They were players all right, but not sporting. They were the eight Scottish coal miners who had walked from Glasgow to London - 636 miles by their route - to urge the Government to think again about its pit closure policy.
If the response of a London taxi driver who delivered me and two Scotsmen to where the miners began their bus tour is anything to go by, they were successful indeed. The taxi driver told us we need not pay. His fare was given to the cause.
The TUC called for lights in thousands of houses and public buildings across the country to be switched off at 8pm last night to show support for the miners. The Christmas tree lights at Westminster Abbey were turned off by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Michael Mayne, as part of the protest.
The miners left Glasgow five weeks ago with only lukewarm backing from Arthur Scargill, the English miners' leader, and the English TUC. Yesterday, union leaders and Labour politicians clamoured to be seen with them.
Led by George Bolton, president of the Scottish NUM and one of the walkers, the men delivered a letter to the Prime Minister urging a 'genuine rethink' of the pit-closure decision. They said they had received enormous warmth and friendship from people of all walks of life during their journey.
Their letter to John Major said: 'We are appealing to you to respond, not only to the popular mood but also to the long- term national interest and develop a sustainable energy policy which incorporates a component of coal as a reliable, efficient and economic fuel.'
The chairman of the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee, Richard Caborn (Labour, Sheffield Central) said yesterday that the committee's investigation of the industry indicated five or six mines from the Government's list of 10 to be closed could continue production on a short-term basis. The committee's investigation is separate from the government review of the industry.