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Brexit minister Stephen Barclay’s history with rugby and Fylde

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay

As a former Fylde No.9, Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay should have fewer problems than some side-stepping through the turmoil of Britain’s withdrawal from Europe.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s hard-pressed right-hand man was a master of exit strategies at the Woodlands during the early 1990s before spin-passing his way into a career in politics.

Before that, however, he was a slick enough pivot to evade the malevolent intentions of England hard man Mickey Skinner and his Blackheath back row partner-in-crime, current Bath coach Toby Booth, in February 1993 and guide Fylde to a thrilling 9-9 draw.

Barclay’s father, Bob, is a former Fylde president who also played for them, and despite becoming a ‘leaver’ in 2010 when he was elected MP for North East Cambridgeshire, the 46-year-old Sale Sharks supporter maintains close links with the club.

Barclay told TRP: “I got into rugby because my father was – and still is – one of the club’s stalwarts and I played my first game aged five for the Under 9s.

“They were short so I got thrown on with my older brothers Ian and Nick and I was so small I had to wear two rugby shirts to make me look bigger!

“My dad was chairman and then president of the club and coached the junior section for 39 years on a Sunday morning. My mum, Janice, was on the Ladies’ committee for 20-odd years and Ian captained and played for the First XV for years.

“My childhood activities revolved around rugby and I made my first team debut for Fylde when I was in my second year at Cambridge University, travelling back on a Thursday night for training and then playing the match on Saturday.”

Fylde stalwart and former rival scrum-half Phil Rudd says of Barclay: “He took my place at one point and could play No.9 or 10. In fact, his kicking from the base would have suited the game nowadays and he had a very good all-round game.”

Barclay, currently fighting a different kind of territorial battle aimed at drop-kicking ‘remainers’ into touch, added: “I’ve played on and off for years, although not since becoming an MP and my main involvement in the game now is watching.

“The Six Nations and Autumn Tests are one of the few things I go out of my way to watch and rugby’s my main sporting interest. I support Sale as the only Premiership side from the North West, but Fylde’s still a special place to go.”

NEALE HARVEY

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