The long and rich history of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club

Monday, 28 May 2012

Tries And Prejudice by Ikram Butt.

This is an unusual and unique book in many ways. When Peter Fox paid Leeds £30,000 for their A team winger, it was with a sense of frustration that Ikram Butt moved to Post Office Road, as he never got the chance to show his stuff at Headingley. Straight into the Rovers first team, he immediately felt at home alongside his mates Terry Manning and Paul Newlove and over the next five years put in some top quality performances, endearing himself to the Rovers faithful and earning himself representative honours as an England international.

The media made much of this at the time, and indeed the front cover describes him as “England’s first Muslim rugby international”, which of course he was. Although Ikram is a modest man, he was obviously proud of his achievement in playing for his country. He talks in the book about the importance of his Muslim faith, but reading the book also gives you a sense of the value that Ikram places on family too, his brothers and sisters, his parents and his own children figure throughout. It was his brother Tony (an ex-Rovers player himself) who helped Ikram through the stickiest patch in his life when he was ridiculously jailed for a motoring offence.

There’s plenty of stuff for Featherstone fans to enjoy in the book, as the affection that the fans had for Ikram was obviously reciprocated. He is also candid about his working relationship with Rovers coaches after his mentor Peter Fox left, Steve Martin and David Ward. Despite certain difficulties which Butt talks about honestly yet tactfully, he was a popular dressing room figure. On the field, his strength and power made him a difficult man to stop and all told he scored 66 tries in 168 games for us. Given that all his best rugby was played for Featherstone you might have thought he would be pictured in his Rovers kit on the front cover, but no.

Since finishing playing Ikram has got himself heavily involved with the development and promotion of Rugby league in local communities and schools, working especially in the Bradford area with ethnic minorities. It’s hard to imagine a better role model for British Asian youngsters in Yorkshire than Butt. He has also done work to expand rugby league to Pakistan, his parents’ home country.

“Tries and Prejudice” is an uplifting read about a very positive character who overcame problems to triumph in life. The narrative thread is interspersed with tributes and testimonials, including contributions from a number of people with Featherstone connections.

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