Sean Thornton dominated the headlines in Welsh football as the mad cap Irishman was sensationally sent off in the last minute for his new club Aberystwyth Town in a 1-1 draw against Airbus UK, for an alleged stamp.
Aberystwyth had arguably pulled off the biggest signing in Welsh Premier League history after capturing former English Premier League midfielder Thornton until January this week, after a proposed move to the Ukraine had fallen through. The mercurial Thornton had been training at former O’s teammate Dean Smith’s Walsall,
The midfielder, 28, who hails from Drogheda, made 11 appearances in the Premier League for Sunderland in the 2002/03 season and has made over 175 appearances in the football league, mostly for the Black Cats, Doncaster Rovers and Leyton Orient.
Sean began his career with Tranmere Rovers in 2001, for whom he made 13 appearances. Sunderland paid a fee of £225,000 for his services in July 2002 after a tribunal .
Thornton did not feature in the Sunderland first team at the beginning of the 2002/03 season and joined Blackpool on a one month loan in November 2002. He then returned to the North East and made his Black Cats debut in a third round replay against Bolton in January 2003. He went on to make a further fourteen appearances for Sunderland in the 2002/03 season, despite being called up to the Irish Under 20 squad for a tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
In April 2003, he scored a truly memorable goal for Sunderland against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light, although they went on to lose the game. However, he was unable to prevent Sunderland from being relegated that year.
The Irishman made 13 appearances at the start of the 2003/04 season before suffering an ankle injury in a reserve game in October 2003. He recovered, and helped Sunderland on their way to the semi-final of the FA Cup and the Division 1 play-off semi-final. From here on, Thornton was unable to command a regular place in the team and sought a move away from the club in 2004, and was transfer listed at the end of the 2004/05 season.
He joined Doncaster Rovers for a club record fee of £175,000 in July 2005, and made 36 appearances for the Dons. He helped the Yorkshire side to the quarter finals of the League Cup, putting in a fine performance and scoring the third goal as they went on to the beat Premier League side Aston Villa 3-0. In the 2006/7 season he made 41 appearances, and helped Doncaster to victory over Bristol Rovers in the Football League Trophy final in April 2007.
After being released by Doncaster at the end of the season, he then joined Leyton Orient in 2007. He scored on his debut for the club against Southend United, with a spectacular free kick from thirty yards, and went on to make 34 appearances in the 2007/08 season. He also made a total of 34 appearances in the 2008/09 season, but was controversially released at the end of the campaign by new manager Russell Slade.