Letter to Herald (unpublished)

With his usual brio, Richard Mowbray has now taken up the cudgels regarding the European Union, and urges us to vote for UKIP as he believes that “Nothing else about this European election is of any consequence whatsoever.”
However, Mr Mowbray appears to have been in Rip Van Winkle-like state of suspended animation for some forty years, during which quite a lot has happened, not the least of which was that the United Kingdom chose to share sovereignty with its European partners. This was first of achieved through the accession process of 1972-3, which was arrived at through representative parliamentary democracy (as have further steps towards greater integration) then confirmed by referendum in 1975. 
As a result, the European Parliament is now an integral part of the governance of the UK (as well as of all member states) in which the various political parties will compete for our votes in support of their own visions of Europe. Labour will seek a more socially just and progressive Europe, the Tories want  a return to a Common Market, and the SNP to pursue their vision of a Europe in which Scotland will pursue greater co-operation with every country except its closest neighbour, England.
In contrast, UKIP (and the wilder fringes of the Tory Party) seeks to remove the UK from European politics by withdrawing to a position similar to that of Norway, which must obey the EU’s laws and regulations on trade while having no say when they are decided.  
UKIP’s position on Europe is one of co-dependency without influence or responsibility: which is identical to the SNP’s plans for its relationship with the Pound sterling.
Scots should reject both.
Peter A. Russell

RIP Albert McCann – Step-overs In Heaven.

What I share with many other Pompey fans is that Albie McCann was one of the first generation of players which was in place when I first started to watch the club (he was with PFC 1962–74.) So for me, as for those many others, he was as much part of the club as the roof with ‘Fratton Park’ written on it.

My memories of Albie therefore stretch from 1966 to 1974, although when I first attended regularly, i.e., the second half of the 1966-67 season, he was out with injury, having undergone a cartilage operation (as most players did at some point in the careers in those days.)

If I remember a single outstanding game which he played, it was at home to Blackpool in late 1968. The season before both clubs had been well up in the promotion race, and shortly prior to the Christmas before had met in a titanic game in front of 35,000 at Fratton, with Pompey winning 3-1 to go top of the table by 3 points. Neither side went up in the end, but both were still comfortable enough the following season. In particular, Blackpool had regrouped, and recruited new players – including Tony Green.

Green was the new big star of the division, and went on to big money transfer to Newcastle, where his career was cruelly ruined by injury. By the time Blackpool came to Fratton, it was feared that he would be unstoppable. But George Smith had other ideas, and came up with the original and unexpected plan of having Albert McCann mark him. Albie duly lined up in the no. 7 shirt, and then followed Green over every inch of the Park, tackling him fiercely, closing him down instantly and reducing him to complete impotence. Ray Pointer scored the single goal to win the game, but Albie McCann was the star for the day, having shown great skill and footballing nous in an unfamiliar role , as well as adaptability and commitment for the good of the team and the club.

I also remember another game, at home to Norwich the season before (i.e., 1967-68). A low cross came from the left about 20 yards out from the Milton End goal, Ray Pointer backheeled it on the run to Albie in the D and his shot flew into the top left hand corner of Kevin Keelan’s goal. Nothing exceptional, just perfect execution of the classic striker’s skills of movement, anticipation and accurate powerful shooting.

But the overall memory that you have of Albie has to be the bandy-legged standing step-over, which was always followed by a pass to a team-mate, and frequently incisively so. Someone else has recently written online about Albie in heaven in a blue shirt. I reckon everyone in paradise wears a Pompey shirt (and red stripes are for the other place) – and we will agree that Albie will be in heaven, doing that step-over, and fooling the angels every time.

Letter to Herald (unpublished)

4th January 2014
Ian Bell is quite correct to counsel scepticism regarding the statements of politicians, although my recollection is that when we were supporting the miners strike thirty years ago, few people believed Margaret Thatcher and the NCB and that there was no hitlist of 70 pits earmarked for closure. 
Incidentally, in the other case he cites, it would have been odd for Tony Blair to have pledged to George W. Bush that the UK would go to war in Iraq. The fact was that the decision to do so would be in the hands of Parliament, and could have been easily derailed, for example, by Hans Blix doing his job and confirming that Saddam Hussein was in full compliance with UN resolutions.
However, Mr Bell is of course quite right to warn us of the obsfucations of politicians, especially where they hold obsessive views which are at odds with public opinion. This is certainly the case in the debate regarding the independence referendum, where the views of the Scottish government are contrary to those of the public, which opinion polling shows to be firmly set against the partition of the UK.
So I hope we can now look forward to Ian Bell’s follow-up piece which will apply the same rigorous scepticism to the record of the SNP Scottish Government. It could start with the First Minister’s duplicity regarding legal advice on EU membership, and go on to use the same forensic critical skills to take apart the massive and expensive hoax that is the independence White Paper. It could conclude with condemnation of the rank dishonesty of presenting the people of Scotland with no back-up plans or admission of the risks should every negotiation and agreement not be decided absolutely in Scotland’s favour. 
Or does Ian Bell believe that we need not apply to the SNP his principle that we cannot and should not “take them at their word in every circumstance?”
Peter A. Russell