent Kevin McBride, he can be one half of a good central midfield pairing in a 4-2-3-1 system at Dens Park. But did he make his move too quickly? Of course he would have wanted assurances about his future. No player wants to go through the summer not knowing whether they’ll find a new club. And yet we often see footballers holding out, skipping a pre-season and still landing on their feet because clubs tend to get a bit desperate in August and part with money or player security that they might not have been so generous with back in early June. Could he have reached higher than Dens?
Thomson went on record himself as saying that Gary Locke was interested in him while he was still Hearts manager. Now that Locke is at Kilmarnock as number two under Allan Johnston, wouldn’t that have been a better destination? Playing at a club which has enjoyed two decades of uninterrupted top flight status instead of one which has spent the majority of that time battling in the second tier? Then again, Dundee are a sleeping giant in Scottish football terms – regularly attracting greater crowds than teams even in the top six. If Thomson really bought into Paul Hartley’s revolution then he may not have played his hand too early.
For the club
At first Thomson didn’t fit the 4-4-2 formation Butcher implemented shortly after the manager arrived at Hibs, which is fair enough. Yet it doesn’t explain why Thomson continued to be sitting on his backside when the team was shifted into a 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1, where Thomson’s inability to get up and down the pitch wouldn’t have been as much of a problem. The rumour, as we’ve mentioned earlier, is that there was a huge falling out between the pair. Butcher has a reputation as someone who wants to butt heads with players and can be difficult to get along with, but that shouldn’t matter. Footballers are expected to fall into line with their manager, not fall out with them and be cast from the first team picture shortly after their arrival.
Hartley needs experience for this Premiership charge, but he can’t do it at the risk of having a cancerous influence in the dressing room. The Dundee boss may have heard evidence to the contrary, though his decision to bring in Phil Roberts (a borderline malcontent) following the attacker’s release from Falkirk towards the tail end of last season may indicate an overconfidence in his own ability to get the best out of difficult players.