"Thomas, charging through the midfield... it's up for grabs now! Thomas! Right at the end!"
Those immortal words, uttered by the commentator Brian Moore on the night of May 26, 1989, accompanied the most dramatic climax to an English League season. It was the moment when Michael Thomas wrote his name in Arsenal folklore.
|Arsenal Career||1982 - 1991|
|Appearances||208 (187 starts, 21 as a sub)|
Arsenal headed to Anfield needing to beat champions Liverpool by two clear goals to end an 18-year wait for the title. Few outside Highbury gave George Graham's side a chance but a second-half header from Alan Smith gave the Gunners hope before Thomas struck in the dying seconds of stoppage time.
The midfielder latched onto Smith's lay-off, took a fortunate rebound off Steve Nicol and raced through on goal. He flicked the ball wide of Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar to snatch the title. Not surprisingly, Thomas is still stopped in the street and quizzed about THAT goal by the fans he made so happy.
Thomas was just 21 when he enjoyed his Anfield moment; not surprisingly, the rest of his career seems dull in comparison. But the Lambeth-born midfielder enjoyed a fruitful spell with Arsenal after graduating into the first team under the new regime of Double-winner George Graham.
Thomas signed for Arsenal as a schoolboy in 1982, turning professional on December 31, 1984, and he made his Arsenal debut in the white-hot atmosphere of a League Cup Semi-Final against North London rivals Tottenham.
Arsenal lost that game 1-0 at Highbury but fought back to force a replay in the second leg at White Hart Lane and then booked their place at Wembley courtesy of David Rocastle's late strike. Thomas was a substitute in the Final as Liverpool were beaten by two Charlie Nicholas goals.
Thomas started the 1987/88 season at right back following Viv Anderson's departure but his athleticism and passing ability soon brought a move to central midfield. Thomas shone in the middle of the park and, though never prolific, his well-timed forward runs brought plenty of reward. None more so than at Anfield.
Thomas matured and his consistency in the engine room helped Graham's side clinch another championship two years later. No need for a fairytale ending this time; Arsenal were far and away the best team in the country and Thomas excelled alongside Paul Davis as they romped to the title.
At the time it seemed as if Thomas would be part of the Highbury furniture for years to come but, after being dropped, he was sold in December 1991 as Graham shaped his team for the future. Thomas' destination? Liverpool, the team whose hearts he broke on that famous night on Merseyside.