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.

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