12:00pm Friday 30th September 2011
By Peter Martini
CHRIS THORMAN says he is “focusing on the job at hand” after taking over the reins at York City Knights following the shock firing of boss Dave Woods.
As reported yesterday, Woods was relieved of his duties just two months after agreeing a new two-year contract. Within hours, former England scrum-half Thorman, who turned 31 three days ago, was named player-coach, having been an assistant-boss as well as Woods’ on-field general.
Mick Ramsden will remain as assistant-coach, having already accepted such a role under Woods. The York rugby league stalwart had been reserves boss last year.
Thorman said: “Obviously I was sorry to see Dave go and wish him all the best for the future. I would like to echo the club’s statement regarding his contribution at the club, but I am now focusing on the job in hand and looking forward to the role.
“I will sit down with the coaches and management staff over the next few days to formulate a list of players to identify, but I have been involved with our recruitment and planning to date so that will make things easier.”
It will not be Thorman’s first time in charge of the Knights. He and Ramsden took the temporary reins for seven matches at the start of the 2010 season while the then head coach James Ratcliffe was suspended. They won five of those games.
Thorman, the former England captain and Super League half-back, had arrived at the club as player/assistant-coach in the preceding off-season and, in addition to his duties with the first team, is a key member of the community department, including coaching the York College RL Development Centre squad.
He and Ramsden had also planned forthcoming pre-season fitness regimes – yesterday’s developments virtually confirming the departure of conditioner Alan Dickinson along with Woods.
Ramsden said: “I’m looking forward to working with Chris. I think we work well together. He’s a very professional guy. I’m excited about the challenge and taking the club on into next season.
“The situation will be a bit different with Chris playing so we will need to discuss the structure, but I’m keen to get on with it.”
Woods joined the club in April 2010 as director of rugby, taking over from the sacked Ratcliffe as head coach two months later.
The Aussie was told his contract was being terminated by email on Wednesday night, with the official announcement made yesterday – just six days after it was confirmed the Knights would stay in the Championship following a relegation reprieve. He is now seeking legal advice.
Woods made it three promotions with three English clubs when he followed title success with Castleford in 2005 and minnows Gateshead in 2008 by taking York up to the Championship via the play-offs last year.
His young team finished third-bottom of domestic rugby league’s second tier this year but bottom club Toulouse were exempt from relegation so, with two going down, the Knights faced demotion – until the Rugby Football League decided not to admit Crusaders into this division following their withdrawal from Super League, thus earning York a reprieve.
His only comment on his exit was: “I can’t say much at this stage. I need to consider my position but the decision has been made by John Guildford (Knights chairman) and not me.”
The club statement said: “York City Knights regretfully announce the agreement of head coach Dave Woods has been terminated. This was a two-month rolling agreement, for a two-year period, which enabled either party to end the agreement within this time frame.
“As a result of the amount of travel time and cost incurred for Dave to travel between his home in Gateshead and his work at the Knights, coupled with family health problems, the club felt it had no choice but to make this difficult decision. The cost of this travel has put greater strain on Dave, as the club cannot afford to cover this on top of his regular pay, and we are also aware that Dave would like a full-time position in the game, which the Knights are unable to give him.
“We believe doing this now gives Dave the opportunity to source employment elsewhere and spend more time with his family, which he has said on numerous occasions has been difficult for him to adjust to.
“The club would like to place on record we appreciate the work he has done at the club. The (Championship One) Grand Final win in 2010 was one of the highlights of York Rugby League’s recent history, and that triumph will live long in the memory of everyone associated with the club.
“Dave leaves with the best wishes of everyone at the club and we wish him and his family all the best for the future.”
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