Tuesday May 12th is the 25th anniversary of the famous FA Cup final between Crystal Palace and Manchester United in 1990
Bryan Robson was the United skipper and Geoff Thomas captained Crystal Palace on that day and the whole Palace squad are set to meet this evening in London for an anniversary celebration.
The thrilling game ended 3-3 after extra-time, with Bryan lifting the cup after United shaded a less memorable replay 1-0.
But both Geoff and Bryan have faced far more important off-field battles since May 12, 1990.
Thirteen years later, and 12 months after hanging up his boots, Geoff was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia and given just three months to live.
But after treatment by Cure Leukaemia Co-Founder Professor Charlie Craddock, and a stem cell transplant from sister Kay, the former England midfielder has been in remission since 2005.
Old Trafford legend Bryan was also delivered the devastating news he had cancer while serving as Thailand coach. After having a throat tumour removed and undergoing radiotherapy four years ago, he is hoping to get the all-clear in his final check-up in August.
The duo were reunited this week when Bryan threw his weight behind his opposing cup final skipper’s latest fundraising feat.
Geoff and a team of amateur cyclists will take on his ‘Le Tour – One Day Ahead’ challenge in July to raise £1million for Cure Leukaemia – the charity that saved his life.
They will take on arguably the toughest endurance challenge in sport by riding more than 3,300km along the 21-stage, 2015 Tour de France route – a day before the professional peloton.
Bryan said: “I don’t think my backside would last over 2,000 miles on a bike!
What Geoff’s doing is incredible. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for the Manchester United Foundation and he makes that look like a stroll in the park!
It’s not just the ride, it’s all the training he’s got to do to be able to complete it, so all credit to him.
When you’ve had cancer, you appreciate what’s important in life. It’s now vitally important we help current and future sufferers by raising funds and awareness."
Le Tour will celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Geoff going into remission and the first time he defeated the Tour de France route – incredibly, just six months after completing his treatment.
The former Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest player’s decade of fundraising feats has boosted the progress of blood cancer treatment – but Geoff insists more needs to be done.
Geoff said, “Your life changes forever when you’re told your life is under threat, and you’re eternally grateful to the professors, doctors and nurses when there is good news at the end of it all.
When we were footballers, Bryan was THE man. I looked up to him and I’m extremely grateful for his support.
Once you have been touched by cancer, you become a voice of survivorship. Bryan, myself – we’ve all got a role to play. Cancer came back into the world of sport last weekend with the sad loss of Rebecca, Rio Ferdinand’s wife.
It’s all around us everyday.
But there are potential answers that are not getting to patients quickly enough. We’ve had many successes with Cure Leukaemia, which have gone national. But it’s all about acceleration.
We’ve been talking about eradicating all blood cancers within the next 30 years, but if we can fund more research nurses and build bigger facilities, I believe we can reach this target sooner.
If, say, we cut it by half to 15 years, thousands and thousands of lives will be saved.”
Back to 1990, and the banter began to flow when the duo reflected on that six-goal Wembley thriller.
"I can remember Bryan taking lumps out of Alan Pardew in the first 30 seconds!” said Geoff.
"It was a cup final!” retorted Bryan, who will be raising further funds for the Manchester United Foundation when he plays for the Red Devils legends against Bayern Munich all-stars at Old Trafford on June 14.
Bryan added: “The first match was end to end – a great game. Mark Hughes popped up with a late equaliser just when we needed him.
The replay was a real physical battle – one of the toughest finals I’ve played in. It wasn’t a spectacle like the first game but Lee Martin scored a great goal and we had that little bit of luck.”
Geoff said: “It was a tremendous final. Ian Wright came off the bench and his two great goals put us within seven minutes of winning the FA Cup. The replay was a non-event. Sadly for us, this chap here lifted the cup.”
They were rival captains 25 years ago, and they’re in opposition again when predicting tomorrow’s outcome.
"Both teams have had disappointing results in recent weeks and it’ll be a tight game, but I’m tipping Palace to nick the win,” said Geoff.
"It’s United for me,” disagreed Bryan. “It’s one we need to win to get back into the Champions League next season.”
The footballing community, in particular Geoff and former Aston Villa Captain Stiliyan Petrov, has a strong connection with the blood cancer charity, which funds a network of specialist nurses to administer clinical trials of potentially lifesaving drugs to leukaemia patients who have exhausted all options on the NHS.
The work being undertaken by Professor Craddock at the world-renowned Centre for Clinical Haematology in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, is boosting the fight against leukaemia on a national and international scale.
Sponsor Geoff by visiting: www.justgiving.com/Geoff-Thomas-2015
WATCH: Geoff Thomas and Bryan Robson - Captains v Cancer
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