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Boss Thornton vows to defy Knights’ critics
HEAD coach Gary Thornton is determined to make York City Knights’ critics eat their words – after seeing his team widely tipped for relegation in 2013.
The Knights have avoided the drop in the last two Championship seasons only by default and various pundits from trade papers and on websites reckon another season of struggle is ahead for the men from the Minster city.
However, new boss Thornton is not contemplating such a sorry fate – and hopes such predictions will act only as a spur for his charges.
“I don’t think anybody has given us a prayer,” he said. “Some rugby league papers have pretty much said we will do well to finish in the bottom two.
“Premier Sports (Championship broadcasters) have decided they won’t be televising us.
“I hope teams do underestimate us. It gives us extra impetus to do well.”
Asked if he would use those predictions as motivation for his players, doing the old trick of pinning the newspaper cuttings to the dressing-room door, he said: “It certainly got my back up and I hope it gets the players’ backs up as well.
“I think we’ve got a group of players who are here for the right reasons. I’ve said before their enthusiasm in training has impressed me. Even in the poor weather conditions last week – we trained in the snow and everyone put their heart and soul into it.
“Their attitude and enthusiasm has been fantastic. If we can take that into games, if we prepare well and give it our all, you can’t ask for much more from the players. Where we finish at the end of the day who knows, but no one could have anything to complain about.
“I’m hoping the players read those predictions and say ‘that’s not going to happen – let’s get these people eating their words’.”
Thornton does admit the Knights are unlikely to challenge the big five in the table but he wants to be in the mix for the remaining places in the eight-team play-offs.
“I don’t want to talk about relegation. I’m not going to mention that word,” he said when asked if the aim was to avoid the drop.
“It’s perhaps a case of there being two leagues in one division.
“Some clubs, the ones with bigger budgets, will always be there or thereabouts – the likes of Featherstone, Leigh, Halifax, Sheffield and probably Batley.
“Then there’s a group of clubs scrapping for places in the lower end of the play-offs. We fall into that category.”
The Championship now comprises 14 teams, with four – Doncaster and Cumbrian trio Barrow, Workington and Whitehaven, who host the Knights in Sunday’s season opener – having been promoted, and none relegated.
“I don’t think anyone is too sure on how it will pan out,” said Thornton.
“Teams that have come up are a little bit of an unknown. Cumbrian clubs traditionally don’t travel too well but it’s always difficult to go there and win.
“There are a lot of teams who are as good as each other. I want us to be at the top of that bunch.”
As for specific targets for 2013, Thornton simply said: “The first thing we want is a massive improvement from where we’ve been in the last couple of years.
“I’m not massive on setting goals but we have set some targets, and one is to win as many games at home as possible.
“I believe you try to win every game you play, and we will be trying as hard as we can to do that.
“If we get our preparation right and if we give our all, you can’t ask for more than that.”
Captain James Ford echoed Thornton’s words.
“We’re not talking about relegation. We’ve talked about being a lot better than last year and a lot more consistent,” he said.
“Getting in that top eight – that’s got to be our goal. We’re not going to focus on relegation at all. Positive things happen to positive people. We will work hard and stick together.
“A couple of people have written us off already. But we as players are confident in ourselves and we believe in each other.
“We don’t really buy into what people say outside the dressing-room. I can see first-hand how hard the players are working and how good some of the young kids are.
“There’s an opportunity here for us to shock one or two people. It probably helps if people write us off.”