Craig Farrell’s Column: Thornton takes control

Gary Thornton
Gary Thornton
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The bulk of my columns usually focus on the Stobart Super League or Scarborough Pirates and this season I have talked about little else.

However, this week I’d like to begin by discussing Championship side York City Knights’ appointment of Gary Thornton as head coach, who will succeed current player-coach, Chris Thorman, at the end of the season when he joins Huddersfield Giants’ coaching staff.

Gary Thornton is a man I know well, having played under him for two years at Batley Bulldogs; he’s a good coach who has developed his skills further at Castleford Tigers, where he has been in charge of their under-20 side since ending his five-and-a-half year tenure at Batley in 2009.

Thornton was awarded the coach of the year award in 2006 after the Bulldogs’ highly competitive season, despite the confines of working on a shoestring budget.

I joined the following year and despite not emulating the successes of 2006 - surely a mere coincidence - Gary was able to build an incredible team spirit, which is something some of the most technically able coaches I have worked under have not been able to do, and this is a testament to the type of man that he is.

One of the reasons Batley was able to not only survive but to compete as they did during Gary Thornton’s reign as head coach was his confidence and faith in young players, something which may well be of great benefit to Scarborough youngster, Kristian Brining.

Kristian’s first-team opportunities at the Knights have been limited this season under Chris Thorman and Thornton could be the man to give him a sustained run of first-team action next term.

Having spoken with Kristian recently I know he’s been working hard to develop his game and is both physically and mentally ready for regular first-team football, all he needs now is the opportunity to prove himself.

I believe Gary Thornton is an excellent fit for York and with Mick Cook and Mick Ramsden as his assistant coaches the Knights will be looking to build on a poor season this year to become a much more competitive side come the start of 2013.

To Bradford Bulls now where the saga continues. Having written, last Monday evening (in time to meet my deadline), about 16 members of staff being laid-off by the club including head coach Mick Potter and his backroom staff, events had taken an incredible turn by Thursday, the day this newspaper is published, that Potter had returned to his role without pay, a move he initially ruled out; this swift U-turn demonstrating the incredible speed at which this story has moved in recent weeks and also highlighting perfectly the pitfalls of writing about such a story three days before publication.

“I just feel I owe it to (the players),” Potter explained. “I’m doing it out of the goodness of my heart.

“They’re a great group of blokes, but they need some direction.”

And direction on the field is exactly what Mick Potter appears to have given the financially stricken side in recent weeks as they’ve climbed to an incredible sixth place in the Stobart Super League, despite their off-field problems.

Such is the swiftness of the turning of events at Odsal that any current news about the club I report on now could well be rendered obsolete by the time you read this on Thursday.

So I won’t and instead I’ll pilfer the words of my friend and fellow Scarborough News columnist, Dave Campbell, who emailed me his thoughts on the current situation and way to avoid such a financial calamity happening again:

“Like any other business, sports clubs should stick to solid business principles; firstly, expenditure should not exceed income.

“The way forward? Stay well within your budget, cut down on overblown coaching and admin budgets and develop sources of income other that just rugby. It’s simple.”

I could not agree more, Dave. And if, like Dave, you’d like to contact me about anything rugby league related then please email me at

Finally, don’t forget that Scarborough Pirates look to maintain their perfect season when they entertain Holderness Vikings at Eastway on Saturday, kick-off is at 2:30pm.

The Vikings find themselves in the division above the Pirates and should pose their toughest test to date, your support is, as ever, appreciated.