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Reunion dues for York City Knights boss Gary Thornton on old stomping ground
York were having to wait to find out if Joe Arundel would be freed by Hull to play for the Knights at Batley tomorrow, following his try-scoring Huntington Stadium debut last week
BOSS Gary Thornton is hoping a new unwritten rule among his York City Knights ranks will help to end a hoodoo back at his old stomping ground.
Much has already been made of Thornton’s return to Batley tomorrow, the 50-year-old having spent 14 years there as a player and, later, head coach before resigning in 2009.
He goes back for the first time as an opposing head coach, with a club who have not garnered a single point in their seven previous visits since reforming in 2003, in “no doubt at all” about the task his side face. But he is optimistic his charges will let him leave with his head high – and end that fruitless run – thanks in part to a pact among themselves to help each other out against former clubs.
He also reckons this clash (2pm) will give a good indication of where his new-look side are at.
“I’m looking forward to taking a competitive team there,” said Thornton. “It’s a strange scenario, going back to a club where I spent so many years, and I’ve never coached against them before. But none of those emotions will get in the way of what we’re trying to achieve. It’s about preparing York City Knights as best I can.
“I’ve not mentioned anything to players about it. But we did speak at the start of the season about when we go back to former clubs. It’s an unwritten rule, whether it’s for me or the players, that we will make sure when we go back to someone’s old club we’ll give a good account of ourselves.
“Hopefully, the boys will do that this weekend.”
Thornton does not expect York’s losing run at Mount Pleasant – now the LoveRugbyLeague.com Stadium – to play on his team’s minds, but he expects one of the hardest away-days of the season, especially given the notorious sloping pitch.
“I’m not one to look back, but rather to look forward. I’ve come in with a fresh broom, a clean sweep, and it’s a new York City Knights for 2013. We’ve got a squad that can compete at Championship level, as we proved last week,” said Thornton, referring to the win over Swinton.
“This game will be tougher without a doubt. It’s a step up in quality. Batley are up there with Sheffield, Halifax, Leigh and Featherstone. They’re a top-five side without a doubt.
“It will be a tough test of where we’ve come from and where we have to improve. I saw good signs at Whitehaven and improvements last week, and I’m looking for more improvements this week. It’s a measure of how far we have to go to become a top-six side.”
Thornton knows the infamous Batley incline better than most, having played on it for nine years and coached there for five. How his side adapt to it could be important.
“It will be a factor,” he said.
“Batley are a big, physical, robust team.
“They play off really good go-forward which is sometimes difficult to stop down the slope.
“It’s about how we handle it, and how we make the most of it when we’re going down the hill.”
The Knights will be without captain James Ford tomorrow due to his quad strain, and dual-reg second-row Dean Hadley, who has withdrawn with an ankle problem.
However, Thornton was hopeful Joe Arundel would again be available – it depends on parent club Hull, who were taking on St Helens last night, neither using nor withdrawing him from York – and trialist Jack Latus was poised to join the former Castleford ace in the centres in Ford’s stead.
Ed Smith could start in the back-row, while fit-again prop Luck Stenchion, Aaron Lyons and James Haynes were also added into a 19-man squad.
Knights (possible): Carr, Lineham, Arundel, Latus, Briscoe, Brown, Nicklas, Nicholson, Lee, Aldous, Smith, Scott, Golden. Subs: from Presley, Lyons, Sullivan, Stenchion, Bell, Haynes.
Referee: George Stokes (St Helens).