LAST UPDATED : 08 MARCH
Former England, Wolves and Crystal Palace midfielder Geoff Thomas has paid tribute to the Birmingham medics who helped save his life, as he collected a top university honour.
The ex-footballer, leukaemia survivor and charity fundraiser told students and academics that he wouldn’t have been here without the work of Birmingham’s Professor Charlie Craddock and his team, as he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Birmingham City University.
The presentation was made during a ceremony held at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, alongside students graduating from the University’s Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences.
Thomas was selected to receive the award in recognition of the millions of pounds he has helped raise for blood cancer charities since recovering from the disease himself - despite being told he had just three months to live in 2003.
Speaking at the ceremony Geoff Thomas said: “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a certain Professor Charlie Craddock and his wonderful team. He guided me through a year of treatment, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and through the arduous stem cell transplant which saved my life.”
He also praised the impact of the city of Birmingham on the fight against blood cancers. “This [new funding] is delivering new hope to patients being diagnosed today. Birmingham is at the centre of this. Birmingham is a hub and Charlie Craddock and his team are a leading light in this fight. I was very fortunate because of where I lived, that I got the best care.
“I’ve come back to Cure Leukaemia and we’ve raised £1.5 million this year to help extend the Haematology Centre to make it a state-of-the-art facility. It actually opens today and I’m so proud of that.
Over a 20-year professional career, Thomas played for football clubs including Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers, as well as picking up nine caps for England.
After retiring from the game in 2002 he was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia and given just three months to live, but following a stem cell transplant from his sister and treatment by Birmingham’s Professor Charlie Craddock he entered remission two years later.
Thomas has dedicated his life to raising funds for blood cancer patients since recovering from leukaemia, starting the Geoff Thomas Foundation, which raises funds to fight cancer, and regularly taking part in activities for Cure Leukaemia.
Thomas has had a long association with the West Midlands having arrived in the region in 1993 to pull on the old gold of Wolverhampton Wanderers where he spent four seasons.
He has also been a supporter of ex-Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov who retired from the game after being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2013, and Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, who is currently undergoing treatment for leukaemia.
Closing his speech Geoff Thomas said: “Finally, all I’d say to you graduates from what I’ve learned through the world of sport and what I’ve been through, if you believe and you have the passion just go for it.”