Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Arthur McPherson (1870-1919) :The Father of Russian Football

Arthur Davidovich MacPherson was born in St Petersberg in 1870 but his grandparents came from Perth, Scotland. Murdoch MacPherson was an engineer and part owner of a Clyde shipyard. He emigrated to St Petersburg in the late 1830s after building a yacht for the Russian Imperial Family and in 1856 he founded the world-famous Baltic Shipyard which built some of the Russian Navy’s best-known ships. His grandson Arthur was a sport’s loving fellow, known affectionately as the 'Russian Scotsman,' and became a successful stock exchange dealer and timber merchant. Throughout his life worked tirelessly to promote football in Russia, playing in some of the country’s earliest matches.

The Scottish mill workers in St Petersburg were the sons of Scottish weavers possibly from Strathaven, Condorrat, Bridgeton and the Calton and the St Petersburg’s English weavers came mainly from Lancashire. At first, football was a way for ex-pats to preserve a sense of heritage in their new home and scratch matches were encouraged by Russian mill owners to prevent workers from drinking vodka on weekends. Crews of visiting British ships were eagerly invited to provide opposition teams. Russians began to take an interest in the beautiful game and wanted to participate. St Petersburg Football Club was founded in 1879, and after a Frenchman published the rules of the game in Russian other teams began to form. It took another 20 years before Russian football was established with the first-ever fully organised match in 1897. Until this time sports clubs held friendly matches with many of the teams made up with British players.

The Viktoria Football team was formed in 1894, was made up a mixture of Englishmen, Germans and Russians. The Samson weaving mills located in St Petersburg formed Nevka (1900-1904), which was made up of a team of Scottish players. The Neva Spinning Mill formed Nevsky (1900-1912), a team made up of Englishmen. The St Petersburg Football League was established in 1901 and the core of the new league were made up of industrial factory sides. The newly formed Sport joined them in 1902.

Games took place on snow covered frozen pitches with many of the matches were officiated by Brits. This would later become a bone of contention. Nevka won the first St Petersburg Football Championship. Football games were drawing attendances of up to 12,000 people including many female mill workers. Some unofficial ‘international’ matches also took place between a St Petersburg select team and other nations (Bohemia). The Russian Football Union (VFS) was created in 1912 and in the same year was admitted to FIFA. At the head of the Russia Football Union was Arthur MacPherson who became the first president from 1903 to 1905 and from 1912 through to 1913 played a huge role in its organisation and functioning.

The Union consisted of 52 football organizations across the Russian Empire and was the organizer of the Russian national football team. Their first match in an official international tournament was against Finland at the Olympic Games in Stockholm 1912, and the lost the match 2-1. After Germany defeated Russia, 16-0, Tsar Nicholas IIwas reportedly so upset he refused to pay for the players' return journey home. Almost all of the players in the squad hailed from the St Petersburg sides and its first ever goal scorer Vasily Butusov came from a team located in St Petersburg.

Arthur McPherson also founded the first All Russian Union of Lawn Tennis Clubs the forerunner of today’s Russian Tennis Federation. He became the First Chairman of the All Russia Lawn Tennis Union (1908 -1917) and was instrumental in introducing rowing to Russia. For his services in "planting" sports in Russia, Macpherson was awarded the Order of St. Stanislaus of the third degree by Tsar Nicholas II .

The Russian National Team played 16 internationals between 1910 and 1914, but development of Russian football was temporarily halted by the First World War and many of the early football players were killed on the frontline. After the Russian Revolution, individual pursuits such as tennis and organised football were treated with suspicion by the Bolsheviks who considered them ‘bourgeois sport’. Arthur MacPherson was arrested by the Bolsheviks following the October Revolution in 1917 and imprisoned. Whilst there, he contracted typhoid and died in 1919. There were rumours he had been tortured and executed but these were dismissed when his body was finally discovered, buried beneath 40 others. He was identified when it was discovered he had pasted his name on a piece of paper around his wrist. The leading figure in Russian football history was buried in the Smolensk Lutheran Cemetery in St Petersburg.

In 2012, at the centenary celebration of the Russian Football Union, President Vladimir Putin honoured the Russian Scotsman for his contribution to Russian sport.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Story of Denis Law

(Video Courtesy: Легенда футбола ( ) Youtube Channel)

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Bay City Rollers

In 1967, bassist Alan Longmuir (1948 - 2018) and brother Derek (drums), Gordon Nobby Clarke (singer) and John Devine (guitar) were in a Scottish group called Saxon. They thought the moniker was too English sounding and according to legend found the group’s next name by throwing darts at a map of the United States. Why it was not a map of Scotland (being fiercely Scottish) is not clear but the Bay City Rollers were born. The Rollers were a very popular club act in the late 60s and soon snapped up by Bell Records. Their first single was a cover version of Gentry’s "Keep on Dancing." The record was produced by Jonathan King (Everyone’s gone to the moon) and entered the top ten in UK.

In June 1972, Eric Faulkner (lead guitarist) joined the band and then Les McKeon (1973) replaced Nobby Clarke, and Stuart “Woody” Wood (rhythm guitar). This stabilised the quintet's line up. Their next three singles flopped but in 1974 they had a minor hit with "Remember (Sha La La La)."

From this point forward the Rollers became a teen sensation in Great Britain with everyone of them dressed in plaid. The tartan clad Rollers won a song contest, sponsored by Radio Luxembourg with a song called "Mañana. " which proved popular in Europe and Israel thereby spreading their appeal.

When the Rollers were not doing cover versions many of their early hits were written by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. The writers had previously written Sandy Shaw’s hit “Puppet on a string,” and Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations.” Over the next three years the Rollers released a string of successful hits including, "Remember (Sha La La La),” "Shang-a-Lang," “Summerlove Sensation,” and "All of Me Loves All of You.” In the spring of 1975, they had become one of the biggest selling acts in Britain.

  Rollermania took hold of the UK as the Rollers undertook a national tour. "Bye, Bye, Baby" (previously recorded by the Four Seasons) stayed at #1 in the UK for six weeks and "Give A Little Love" topped the charts in the summer of the same year.

By autumn (fall), they were number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 with "Saturday Night," a second US hit came with "Money Honey" which reached #9.

A Dusty Springfield song "I Only Want To Be With You" reaffirmed their popularity in the UK.

By the end of the 70s, the Rollers had lost much of their fan base and the last single to make the charts was "It's A Game" (1977).

Meantime Alan Longmuir left the band because he felt he was too old for the lineup. He was replaced briefly by Irish American, Ian Mitchell, who in turn was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn. Alan Longmuir re-joined the band in 1978. The Rollers branched out into children’s television in both the UK and the US but when their manager Tam Paton was sacked in 1979, and Les McKeown's was replaced as lead singer by Duncan Faure, a South African singer, the days of the Bay City Rollers, was over. During the 80s and 90s, there were various short-lived revivals featuring some of the original members. In 1999, the most-famous line-up of Alan, Derek, Woody, Les and Eric briefly reunited for a new LP and tour. After this date there were two touring versions of the group: Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers and Ian Mitchell's Bay City Rollers. Each group features only its titled member from the original Rollers heyday. In 2015, The Bay City Rollers, including McKeown, Stuart “Woody” Wood and Alan Longmuir announced that were reforming and would play a show at the Glasgow Barrowlands. Alan Longmuir after a short illness died in 2018 aged 70.

Worth a listen:
Keep On Dancing
Remember (Sha La La La) (1974)
Shang-a-Lang (1974)
Summerlove Sensation (1974)
All of Me Loves All of You (1974)
Bye, Bye, Baby (1975)
Give A Little Love (1975)
Saturday Night (1975)
Money Honey (1975)
I Only Want To Be With You (1975)
It's A Game (1977)

Sandy Shaw
Puppet on a string

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Telstar 18: The baw's burst

Inspite of all the scientitic testing and ‘bla ‘ from adidas about their new Telstar 18, being tough and durable, it burst during the game between France and Australia. A strong tackle on Lucas Hernandez (France) by Trent Sainsbury (Australia)sandwiched the ball and it burst. Then in the 34th minute, Ousmane Dembele (FRance) prepared to take a corner but was delayed when he checked the ball and found it had burst.

On the same day in a different stadium, during the Argentina vs Iceland match, Lionel Messi was forced to change balls after being unhappy with its state early in the first half. It remains unclear why competition balls are bursting during matches.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Gretna Green and Scottish Weddings

This time of year all romantics’ thoughts are with St Valentine and where better to have a romantic time than Scotland. Arguably the most famous place in Old Scotia for lovers is Gretna Green. But why Gretna ?

Gretna Green sits beside the small town of Gretna (Graitney) near the mouth of the River Esk in Dumfries and Galloway. Grainy (the place of gravelly hill from the Old English words for ‘grit’ and ‘hill-spur’) was on the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh and the first stop over the Scottish border. The village sat near the Lochmaben Stone, a megalith used traditionally as a meeting place on the England / Scotland border. Gretna Green was the junction of five old coaching roads and the heart of the “Headless Cross” was the Old Blacksmiths Shop. In days gone by the village blacksmith was the lifeblood of any village.

Gretna became famous in the mid 19th century after the introduction of the Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act in 1754. This prevented marriage of persons under 21 without parental consent. The Act applied to England and Wales only but in Scotland it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 with or without parental consent. Gretna Green was the first village over the Scottish border and when the Border toll road in the 1770s a Mecca for runaways wanting to marry.

The village blacksmith shop was the first building couples reached in Gretna Green. At first couples just presented them self for a ‘marriage by declaration', or ‘handfasting’ (Old Norse handfesta “to strike a bargain by joining hands";) ceremony. All that was required in the neopagan ceremony was two witnesses and assurances the couple were both over the age of 16 and free to marry. Blacksmiths were dubbed 'Anvil Priests' and performed the ceremony for "a wee dram or a few guineas." The hammering of the anvil soon became the equivalent of the tolling of church bells. The Church denounced all forms of marriage not conducted by the clergy. Couples married irregularly were unable to attend the church ceremonies unless the 'sinners' sat the Repentance Stool (or cutty-stool) in full view of the congregation and be severely reprimanded from the pulpit.

Later the Scottish Law was changed by Lord Brougham and from 1856 couples required to stay in Scotland for 21 days prior to their common-law marriage. This became known as the “cooling off" act but encouraged locals to start taking in lodgers and hay barns soon became places of residence. Anvil weddings were eventually outlawed in 1940 and now only the local Registrar can legally marry couples. The residential requirement was eventually lifted in 1977 when the age of consent was lowered in England and Wales to 18. Despite the initial opposition from 1985 onward couples could marry in a religious ceremony outwith the church and both religious and civil ceremonies were both possible over the historic anvil. The result is a renewed flow of couples to this romantic place. Currently there are over 5,000 weddings each year (or one of every six Scottish weddings).