Outside left Cliff Thorley joined the Tigers in November 1934, an impressive match for Sunderland’s reserves encouraging City manager Jack Hill to lay out £1,000 for the young Yorkshireman’s signature. At first Thorley vied with Geordie Les Dodds and Hatfield Main Colliery worker Sydney Sims for the outside left shirt, but by February 1935 he made it his own by scoring goals in wins against Bradford Park Avenue and Burnley. Cliff added a brace in the final match of the 1934/35 season, a 5-1 drubbing of Notts County.
In the 1935/36 season Thorley again faced stiff competition for the outside left berth as Hill’s Tigers had a disastrous run of form that yielded only four League wins by the turn of the year. Duelling with Lincolnshire-born Max Holmes and Mancunian James Martin, Thorley made 17 starts but never established himself under either Hill or his successor David Menzies. Thorley scored his fifth and final Tigers goal in an April 1936 2-3 defeat to Newcastle United as City slipped into Division Three North. Thorley was not retained in May 1936 and left the club.
Ernest “Ernie” Thorley, also known as “Cliff”, was born in West Melton, a coal mining community in the Dearne Valley near Wath. A talented schoolboy footballer, Thorley captained Yorkshire schoolboys in 1928 and had a trial for England schoolboys that was not successful. By 1930 he was playing local football for Wath National in the Sheffield Association League and in the 1932 close season he joined Midland League side Frickley Colliery. Within a fortnight of signing for Frickley he made a second and more prestigious move to First Division side Sunderland. He spent two and a half years at Roker Park but was unable to forge a regular first team place, making three starts in March and April 1933 then adding a fourth appearance in October 1934 against Blackburn – in this last start for Sunderland Thorley played in the same forward line as future Hull City star and manager Raich Carter, who was just 39 days younger than Cliff. He left Sunderland a month later after impressive performances for the Rokerites’ reserves.
In July 1936 Thorley joined Birmingham League side KIdderminster Harriers but four months later he switched to divisional rivals Stourbridge. In August 1937 he transferred to Southern League side Cheltenham Town where he spent seven months before returning to the Football League in March 1938 when he signed for Bristol City. Thorley went straight into the Robins’ first eleven and scored three times in 11 starts as Bristol City missed out on promotion to the Second Division by a single point, Millwall winning the title after compiling a run of six straight wins to overhaul the Ashton Gate side. In the 1938/39 season Thorley was used sparingly and made only four starts before he negotiated the early termination of his contract in March 1939.
On leaving Bristol City Cliff ended his footballing career and joined the police force in Huddersfield, where his younger brother Walter already worked. In 1949 Cliff, his wife Joan and young child Ernest emigrated to New Zealand and he remained in the Southern Hemisphere countries until he died in New Zealand in 1968.
Date/Place of Birth: 12 November 1913, West Melton
Hull City First Game: 1 December 1934, Barnsley H (Division Two), 21 years, 19 days old
Hull City Final Game: 2 May 1936, Manchester United H (Division Two), 22 years, 172 days old
Wath National (1930-1932), Frickley Colliery (1932), Sunderland (1932-1934), Hull City (1934-1936), Kidderminster Harriers (1936), Stourbridge (1936-1937), Cheltenham Town (1937-1938), Bristol City (1938-1939)
Hull City Record
Career: 36 apps, 5 goalsCliff Thorley