Tuesday, 1 June 2010

28 Geoff Thomas

Position : Winger

Played : 1982-3 to 1983-4

Appearances : 11

Goals : 1

With a solitary substitute appearance before the change of manager in 1982-3 Geoff marks the end of the Peter Madden era. A youngster from Littleborough (and an acquaintance of mine told me an unsavoury story about him which we won’t go into) he of course represents The One We Let Go having gone on to play for England (albeit not with great distinction).

Geoff got more chances the following season coming into the side after the Telford debacle and scoring the winner in the next game away at Crewe.

That apart he really didn’t look very good at all playing on the left wing, looking uncoordinated and failing to beat his man. However Crewe saw something they liked there and came in for him before the March deadline. Caretaker boss Les Chapman said he didn’t feel able to offer Geoff a permanent contract and I have to be honest and say I agreed with the decision.

The rest is common knowledge. Dario Gradi converted him into a central midfielder and his rise mirrored that of his club’s . In 1987 Crystal Palace bought him – he came over to our coach to say hello when we ended up at the same services as their team coach a year or so later - and he went up with them into the old First Division in 1989. A couple of years later he was in the England side (only under Graham Taylor but still…) making his name with an aimless punt (neither shot nor pass) over the by-line from distance. In 1993 Palace were relegated and he signed for Wolves. Increasingly prone to injury he moved on to Nottingham Forest, Barnsley, Notts County and finally Crewe again before retiring in 2002.

A year after his retirement he was diagnosed with leukaemia and saved by a bone marrow transplant from his sister. Since then he has been an active fundraiser , setting up the Geoff Thomas Foundation to improve treatment for blood cancer sufferers. In 2005 he cycled the Tour De France route for this purpose.

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