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William James McBride, MBE, better known as Willie John McBride (born 6 June 1940) is a former rugby union footballer who played as a lock for Ireland and the British and Irish Lions. He played 63 Tests for Ireland including eleven as captain, and toured with the Lions five times — a record that gave him 17 Lions Test caps. He also captained the most successful ever Lions side which toured South Africa in 1974.

McBride was born at ToomebridgeCounty Antrim. Owing to his father's death when he was five years old, he spent most of his spare time helping out on his family farm.[1] Because of this he did not start playing rugby until he was 17. He was educated at Ballymena AcademyBallymena and played for the school's First XV. After he left he joined the Ballymena R.F.C., and in 1962 was selected to play for Ireland. His first Test on 10 February 1962 was against England at Twickenham. Later that year he was selected to tour South Africa with the British and Irish Lions.

McBride continued to play for Ireland throughout the 1960s and played for Ireland when they first defeated South Africa (the Springboks) in 1965, and when Ireland defeated Australia in Sydney — the first time a Home Nations team had defeated a major southern hemisphere team in their own country. He was again selected for the Lions in 1966, this time touring New Zealand and Australia. He toured South Africa with the Lions again in 1968.

He was selected to play for the Lions in their 1971 tour of New Zealand. Despite being criticized by some as being "over the hill", McBride was made pack leader and helped the Lions to a Test series win over New Zealand; their first and last series win over New Zealand.

McBride's outstanding leadership qualities led to his appointment as captain of the 1974 Lions tour to South Africa. His partner at lock was the late Gordon Brown of Scotland. The Test series was won 3-0, with one match drawn — the first Lions series ever won in South Africa. It was one of the most controversial and physical Test match series ever played. The management of the Lions concluded that the Springboks dominated their opponents with physical aggression, and so decided to match fire with fire.[2] Willie John McBride instigated a policy of "one in, all in" - that is, when one Lion retaliated, all other Lions were expected to join in the melee or hit the nearest Springbok.[3]

At that time there were only substitutions if a doctor agreed that a player was physically unable to continue and there were no video cameras and sideline officials to keep the punching, kicking, and head butting to a minimum. If the South Africans were to resort to foul play then the Lions decided "to get their retaliation in first." The signal for this was to call "99" (a shortened version of the emergency number in the United Kingdom — 999). This was a signal for the Lions to clobber their nearest rival players. In 1975 as his international career was ending he played his last game for Ireland at Lansdowne Road. The game was against France and near the end of the match, he scored his first ever Test try for Ireland. It was the crowning moment of a great playing career. His last international game was against Wales on Saturday 15 March 1975.[citation needed]

After retiring from playing the game, McBride coached the Irish team and was manager of the 1983 Lions tour to New Zealand. Despite the test results being mainly poor, team camaraderie was high and some good wins were recorded in other games. In 1997 he was an inaugural inductee into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. He lives in Ballyclare. He has been asked to present Test jerseys and give motivational speeches to Lions players prior to matches. In 2004 he was named in Rugby World magazine as "Heineken Rugby Personality of the Century". He is a major supporter of the Wooden Spoon Society.[4]

He is remembered fondly by members and supporters of Stockport Rugby Club for attending the Glengarth Sevens with a lion cub from Longleat, helping to raise money for the charity and adding to the fantastic atmosphere and help upkeep the strong reputation of sevens rugby at Stockport

Duncan McKenzie was one of the most talented footballers of his generation, playing over three hundred games and scoring well over one hundred goals. He became a legend at Everton, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest and is now a legend on the after dinner speaking circuit. 


Duncan has written for the National Newspapers and magazines but now concentrates on radio commentating and after dinner speaking. He is considered, by his peers, to be one of funniest after dinner speakers on the circuit. As a sports after dinner speaker, Duncan is unsurpassed but he is also equally at home, speaking at prestigious business dinners and high profile charity fund raisers.

His speaking engagements have taken him all over the world, from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman to Gibraltar, Spain, Italy and Florida. He has been out to entertain the British Armed Forces in the Balkans and Falkland islands and been guest speaker with P & O cruises to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. 

Apart from speaking at Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United gala dinners and the Open Golf tournament at the Belfry, Duncan has also recently spoken at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice dinner and St. Margaret's Hospice dinner. He has also had the privilege to speak with Prince Edward at the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Windsor Castle and with Princess Anne at the Racing Welfare Trust.  

Duncan McKenzie is in a class of his own. With his fine sense of humour and ability to address mixed audiences, business lunches, dinners, company golf days and of course, sportsman's dinners, Duncan has created a strong image that sets him apart from the majority of footballers turned after dinner speakers.
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John Gahagan  is a Scottish former footballer who played as a left winger. Gahagan spent most of his career with Motherwell, spending twelve seasons with the Fir Park club, either side of spells with Clydebanklatterly Morton. During his time at Fir Park, Gahagan picked up two Scottish Football League First Division titles.

A fully qualified SFA coach, Gahagan worked as a football development officer in Clackmannanshire before becoming an after-dinner speaker,[1] winning the MBN trophy after being voted 'Scottish Sporting Speaker of the Year' in 2001

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We look forward to you visiting our next dinner and adding a few more memorable faces to this already illustrious line up.

Jan Molby was born on 4th July 1963 in Kolding, Denmark. Jan Molby was signed by Joe Fagan in 1984 for £200,000 from Ajax and had a good career at Anfield. He had a varied career at Liverpool, ranging from one of the greatest midfielders Liverpool have ever had to weight problems and a stint behind prison bars. Jan though made the transition to Liverpool easily and worked on the accent, quickly becoming a fluent scouser which adopted him to the crowd well. 


Jan struggled in the team to begin with and had a few critics but Kenny Dalglish gave him a new lease of life after he took over as manager. Big Jan had slimmed down a bit and having adapted to the pace of the game became a midfield man of great vision and power. He supplied many a ball to Ian Rush who with his predator instincts finished moves off with a goal. Jan was superb at free-kicks and penalties in his time as well and the kop was often awaiting the net to burst at times under the pressure of his shots. 

Jan was instrumental in the FA Cup success of 1986 over Everton when he turned the game on its head by setting up the first goal and then spreading the ball at every perceivable angle to open the game up completely and eventually for the second and third goals which completed the double. Jan suffered a broken foot in the following season and missed much of the 87/88 season only to return in defence the next year. This stint in the team was interrupted though by a three month jail sentence for a driving offence.  

However, Jan returned to the game a trim man and ready to play his part again in the Liverpool team. After winning a second FA Cup in 1992 Jan suffered in the game through injury and problems controlling his weight and as the game moved on it seemed to pass the great Dane by. Jan could pull the ball down and hold it for the defence splitting ball as and when required but this often wasn't used as effectively as it should have been. 

Jan was eventually released by Liverpool in February 1996 to allow him to take up his position as player manager of Swansea. He nearly directed them to promotion only to fall to a twice taken free kick in injury time of play offs. After being sacked by Swansea and a short career in punditry Jan is back in management with Kidderminster Harriers. Jan was given a testimonial by Liverpool and typically of Jan this changed from the normal pay-off to a great player in that it cost Jan money to stage his testimonial after he pledged so much to charity. Molby has the unique record of scoring a hat trick of penalties against Coventry City in a LC tie in 1986. 

Molby Career statistics: 251 with 30 Sub appearances scoring 58 goals 

Honours - 2 League Championships, 2 FA Cups, 1 Double and represented Denmark including The World Cup in Mexico.

The Annual Sportsmans Dinner

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Our Illustrious Guests From Previous Dinners

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Mike Watkinson

 is a former English cricketer, come cricket speaker. Watkinson was a key member of the Lancashire side whilst they enjoyed numerous successes in the 1990's and also captained the Lancashire side from 1992-1997. Along with his County team, Mike also played for England.

With an impressive near 400 first class games, 11000 runs and 500 wickets under his belt- there is not much Mike Watkinson doesn't know about cricket.

After retiring from playing, Mike decided to stick with Lancashire and went on to become Head Coach and later, Director of Cricket. Mike is an engaging and well informed speaker, always striving to do as well off the pitch as he did on it.

THE VENUE : The Thistle Hotel, Haydock

Our Partners

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Jeff Winter : 

 as a linesman on the Football League for 6 seasons,then a referee for 3 seasons, completed 9 seasons as a Premier League Referee.

One of the first group of professional referees season 2001/2.

Jeff is one of the most direct speakers you will ever hear, he loves to be barracked and will give you every bit back. At over six feet tall Jeff can be very intimidating when he walks up to your table to have a word with you, you will then realise why Jeff Winter was a no nonsense referee and was hated by millions every Saturday. Ask Jeff Winter if he is bothered about it and he will just laugh at you and ask you for a sensible question. Jeff has some quality stories and likes to get involved in every part of the evening, so beware!!

Major Appointments todate.

4th Official F.A.Cup Final 1988/89 Liverpool v Everton.
1994/5 Playoff semi finals Referee.
4th Official Anglo Italian Cup Final 1995 Notts County v Ascoli.
Referee Womans F.A.Cup Final 1995 Liverpool v Arsenal. 
Referee F.A.Trophy Final 1997 Woking v Dagenham & Redbridge.
Referee Worthington Cup Semi-Final 2001 Birmingham v Ipswich Town & 2003 Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United.
Referee F.A.Youth Cup Final 2001.
Playoff Semi finals Referee 2002/3
F A Cup Final 2004 Referee

Amongst major League appointments:-
Chelsea v Leeds Utd 6 times
Spurs v Arsenal Twice ( including return of Sol )
Everton v Liverpool
Sunderland v Newcastle Utd
Man Utd v Leeds Utd x 2 ( including return of Rio )
Man Utd v Arsenal ( Cup tie from Hell, should have played it in Baghdad )
Been speaking at Dinner functions etc for last 7 years
Referee of BBC Superstars 2003 & 2004
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John Beresford was our main speaker in 2011

John Beresford was born in Sheffield on 4 Sept 1966. During his footballing career he played for the following clubs Barnsley, Birmingham, Man City Newcastle, Portsmouth & Southampton. He is most famous for his Newcastle United spell between 1992 and 1998, with his attacking tendencies being crucial to "the Entertainers". During this time Beresford formed a formidable partnership with the other full back, his doppelgänger Waren Barton. Beresford is also remembered by some for missing his spot kick in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final penalty shootout against Liverpool while playing for Portsmouth.

Beresford won two England 'B' caps in 1994, against Northern Ireland 'B' and the Republic of Ireland 'B'.

Graham Lloyd

Graham Lloyd was born in Accrington on 1 July 1969 and is the son of former England star David Lloyd. Graham Lloyd was pigeonholed fairly on early on in his career as a one-day specialist, largely because of his no nonsense batting style and outstanding fielding. 

He was a key member of the Lancashire side which dominated one-day cricket in the mid to late 1990s, although he failed in finals at Lord's. Perhaps he wasn't the big stage player - his six One-Day International appearances for England produced just 39 runs and he never looked at home. But his first-class career (1988-2002) record was impressive - 11,279 runs at 38.23 - including an impressive 24 centuries, but largely overlooked outside Lancashire. He retired in 2002 after failing to secure a regular place in the first team and went to play Minor Counties cricket for Cumberland, as well as coaching at Accrington, the club where both he- and father, David - started.

KARL KIRKPATRICK spoke at our dinner in 2012 and was a thoroughly entertaining speaker. The former top Super League and International Referee who famously switched codes and is now a top referee for Rugby Union.

This is what the BBC Sport reported at the time ;

"Former Super League official Karl Kirkpatrick has become the first referee to switch codes and join union.

The 42-year-old quit rugby league after he was left off the Super League list following his decision to keep his banking job rather than go full-time.

"It's something that's never been done before and it's got my adrenalin going," he told BBC Radio Lancashire.

"Just like Jason Robinson, Andy Farrell and coaches crossing over, it's a question of taking a structured path."

Kirkpatrick, who has 14 years' experience at the top level, has been restricted to National League team games this year after refusing to accept the Rugby Football League's offer to go full-time.

And he was the notable omission when the League unveiled their panel of six full-time referees earlier this year.

He was sounded out by the Rugby Football Union before he took charge of the 2006 Grand Final and has begun work on the 15-a-side game at the West Park club in St Helens.

Kirkpatrick, who also controlled the 2004 Challenge Cup final, is being advised by former Great Britain forward Denis Betts, who is now on the coaching staff at Gloucester.

"Karl has enjoyed a very successful career as a grade-one match official and we would like to take this opportunity to thank him as well as wishing him all the very best for the future," said RFL match officials director Stuart Cummings."

The Sportsmans Dinner over the year has been the highlight of the clubs cricketing calendar. Held at Haydocks Thistle hotel hundreds of people pack themselves into the hotel marquee to be royally entertained by some of the circuits best after dinner speakers and comedians. The function contributes massively to the operation of the section and with the assistance of our partners Maxilead Metals, Go Goodwins Coaches and Yorkshire Bank as well as the co-ordination of a certain Mr Walkden the night is always a cracking one. Over the years we have been visited by a number of excellent speakers and below is a collection of some of the faces that have graced our evening over the past decade. Not only is the event a fundraiser for the section but the night also raises funds for charities dear to the clubs heart most recently cancer research and research into Lymphoma.

Adrian Morley is a professional Rugby League footballer. A Great Britain and England International prop forward, he previously played for Leeds with whom he won the 1999 Challenge Cup, Australia's Sydney Roosters with whom he won the 2002 NRL Premiership, Bradford Bulls with whom he won 2005's Super League and Warrington Wolves with whom he won the 2009, 2010 and 2012 Challenge Cups. Considered a LEGEND by supporters of all the clubs he played for, its fair to say he wasn't afraid to "get stuck in". Infamous for not staying on the field very long when Great Britain played Australia at Wigan back in 2003 (12 seconds) 

He is currently playing for Salford Red Devils in Super League.