Eagles' Thompson aims to bring BBL Cup back to North-East

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

ESH GROUP EAGLES will attempt to put last year’s BBL Cup final defeat to Leicester Riders behind them when the teams meet for a rematch in this year’s showpiece tomorrow, with forward Stuart Thompson hoping to follow in the footsteps of his older brother.

Eagles head to Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena after seeing off Sheffield Sharks in a two-legged semi-final, where they will meet last year’s champions for the first piece of silverware of the season.

And Thompson, who joined Eagles in the summer, has set his sights on following in older brother Andrew’s footsteps after he was part of Newcastle’s quadruple-winning side of 2012.

Andrew has since moved on to pastures new and is currently plying his trade in France, but Stuart is relishing a shot at winning his first trophy with Fabulous Flournoy’s men.

“It feels great to be heading to the finals for a chance to win the first silverware up for grabs this year and I look forward to the challenge,” said the 25-year-old.

“We have a solid group of players and personalities on this team that have come together well over the first half of the season and we have confidence in each other that none of us will quit when times are hard.”

Thomson senior experienced both sides of the cup final coin having lost in the showpiece event with Mersey Tigers and against One Health Sharks Sheffield the year before tasting success as an Eagle.

Without a game last weekend Eagles used an exhibition clash against Leeds Carnegie on Tuesday to work together and 'find some game rhythm', something which could be crucial tomorrow as the two teams meet for the first time this season.

Leicester sit two places and four points above Newcastle in the BBL Championship table and Thompson believes the first few minutes could shape the rest of the game in front of an expected 9,000 sell-out crowd.

The 6ft 6in forward said: “It's going to be challenging and the first few minutes will be interesting as both teams size each other up and get familiar.

“But the Riders will be a challenge as both teams are driven by tough defence, so creative and well executed offence will be very important.

He added: “Experience will help us settle into the game at the start, finding our rhythm and style of play. Maybe most importantly it will help us close out the game in the dying minutes."

If Newcastle are to claim the cup tomorrow, recent history suggests they could be in for a successful season.

In the previous two terms they lifted the BBL Cup, in 2006 and 2011, the Trophy, Championship and Play-off crowns followed, a result of increased freedom and belief according to Thomson.

“Every victory gives a team confidence.

“But a victory in a final is added confidence and frees the players of some pressure to win, helping them to play more freely, which is always a dangerous thing for opponents as individual players' skills and attributes begin to show through even more.”

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