Thursday, 3 October 2013

The story of former Arsenal and Liverpool legend Michael Thomas, hero, legend, title-winner... and a great fan of South Africa

It's up for grabs now! Michael Thomas, right, starts his epic celebration
after winning the title for Arsenal at Liverpool in 1989

MICHAEL THOMAS is in South Africa for the TENTH time. The Arsenal and Liverpool legend LOVES the country. On my football show BOLLOCKZ! this morning he said: "I can't get enough of South Africa. It's my second home. Wonderful place, wonderful people."

Currently staying in Tshwane with the mysterious MOLE, our regular undercover football analyst, before a family wedding, Michael will be BACK in November, for a Liverpool legends clash with Kaizer Chiefs on November 16.

THE BOLLOCKZ! Michael and I at the Ballz studio


The names reel off his tongue. Every one a hero to audiences around the world, from Africa to Asia, where the English football remains a sporting staple.

"Bruce Grobbelaar, Mark Wright, Alan Kennedy, Jan Molby, John Barnes, Gary McAllister, Robbie Fowler, John Aldridge, it should be a great trip. There will be a lot of reminiscing!

"We fly over on the 10th, will spend a few days in Johannesburg doing football clinics and a golf day at Houghton, then we go down to Durban for the Kaizer Chiefs game on the 16th.

"I've never seen the Moses Mabhida Stadium, but I hear it's great. Shame Arsenal haven't got a legends team coming over too!"

Michael is no ordinary former footballer. Raised in Stockwell, London, he overcame the then-severe problems of discrimination to rise to the very top of the game. And the crowning moment came in 1989 when, in the final game of the season, Michael scored the injury-time winner which clinched the title for Arsenal in a 2-0 win at Liverpool's fortress Anfield.

It's a moment few elderly Gooners will forget. The commentator screaming "It's up for grabs now!" as he broke through on Alan Smith's pass, enjoyed a fortuitous deflection... and slipped home goal which took the championship to Highbury on the narrowest-ever margin.

Fever pitch: Thomas and Tony Adams in 1989
That goal inspired Nick Hornby's classic book "Fever Pitch" which was followed by a block-buster movie of the same name. Few ignore the chance to raise the topic, with Ballz owner Darren Scott greeting Michael with a smacking kiss when he walked in to the studio this morning.

Lifelong Arsenal fan Scott explained: "When Michael Thomas scored that goal, I actually pulled a muscle on the couch when I was watching it on the television."

Michael went on to play for Liverpool, scoring in the 1992 FA Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa and the winner in the final against Sunderland at Wembley.

Now 46, Michael Lauriston Thomas was capped three times by England and in a career which also included Wimbledon, Portugal's Benfica plus Middlesbrough and Portsmouth on loan, he played 315 games, scoring 33 goals.

Today he runs a security firm called "Stop Taking the Michael" and lives near Liverpool between trips to South Africa and around the world.

He has strong views on a variety of subjects, though he tends to shy away from the high profile analysis spotlight. He says: "I can't believe we're taking the World Cup to Qatar, even they don't play at that time of the year. It's just ridiculously hot. We're stopping off at Qatar on the way home from South Africa - I'll tell you how hot it is!

"The World Cup has got to be shared about a bit, and I loved the way South Africa hosted it. But you can't have countries having it twice like Mexico and Germany."

On the more personal subject of his celebration after THAT "Fever Pitch" goal (the video features in our interview on Ballz radio (see below)), Michael grins: "I nearly broke my neck trying to do a handstand... but it wasn't as bad as when Tony Adams lifted Stevie Morrow after winning the League Cup at Wembley. Morrow was the hero, he fell and broke his shoulder and couldn't go up to get his medal!"


Having enjoyed a range of top coaches, Thomas has this verdict on his favourite boss: "I'd say Roy Evans at Liverpool was a great coach. He let us play. George was a great coach defending wise but he never let us just play.

"That's why I left Arsenal at the end of the day, because I wasn't enjoying the football. Jose Mourinho's the same today. As long as everyone gets back and defends, works for the group, he's happy."

As for Arsenal's hopes in the Champions League after impressive wins over Marseille and Napoli, Michael is pretty certain Arsenal will progress, insisting: "They said it was the Group of Death, but I said at the time the only tough side is Borussia Dortmund. I was always sure they could beat Napoli.

"Me, Tony Adams, (former soap opera star) Tom Watt and Paul Davies will all be going to watch Arsenal at Dortmund, we'll go through the EuroTunnel, sit there and enjoy the game!"





BOLLOCKZ! my show on www.ballz.co.za, airs every Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel on www.YouTube.com for our growing collection of interviews like the one above.


You can also follow me on www.twitter.com/nealcol for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday inwww.thenewage.co.za.


BOLLOCKZ! is backed by www.topodds.com - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice!


1 comment:

  1. There is SHOCKING news in the sports betting industry.

    It's been said that any bettor must watch this,

    Watch this now or stop placing bets on sports...

    Sports Cash System - Advanced Sports Betting Software.

    ReplyDelete