Fans of big clubs in England often emphasize the importance of big matches in deciding the outcome of the championship. This sentiment also holds true for away games of smaller teams in remote provinces. These matches are often characterized by intense battles, less finesse, and more physicality, with players fighting for every inch of the pitch. One such challenging place for these encounters is Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England. Stoke is a city known for its lack of landmarks, dominated by gray and black-colored buildings, and it holds pubs in high regard. Stoke City, the local team, is a classic lower-league English team, known for tough football, gritty determination, and less focus on finesse. However, in Stoke’s recent history, one name stands out – Rory Delap. Born in England and representing Ireland internationally, he gained fame for his numerous assists from long throw-ins during the period of 2006-2013.
While long throw-ins have been part of football since its inception in 1863, they are rarely seen in modern Premier League or major European competitions. These throw-ins have been regulated since 1877 but have not attracted much attention from players or specialists. Some, like Arsene Wenger, have suggested changing the rules to take side throw-ins with the foot. However, Thomas Gronemarck, the first and perhaps only specialist in long throw-ins in football, disagrees with this perspective.
Thomas Gronemarck, born on December 12, 1975, in eastern Denmark, had a diverse sporting journey. He initially played football in the Horsens academy and later switched to track and field athletics. As a sprinter and relay runner, he achieved success with Aarhus and won the European Club Championship in Paris (2000). Unsatisfied, he joined the national bobsleigh team in pursuit of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Turin (2006). Alongside his athletic endeavors, Gronemarck continued playing football in his spare time. During a friendly match between the national bobsleigh teams of Denmark and Germany, he displayed numerous English-style long throw-ins, attracting attention to this unique skill. Intrigued, he began researching and coaching long throw-ins. He eventually found his niche in Viborg, where his coaching career began in 2004, and later moved to Midtjylland, transforming the team’s game with impressive results. In 2010, he entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest long throw-in at 51.33 meters.
Gronemarck’s work expanded, and he started working with teams like Ajax, Gent, Pachuca, the Mexican national team, Antalyaspor, and Atlanta United. He has become a recognized figure in football circles, and even high-profile coaches like Ralph Rangnick and Jurgen Klopp have shown interest in his methods. Gronemarck’s philosophy, “The Long, Fast, and Clever Throw-In,” focuses on distance, speed, and precise timing. By improving these elements, players can create space, enhance attacks, and increase possession retention after throw-ins. Gronemarck is determined to promote the intelligence and significance of long throw-ins, which are often overlooked in football discussions.
He works with players on various types of long throw-ins, emphasizing that it takes time and practice to master these techniques. Despite some skepticism about the value of long throw-ins, Gronemarck believes they are crucial in football and can have a significant impact on a match. More teams could benefit from having specialists like him to improve their performance in this area.