Romiley, Cheshire born outside right George Thornewell first played football for junior club St Dunstan’s in the local Sunday School League. When he turned out for Normanton United, a broken collar bone interrupted his early career. He was an apprentice fitter at Rolls Royce in Derby during the First World War, where he played for the Works team from 1914 and served with the Royal Air Force. He guested for Nottingham Forest and Coventry City during the War, and after playing for Derby County in the Victory League, he signed professionally for them in May 1919, making his Football League debut against Manchester United in the First Division that August, being an ever present during his debut season.
Although they were relegated the following season he stayed with the club and was a member of their 1923 FA Cup semi final team beaten 5-2 by West Ham United at Stamford Bridge. He then helped The Rams to promotion as Second Division runners up in 1925-26, when he scored a career best eight goals during the campaign and missed only two games.
He was first selected for England in May 1923 playing twice on England’s summer tour, both games against Sweden, scoring on his debut in a 4-2 win in Stockholm. He won two further caps in tour matches against France in 1924 and 1925, but unusually for a player with four caps he never played in the British Home Championship. He was however on the winning side in each of his four international appearances.
After 26 goals in 295 appearances across nine seasons with The Rams, Thornewell transferred to Blackburn Rovers on 30th December 1927, making his debut in the derby at Burnley the following day, and he played as Blackburn Rovers beat Huddersfield Town 3-1 in the 1928 FA Cup Final at Wembley in front of 92,000 spectators. In the Final itself he set up Jack Roscamp to score in the first thirty seconds, the fastest FA Cup Final goal at Wembley Stadium until Louis Saha’s effort in 2009.
He also scored in the FA Charity Shield defeat to Everton in October 1928, but after 6 goals in 48 appearances for Rovers, Chesterfield signed him on 28th August 1929. In his second season at Saltergate he scored 7 goals as Chesterfield won the Third Division (North) Championship and after 10 goals in 90 appearances for The Spireites his contract was mutually cancelled in February 1932 and he joined non league Newark Town soon after, where he finished his playing career.
It was also in 1932 that Thornewell was the Honoured Guest and presenter of the trophy at the Derby Amateur League Cup Final, and he again did the honours at the Amateur League Benevolent Cup Final in 1950.
NB This image is from the March 1923 FA Cup semi final at Stamford Bridge, when West Ham United beat Derby County 5-2. Thornewell watches West Ham’s right back Billy Henderson clear the ball.