As a young left-winger during the 90s at Old Trafford, Ben Thornley was one of the unlucky players that did not break through to the first-team and make a name for himself. To add to his struggles, he suffered injuries in the early part of his career at Manchester United. Thornley will be remembered by ardent fans as one of the players that represented United in the shock FA Cup defeat at Barnsley in 1998. In the same year he was to finish his stay with the Red Devils and move to Huddersfield.
Whilst Thornley was more widely known as a youth and reserve team player at United he is said to have played a good part in helping the team win the FA Youth Cup in 1992- the team that included David Beckham, the Neville brothers, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes. Although the Bury born player was expected to make it to the first team just as the others did it was a serious injury, where he suffered knee ligament damage, which kept him out of action during the 93/94 and 94/95 seasons. Such was the extent of the injury, Thornley decided to sue the player that made the tackle and claimed that a loss of earnings kept him out of the United team due to injury.
The transfer to Huddersfield, which took place after a loan spell at Stockport County, came at a time when Thornley had the opportunity to play consistently and ended up staying at the club for three seasons. He played 127 games and scored eight goals during his time there. His stay at Huddersfield brought mixed fortunes because after finishing in eighth position during his second season the following season was when the club suffered relegation. This ended up being Thornley’s last involvements with the club and he moved on to north of the border.
In August 2001 the ex-United player signed a two-year deal at Aberdeen. However, before the two years were up he moved back to England and joined Blackpool in November 2002. Unfortunately for Thornley, his career from now on would see spells at various clubs lasting for little more than a year. After being released from Blackpool at the end of the 02/03 season, Thornley took in spells with his hometown club, Bury, before joining Halifax Town on non-contract terms. This was to be his last involvements in league football.
At the end of the 03/04 season non-league football awaited the player and his first experience of it came with Bacup Borough. After spending a season with them he joined Salford City. To this day Thornley now plays in the Northern Premier League with a team called Witton Albion.
For a player who started out at Manchester United this is quite a dramatic drop in his career but it seems that injury and established professionals playing regularly halted his progress in becoming a United great just as the class of ’92 did.
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