The Thomas family are certainly involved with 'The Wizards'

The Thomas family


 

Merlins Bridge AFC has always been known as a family club and there is no doubt that a quintet which has played an important role is the Thomas Family, where dad Stephen has been a player and team manager, his wife Sue has given active support by watching almost every match from the touchline and doubling up as a long-term washer of kit – and their three sons have all been very successful in winning a string of trophies over the past two decades.
 
Oldest son Nathan has been a real juggernaut on the pitch and doubled up as a very successful team boss until recently whilst twins Peter and Simon have also played their hearts out so that all four male family members have won more than their fair share of silverware in the process.
 

Rugby as a nipper but then football took over

 
Steve played rugby as a nipper more than he did football but all that ended when a tree fell on him in his work on the farm and smashed his ankle so that he had to have pins inserted and his rugby days were over.
 
But when the boys came along and they started kicking a football in the nearby field he joined in and Nathan started playing under Trevor Morgans in the Johnston junior team before all three started playing for the nearby Merlins Bridge club’s junior section the next year.
 
Within a short time Steve was installed as team manager and he took the boys and their pals through from under 10 to under 16 and they actually won their age-group title every campaign.
 

Sue plays a vital role in the background staff . . .

 
At this time Sue got involved because she was roped in to wash the team’s kit each week, thus saving a lot on laundry bills.

“I did it all the way through those seasons and after Davey Edwards’ wife Ann and Tony Jones’ mum Tina did it for the first team over the years I started helping out again and I’ve been doing it ever since.

“When it has been particularly dirty I’ve had to get Steve to use the pressure hose on it in the shed – and that works well. It is always a bonus that the boys tell me their kit smells nice!”


Early play in the Thomas household
 

. . . And was a good sportswoman in her younger days!

 
Steve ThomasSue was also very good at sport in her younger days and played up front in hockey after starting out with Neyland and then joining Haverfordwest when they started a team, playing there for a long time and helping them win the National Plate Final at Sophia Gardens and compete well in the National League with fond memories of a great bunch of girls.
 
“I also loved athletics,” she told us, “especially the high jump, and when I was a teenager I competed at the Welsh Schools’ Championships in Cwmbran and came fourth. Of course I was disappointed not to win a medal but I was proud to have done so well.”
 

Steve played with some real legends

Steve played his first matches for The Bridge in the Wiltshire Cup alongside Tim Green and Dekker Thomas but he couldn’t play in the final because they found out he was too young!
 
He made his senior debut playing at full back against Carew and was in awe of playing in the same team as legendary players like Tally John, Mackie Bowen, Decker Thomas, Mario Rabaiotti, Eric James and Billy West.
 
Then he focussed on his sons’ involvement but as he was a regular supporter he was asked to join the committee and eventually took over as manager of the second team – and in 2000 he took over the first team reins for six years – and in that time enjoyed great success, which was made even more memorable because Nathan, Peter and Simon were all involved.
 

Nathan has won trophies galore – as a player

 
Nathan ThomasNathan is now 37 and made his first team debut at 16 in a tough tussle at Hakin United, with the late, great Derek Roberts as manager, someone for whom Nathan had the utmost respect
 
“Peter ‘Turkey’ Jones was another manager I enjoyed playing under because he was just as competitive as he was when he played – and would always stick up for us, even when we were in the wrong!
 
“Matthew Price was another great manager to have around because his enthusiasm and will to win always created a great atmosphere in and around the squad – and when I took up the job I tried to amalgamate bits from them all!

“As a player I was involved when we won the first division title in 2007/08, 2009/10 and 2011/12, and the senior cup in 2004, plus the Jubilee Cup in 2010/11 and 2012/13.
 

. . . And as manager!


“I enjoyed my time as manager and we had our ups and downs with a great bunch of lads, and with Gareth ‘Taffy’ Williams as my great assistant manager for two seasons. We set out to the win the league and come very close but unfortunately did not achieve our aim, the best being the runners-up spot in 2016/17.  

“But I was delighted when we became Senior Cup winners in 2017, beating Clarbeston Road 2-1 in the final – and I have to say it was far harder on the touchline than being out in the middle!”

Ask Nathan about ambitions and he says he is happy to play until his legs give out and that he could return to manage the first team some time in the future and try to win a league title.

“There is talk amongst a few of the more senior players about setting up an over 40’s team so that’s something I could possibly be interested in getting involved in. But I hasten to add that I am not eligible for another 3 years yet mind”!!!
 

Simon scored goals galore – and been manager too


Simon ThomasSimon (35) has played all of his football with The Bridge and would still be using his trusty left boot to score vital goals and set up chances for others with his close skills but for the pandemic.

“Prior to its arrival I had been team manager with Gareth ‘Taffy’ Williams as my assistant – and we formed a close partnership in what was turning out to be a good season.

“I enjoyed it but had to step down after one year because of my work commitments and the fact that it is not only a Saturday afternoon job but there are so many other things to deal with off the field.

“The highlights have to be winning three league titles and playing in five Senior Cup Finals, two of which we won – but they were all days to remember in my 20 years at Merlins Bridge AFC – and hopefully I’ll be able to sneak in a couple more seasons if we can manage to get back playing this year!”
 

Peter rounds things off – and is still battling on


Peter is the twin brother of Simon and told us,

“I started playing the same time as my brothers and we have been with The Bridge ever since, other than a short time I had with Haverfordwest County, when Derek Brazil was manager and looked after us. I had also played McWhirter League there when I was a teenager.

“But I decided to go back to my roots and never really regretted it since; playing midfield as my favourite position but also playing centre half or even right back when I’ve been needed there.

“I played in three league Championship seasons and we had five Senior Cup Finals as we beat Monkton Swifts and Clarbeston Road, but lost the other three to Tenby, Goodwick United and Hakin United, all of them real battles and days to remember.

West Wales Cup Joy


Peter Thomas“But the highest point came when we reached the West Wales Cup Final and beat Carew 3-1. It looked as if I had no chance of playing after a bad injury but I fought back and was delighted to make it onto the bench as Matthew D’Ivry was manager.

“I came on when we led 2-1 and think I played my part but to be honest it was adrenalin that got me through because I was nowhere near 100% fit!

“I was also pleased to be picked for the Pembrokeshire League team which restarted under the management of Nigel Delaney and Chris O’Sullivan – and the team work with players from lots of different clubs was great as we won the SB Williams Cup against Swansea, and Carmarthenshire.”
 

And finally . . .


So what of the future was the obvious question for Peter to round things off.

“To be honest I’m not really sure because I have played for some time with a minor tear on my ACL joint and the only way forward is an operation, which I’m not ready for at the moment.

“But there’s one thing for sure – whether I play again or not I’ll always be a Bridge boy and will join my mum, dad, Nathan and Simon supporting The Wizards on the touchline at The Racecourse!"


Merlins Bridge