YORK City Knights’ new boss, Gary Thornton, does not envisage bringing any new staff on board to take the place of departed assistant-coach Mick Cook either in pre-season or in 2013.
Cook, as widely expected, has stepped down from his number two role due to work commitments – he actually came to the decision at the end of last term but it was largely kept in-house and has only now been publicly confirmed – leaving club stalwart Mick Ramsden as Thornton’s only number two.
Jamie Salter, a sport science lecturer at York College, has also become a permanent member of the boot room as conditioner having worked with the club temporarily under the player-coach last season, Chris Thorman.
Thornton says he is happy with the current set-up – not least with his growing relationship with Ramsden.
“Mick Ramsden and myself will be focused on the team and the coaching, and the conditioning guys will focus on getting the players fit and ready and where they need to be,” he said.
“I’m quite happy with how it’s going.”
Asked if a replacement for Cook was likely, he said: “Not in the foreseeable future. I’m a very hands-on coach.
“We have a strength and conditioning coach in Jamie Salter, and we have the support of York St John University and Hull FC with the partnerships set up there.”
Thornton had been told by club chiefs when he took on the Knights job that Ramsden – and Cook – would be retained as assistant-coaches. It meant he was unable to bring in his own back-room staff had he wanted to do so. However, he was unperturbed then and is “more than happy” now with that decision.
“I played against Mick (Ramsden) so I knew him that way,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed with all the people at the club for their enthusiasm and willingness to roll up their sleeves. We’ve had a few hurdles but people have just worked around them and got on with it.
“I’m impressed with people’s ‘can do’ attitude.
“I’ve seen the things Mick is doing and I am more than happy with where we are in terms of training. Everything is going well.
“I’m perfectly comfortable with the decision that was taken by the club to retain Mick. We’ve a good working relationship and it’s something we can build and get better.”
Cook was head coach at York – after being seconded from Leeds Rhinos where he had been academy chief – in 2005, 2006 and 2007, taking them to the National League Two (Championship One) title in his first season but seeing the side relegated 12 months later. He later joined Sheffield as number two to Mark Aston, helping the Eagles to become regular Championship play-off contenders, before coming back to York as an assistant to player-boss Chris Thorman a year ago, alongside Ramsden.
The fact Thorman also had playing duties meant the Knights benefited from having another coach on the sidelines. That is not the case with Thornton, though, which contributes to the decision not to seek a replacement.
Cook, 51, is to “keep his hand in” in rugby league, initially as a junior coach at his local amateur club Wetherby Bulldogs.
“I’ve been doing a couple of jobs for a long time and the journey down to Sheffield for three years took it out of me,” he explained. “I enjoyed it back at the Knights. I was pleased they rang asking if I’d like to go back and I was happy to do as little or as much as was required. I do need some time off now but I’ll keep my hand in – I quite enjoy working with the kids at Wetherby – and I’ll still have a big interest in the Knights.”
Cook, meanwhile, reckons the club are well set for 2013, despite finishing bottom of the Championship last year, avoiding relegation only thanks to a league reshuffle.
“For what I’ve heard there are better training facilities and the squad is looking stronger,” he said. “The squad looked okay last year but two months into the season it was decimated with injuries and that competition is very strong.
“But that gave some younger players the chance to get experience and they showed plenty of promise. That experience leaves the club in a better, stronger position than last year.”
• One-time Knights loanee Jonny Wainhouse, a former Leeds and Hunslet player and community manager with the Rhinos, has joined the coaching staff at Hunslet as an assistant, alongside Gary Lord, to Barry Eaton.