Belfast Telegraph

John Thorrington grateful for Sir Alex Ferguson influence as he spearheads LAFC

John Thorrington remains eternally grateful for his behind-the-scenes access during Manchester United's treble-winning season.

Now, 18 years on, the American is putting the lessons learned under Sir Alex Ferguson to good use in his home town, spearheading the launch of Major League Soccer's new kids on the block, Los Angeles Football Club.

For many English fans, Thorrington's name is unlikely to resonate.

The midfielder played 74 matches for Huddersfield between 2001 and 2004, before making a handful of appearances for Grimsby - but his time in the UK left an indelible mark on the player, particularly his period with United.

Snapped up as a 17-year-old, the midfielder switched southern California for the Cliff in an attempt to become the first American player to make a mark at a top English club.

"To sign a professional deal at the age of 17 and enter a real cut-throat, professional world at the highest level was a real learning process," Thorrington, 37, told Press Association Sport. "Not only was it that adjustment, but in terms of a footballing education I couldn't have been in a better classroom.

"I was there '97, '98, '99, it was a very close-knit club so the young professional are rubbing shoulders, training right next to and sometimes picked for the first team.

"Sir Alex knew everything that was going on with every player at the club and, in terms of just that footballing education, I couldn't have asked for a better environment.

"That was obviously the year that all those young players really came through and then the '99 year was my last year and they won the treble, so I couldn't have asked for being in a better environment to learn.

"I still apply many principles that I learned there as a kid. I was lucky enough to get advice, to take notes on all these types of things as you're going through the process. I still look back at some of those and apply those lessons now."

A United States international who played in MLS for Chicago Fire, Vancouver Whitecaps and DC United, Thorrington turned to life upstairs rather than in the dugout upon retirement - and landed on his feet at LAFC.

While finishing business school in Chicago, a mutual friend introduced him to one of the owners and eventually the LA boy became the executive vice-president of soccer operations of the city's newest team.

"We have a very ambitious group of owners and you see that with the stadium, you will see that with our team," Thorrington said, having appointed Bob Bradley as manager and signed ex-Arsenal forward Carlos Vela.

"I just think the combination with this market, the extra piece of our owners, the ambition of our owners, our resources - and not just amount of resources but being able to allocate those resources widely - is what will make us different."

State-of-the-art Banc of California Stadium in downtown LA is due to be completed in time for the MLS season kicking off next year, with LAFC looking to strike a balance between representing "city of stars" and the American dream that still thrives in the city.

Being from the LA helps Thorrington understand what the club should represent, while his time at Ferguson's United has helped appreciate what it takes to be successful.

"I believe everything happens for a reason," he said. "When I left here at 17, did I have designs on playing 15 years at Man United? Of course I did.

"But I wouldn't say I was harmed in the long term because watching and not being a direct part of the success on the field but being able to absorb, witness and observe behind the curtain of what that took and what it takes to be successful, what it means to be a real professional.

"No, I wouldn't have changed that for anything."

LAFC may take up most of his time but Thorrington keeps tabs on former clubs Huddersfield and United, whose most successful manager has left the greatest impression.

"When I was playing in Chicago, 11 years after I'd left Manchester United, he recognised me," Thorrington said of Ferguson.

"He remembered things about me, about my parents - and this was 11 years on from when a guy who never played a meaningful first-team game for him left. It wasn't like I was one of his stars.

"I've still kept in touch with him. T here are sides to him that I've been fortunate enough to see.

"I was absolutely floored in 2010 when I saw him and I was thinking I was going to maybe get a chance to re-introduce myself. And there was no need."

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