Ben Thornley

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Ben Thornley
Ben Thornley.jpg
Personal information
Full name Benjamin Lindsay Thornley
Date of birth (1975-04-21) 21 April 1975 (age 44)
Place of birth Bury, England
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Playing position Winger
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1993–1998 Manchester United 9 (0)
1995Stockport County (loan) 10 (1)
1996–1998Huddersfield Town (loan) 12 (2)
1998–2001 Huddersfield Town 99 (5)
2001–2002 Aberdeen 30 (3)
2002–2003 Blackpool 12 (0)
2003–2004 Bury 5 (0)
2004 Halifax Town 3 (0)
2005–2006 Bacup Borough
2006–2007 Salford City
2007–2008 Wilmslow Albion
2008–2010 Witton Albion
Total 180 (11)
National team
1996 England U21 3 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Benjamin Lindsay Thornley (born 21 April 1975 in Bury) is an English former footballer who last played for Witton Albion in the Northern Premier League, where he played as a winger.

Playing career[edit]

Manchester United[edit]

He is most widely known for his career as a youth and reserve team player at Manchester United, where he played in the left wing position from 1991 to 1998 (becoming a professional in 1992 after helping United win the FA Youth Cup) but was occasionally used as a striker.

Thornley made his debut for United on 26 February 1994 as a substitute in the Premier League match against West Ham United which ended in a 2–2 draw at Boleyn Ground.[1]

A quick and tricky right-footed left winger, he was highly regarded by Alex Ferguson and at one point was expected to become a regular player at Old Trafford.[1] Although he did make nine league appearances for United, serious injury and increasing competition for places prevented him from making the expected impact at first-team level. The most notable injury came in April 1994, when he suffered knee ligament damage in a reserve game against Blackburn Rovers due to a reckless tackle by opposing defender Nicky Marker; the injury kept him out of action for over a year.[1] This came days before the FA Cup semi-final against Oldham Athletic, for which Alex Ferguson was reportedly considering selecting Thornley (at least for a place on the bench) in case Ryan Giggs was not fully fit. Thornley was not fit again until the start of the 1995-96 season.[1][2] He was rated by contemporaries including David Beckham (one of the players who went on to eclipse him in the first team), as well as club legend and former youth coach Nobby Stiles, as one of the finest young players at the club during that era.[3]

In 1997, Thornley sued Marker and Blackburn Rovers for millions over the tackle, claiming a loss of earnings that resulted from him being kept out of the Manchester United first team because of the injury.[2][4][5]

In 1996, he won three caps for England at U-21 level.

Huddersfield Town[edit]

After a loan spell at Stockport County and two loan spells at Huddersfield Town, Thornley finally left United on a free transfer in May 1998 and went on to play 127 games for Huddersfield Town, scoring eight goals and helping them come close to a Division One playoff place - and the chance of a place in the FA Premier League. From June 1999 until November 2000, he was playing under former Manchester United teammate Steve Bruce, who was Huddersfield's manager. When Bruce was dismissed, his successor was another former Manchester United player – Lou Macari, who had left United before Thornley joined them.

Thornley's spell at Huddersfield brought mixed fortunes. In his first season they finished 10th in Division One and in his second they finished eighth (being in contention for a playoff place right up to the last game of the season), but in his final campaign they suffered relegation to Division Two.


In August 2001 he signed a two-year deal at Aberdeen, which gave him another crack at top division football - this time north of the border in the Scottish Premier League.[6] In 30 games for Aberdeen, he scored three goals - the opening goal in a 4-2 victory against Motherwell,[7] and both goals in a 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock.[8] He also scored in the Scottish Cup against St Johnstone,[9] and in the Scottish League Cup against Queen of the South.[10]


He returned to England and signed for Division Two side Blackpool on an 18-month contract in November 2002,[11] but was released from his contract at the end of the 2002–03 season.[12]


Thornley signed for Bury in September 2003,[13] but was released less than two months later after making just five appearances.[14]

Halifax Town[edit]

Ben then joined Halifax Town on non-contract terms in March 2004, ending his professional career just before his 29th birthday to play in the Conference.[15]

Bacup Borough[edit]

He then joined the non-League scene with Bacup Borough where he was joined by former Manchester United teammate David May.

Salford City[edit]

He spent a season with Bacup Borough before joining Salford City at the beginning of 2006.[16]

Witton Albion[edit]

Alongside his younger brother, Rod, a striker, Thornley played for Witton Albion in the Northern Premier League between 2008 and 2010. Rod is also employed by Manchester United as a sports therapist.[17]

Post-playing career[edit]

Thornley now works as a television commentator for MUTV. [18]

Personal life[edit]

His younger brother, Rod Thornley, also a former academy player at Man Utd, used to work as a sports therapist at Man Utd. [19]


Manchester United


  1. ^ a b c d Bate, Adam (28 November 2013). "'Our best player'". Sky Sports. BSkyB.
  2. ^ a b Spencer, Pete (5 July 2003). "Fledgling Ben hoping to fly". MEN Media.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ White, Peter (22 April 1997). "Rovers: Thornley sues". Lancashire Evening Telegraph. Newsquest Media Group. Retrieved 27 June 2009.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Nixon, Alan (3 April 1997). "Rovers facing damages claim". Independent News and Media. Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  6. ^ "Thornley wins deal with Aberdeen". BBC Sport. 2 August 2001. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  7. ^ "Aberdeen 4 Motherwell 2". Aberdeen FC Official Website. 18 August 2001. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  8. ^ "Aberdeen 2 Kilmarnock 0". Aberdeen FC Official Website. 8 September 2001. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  9. ^ "AFC Match Report - St. Johnstone 0-2 Aberdeen". Aberdeen FC Heritage Trust. 8 January 2002. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  10. ^ "AFC Match Report - Queen of the South 1-2 Aberdeen". Aberdeen FC Heritage Trust. 8 January 2002. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Blackpool bag Thornley". BBC Sport. 28 November 2002. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  12. ^ "Blackpool release nine". BBC Sport. 2 May 2003. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  13. ^ O'Rourke, Peter. "Shakers snap up Thornley". Sky Sports. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  14. ^ Fudge, Simon. "Thornley leaves Bury". Sky Sports. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Thornley joins Halifax". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  16. ^ Girvin, Ron (20 March 2006). "RL: BARLA round up". Salford Advertiser. M.E.N. Media. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  17. ^ Froggatt, Mark (14 November 2014). "Hodgson pays tribute to Strudwick and Thornley". Manchester United. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  18. ^
  19. ^

External links[edit]