During his time with the Knights, Chris Thorman was pivotal to the team earning promotion in 2010 while, through his three seasons with the club, he racked up in excess of 250 points and became a Guinness World Record holder. Now in charge of Betfred League One outfit Workington Town, the man affectionately known as ‘Spuggy’ spoke to the club’s official website about his time with the club.
When the deal for Thorman to join the Knights, it was arguably the highest-profile signing the club had made since recruiting Lee Jackson ahead of the club’s maiden campaign in 2003. The then Knights general manager, Ian Wilson, commented on the signing, stating that “the quality and experience he will bring will be crucial to us next season.”
His arrival at the club saw Thorman take his first move into coaching. Signing a deal which included becoming the club’s assistant coach, the then-29-year-old explained how he turned down other interest to join the club. “I was at the back end of my playing career and always had aspirations of going into coaching,” he outlined, continuing “I had two short term offers to continue playing in Super League but felt that the time was right to cut my teeth in coaching and York gave me that opportunity.”
Indeed, the culmination of his first season saw the club win promotion in the Co-operative Championship One Grand Final against Oldham, a 25-6 victory which saw Thorman named the official Man of the Match after a personal eleven-point haul while having a hand in plenty of the Knights’ positive work throughout that afternoon at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Thorman admits that being named Man of the Match was probably his fondest memory in Knights colours and, despite the team being outsiders at 5-2 with some bookmakers, feels the team got what their hard work warranted. “It was essentially what I’d been signed to achieve,” Thorman said of earning promotion. “We had a decent squad and a bunch of blokes that liked to work hard for each other. I thought we got what we deserved that year.”
Another eye-catching match from Thorman’s time with the club saw the Wallsend native become a Guinness World Record holder after scoring a staggering 56 points in the Knights’ 132-0 victory over Northumbria University in the Challenge Cup – still the biggest win any team has ever recorded in that competition. “I know it’s a Guinness World Record, but if I’m honest it was a strange one to be involved in,” Thorman admitted, reasoning that “it was often a case of receiving the kick off and score that same set. It was demoralising for the uni boys and I suppose we felt a bit sorry for them.”
“That didn’t stop us from racking up the points on them though!” he joked.
After such a high of winning promotion at the end of his first season with the club, 2011 was a tough one for the Knights. Their first season back in the second tier since 2006 saw the club finish third bottom but, given bottom club Toulouse were exempt from relegation, the Knights were set to repeat the ultimate result of the 2006 season – relegation from the second tier. That was until the RFL refused to accept Crusaders into the Championship following their withdrawal from Super League and that, coupled with Barrow being hit with a point deduction, saw the club saved from the drop. One man who wasn’t saved, however, was Dave Woods, the Australian losing his job as head coach at the end of the season.
That vacancy was filled by Thorman who, a year after joining the club as a player-assistant coach made the step up to player-head coach, a transition he admits was tough. “To go from being a full-time Super League player to a player-head coach in the Championship in a short space of time was tough, especially when your playing group is part-time,” he told the club website. “When coaching a group of part-time players there are a number of factors that the coaching manual doesn’t prepare you for. The only way to learn and improve on these things is by experiencing them – I feel those experiences have stood me in good stead and prepared me well in my coaching journey.”
As with any coach or, indeed, professional sportsman, the aim is to be the best and Thorman isn’t any different. “You have to aspire to be the best you can and to reach the top of your chosen field,” he outlined, and the end of the 2012 campaign saw him leave the club to return to one of his former sides Huddersfield Giants as an assistant to Paul Anderson, a decision he told BBC Radio York was an incredibly tough one.
Now, after a spell away from the game, Thorman is at the helm of League One’s Workington, a role and challenge he is relishing. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt at this point in my coaching career, I really needed to put my stamp on my own team and at this time Workington and myself are a great fit for each other,” he explained. The Cumbrian side, like the vast majority of sporting teams throughout the country, are currently having to go about their work in a very different manner than they have become accustomed to due to Covid-19 enforced lockdown.
Explaining how he is keeping his team together and training through lockdown, Thorman agreed that it is an odd situation but outlined that training was being done remotely via video conferences and sharing. “We post daily workouts to be videoed and sent back to the coaching staff,” he explained. “As lockdown becomes more lenient and the RFL allow us to train we’ll revise what we have been doing. We’re keen to get back to work, but the priority is being able to do that as safely as possible.”