I first met Laurence in 1993 (I think), when the clubhouse was still near the old Jaya Supermarket. I cannot remember the address now. I remember signing up as a member with great excitement, United having just won the league after a 26 year drought. He was relaxed, in his shorts and t-shirt (as always) and wary about another glory hunter. When we next met and he discovered my favourite player was Dennis Irwin, I think he started to see me differently.
After some continued success, Peter Kenyon became the CEO of United PLC. Wanting to build the Asian following, he withdrew the official supporters club status from Laurence and us. Laurence then asked me to write a few letters to PK, which I did. One thing lead to another and soon we became friends (Laurence and I, not with PK!).
Our friendship didn’t have a lot of opportunities to develop but we did travel to Barcelona to watch that glorious triumph over Bayern. We (there were about 6 of us) walked back from Nou Camp that night, stopping for champagne before reaching our hotel at the wee hours of the morning – tired, drenched and deliriously happy.
After that we made more trips – to Bangkok, Old Trafford, Singapore – all to watch our beloved United. His passion equalled that seen in Carrington or Old Trafford and the great Cantona himself commended Laurence and the club for his and its passion. As did Sir Alex himself. It was a wonderful time. Men who would otherwise have little in common,, found fellowship and camaraderie in a love for a football club. The club and the game may be a few thousand miles away but we recognise skill, passion, commitment and athletic wonder as universal traits that transcend geographical and cultural bounds. The common love for these traits galvanised men in the tropics sipping beer on humid nights across on the other side of the world. Laurence lead these men. His passion was recognised and celebrated and gathered a following. Those fortunate enough to share in his passion discovered friendship, loyalty and simplicity of love for a football code.
Through his passion we came into contact with our heroes. Who in our right mind would have dreamed of being in the same small room (that is the clubhouse) with the likes of George Best, Bobby Charlton, Dennis Law, Eric Cantona, and Bryan Robson? Many of us did. We spoke to them. Took pictures with them. Shared a beer with them. All made possible because of the passion of one man. Laurence How, you were only 67. A youthful 67 (although you would say your knees feel 76). You were sending emails to the supporters’ mailing list just a few days earlier. It was an absolute pleasure to have known you. I will miss you. I am sorry I never got to talk to you about Jesus. I hope you knew him and his saving grace. May you rest in peace.