For those younger fans, this current Palace side is the most successful you’ve known. For those a tad older, the Palace side Geoff Thomas led out at Wembley in the FA Cup Final against Manchester United (and then finished 3rd in the top flight the following season) was the finest-ever Palace team.
These days your leader of men is Mile Jedinak. Back then it was Geoff Thomas. He jokes that his ‘legs were as thin as pipe cleaners’, but boy could he win a midfield battle against the very best in the league.
His finest hour came in that 1990 FA Cup Final which finished 3-3. Ian Wright came off the bench to score twice and put Palace in front. But Mark Hughes scored with just seven minutes of extra time to go – and took it to a disappointing replay which Palace lost 1-0.
Geoff Thomas and Bryan Robson were captains on that great day at Wembley – exactly 25 years ago this month .
Thommo said walking out alongside Bryan Robson, with Steve Coppell and Alex Ferguson (long before he’d even been thought of as Sir Alex) was; ‘incredible. The noise was mind-blowing’.
Robbo said it was the toughest final he ever faced. He said United knew full well that a side which had beaten Liverpool in the semi final (when Alan Pardew scored the winner), were going to be tough.
‘Big players play in big games, and Mark Hughes popped up just when we needed him’.
Thommo said; ‘Before the replay the players were kicking everything in the dressing room to pump themselves up’
‘And then you came out and kicked lumps out of us!’, said Robbo. But he says both sides were fiercely competitive on the day.
Now the pair stand shoulder to shoulder again, aiming to raise money for Cure Leukaemia – because both have had cancer.
Robbo was in Thailand when he discovered a lump in his throat which turned out to be a tumour. He had it removed, went through radiotherapy, and if he gets the all-clear in his next test in August – he’s officially in remission.
12 years ago Thommo was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia.
They gave him 3 months to live.
Yet two years later he did the entire Tour de France route – two days before the professionals rode it.
Now he’s doing it all over again now to celebrate the tenth anniversary of doing it first time round.
“This is for all the people who had treatment with me who didn’t make it. And all those going through it now.
I’m tired of hearing people say ‘I only got involved after a relative died’. If people get involved now, and raise cash, we can accelerate quicker towards a cure for blood cancer.”
His latest ride has received criticism for inviting along Lance Armstrong, the disgraced cyclist found guilty of doping during his massive domination of the sport. And Armstrong has confirmed he’s coming to cycle and support Geoff.
‘I can’t change what he did. But when I was diagnosed, he was an inspiration to me with his comeback from cancer.
We were aware that some of the publicity would be negative. But don’t forget, this is a guy who had testicular cancer and who raised $500 million to help people suffering and those looking for a cure.
Lance knew his name might have a negative impact. But I’ve invited him to highlight what still needs to be done. I’m saying it’s for the greater good of cancer patients, and to reduce the number of people dying from this horrible disease.’
Robbo – the man they called Captain Marvel because of his ability and bravery – thinks Thommo is unbelievable; ‘2,000 miles on a bike is incredible. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity and he makes that look like a walk in the park!’
For all you Palace fans, it won’t surprise you one jot that the man who gave everything on the pitch, gave everything to fight his cancer, is now giving everything to achieve the goal of finding a cure for blood cancer. Now’s your chance to give a little back – by clicking on the link below.
Bryan is playing in aid of the Manchester United Foundation – Manchester United v Bayern Munich at Old Trafford on June 14.
By Dickie Davies.