Why I quit Saints to become a rock star

Then and now ... Louis with Saints and on stage with Slydigs
Then and now ... Louis with Saints and on stage with Slydigs

A musician from the borough has spoken of the decision he had to make to trade rugby for rocking out.

Louis Menguy, from Lowton, has been around the world as the guitarist in rockers Slydigs and has played numerous dream gigs supporting icons The Who.

Slydigs

Slydigs

However, many of the fans who have filled arenas and gig venues to hear the band play will not be aware that had things turned out differently the six-stringer might have been starring in Super League.

Louis spent much of his time as a teenager at Knowsley Road working for St Helens while playing his way through the club’s academy set-up.

He was offered professional terms and looked set to make a run at the first team, coming through the junior system at the same time as Paul Clough and Scott Moore who went on to play for Saints.

However, already torn between his talent for sport and his love of music, he stunned the club by deciding to leave while playing at prop for the under-21s side.

Louis Menguy on stage with Slydigs

Louis Menguy on stage with Slydigs

Now 29 and discussing his journey in the middle of Slydigs’ latest UK tour, he says that while the first few years of getting the band established were tough he never doubted he had made the right decision.

Louis said: “I had left school and it came to a point where I had to decide if I would put my effort into something I was really passionate about rather than what other people thought I was good at.

“I was never really a fanatical rugby league fan, I just found I had a natural talent for the game.

“It came as a bit of a shock to St Helens when I told them I was going to leave. They told me to have a think about it and I could come back if I wanted, but by that time I was already going to festivals and getting even more into music.

Louis Menguy (pictured next to Scott Moore) in his days playing rugby league for St Helens

Louis Menguy (pictured next to Scott Moore) in his days playing rugby league for St Helens

“My friend Dean and I formed Slydigs about that time I packed rugby league in. It wasn’t hugely lucrative at first and a bit of a transition but we’ve been successful through the years of hard graft.

“It was strange but I had no regrets. I had the belief that this was what I wanted to do and I could do even better at something I was putting my whole heart into rather than going through the motions.”

Louis first started playing the 13-man code at Leigh East when he was about 13 and was picked up by St Helens after attracting the attention of several high-profile clubs in the area.

He wasn’t the first in his family to demonstrate a real flair for the game as his grandad Terry Stephens had played for Leigh.

There he made the transition from second row to prop and quickly found he was towards the front of the pack of lads turning up to training in the hope of making it to the very top.

He spoke highly of the set-up at Saints and of club coach Mike Rush, who was in charge of the academy and junior side of things at the time.

Louis said: “I started relatively late for a rugby player, most of the others seemed to get into it at about seven or eight.

“I got picked up on a scholarship and it was good. A lot of my friends supported Saints so that was where I went. I think it was also a bit in the genes on my mum’s side of the family with my grandad being such a good player.

“At the beginning there were something like 40 or 50 lads who went down to train every couple of weeks. We had a few trial matches when we got to 16 or 17 and then I was one of about half a dozen who got signed up.

“I also got a job with Saints doing maintenance so I would be working there from 9am, finish at 5pm and then stay around for training. It was full on.

“I absolutely loved playing the game but in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t a fanatical rugby league fan.

“I have really fond memories of being at Saints and Mike Rush looked after the scholarship lads, he was great. He was very encouraging and a good laugh with the lads. He was the reason I got signed.”

Louis said one of his best memories of rugby league was taking part in a tour to Australia aged 17, playing against teams Down Under and seeing sights such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

By that time he was already deeply interested in music, having picked up a guitar for the first time aged about eight.

He poured his love of artists such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Bob Dylan into Slydigs’ rock ‘n’ roll sound which has seen them tour the world, including a memorable US and Canadian jaunt with Roger Daltrey and the rest of music’s original pinball wizards.

His talent has also seen him and his bandmates (singer and rhythm guitarist Dean Fairhurst, bassist Ben Breslin and drummer Peter Fleming) perform at St Helens’ stadium during several Super League matches.

He said: “With Slydigs the opportunity came up to form a group with some friends who all felt the same about music and I just thought why not go for it and put everything into it.

“We’ve been to America, across Europe and headlined our own gigs. Everything just took off after The Who support slot.

“Playing at the ground was a strange experience, it was surreal going out onto the pitch with my guitar rather than in a Saints kit.

“I knew a lot of the people there and they all seemed happy I had gone on to do something with my music.

“I’ve never looked back at the rugby. I loved it while it lasted but never wished I was still playing. It just felt like it came to a natural end.

“It’s such a great experience to follow my heart and express myself.”