Mickey Thomas is a prime candidate for Albion’s biggest waste of money. After a brief four month spell at Everton, the impish Welsh international midfielder joined Brighton for £350,000 in November 1981. With hindsight, Thomas’ petulant behaviour at Goodison ought to have alerted Seagulls boss Mike Bailey that this spot of business was going to end in tears. Thomas’ enthusiastic words about Brighton at the end of this article from Shoot! Magazine sound rather hollow now:
Mickey Thomas’ love-affair at Goodison Park lasted less than four months.
He signed for Everton from Manchester United in July, and in early November was sent packing by Howard Kendall for refusing to play in a reserve team game.
The Everton boss was quick to defend his actions, “Thomas let me down, the players and the supporters,” he said. “I was not going to be told by anyone who played in my team.”
Thomas is now settling to life at Brighton following a £400,000 move.
“I didn’t want to leave Everton,” he told SHOOT, “But Howard Kendall didn’t leave me with much choice.”
The row that saw Thomas make a controversial exit from Goodison Park erupted when Kendall asked the Welsh international to play for the reserves.
Thomas had missed two games with a hamstring injury and Kendall wanted him to prove his fitness before putting him back in the senior team.
“I told the manager that I had never done that before and I wasn’t about to start,” says Thomas.
“At the time I believed my stand was right. But looking back on the decision, I suppose I was too hasty.”
Thomas did not play for the reserves, and Kendall, with a no-nonsense approach, showed him the door.
“He made it plain that I had no future at the club,” says Thomas.
“That disappointed me and when Brighton showed an interest I jumped at the chance of a fresh start.”
A lot of harsh things were said by both parties after the two had gone their separate ways. Thomas was reported to have muttered that forgetting Everton would not be too difficult because he had not enjoyed himself at the club.
“I didn’t say that,” storms Thomas. “I love Everton. I stood on the terraces as a boy and watched them. It was like a dream come true when I signed for them from Manchester United in the summer.
“What I said was that Everton were a part of my past, and I had to get on with the job at Brighton now.
“I didn’t get on with Howard Kendall, but that’s a different thing.
“I never knew where I stood with him and I don’t think I was alone. I think he wanted to sell somebody around the time that I was pushed out and I gave him the excuse he needed. I’m sorry about that.
“But I still love Everton and their supporters, who were very good to me. I wish them well.”
The Kendall/Thomas row could not have come at a better time for Mike Bailey. He wanted to balance the left-side of the midfield at Brighton and Thomas fitted the bill perfectly.
“He’s building a team quite capable of living with the best.
‘My problem now is settling again. I had just bought a house on Merseyside which we hadn’t moved into.
“I was looking forward to getting out of the hotel that my wife, son and I had been living |n. Now I’ve got all that again, it takes its toll you know.”
Thomas is determined to knuckle down and prove that Everton were wrong to let him go.
“It’s a big challenge. The set-up at Brighton is nothing like it was at Goodison, but it’s a friendly little club and the South Coast is a lovely place to live,” he says.
“I’ve signed a four-year contract and have every intention of seeing it out. I want success and Brighton can provide it.”
One of the few bright spots of Thomas’ brief stay on the South Coast was his diving header against Barnet in the FA Cup 3rd Round replay in January 1982:
However, his wife failed to settle in the area and Thomas failed to appear for the match with Notts County in April. He also went AWOL on at least three other occasions. Regarding the County game, Mike Bailey expressed his annoyance via his programme notes against Manchester United, later in the month:
The absence of Mike Thomas from our side last Saturday may have surprised many of our supporters. I can appreciate that it must have been difficult for our fans to follow the Thomas affair in recent weeks, so perhaps a few words of explanation about events of last week might not go amiss.
In truth, since we agreed to put Mike on the transfer list he ahas been training regularly with everyone else and things seemed to be going quite OK.
Indeed, Mike’s performances on the field had been very encouraging. However after the Easter games the lads were given two days off and told to report back on the Thursday.
We received a phone call from Thomas’ wife a day later to say that he was ill. If the call had been received on the Thursday I might have understood but he should have been at the Goldstone on that day and wasn’t here.
Prior to that, after the Arsenal match, he had asked permission to return to North Wales for his son’s birthday with permission to report direct to Aston Villa on the Monday. This he did and after the match he again returned to North Wales.
We feel that we have gone out of our way to help the player and allow him to settle his domestic affairs but now I feel we have been completely let down and for me… enough is enough.
This interpretation is challenged by Thomas in his autobiography ‘Kick-ups, Hiccups, Lock-Ups’. He blamed Brighton for plying him with drinks to get him to sign for a club he didn’t wish to join and, rather than domestic strife, suggested that going AWOL was merely a tactic to force the club’s hand into releasing him.
Unsurprisingly, Thomas left Brighton for Stoke in a £200,000 deal in the summer. To rub salt into the wounds, when the Albion played City in the early stages of the following season, Thomas turned in an outstanding performance and scored a goal in an emphatic 3-0 victory for the Potters:
The only upside to this story if that when Thomas left the Goldstone, he showed some semblance of a conscience. In his autobiography, he said:
“I was off. But not before one final unexpected act on my part. When the contract was finally sorted and I was released, I refused to take the signing-on fee, which was due to me. I told them to keep the money. I was entitled to £25,000 but I didn’t take a penny from them. It was a rash gesture on my part for all the trouble I had caused Brighton. I wasn’t going to take the piss entirely and pocket a hefty cheque I didn’t believe I warranted. That was one hell of an expensive way to say sorry.”