Illiterate, prison and 51 internationals! The crazy life of Manchester United legend Mickey Thomas

Mickey Thomas played for United and Chelsea, but he was always an eccentric character.

Mickey Thomas is a legend on the island – but it was mainly off the green that he gained attention.

“Liverpool fans said to me, ‘Sign my toilet paper!'” Mickey Thomas recalls of his 18 months in prison – he is a star behind bars, the guards treat him well. And yet he has arrived at the bottom again. “I can imagine what they did with it,” he adds with a grin.

It is the inglorious high point and at the same time the end of the eventful career of the 51-time Welsh international, who has played for clubs such as Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea over the years. The ‘Welsh George Best’, as he is known at home, draws attention to himself off the pitch – for example, thanks to an ingenious trick, he barely survives an assassination attempt with a broken jaw and cheekbones and 15 stab wounds. But one after anonther …

Thomas grew up on a council estate in Mochdre, a small town on the north coast of Wales. His family is poor and the dreary everyday life shapes his childhood. He leaves school early without being able to read and write properly. Only football gives him stability, the round leather determines his free time. But money is tight and Thomas relies on a local factory to buy his boots. He retaliates and, at the age of 13, plays for the men’s team of Quinton Hazell, an automotive supplier.

Mickey Thomas is growing up at Ryan Reynolds’ new club

And Thomas does his job so well that just two years later he ends up at Wrexham AFC – the club that had had some notable successes with him in the FA Cup or the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where they only lost in the quarter-finals in 1976 to eventual winners Anderlecht. celebrates and with the Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds as the owner today wants to tie in with glorious times again.

Thomas, meanwhile, fulfilled his dream with Manchester United in 1978. He has become a cult player, but after six years he can no longer withstand the pressure. “I was always nervous. Even though I was a Red, I was in awe,” he says. “Just before Ron Atkinson took the helm, I told United chairman Martin Edwards that I wanted to make a move. Ron was very difficult to talk to – he was on a sunbed at the time.”

His wish is granted and it’s on to the toffees, where it’s over after just three months. He refuses to play for the club’s reserve team and is kicked out by manager Howard Kendall. Behavior that the 68-year-old regrets today: “I was wrong about what I did and he was right about what he did.”

“Slept in the changing room with a female companion!”

The winger doesn’t fare much better at his next stop. In Brighton, he suddenly feels homesick, his wife is unhappy in the city. He repeatedly missed training without excuse and was eventually suspended. When he played for Chelsea in the mid 80’s he used the dressing room at Stamford Bridge as a place to stay. “Then I slept in the referee’s room or in the dressing room,” he reveals. “I wasn’t alone – I had some female companions.”

He never really settled down anywhere, and in 1991 he finally ended up back in his native Wales near Wrexham. Worse still, Thomas is sentenced to a year and a half in prison for counterfeiting money after distributing his flowers among the club’s youth players. “Prison taught me a lot. I learned to sleep with one eye open,” he says today. He is serving 124 life sentences in Foston Hall Prison in Derbyshire, sharing his cell with a double murderer who had his victims’ heads chopped off.

In the end, Thomas can even count himself lucky that he even made it into his cell. Because while he is waiting for his trial, he is attacked by two men with hammers and screwdrivers while he is sitting in his Volkswagen with a woman. What he doesn’t know at this point: he was lured to a remote place by his former brother-in-law’s wife and was now attacked by his ex-brother-in-law. The attackers only let go of him when he pretends to be unconscious – a move that may save his life. He ends up in the hospital with 15 stitches in his left buttock and multiple fractures.

Mickey Thomas: Legendary goal against Arsenal

His active career as a successful player was long over at that point. In Wrexham, however, Thomas is already immortal. In January 1992, he shot the then fourth-division side to victory in the FA Cup against Arsenal with a directly converted free-kick – for him the most beautiful goal in 20 years of career.

Most recently, he worked as a radio commentator and after-dinner speaker, and in 2019 he developed stomach cancer. But he escapes death again, an operation with a success rate of only 30 percent saves his life – in November 2021 he will be cancer-free. Mickey Thomas is a fighter who never gives up. He learned that when he was a little boy in Mochdre.


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