Geoff Thomas made a highly popular return to Molineux this week – and received a standing ovation that rounded off his night of nostalgia.
The former Wolves and Crystal Palace midfielder was on duty at the clash of his two former clubs when asked to appear at a question-and-answer session for corporate customers in the new Stan Cullis Stand.
And he proved a big hit on an evening when his loyalties were no doubt divided.
“Geoff brought his family along and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself,” said Bill Hatton, the compere for the evening and a man well known in these parts as an experienced match-day radio commentator.
“He answered a series of questions I put to him in both the restaurant and the bar nearby and was on great form.
“He was gold-dust really in that setting and has a really inspiring story to tell. After the terrible injury misfortune he had as a Wolves player, he had a much bigger battle to fight, of course, when he was diagnosed with leukaemia.
“He said he was basically given three months to live but, thankfully, the treatment he had was successful and I thought he looked much better this week than the last time I saw him.
“He had a fantastic ovation at the start and finish of his address and the guests really appreciated hearing from a former player with a great tale to tell.
“He happily signed a lot of autographs and posed for photos and gave the impression of having really enjoyed the visit.”
Wolves raised eyebrows in the game when they outmuscled a top-flight Manchester City, no less, to sign Thomas for £800,000 from Crystal Palace in the summer of 1993.
It was reported that the nine-times-capped England international was on the brink of joining his home-city club, only to drop by for talks at Wolves on the way back to London – apparently out of little more than courtesy – and to have his head turned.
He made an instant impact by scoring four times in eight League games for Graham Turner’s side, the last of those in a victory at Roker Park in which he was injured in a tackle by Sunderland’s Lee Howey. Although he returned to play in the reserves a few weeks later, he broke down again with a serious knee problem and wasn’t seen again until the first day of the following season.
All told, Thomas, who is now 48, played only 54 times for the club in four years (with eight goals) and left a trail of if-onlys behind him.
But his story is a reminder that football sometimes comes a distant second in terms of priority.