FOLLOWING in dad's footsteps isn't easy if he's Wales and Wrexham legend Mickey Thomas. Mark Currie learns why
As a footballer Mickey Thomas was rarely out of the headlines and, as often than not, for all the wrong reasons.
The Wales international had his ups and downs at most of the clubs he played for and, even as his professional career drew to a close, he went from hero to villain in the space of a few days.
A stunning goal for lowly Wrexham against Arsenal set up one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of all time, but the following week he was arrested, and subsequently convicted, for handling counterfeit money.
But the onset of middle age sees him a wiser and happier man. And as Thomas contemplates his 50th birthday this year, it is the sporting talent of his two children which is keeping the family name in the spotlight.
Aaron, 23, is carving out a promising career as a boxer, having recently claimed a Welsh ABA title just three years after climbing into the ring for the first time, and Jade, 21, is no mean footballer, playing at the highest level of the women's game in this country.
"It's amazing," said Thomas. "To have one of them excelling at sport would be good, but for both of them to excel is something that makes me very proud."
Long since divorced from the pair's mother Debbie, Thomas, who is now friends with his ex-wife, admits she deserves most of the credit for providing essential parental support as the children were growing up.
"She was always there for them, running them around to whatever activities they were involved in," he added.
Nowadays, though, both children live with their father in Mochdre, Thomas providing the transport and companionship for Aaron on his five-mile training runs and regular gymnasium sessions and watching whenever possible Jade's developing career with Liverpool FC Ladies and Wales.
Aaron, too, is a passable footballer, having played for Bangor City and Rhyl and currently turning out on a regular basis for Unibond League side Colwyn Bay.
"Football was always going to be a game I played because of my dad," he said. "But I've never really enjoyed it that much and I'm only playing now to keep fit.
"When I was with Bangor I scored two goals in one game and was dropped for the next one so I eventually moved on to Rhyl where one of the lads introduced me to the Clwyd Amateur Boxing Club.
"It started out with me going there to get fit during pre-season, but I found I really enjoyed it and after a few bouts I decided to take it seriously.
"It was something I realised I had an aptitude for and I've got a couple of excellent coaches in Eddie Lloyd and Darryl Jones. Now I've had 27 bouts, winning 19 and losing eight and I won the Welsh ABA welterweight title at Ebbw Vale earlier this year."
The next big test for Aaron comes at the end of this month when he represents Wales against the Army, his opponent Tommy Briggs being ranked eighth in Britain, and in April he will be boxing in the Four Nations tournament in Glasgow.
"Briggs will be an excellent yardstick for me to see how far I've come," he added. "It's far too early for me to consider turning professional because I want to get all the experience I can from boxing for Wales.
"But I know I also need to be dedicated because you can't cheat when you are in the ring. If you don't train prop-erly that's where you will be found out."
While her brother is pounding the roads around Colwyn Bay and spending up to three hours a day in the gym, Jade is looking forward to international duty in Portugal this weekend where Wales have been invited to compete in in the Algarve Cup.
The host nation - who Wales beat 1-0 at Llanelli earlier this season - Ireland and Greece provide the opposition and midfielder Jade, an established international for 18 months, is hoping for the same measure of success there as on the domestic front.
She has played her part in helping Liverpool to win promotion to the Women's Premier League next season and, along the way, shaken off the tag of being Mickey Thomas' daughter.
"There was a bit of jealousy in the early days but people now accept I'm in the Liverpool side and playing for Wales on merit, rather than because of who my Dad is," she said. "Playing football has helped me see a bit of the world.
"I went with Liverpool to the United States where the women's game is much bigger. We won that tournament involving college and university sides and, of course I've been lucky enough to travel around Europe with Wales.
"The women's game is growing all the time and in an ideal world, I'd like to see it become professional over here because it would give me the opportunity to make a living from football."