Football: I Know I Should Have Won More Caps but I Don't Regret Anything; FRIDAY WYN DAVIES THE GREATN WALIAN FOOTBALLERS - PART 11 Welsh Legend Mickey Thomas Tells Mark Currie Memories Are as Important as Trophies
Byline: Mark Currie
FEW footballers have ridden the roller-coaster of life quite as recklessly as Mickey Thomas, but none of them could have enjoyed it more.
The Mochdre-born midfield dynamo was often his own worst enemy during a 22-year career that began and ended at Wrexham, yet along the way he was the equal of the best of his generation, both at home and on the international stage.
And although his medal collection doesn't come near to matching that of many of his contemporaries, Thomas has few regrets as he looks forward to the publication later this year of what promises to be a revealing warts 'n all autobiography.
Its title, "Kick-ups, hiccups and lock-ups" says it all about a player who entertained spectators as effortlessly as he infuriated managers and accepted with equanimity both his fame and subsequent fall from grace as a prison inmate.
"I don't have many regrets at all," said Thomas. "I played in some great teams with and against some of the best players around and I really could not have asked for any more.
"Even if I don't have many trophies to show for it I had a pretty good career and most important of all I have got all the memories."
Cherished among them are his two spells at Wrexham where he was taken onto the ground staff as a teenager by manager John Neal at the same time as lifelong friend and colleague Joey Jones.
At the age of 17 Thomas had made his Football League debut in a New Year's Day match at Bournemouth and his first goal - scored with his right foot - came a couple of months later in a 2-1 home defeat by Blackburn Rovers.
The next five seasons were a golden era for everyone associated with Wrexham as Neal's side enjoyed giant-killing cup runs both at home and in Europe and in 1977 the club was poised for a first-ever promotion to the then Second Division.
Defeats in the final two home matches of the season ended the dream, but the celebrations were postponed for only 12 months.
"Everyone was absolutely gutted that we missed out when we should have gone up," said Thomas. "But we responded in exactly the right manner the following year and we were probably the best Wrexham side of all time.
"We felt we could beat anyone and we reached the quarter finals of both the League Cup and FA Cup. We were unfortunate to lose to Arsenal in the sixth round at the Racecourse, but I was lucky enough to get my own back a few years later."
In what was a landmark year for the all-action midfielder, Thomas also won the first of his 51 caps for Wales against a star-studded West Germany.
"They had the best player in the world, Franz Beckenbauer, and the best defender, Bertie Vogts, in their team," he added.
"There was me playing for a Third Division club and on the same pitch as some of the world's top players, which was unbelievable.
"And although we lost 2-0 it was a fantastic experience because I was named Man of the Match and was noticed by Dave Sexton, who was then manager of Manchester United."
Later the same year, Thomas moved for pounds 300,000 to Old Trafford, to begin a love affair with the club that has continued to this day. He soon became a firm favourite with the crowd and within a few short months was preparing for a Wembley FA Cup final.
Not for the first time was Thomas' heart about to be broken by Arsenal as Alan Sunderland's late goal after United had pulled back to 2-2 ensured the trophy went to Highbury.
"It was a huge disappointment, especially as the winner came so quickly after our equaliser," he said. "It's probably the worst I ever felt in football, but for a Mochdre lad to play in a cup final at Wembley was a dream fulfilled.
Even better was the fact I was there playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world."
Off the field, though, Thomas was finding it difficult to cope and he made a snap decision - later regretted - to quit United and join Everton, where it was not long before he fell out with manager Howard Kendall. …