Gary Manson Testimonial Dinner - Massive Success

[Ken Wood reports on the final event of Gary Manson's Testimonial Year- the Sportsmen's Dinner at Mackay's Hotel on Saturday 5 November.]

‘A huge success' - that's the unanimous judgement of all of us who attended the Mackays Hotel event. With everyone on a high after the 5-3 thrashing of Nairn they were clearly on a winner before the bar kitties were collected and the first orders taken.

After a delicious meal served up very efficiently by Murray Lamont's team, the 132 diners sat back to listen to the former Rangers and Scotland star, Andy Goram - ‘The Goalie' - who in the most laid back manner imaginable gave us a behind the scenes glimpse of his years in football and particularly the social aspects, telling of off-field escapades in the company of team-mates such as Ally McCoist and Brian Laudrup. We loved the story of his visit to stay with the Laudrups in Denmark -while everyone else went off to Legoland for the day, the Goalie explored the house and found the wine cellar. Four and a quarter bottles of vintage red wine had been consumed when the others came back. "£800 a bottle - better not waste it - might as well finish off the fifth bottle now it's open.... Might as well drink bottle number six as it's the only one left!" Andy also gave us a witty preview of a 2025 edition of The Sun which reported how Celtic had just won their second league title in a row (cue jeers from some of the many Rangers supporters present). That of course was Divisions Three and Two and they were still hoping to win promotion back to Premier League (cheers from same Rangers supporters and muted jeers from me and a few others!) Andy went on to inform us that Rangers had just won their 17th consecutive title, vice-chairman Andy Goram celebrating by singing songs from the 1960s while chairman Donald Findlay sang songs from the 1690s.

MC Martin Johnston, a former Highland League referee and now Formartine United secretary had introduced the top table in witty style, taking a light hearted pop at Alistair Gunn, the Testimonial Committee chairman, and not sparing the others either. Martin went on control his audience very well throughout the evening. His Red/Yellow card game and its £300 prize was won by Academy supporter and generous sponsor John Sinclair of Sinclair Windows who beat Grant Steven in the final round - not at all popular with the rest of the gathering! Martin made an excellent job conducting the auction which went very well. The top price was £460 paid for a Liverpool strip signed by Steven Gerrard while a Rangers strip went for £370. Caley Thistle hospitality for 3 raised £330. A Wick academy strip from the Testimonial game signed by Academy and Caley Thistle players reached £310. The Game of Golf for two, next day with Andy Goram and Gary Manson, was so popular that it became two foursomes with six punters paying £100 each for the privilege.

Comedian Scott Glynn entertained his audience, who were warned beforehand of the character of his act, with a quick-fire delivery of anecdotes and quips, mostly of a sexual and/or marital strife nature.

By the time Martin brought proceedings to a close it was just past midnight so we all sang "Happy Birthday to you" to Gary Manson's father Dennis who had reached 60 and will have by now collected his bus pass. I liked Martin's closing words. "If you've enjoyed the night - my name is Martin Johnston. If you haven't enjoyed it - my name is Dave Edwards!"

The Sunday golf outing went ahead in glorious sunshine and Andy Goram told me that he was really enjoying his second visit to Caithness. "I was here in 1990 for the World Cup Roadshow with ‘Coisty'. To arrive at the game at Harmsworth Park and meet a couple of guys I hadn't seen for a long time - Les Fridge (Nairn County manager) and Kirkie (Academy boss David Kirkwood) - was good. As for the game- a fine performance by Wick, though the last time I saw Black and White Stripes was when we (Rangers in 1995) got humped 4-1 and 4-0 by Juventus. Everybody at the club looked after Scott (Glynn) and myself really well - good people."

Scott Glynn added, "It was Andy who recommended that I come up to Wick with him for the dinner. It was a great day - the Academy people were so generous with their hospitality at the club house and then a lovely crowd at the dinner - absolutely fantastic - everybody has been so good to us."

As for those of us who enjoyed the occasion - I guess we are still regaling folk with details of Goram's response to Sir Alex Ferguson when the Manchester United boss phoned unexpectedly to offer a contract: "F... off, Coisty!" He assumed it was his old mate doing a wind up. Fergie did call back a few moments later with something along the lines of: "Get your arse down here right now, you fat b...ard."  Some will even be passing on salacious gossip about flavoured condoms or London 2012 Olympic condoms!