All Things Warrington

Mike Nicholas: Warrington RLFC legend and former owner of Wire Wheels Taxis

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"The Wire Enforcer"

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In 1988, I was a naive 21-year-old working for a short-lived local sports paper called 'Warrington Sport' when I was handed my first job: to interview ex-Warrington RLFC hard man Mike Nicholas.
At the time I had no professional writing experience whatsoever (two weeks earlier I'd been unloading lorries and counting milk tokens for the local Co-op) and the only time I'd been to Wilderspool was to attend a YTS fitness course which involved running up and down the terraces for two hours under the watchful eye of Alex Murphy.
I did however know a little bit about Mike Nicholas. I knew he ran the Wire Wheels taxi business opposite the bus station (where his no-nonsense reputation ensured no one ever did a runner without paying their fares) and that whenever I visited my grandparents on a Saturday, Mike always seemed to be on telly knocking seven bells out of Widnes' Big Jim Mills, or vice versa. I also knew (from my then girlfriend's father who used to run the bar at Wilderspool) that Mike had a massive appetite and could easily polish off a full chicken after training, and then make inroads into his teammates' leftovers.
It was with a fair bit of trepidation therefore that I set off for the interview. I expected Mike to eat me alive. As it turned out he couldn't have been any nicer; Mike was a real gentleman who totally put me at ease. Below, reprinted in full, is the resultant article:-
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IN 1974 Mike Nicholas was picked to play for Great Britain. But then, in the last minute of the Challenge Cup final of the same year, tragedy struck and he picked up an injury that kept him from receiving perhaps the greatest honour in the game.

Nevertheless, by the time he retired in 1981, Mike had made over 150 appearances for Warrington, played in a host of major competition finals, earned himself six Welsh caps and the reputation of being one of the greatest players never to be capped by Great Britain.

For a man whose first taste of rugby came whilst standing alongside the actor Richard Burton on the terraces of Aberavon RUFC, Mike Nicholas has come along way.

He was born in Margan, Port Talbot in South Wales and played his first game at the age of seven. By the age of 19 he was representing Wales at Boy's level and Glamorgan at County level. News of the talented youngster travelled fast and in 1964 he signed for Aberavon, playing his first senior game at half-back.

"It was quite some time before I graduated to the forward line," explained Mike. "But playing at half back was a great experience."

The years that Mike spent at Aberavon were happy ones and on one memorable occasion at the club he was lucky enough to meet Elizabeth Taylor. "Richard Burton brought her into the dressing room to meet the players," he remembered, "She shook hands with us all and wished us good luck for the game. She was beautiful."

In 1972 Mike signed for Warrington, looking upon the move from rugby union to rugby league as a challenge.

During his time at Warrington, Mike, who was elected club captain in the 1976/77 season, played in three John Player finals and two Challenge Cup finals.

One of his best performances came in the 1974 John Player final against Rochdale when he scored a try in the club's magnificent 27-16 victory. Mike was also a member of the 1977/78 side that beat Widnes 9-4 at St Helens.

In 1975 Mike's robust Warrington performances were rewarded when he was asked to play for Wales. In total, Mike received six international caps.

"The biggest disappointment of my career was having to pull out of the Great Britain squad," said Mike. "The fact I played for Wales eased the disappointment slightly but playing for Great Britain would almost certainly have been the highlight of my career. As it is I would say that playing at Wembley in front of 77,000 people in Warrington's 24-9 win over Featherstone Rovers in 1974 was the high point."

Today {1988] Mike is a successful businessman living in Stockton Heath. As well as running Stockton Heath Motors and Wire Wheel's Taxis, he has just started up a new management company with professional golfer Mike Slater called M.B.M Leisure. Rugby League players already on his books include Andy and Mike Gregory.

"The company aims, amongst other things, to elevate the status of Rugby League players," said Mike.

It's now been seven years since Mike retired from the game but, even today, the Wilderspool terraces are still alive with the memories of his legendary 'tussles' with Big Jim Mills of Widnes.

"I know I had a reputation as a hard man," laughed Mike, "But personally I think 'hard man' is too severe a word. 'Club Enforcer' sounds much better to me'.

Footnote
One thing I didn't get across in the article was how intelligent Mike was. I was told by someone (not Mike) that he was something of an expert at trivia and more often than not he would win the top prize if he participated in a general knowledge quiz. He was also very articulate, and it is no surprise to me that in recent years he has done a lot of media work for organisations such as the
Daily Mail in which he has talked candidly and eloquently about his views on the game. One thing my article was perhaps a little short on was providing detailed stats for Mike's career, so in order to put the record straight, here they are:-

Mike Nicholas' Warrington RLFC Career Statistics

72/73 Season: Played 16(2); Tries 2; Goals 0.
73/74 Season: Played 26(2); Tries 7; Goals 0.
74/75 Season: Played 13(3); Tries 2; Goals 0.
75/76 Season: Played 21(0); Tries 1; Goals 0.
76/77 Season: Played 28(1); Tries 1; Goals 8.
77/78 Season: Played 13(0); Tries 0; Goals 0.
78/79 Season: Played 16(2); Tries 0; Goals 0.
79/80 Season: Played 09(0); Tries 1; Goals 0.

WRLFC Career total: Played 142(10); Tries 14; Goals 8

Honours:
Challenge Cup winner, Warrington 24 Featherstone 9 (1973/74)
John Player Trophy winner, Warrington 9 Widnes 4 (1977/78)
Represented Wales (1975/77/79)
Manager of Wales (1994)
Added to the RFL's Roll of Honour for his outstanding contribution to the development of rugby league in Wales over five decades (2012)
Mike Nicholas

Mike Nicholas, Warrington RLFC's "Club Enforcer" pictured here looking uncannily like Benny Westwood.

Wilderspool Stadium

Mike's old stomping ground Wilderspool Stadium, the former home of Warrington RLFC and the scene of many of Mike's 13 sending offs.

Wire Enforcer

If you blinked you probably missed it - Mike's interview as it originally appeared back in October 1988.

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor, who Mike met whilst playing for Aberavon in the early seventies. He was playing half back at the time. Liz was prop. As you can imagine the scrums were very enthusiastically contested.


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