Harry Put His Lads First, Even Before Man Utd
The Rugby Paper|March 21, 2021
The Harry Leyland Stand on Merseyside has been empty now for a whole year, a silent memorial to a famous old goalkeeper’s rugby conversion. Leyland played for Everton when they were the team in Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers when they reached the FA Cup final for the last time, in 1960. He finished at Tranmere, managed Wigan Athletic for one season and ran a stall at Birkenhead market.
Peter Jackson

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?’’

“Manchester United.’’

“Jack that’s the game of the season. Is it on Saturday or Sunday?’’

“Saturday, Harry.’’

“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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