Championship Focus: Gareth Walker hears Chris Thorman’s future vision for himself and Workington
When Chris Thorman arrived at Derwent Park in May 2019, it was on a short-term deal with a rapid return to Super League firmly in the back of his mind.
But by September he had signed a three-year deal at Workington, which he extended again until the end of 2024 this April, and after admitting he has “fallen in love” with the club, sleeping in his office at the ground is now a “pretty regular occurrence”.
On the field, Town went into Sunday’s home game with Rochdale with five wins from six, sitting above a handful of more fancied promotion rivals in the table.
So how has this vision between club and coached developed?
“I haven’t signed a long-term deal to be a coach in League 1,” Thorman explained.
“The manner in which I left Huddersfield and the opportunity that presented itself immediately at Workington meant it was a short-term deal initially, and I just assumed I would go back to being an assistant in Super League.
“I had a couple of opportunities to do that, but slowly I’ve fallen in love with the place.
“With where I am with my life at the moment it was just a good fit, hence me signing a long-term deal.
“I aspire to be the best coach I can be and to go on to bigger and better things.
“But I genuinely think this is a club that can continue on a journey and who knows where it will end.”
Speaking before the Rochdale game, Thorman is asked whether he’s satisfied with Town’s 2021 campaign to date.
“If you look at the league table, then yes,” he responded.
“But in terms of performance there’s still a lot of improvement in us.
“All coaches are waiting for that 80-minute performance, but right now I’d settle for 60 and it would still be an improvement on what we’ve been dishing up consistently this year.
“But to add a bit of context and perspective to that, we’ve come from fielding 14 players for an 1895 Cup game at Hunslet when I first got here.
“We’ve come a long way since then, the club has handled Covid well financially, and now I’ve got a 32-man squad that is generally made up of Cumbrian players.
“We do have some travellers, but they have to contribute, and they do contribute.
“We’ve got a young, enthusiastic squad that is willing to learn and is learning every week, and as a club we’re definitely on the up.”
Among the Cumbrians proving key figures in Thorman’s improving team are Hanley Dawson, Marcus O’Brien, Matty Henson, Ethan Bickerdike and Connor Fitzsimons.
And off the field the coach sees just as much potential.
“We would love to be heading into a new ground that we share with Workington Reds in the next three to four years,” Thorman continued.
“The importance and impact that can have on a club, a town and community in terms of sponsorship and corporate opportunities and the chance to attract a new fanbase is endless.
“At the same time we have developed Derwent Park and the matchday experience since supporters have been allowed to come back has been excellent.
“The club has a 50 metre long marquee that runs parallel to the main stand and there are events in that every weekend.
“The money-making ability that has for the club is huge and allows me to make additions to the squad like we’ve done with Rhys Clarke and Joe Brown.”
And Thorman has certainly been appreciative of Town’s loyal support.
“The main thing for me at this club us the volunteers,” he added.
“The sport at this level would be unsustainable without volunteers.
“As one example, our pitch is absolutely immaculate, and that’s because four, five or six volunteers work on it 9-5, and before and after that.
“It’s just one example of the good people in Workington – they absolutely love their Rugby League.
“I’ve got to keep my end of the bargain now and that’s to keep improving every week and essentially to keep winning.
“I’m conscious that we are a young side and there will be hurdles and blips along the way, but as long as we keep learning and developing I’ll be happy.”
Gareth Walker’s ‘Championship Focus’ column can be read in League Express every Monday morning, or Sunday evenings for digital subscribers. You can take out a subscription here.