Shore up the defence and just feed the Pope

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We will win tomorrow. We will beat Plymouth and put on the kind of attacking display that was sorely lacking on New Year’s Day.
That’s what needs to happen after a thoroughly underwhelming performance in front of a bumper crowd on Tuesday.
The defeat at home to Fleetwood was a genuine wake up call. Another example of a team coming and ‘doing a job on us’.
It was actually a strange game because, despite playing poorly for much of the 90 minutes, we could easily have won it.
Tom Pope, Louis Dodds and Jennison Myrie-Williams would all have scored on another day.
Yes, the referee was terrible during the first half when he allowed the visiting defenders to climb all over the Pontiff.
But it was actually the injury to John McCombe which really cost us as his replacement Clayton McDonald gave away to soft free kicks which led to Fleetwood’s goals.
All in all it was an unsatisfactory day’s work and too many players went missing or looked disinterested.
Thankfully many of the other results went for us and we only really lost ground on Gillingham who we have yet to play at their place.
Tomorrow is an opportunity to get things back on track – depending very much on the team that Micky Adams picks and the strategy he employs.
No disrespect to the lad, but I’d be grateful if someone could explain to me why Calvin Andrew started on the wing.
I can understand Ashley Vincent being on the bench as he was perhaps not quite match fit after going down with a virus after Christmas.
But surely in Ben Williamson and Kingsley James, both of who have impressed recently, we have other decent options in midfield.
It was really good to see Vincent back in the team because he has the pace and trickery to torment defences and we’ve missed him in recent weeks.
What Tuesday’s game did again was to expose the chronic lack of pace in the centre of our defence.
If any team turns up with quick wingers or a nippy striker we look vulnerable.
I expect to see some activity in the transfer market in the coming days to shore up that leaky defence – especially now that the rock that is McCombe has been sidelined.
We may even see a couple of midfielders and an additional striker as the new owners do what the last ones couldn’t by supporting the manager in the transfer window.
For me, however, it’s not about the signings – it’s all about Tom Pope. Keep him fit and fed and his 30-plus goals will take us up.

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Falklands veteran: ‘We had to show the world what we were made of…’

Eric Barbour remembers exactly where he was when he got the call. It was five to nine on Friday, April 2, 1982 and Eric was at home in Biddulph.

His dad answered the telephone: It was Army. The Falklands Conflict had begun and Eric’s leave was abruptly cancelled.

The 26-year-old packed his gear and travelled back to Seaton Barracks in Plymouth to rejoin his unit – 42 Commando Royal Marines.

A week later, on Friday, April 9, Eric and his comrades from the Marines and Paras set sail from Southampton onboard the SS Canberra which had been requisitioned by the Government and refitted as a troop ship.

Eric, now aged 56 and living in Waterhayes, said: “Previous to the Falklands, British troops hadn’t really been involved in a major conflict for many years. The nearest we had come to proper combat was tours to Northern Ireland and the Cyprus Emergency.

“In all honesty I think we were hoping that the Falklands crisis would be solved by the politicians before we arrived. Then news filtered through that the Argentine flagship The General Belgrano had been sunk. Then we heard HMS Sheffield had gone down a couple of days later and we realised we would be needed after all.”

Indeed the brutality of the conflict was brought home to Eric when the body of a former commanding officer of his from 41 Commando Royal Marines was returned to the Canberra for burial at sea.

As Eric sailed south, the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano by the submarine HMS Conqueror, with the loss of more than 320 lives, proved hugely controversial. But it was also to have a dramatic impact on the conflict – forcing all Argentine naval vessels to return to port and take no further part in the hostilities.

The troop ship Canberra anchored in San Carlos Water on May 21 as part of the landings by British forces to retake the islands. This area was to become known as ‘Bomb Alley’ to British forces because of incessant attacks by low-flying Argentinian aircraft.

Although her size and colour made the ‘White Whale’ a soft target, the Argentine Air Force concentrated their efforts on Royal Navy vessels.

Eric was ferried to the Falklands via a landing craft similar to the doomed RFA Sir Galahad which was destroyed by the Argentine Airforce on June 8.

Forty eight British servicemen died in the attack and pictures of the smouldering wreck were beamed around the world.

Eric and his team watched helpless as the jets which caused the carnage flew overhead – so close to his mountain position that he could see into the cockpits.

Eric, who now works as a health and safety adviser, was a corporal at the time and led a Milan Missile troop.

On the night of June 11 it was he and his mates who provided vital covering fire with his anti-tank weapons to suppress the Argentines who were strafing Eric’s fellow marines as they tried to climb Mount Harriet.

Without night vision technology, Eric had to rely on the sight from his SLR to target Argentine positions 800 or so metres away – with the tracer bullet from his rifle making his team an immediate target.

That night Eric and his comrades took more than 1,000 Argentine soldiers prisoner.

Eric said: “One of my abiding memories is walking across the frost-covered terrain the following morning and seeing a boot print on an anti-personnel mine poking through the soil. The ground must have frozen so hard that one of our lads had a very lucky escape.”

The Falklands Conflict lasted just 74 days but cost the lives of 907 soldiers, sailors and airmen – including 258 British personnel. UK forces had won a spectacular victory in very difficult circumstances. The Argentinian military junta was finished and the Falkland Islanders celebrated their liberation.

Eric, who eventually left the Army after more than 17 years – having achieved the rank of Senior NCO – is in no doubt that the UK’s response to the invasion of the Falkland Islands was appropriate.

He said: “We saw it very much as our country protecting what was ours and protecting people who did not want their home to become part of Argentina.”

Thirty years on and tensions are again rising in the South Atlantic as Argentina begins once more to talk up its claim to the ‘Malvinas’.

But Eric, who is married with two sons and two grandchildren, is in no doubt that the UK’s cause was just.

He said: “Looking back, I think we did the right thing. It was a British territory and we had to show the world what we were made of.

“If there was another invasion I think we would be totally justified in defending the islands again.”



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