New York based, but more importantly for this interview, Manchester born and bred. Cole Haan’s Gavin Thomas is the latest to sit down and answer our football questions. Gavin’s always great to catch up with, and when football’s at the centre of the conversation, he’s always got something to say…
When did you first play or become interested in football/soccer?
I’ve played all my life. My brother and I have a football in most of the photos of us as children. My first solid memories were from 1986. It was the year Mexico hosted the world cup. I was at junior school, and Panini Mexico 86 stickers were the currency of the playground. Life evolved around swapping spares tofill your empty spaces. I remember having to give this kid a disproportionate number of foil stickers [the country federation badges] and player stickers for Burrachaga and Fidol—needed to complete my Argentina page. I still have the sticker album.
What position did you play?
I’m double-footed so can play left or right. I’ve always been flexible toleft/right back, left/right mid, or left/right wing. Whatever is needed from me…
Who did you support as a child? Do you still support that team now?
I was born and grew up in Manchester. Always been a United supporter, and always will be.
Did you parents play a big role in your interest in the sport?
Yes, my dad always encouraged my brother and I to play any sports that interested us. He was assistant coach to our cub football team, and took us to games whenever we wanted to go. In the early years we mostly went to Everton as he had a contact with the club. The late 80’s were good years to watch football at Everton. Neville Southall, Kevin Sheedy, Graeme Sharpe, Kevin Ratcliffe, Peter Reid, Trevor Steven…
What’s your finest memory of football (playing or watching)?
Playing has to be scoring a power header from 15 years out at the Stretford, Old Trafford. It was style media vs. sports media that Nike facilitated. Alex Bec of Its Nice That saw my run inside from the left wing and drove in a cross. I out-jumped two defenders and banged it into the far top corner. The United Reserves coach got fingertips to it but it made the roof of the net. Get in!
I always believed if I’d been professional I’d celebrate scoring like Brian Robson—ice cold, single fist pump, but I guess that’s not the case. In my moment of glory I soared arms out like [Luiz] Ronaldo to the corner flag…
Watching has to be the 1999 Champions League Final. Man Utd vs Bayern Munich. I was watching it at Dry Bar in Manchester [the old Hacienda pre-bar]. People were still celebrating Sheringham’s equalizer when Solksjaer scored the winner. It actually went quiet as people started passing out from over-celebrating. I’ve never seen anything like that before and don’t expect to ever again.
Who was your idol growing up?
We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Eric the King the King the King
He’s the leader of our football team
He’s the greatest Centre forward
That the world has ever seen
Who do you think is the best player in the world today?
Andy Carroll… that’s a joke.
Lionel Messi has more ability than anyoneI’ve seen since watching Maradona in Mexico ‘86
Cristiano Ronaldo is on top of his game and tries as hard as anyone on the planet.
To answer the age old question…
Maradona or Pele?
I can’t answer that. They are both examples of the best players of all time.
Messi or Ronaldo? Again, I can’t answer that. They are the best players in the game today, though I do feel that Messi being Argentinian can go on to have more significant impact on the international stage than Ronaldo due to the quality of the players available to play alongside him for Argentina.
What’s been the biggest change in the sport since you were a kid?
Growing up I loved the discovery of new players at international tournaments you’d not seen or heard of before. Now with the internet, every player has a highlight reel their agent created and they’re being touted them as the “new Zidane” or the “new Messi” even before they make the first team at their club. The mysticism has gone. It’s also a huge amount of pressure and expectation on these young players and rarely do any live up to it…
Do you still play at all today? Where and when?
Yes, I play with Chinatown Soccer Club, NY when I can..
What were the biggest lessons you’ve learnt through football?
Football is all about teamwork. 11 highlytalented players playing for themselves will lose against 11 mildly talented players playing as a team.
Are there lessons or things you have learnt that you have carried through into your life today?