The opportunity arose when the Shire’s present chief, Tony Ford, put the role up for grabs as he cannot attend the game due to a reunion with former submariner colleagues. Ford, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, wanted to raise the profile of the support services available to sufferers as well as raise funds for research into the condition. He achieved both, with nine bids submitted and McLaughlin’s winning offer of “more than £500”, according to Ford.
Edinburgh-based McLaughlin will meet the team bus at the club’s former Firs Park home before travelling to a hotel in Paisley, where John Coughlin and his players will have a pre-match meal. He will then lead the Shire squad into Ibrox, where he will be entertained in the boardroom before watching the game from the posh seats.
“It is a far cry from how I have travelled to see Shire in the past,” said McLaughlin before adding, “At one time I went to see their games in the back of a Transit van, sitting on a stool from their social club. I first watched them 50 years ago but this is the first time I have done anything like this. I am delighted to support Tony in helping raise the profile of Parkinson’s.”
It will not be the first time McLaughlin has seen his side against a team of internationals, as he explained: “I was at Firs Park 40 years ago when Chelsea visited as part of the relationship between the clubs that built up when Eddie McCreadie moved from the Shire to Stamford Bridge. Peter Bonetti, Alan Hudson, Terry Venables and Ian Hutchison were all there, and we drew 2-2. Me being chairman of the Shire for the day is not as far-fetched as the Shire drawing with Chelsea.”
McLaughlin added: “I have seen other great things, like the time we beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s St Mirren 5-0 in his first game back after leaving us and we had to wear Stenhousemuir shirts as they turned up in black-and-white stripes.”
However, the trip to Ibrox is still to sink in. McLaughlin said: “I never thought I would see the Shire face Rangers in a Third Division game and I would be the chairman of the club.”