MICKEY THOMAS doesn’t need telling just how brilliant the National Health Service is in their courageous attempts to combat the killer coronavirus.

If it wasn’t for the NHS, the former Wrexham, Manchester United and Wales footballing legend might not be here after being diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus 13 months ago.

Thomas, now 65, is well on the road to recovery after having what he described as a ‘massive tumour’ removed at The Maelor Hospital in Wrexham. He was then rushed back in after suffering an infection all while coping with the horrendous side effects of his chemotherapy treatment.

“They saved my life and they save lives every day. That’s what they do,” said Thomas. “They are amazing people and just look at what they are doing now. They’re going above and beyond to try and keep people alive in hospitals.

“I’ve been lucky. That’s how I see it. But I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all those wonderful people who have cared and looked after.

“I couldn’t speak more highly of the specialist nurse who took care of me, Michelle Curtis and the surgeon Andrew Baker who performed the op and cut away my cancer using keyhole surgery.

“They gave me an epidural - which I thought was only for women having babies. I’m fully awake as they’re hammering at my back but I didn’t feel a thing. And then they put me to sleep.”

Six and half hours later and after 10 days in intensive care, Thomas, who also played for Chelsea, Everton and Stoke City in a colourful career that had its ups and downs including a prison-stretch for laundering counterfeit money, was on the mend.

“This is by far the most scary thing I’ve been through in my life,” he added. “When someone tells you it’s 50/50 whether you’ll be alive, it hits home. In fact they said it was 30 per cent chance of getting through it.

“I’ve always been happy-go-lucky Mickey T, invincible in a way, thinking this will never happen to you. But it did and it’s changed my life. I’ve been given a chance which is more than I could have asked for. It’s more than a lot of people get.

“As much as I think about the people who take inspiration from my story, I can’t help but think about those that don’t beat cancer.

“You do think you’re going to die at times and I have to admit, there were bad days when I thought, I can’t take this anymore. But I’m here. It’s almost a year after the operation and I’m just so grateful to everyone who has helped me get through the worst months of my life.

“There is also Glan Clwyd Cancer unit I have to say a great big thanks to, specially Mr Garcia, my oncologist and cancer special nurse Ali Latter.”

Thomas will head back to the Maelor next month for his yearly post-op check-up but his recuperation on the North Wales coast in Deganwy has stepped up a pace in recent weeks.

The lockdown has seen Thomas hit the weights at home while he went for his first jog last week.

“I’ve haven’t been allowed to run since the operation so it was nice to go out for just a gentle jog and take in the sea-air,” added Thomas, who has stressed the importance of having things checked out.

Recalling the days in the run-up towards being told he had the killer disease, Thomas said: “I hadn’t been able to eat properly for some time.

“I went to the doctor and said I wasn’t feeling well. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t swallow. When I could eat I was getting sickness.

“I was having tests, seeing different doctors and I remember being away with Bryan Robson doing a thing with Manchester United in Bangkok. We were in a restaurant and I was having the same thing happening to me. Eating, sick, eating, sick.

“Robbo had had throat cancer and told me I must sort it out.”

The football family has been good to Thomas in a playing career that came to a glorious end with that never-to-be-forgotten free-kick as Wrexham came back to beat champions Arsenal in the biggest FA Cup shock of all time in 1992.

“Sir Alex Ferguson has been incredible,” said Thomas. “He has text me, phoned me. After what he’s been through too, he told me it’s all about the mental side of things.

“John Terry, Graeme Sharp and of course my old pal, Joey Jones. He’s been my rock, just like he’s always been.

“The support I’ve had has been overwhelming at times. If I tried to thank everyone, I’d be thanking at least 3,000 people off the top of my head, I’ve had people from all over the world getting in touch.”