Mickey Thomas – Chelsea legend – welcome home. We don’t see you very often down here.
I actually come down here more often than people think. Obviously I report on all Manchester United games nowadays so I can’t get to that many Chelsea matches, but I’m often in London doing media work, and regularly find my way to Stamford Bridge or Cobham.
I actually went to see Chelsea play at Blackburn a couple of years ago and I went in the away end with the Chelsea fans, so I do still keep my hand in where Chelsea are concerned.
Your autobiography has just been published and you say in it that the biggest thumps you ever got were pats on the back from Chelsea supporters.
I’ve never made any bones about it, Chelsea were the best club I ever played for and the fans were the best I ever encountered. I knew all about the Chelsea fans before I signed and I knew that we were made for each other. After I left, I went to West Brom and we played Chelsea just a few weeks later. Nobby Stiles was our manager and he said to me after the game: “I’ve played for England and Manchester United, I’ve won World Cups and European Cups, but I’ve never heard an opposing player receive an ovation like that from the supporters”. There were about 6,000 Chelsea fans at The Hawthorns that day and they sang my name all the way through the game. I was almost in tears. They did it again when I came back with Shrewsbury, and I got choked up again.
Why do you think the supporters loved you so much?
Because they knew I was as mad as they were! We had a lunatic following back then and I think they knew I was just one of the boys. I scored twice on my home debut and I ran straight over to Gate 13, where all the loonies sat. I think that struck a cord with them as well.
I also scored some big goals in big games, including when we beat Leeds United 5-0 to clinch promotion. I think things like that helped, too. It just all came together for me at Chelsea. I loved everything about the club.
What do you remember of the game at Grimsby on the last day of the 1983/84 season?
We needed a win to be certain of the title, and their captain had said before the game to the local press that he didn’t fancy our chances. John Neal just pinned up the article in the dressing room and that was all the motivation we needed.
Kerry Dixon scored with a header and Pat Nevin missed a penalty – which we were all doing at the time – but we won 1-0 and beat Sheffield Wednesday to the title.
There were thousands of Chelsea fans at Grimsby that day and I think play got held up at one point because they were all spilling over. Then at the end of the game they all came on and were hugging us, taking our kit off us and all that.
I came down with Joey [Jones] last year to do a talk for the Chelsea fans and a guy stepped forward while I was talking and handed me the shirt I had worn that day at Grimsby. He said he had taken it off me after the game. I kissed it and gave it him back, and I have to admit I had to stop talking for a few seconds because I had a lump in my throat.
You loved Chelsea and the fans loved you, so how difficult was it to leave?
It was heart-breaking but I had no choice. John Hollins had made it clear to me that if I didn’t move south he would sell me. I dug my heels in, although I couldn’t really do much about the situation anyway because I couldn’t afford to move, and one day at the training ground Hollins told me the chairman wanted to see me. I said “Don’t you mean the manager?” and when I spoke to Ken Bates he told me they had accepted an offer for me.
I moved to West Brom and Hollins replaced me with Jerry Murphy, which I thought was an insult.
And what brings you to the Bridge today?
Well I’m here to commentate on the game and do some stuff for Sky, and Kelvin who wrote the book Celery has arranged a couple of book signings for me. As ever, the Chelsea fans have been brilliant and I have been given a fantastic welcome. I’m so glad the Chelsea supporters have finally got the team and the success they deserve.