Harry Leyland never played a game of rugby in his life and yet he is revered in a corner of the Wirral at Hartsfield, home of New Brighton Football Club (RU). Three years after his death at 76 shortly before Christmas 2006, they named the 400-seater stand in his memory.
Of all the anecdotes about Leyland’s devotion to a community rugby club justifiably proud of its capacity for fielding as many as 16 teams every Saturday pre-pandemic, one stands out. It revolves round the late Jack Walker, the steel baron whose millions made Blackburn champions of the third Premier League season, 1994-95.
Shortly thereafter, Walker thought it would be nice to invite some of the club’s more distinguished past players back to Ewood Park for a special occasion. According to one of Leyland’s bosom rugby pals at New Brighton, Joe Pinnington, the conversation went like this:
“Harry, it’s Jack Walker. I’d love you to come to the match next week as one of my special guests. Be great if you could make it.’’
“That’s very kind of you, Jack. Sounds great. Who are you playing?’’
“Jack that’s the game of the season. Is it on Saturday or Sunday?’’
“I’m very sorry, Jack but I’ve got a prior engagement that day. I really can’t let the lads down.”
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