23rd – George Thorne
Today, the 23rd of December is my son’s birthday, so it seems fitting that today’s piece is focused on his favourite player, mercurial Rams CDM, holding midfielder, quarter back, deep lying midfielder, “number 4” (choose your favourite) – George Thorne.
Rather than the usual run through his career history and a few paragraphs on “the difficult years”, let me start by saying George is fucking class. On his day my view is he is the best player in the Championship (although I am sure master Hughes would argue that point with some justification).
Comfortably McClaren’s best signing at Derby, it’s amazing to think that when he first joined he couldn’t actually get a game for a couple of months! It’s even more amazing that his debut was the 5-0 humiliation of the red dogs.
Although it’s been said many times, George took what was already a good team to a whole new level and he was by far the best player on the pitch at Wembley.
When we signed him full time the following summer I thought promotion was a done deal. I was actually at Moor Farm watching a kid’s game when one of the other dads told me he was out for the season. At first I thought it was a snide rumour, immediately thinking of Simmo saying he only went off as a precaution against Zenit. When I saw it was true I was devastated.
Our failure to properly replace him (admittedly easier said than done) cost us big time.
People (including me) talk a lot about our reliance on Chris Martin, but I think it would hurt us just as much were George to get injured. Although we have various people who can fill in, I don’t see anyone who can give you the whole package that George does. Composure, amazing positional sense, strength, range of passing, physical stature, willingness to get on the ball & dictate the game and let’s not forget eye for goal. There is only one George Thorne.
I think with any player who has suffered knee injuries, there is always that horrible doubt when they go down and I don’t think that ever goes away. However with George currently enjoying his longest run of first team football ever (and clearly lapping up every second of it) and a coach who is acutely aware of the concept of “game load” for key players, there is no reason why he won’t continue to anchor our midfield onwards and upwards to the Premier league.