Widnes RLFC

Doug LaughtonDoug Laughton

It seems incredible that Widnes born Douglas Laughton, who has been associated with the club during its most successful years, was nearly lost to Widnes Rugby League forever. Having played for St. Paul's and the newly formed Lowerhouse junior team, he wanted to sign for Widnes, but was not offered sufficiently attractive terms, and signed instead for St. Helens. From there he went to Wigan, and stardom as a player, and it was only because of a knee injury and the famous episode of "The Chairman's Turkey Dinner" that he came to Widnes at all. It is a story Doug hinself enjoys telling.

On their way home from an away fixture in Yorkshire, the Wigan team always stopped at a certain hotel for a meal. The players were given a standard dish - mixed grill - but the Chairman of the club had to have something special, and on one occasion it was a turkey dinner. doug, who had grown tired of mixed grills, deftly intercepted the Chairman's plate, and was well into the turkey before the great man discovered that it had gone missing. He roared out to demand who had got his Tukey Dinner, and when Doug owned up, he was so furious, he immediately shouted angrily across, "Right, Laughton! You're going on the transfer list tomorrow."

Doug, completely unperturbed, replied: "It's OK by me - but only if you don't ask for more than six thousand."

This is where the injured knee comes in. Despite his anger over the missing turkey, the Chairman would never have agreed to sell an established international player so cheaply, if he had not thought that the injury was one that was going to terminate his career. He was right in the end - but not until Widnes, who signed him, had gained the benefit of many more years of Doug Laughton's skill and experience on the field.

Doug was playing for Widnes at Wembley in the victory over Warrington in 1975. He was back there with them in 1979. In between he had had the distinction of being the only man to lead Widnes to a win over the Australian tourists (in 1978). The crowning of an illustrious playing career came when he was also made captain of the 1979 Great Britain team to tour Australia. Despite all these personal triumphs, he will tell you that his greatest moment in the game was much earlier - when the British team regained the Ashes in 1970.

Having already proved his leadership qualities on the field of play and also as assistant coach, it seemed natural that Doug Laughton should take over the job of team coach when Frank Myler retired from the position in 1978. Immediately, he gained from the Widnes players the same respect for his coaching that he still enjoyed for his playing ability. Immediately, too, he displayed that ability for which he is famous even outside Widnes - the important knack of recognising where an already successful team can be strengthened; and he was soon making shrewd signings from both inside and outside Rugby League to achieve just that.

Doug Laughton's first acquisition when he became coach was Mick Burke. The value of that can readily seen if you look elsewhere in this Hall of Fame. He has also signed a few young players from junior clubs, who have done no harm at all to his reputation as a judge of youthful potential - Joe Lydon and Andy Gregory, for a start! But his greatest coups have been to bring to Widnes outstanding talents from the English, Scottish and Welsh worlds of Rugby Union - Martin Offiah, Alan Tait, Jonathan Davies, John Devereux, Paul Moriarty and Emosi Koloto.

Doug Laughton has never been afraid to think big, and under him Widnes too have become big. In his first season as coach, the club gained four major trophies. More recently, they have been the only team to win three successive Premiership titles, and have become World Club Champions. How much bigger than that can you get?

© This text has been taken from the Widnes R.L.F.C Hall of Fame Brochure which was written by Sam Patmore, Ron Girvin, Stephen Fox, John Potter & Chris Moore.