Issue No.2 of the Supporters Club magazine, ‘The Superhoop’ included an in-depth interview with the legendary Dave Thomas. Editor Keith Friend conducted his interview at the Rangers Training ground on Thursday, 23rd October 1975:
KF: Right Dave, tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
DT: Well, my wife’s name is Brenda and I have a little daughter, called Helen who is 15 months old. We have no pets and I drive a Lancia car.
KF: I see you were born in Kirkby. I always thought you came from Sunderland.
DT: Yes, I was born in Kirkby, near Ashfield, Nottingham, but when I was only one month old we moved to the North East and I spent all my life up there.
KF: We hear a lot about Northern hospitality, how does it compare with Southern?
DT: I think you have got to get to know London people a bit more before they accept you. That’s the difference.
KF: I asked Phil Parkes what he would do when he finishes playing, move back North or stay down here. He thought he would stay down here.
DT: I think I would do the opposite. I’d like to go back to the North East, I think. But you can never tell.
KF: Did you play for anyone else before you played for Burnley or did you join them straight from school?
DT: No, I went straight from school football.
KF: Was it a surprise to you when Burnley sold you?
DT: Not really, they had put me on the transfer list. I was having a lot of troubles there. It was the best thing I ever did to get away.
KF: Why did you join the Rangers, another Second Division side at the time. Were they the first club to come in for you?
DT: Yes they were. I had nothing to lose. At the time I was really sick, so I went down and talked things over and signed. As it happens it’s turned out great.
KF: I saw the game at Burnley. Now why do you think you still get so much stick from the crowd when you play there?
DT: I don’t know. Its people, people are funny. They did not used to be like that when I was playing there. They never got on my back. Perhaps I’ve upset them. I had a lot of arguments with the manager and things like that, but its three years since I left Burnley.
KF: What do you think of Bob Lord’s outspoken attitude to football? Did you have much to do with him?
DT: No, I did not come in contact with him very much. I think he’s a bit outspoken, not my cup of tea, not my type of person, but on the other hand he is Burnley Football Club, through and through. Give the man his due he would go the whole hog for Burnley.
KF: I noticed you had a large following at the Burnley game, were they your relatives?
DT: No, the people there were friends I knew when I was at Burnley and my landlady and landlord. I spent six years with them. They were like a mother and father really. They are a smashing couple.
KF: I read recently that they are the only two people that you keep in contact with.
DT: Yes, and another chappie I was friendly with, a bloke called Arthur Greenwood. I think he had claret and blue eyes, a keen Burnley fan. I keep in touch with him as well.
KF: Do your relatives follow you?
DT: Mum and Dad have been to quite a few games actually, and my kid brother has been to a couple.
KF: Who do you think has influenced your career the most?
DT: It’s hard to say really. I think a lot of people have. Naturally my Mum and Dad were great. In my school days, my Mum used to get up with us every morning when we were playing football, to see I had a good breakfast and Dad used to take us to the games. Although I disliked Jimmy Adamson at Burnley, I owe quite a little bit to him. It was a clash of personalities between us in the end. Dave Sexton helped a hell of a lot since he came and Gordon Jago beforehand. A lot of people have helped me.
KF: Why don’t you wear shin pads?
DT: Well it’s a thing I can never get used to. I tried it in training. I tried it at Burnley. I feel as though I am restricted. I feel bulky round my legs and its one of those things I have never been used to wearing – I can’t get used to wearing. It’s probably a bit of a psychological thing. I should do really. I got a clout on my shin on Saturday. I never wear tie-ups either, so when my socks are down, they stay down.
KF: Have you any superstitions?
DT: Not really, no.
KF: Which full-back do you think is the hardest to play against?
DT: I thinkPaul Reaney. He was always a good full-back, very quick and hard to play against. I think to be quite honest the best attitude is to treat every full-back as though he is going to try to get one over on you. You have to try to lift yourself all the time, because some days you have a good game against a full-back and another day, a poor or average game against a full-back who is not really recognised. But, Paul Reaney is very hard to play against, competitive and very strong.
KF: How would you compare the managers you have played under? Is Dave Sexton the best?
DT: Yes, although I like Gordon Jago. He was a smashing fellow Gordon, really nice fellow. I owe a lot to him and of course he was the one who bought me. Bobby Campbell was good too.
DT: Great player. He’s unpredictable, but he also plays the game very simple. No problems.
KF: How do you spend your time travelling to and from matches and do you prefer to travel by train or coach?
DT: I prefer our coach now. It’s great. I usually sit at the front of the bus, in the same place all the time. That’s a little bit of superstition. I just watch out the window or read a few magazines.
KF: What do you think of the standard of refereeing in this country, and what relationship should they have with the players?
DT: It’s hard to say really. I think refereeing is not easy by any means. They have to do things in a split second, at the right time, it’s not easy. I don’t think they do a bad job on the whole.
KF: Do you think it is right that referees should chat to players? And I have seen you pat a couple on the head.
DT: It’s good humour. Gordon Hill was noted for it. On the other hand, I always say a good referee is one who you never see in a game.
KF: Who do you think will win the championship, or who do you think will be our main rivals?
DT: That’s a hard one really. The season’s not a third of the way through yet. You must bring in your Leeds, Liverpool’s and your Derby’s, people like that. Manchester United have a good chance this year, good team, surprised me to be honest when they came to Rangers, they pushed it about a bit, they deserve to be where they are.
KF: What were your feelings when you first played for England, when you came on as sub against Czechoslovakia? What were your feelings as you went on?
DT: It was fantastic really. I thoughtoh, it’s my first cap. As it happened, it turned out all right.
KF: Were you nervous?
DT: I wasn’t really, I felt alright, you know. It did not hit me till later on. I never actually feel nervous before I play.
KF: What is the atmosphere like in the England dressing room?
DT: Very good. He has done very well Revie, he has a good family atmosphere, which is what you need. It’s nice to know you are always in the squad and things like that. He’s really working hard, getting the lads together, getting to know everyone, creating a club atmosphere.
KF: As a star, can you enjoy a social life, or are you constantly being recognised when you go out?
DT: I never go out a lot. I live a simple life really. I like fishing and the country life and my garden. I love my garden. The wife and I go out for a meal every now and again, but social life is not for me really.
KF: Do you ever go and watch any matches?
DT: Never dream of going and watching a game, but I like watching it on television, ‘Match of the Day’ and the ‘Big Match’. I love the television.
KF: Have you any other interests apart from those you have mentioned?
DT: As I said, I like my garden and fishing, the simple life, or anything to do with the country life and animal life. I have a friend, a gamekeeper. I often go out with him, walking and seeing how he goes on. Simple people.nice people to be with.
KF: Are you aware of Rangers supporters when you play away? Do you notice them?
DT: Not really, I don’t to be honest. Although there was a good crowd at Derby, wasn’t there. Mind you, it’s not always advisable to make yourself known.
KF: What are your feelings on football hooliganism?
DT: A lot of them are kids between 12 and 15, not grown up at all. They just go for a good punch up. They would run a mile if they were on their own, but get a group of them and they start picking on people. To be honest, I think it is coming where they will have to be fenced in at certain grounds, like Manchester United.
KF: A little less controversial, what do you think of the Rangers kits? Dave Sexton has changed them around quite a lot.
DT: Good. I think they are good strips. Although I like anything as long as it’s clean and fresh. It’s not what you play in, it’s the people in it that matters, I always say.
KF: I would like to end by asking you Dave, if you have a message for the many supporters who will be reading this magazine.
DT: Yes. Our support has been better this season than it has ever been before, but if possible the crowd could get behind us a little more when things are not going too well. I think support is very, very important. When I have played at Liverpool it has been a little bit frightening sometimes with the crowd buzzing. It’s psychological. Liverpool used to think they were one goal up before the game started. I would like, from a Rangers player’s point of view, to ask for the crowd to get behind us a little more. I am sure the lads would benefit from it.
KF: Thanks very much Dave.
DT: Okay Keith, my pleasure.
The top pic was taken on 19th October 1972 after Dave had signed his contract and the caption on the back reads: ‘Dave Thomas of Burnley signed for Queen’s Park Rangers to-day at a fee of ¬£165,000.’
Dave Thomas made 219 appearances for the R’s, scoring 34 goals. During this period he also gained eight caps for England.