Former Hunslet coach Gary Thornton hits out at club board after "appalling" sacking

Former Hunslet coach Gary Thornton has hit out at the “appalling” manner of his sacking - after confirming he was dismissed via text and a phone call.

Sunday, 11th July 2021, 8:20 pm

Thornton was axed last Tuesday, two days after Hunslet were beaten 46-44 at Coventry Bears, having led by 20 points in the second half.

That result ended a four game unbeaten run and left the Parksiders fifth in Betfred League One.

In a statement announcing the decision, Hunslet chairman Kenny Sykes said the board had decided a change of coach “is needed to hopefully reinvigorate the squad and give us the best chance of success this season”.

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Gary Thornton, centre, was sacked by Hunslet last week. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Gary Thornton, centre, was sacked by Hunslet last week. Picture by Tony Johnson.

But Thornton, who had been in charge since May, 2017, said having taken on extra responsibilities during the pandemic made the manner of his exit more upsetting and claimed he deserved a chance to put things right.

“I am very disappointed and upset at the appalling way the board handled my sacking,” Thornton said.

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“After all we have been through and all the hard work I have put in, over and above being the coach, at the very least I expected the courtesy and respect for them to look me in the eye and tell me face to face.

“Instead I got a text and a phone call.”

Thornton stressed: “I’m not defending what unfolded at Coventry as this is a results-driven business and it was one of the lowest moments of my coaching career.

“But I wasn’t a poor coach when they were 44-22 up, but became one in the last 10 minutes of that game in their view.

“I had already lost two players with a broken ankle and broken ribs and had only three interchanges left, with two props on the bench in the second half, but that’s no excuse for the way the game ended.

“People shouldn’t disrespect Coventry, this is a competitive league with any club capable of beating any other on their day.

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“Hunslet are still in the play-off positions, we were running into some form, having lost only one of the last five and still have plenty to play for. I was gutted they didn’t give me the opportunity to put things right.”

Thornton also hit out at the way the supporter-owned club’s board have handled matters during the pandemic, pointing out that - with players being placed on furlough at the start of the year and training being cut to one session per week in March - pre-season was reduced to a third of its normal length.

“I feel the board have to take some responsibility for this situation with some poor decisions taken back in January and February - decisions that were setting me up to fail,” he added.

“There was no concern for player welfare as their decisions were based purely on the financial state of the club.

“To expect players to be competitive week-in week-out without a full pre-season, on the back of having 14 months out of the game due to Covid, was inexcusable.

“Those players are still in catch up mode fitness-wise.

“A lot of them are carrying injuries into games which they picked up because they were under-prepared at the start of the season - and I have been criticised for not getting them fit enough.

“I have built a really good squad of honest players there with a terrific team spirit and I can hold my head high that they are in a far better place today than they were when I took over in 2017.”

Thornton spoke to his former players on Tuesday following his dismissal.

He said: “While some of them have decided to find other opportunities already, I’m not sure what the rest of the boys will do.

“They are a tight group and are committed to each other as a squad.

“I told them to remain professional for the rest of the season and achieve the potential they undoubtedly have.

“I wish them all the very best in their future careers.”

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