Wally: Ben's decision about much more than captaincy

Saints legend Steve Thompson believes Ben Cohen's reasons for leaving Franklin's Gardens run much deeper than the captaincy issue.

And the former England hooker says the club's statement that Cohen left because he was overlooked for the captaincy is just a smokescreen and that he had been unhappy at the way the club was going for some time.

Cohen leaves Saints like fellow homegrown World Cup winner Thompson under a cloud and 29-year-old Wally, who was forced to retire with a neck injury last season, feels it is symptomatic of a club more interested in money than repaying its loyal players.

Updated September 25: Your messages on Cohen - click here

Saints yesterday announced that Cohen had bought himself out of the last year of his contract and had officially left.

The winger had not been to training since, the club says, not being made captain days before the start of the season.

Cohen pays up contract and leaves - click here

Thompson said: "That's the spin the club are putting on it – it is just a smokescreen. Sometimes people want to go into a working environment they like and enjoy and clearly Ben didn't like his working environment anymore. It's his own decision.

"It is sad for everybody involved when a player like Ben leaves the club, but it's been on the cards for a while.

"Ben has been a loyal servant at Saints and will probably go down as one of the club's greats. He has probably been the club's most consistent player for the past 10 years.

"We have all said before about the changes at the club, it has changed a lot and perhaps it's best for both sides that Ben moves on and finds a new challenge.

"There are no real local lads left anymore, apart from Digger (Paul Diggin), but when money becomes the be all and end all then loyalty goes out of the window.

"But you look at some of the other clubs like Wasps and they stay loyal to their players. People like Joe Worsley, Simon Shaw are still there, but me, Ben and Daws (Matt Dawson) all left Saints and you wonder why?"

After winning the World Cup Cohen turned down a big money move to Leicester to remain loyal with Saints and Thompson revealed he rejected an offer from Wasps.

Cohen signed a new three-year deal with Saints, but instead of seeing the club progress on the field it slipped behind ending with relegation last season.

"It has been a hard three years for everybody involved with the club," said Thompson. "We had offers, I had one from Wasps and other clubs, but we were homegrown lads and we decided we wanted to stay with the club.

"I've seen some of the stuff on the internet and to accuse Ben of being disloyal is ridiculous. Over the year he has hardly missed a game because of injury."

Speculation will continue as to where Cohen will continue his playing career, but Thompson, who is now a consultant for French Top 14 side Brive, reckons his old mate will have other things on his mind.

"His twins were due yesterday," said Thompson. "Sometimes things happen for a reason and all this means he will have time to spend with his family. I haven't spoken to him about where he is going."

Leicester Tigers refused to comment on speculation linking Cohen to a move to Welford Road last week and rugby league side Harlequins have also been reportedly interested in signing him.