Danny is a friend, a hero, and a legend. He played for Coventry City, Tottenham and England. He was the complete full back: fast, skilful, tenacious in the tackle and a great crosser of the ball. I saw him make his debut for the City at age 17 in 1980: my eldest daughter was born in May that year and for many years went to sleep each night hugging a Sky Blue teddy bear named Danny. I mourned his loss when the City sold him to Spurs but celebrated with him when Spurs fans were singing his name as they won the 1984 EUFA Cup. Three years later, his career was brought to a sudden and brutal end at QPR, but he used the compensation he received for the career-ending knee injury to train as a physiotherapist.
It’s since then that I have come to know him and his wife Renée. He established a practice back in Coventry and we sat a row or two away from each other at Highfield Road, and next to each other at the bar in Wilde’s. He is an unlikely hero, quiet and unassuming: Renée – who never saw him play and finds our hero worship even more embarrassing than he does – is his ideal partner.
They are going to love it in Florida, where Danny is joining a sports physiotherapy practice. (He’s a good physio: I know this because he got me running again after I ruptured my Achilles tendon.)
At lunch today, we discussed where and how he will be able to watch English football when he’s over there. I know my brother has a favourite bar where he watches Chelsea most weeks. But I’m not sure how much Danny will miss ‘soccer’. Last Saturday, I sat in the boardroom at Coventry City with John Sillett and Willie Carr as we watched the current Sky Blues lose 2-4 at home to Southampton. It’s not the same. The new stadium has a different atmosphere. And, I’m afraid, the City are not the side they were when Willie Carr bossed the midfield, when John Sillett lead out the team at Wembley and when a young full back called Danny Thomas graced Highfield Road.
I miss the Danny Thomas of those days. And I’m gonna miss the Danny and Renée of today even more. Good luck, guys.
Today’s listening: The Israelites, Desmond Dekker, Danny’s cousin.