Thursday, November 29, 2007

Iraq : A 5th Straw In The Wind?

Although there is still a long way to go before conditions in Iraq stabilize,this report should be added to four other reports I linked to earlier - here and here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Undiplomatic Diplomat

Craig Murray's Cocktail

Craig Murray's book "Murder In Samarkand" is a compelling read because it is such a heady cocktail.

In part it is a fascinating travel book about Uzbekistan. Whilst this takes the reader into the harsh downside of life in this much blighted nation, we are also given telling descriptions of the splendours of Samarkand and the humanity of many Uzbeks; especially of those who bravely stand out against the tyranny of the ruling elite.

Elsewhere, it is a book of confessions. Craig openly deals with his love of women, alcohol and the good life. Yet he firmly puts down Foreign Office allegations which claimed that he had abused his position as Ambassador in Tashkent to gratify such desires. The claim that he traded visas for sexual favours is seen as the deepest insult by a man who obviously feels that its is his personality, charm and the propensity to wear a kilt which sweeps women off their feet.

Another part of the book is a heart-rending horror story, detailing systematic abuses of human rights by top level and minor officialdom. Hideous beatings, sadistic murders, regular rapes and the disgusting and widespread exploitation of child labour are all fully detailed.

On top of all this, there is intrigue in the diplomatic service and manipulations by Western Governments. It all has the grip of a top John Buchan adventure story, yet we are dealing with cruel facts and not fiction.

Craig, Jack And Claire

The book also holds a wide range of personal fascinations for me.

To start with, my wife Ann and I met Craig in Ghana in 1999. He was British Deputy High Commissioner in Accra and was standing in for the High Commissioner who was out of the country. We were with a Commonwealth Parliamentary delegation.

He organised a first rate visit, participating in a whole host of our activities and ensuring we gained the maximum benefit and understanding from our visit.

He also openly displayed that side of his character which was later twisted by his diplomatic and political bosses over his human rights work in Uzbekistan. After a key visit to the gold mines at Obuasi in the middle of a crisis about world gold prices, most of our group were ready for an early night when we finally reached the mining compound. But Craig was up until the early hours drinking and chatting with engineers and managers, who were astonished to see him leaving the following morning in a Land Rover flying the Diplomat's Union Jack from its bonnet.

He delivered a top flight reception at the Ambassador's residence when we returned to Accra. It was his typical blend of seriousness and enjoyment.

A second fascination for me is that he writes about a world I have peeped into. It is filled with Diplomats, high ranking Civil Servants, Government Ministers and fellow politicians. Jack Straw comes in for fairly justified hammering. Yet I also know something of the other side of Jack's character. He is the person who helped to progress one of my proposals to improve electoral registration and is the only Minister I ever came across who pushed to get invitations to address Socialist Campaign Group Meetings - so he could confront the flack. I am, however, disappointed about Craig's revelations about Jack's human rights failings; especially as I was always impressed that Jack had a well thumbed copy of John Keane's "Tom Paine" in his room in the Commons.

In particular, I found Craig's description of Claire Short's visit to Tashkent when she went to Chair a conference of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development to be highly revealing.

Claire did a fine job in standing up for human rights against the Uzbek regime. As soon as she returned home she resigned her post as Secretary of State of Overseas Development over the Government's involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

I had been amongst those who criticized Claire for not resigning earlier when Robin Cook went. Yet what she stood out for in Uzbekistan was of great importance and is a justification in itself for the delayed resignation. Her period at Overseas Development was also one of the limited avenues of achievement of the Blair Government.

I have two final minor links with what Craig has to say. First, I feel I can come up with a good shot at the name he deletes from Simon Butt's pathetic letter which he reproduces on page 252. Then when he is rushed into St. Thomas's hospital which is opposite the Commons, he seems to have been placed on the same floor and in a similar room to the one I occupied 5 years earlier when I had a stroke.

The Politics Of Diplomacy

Whilst it might add to a good read when you can put some known faces to places, it isn't essential. I have never been to Uzbekistan, but I was pleased to been taken there via Craig's writings.

The final fascinations about Craig's book are his peculiarities. He is a most undiplomatic diplomat. Not only does he never hide his interests in wine (or whisky), women and song; but in Uzbekistan he behaved overtly in an open political fashion and did not limit himself to the hidden form of politics which is the diplomats forte. No matter how he gets there, he even ends up addressing a meeting set up to establish a united opposition made up of varying dissident groups.

He is a man with considerable abilities (and sees no reason to be modest about these). He moves with speed and outrage when he sees an injustice. This is fine when he sees a specific injustice, but there are times on the wider canvas when he seems to be guilty of resorting to what Nye Bevan termed "an emotional spasm". The only question here is whether such an approach undermined his overall effectiveness for the values he adhered to. Although many of us would have remained in ignorance about Uzbekistan but for his actions and his book.

A Sociable Non-Socialist

In being bounced out of the diplomatic game, Craig became a hero of the Hard Left. But he fits this role oddly.

In no way is he a socialist. Some of his most effective work in Uzbekistan was on behalf of British Companies seeking to operate in that alien climate. He is the strongest possible advocate of privatisation.

His eye for women. his passing comments to and about them and his attempts to have his wife act as a female version of a cuckold, will upset many feminists.

It is his human rights stance that appeals to the Hard Left and what makes him their friend is his related opposition to Bush and (at the time of his book) Blair.

I suspect, however, that if Craig was pushed into meeting terror from terrorists on a daily basis that he would try to undermine their actions just as he did with State terrorism in Uzbekistan.

A Human Rights stance is one that in logic and emotion is opposed to both Imperial aggression and Terror Group tactics. Perhaps there is enough on Craig's Web-Site to show that he has a foot in both Human Rights' Camps. If not, we still need to accept that he did more for the cause of human rights in a couple of years in Uzbekistan than the rest of us achieve in a lifetime.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Interventions For Intervention

The US mortgage crash, Northern Rock, Eron, the fiasco over child benefit data, the depth of third world poverty with its starvations and exploitations, military adventurism and religious and political fanaticism all spell out the need for planning, democratic interventionism, co-operation and social justice at home and abroad.

If there is to be a sea change on our doorstep within the Labour Party to dispense with its continuing anti-social ideology of New Labourism ,then it will need more than just mobilisation on the Hard Left. What is left of our intelligent media and socially conscious opinion leaders need to stand up and make the case for at least some openings in the direction I have suggested.

Here are a couple of examples of what is needed - Will Hutton and Johann Hari. We need a sign that the Government, the Parliamentary Labour Party and the wider movement are picking up such messages.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Howard, Bush And Blair

I have never met nor even seen the recently departed Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard. I understand, however, that he was at the front of the public gallery in the Commons and saw the exchange I give below between myself and Tony Blair during Prime Minsters Questions on 7 May 2003. This was just seven weeks after the invasion of Iraq.

Tom Clarke M.P. was sat a distance from me and was looking up and observing John Howard's reactions at the time. Afterwards he told me that Howard had an expression of disgust on his face when Tony Blair made sympathetic noises towards the developing Trade Union Movement in Iraq.

Even George Bush made a double edged commitment to "free labor unions" for the Middle East in his 2004 State of the Union address, when he said -

I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, and free markets, free press, and free labor unions in the Middle East. And above all, we will finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, so those nations can light the way for others, and help transform a troubled part of the world. (Applause.)

All that can be said in favour of Howard's reactions in the Commons that day was that, at least, he was being honest about his feelings. How far can the same be said about the reactions of Blair and Bush?

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): The Prime Minister will be aware that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued an appeal to the International Labour Organisation and to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions to involve themselves in the creation of a democratic trade union movement in Iraq. Will he have words with President Bush to establish that the President also presses for this, and supports the development of a labour movement as part of the democratic movement in Iraq?

The Prime Minister: One of the great advantages of the liberation of Iraq is that the people there should be able to enjoy the same human rights as people enjoy in other countries that have a greater history of democracy and representative government. One of those essential freedoms and rights is the right to be a member of a trade union, and I have no doubt at all that that will form part of the dispensation in the new Iraq that is being created.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Some More Hope For Iraq?

In this item, I listed three factors which indicate that matters might slowly be improving in Iraq. There is now a fourth factor to add to this list, with signs that numbers of those who had fled from Iraq have started to return.

There is, of course, always another side of the coin as shown in this disturbing news from Basra. But on balance, life might just be becoming slightly less hideous for the Iraqi people.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crowded Out

Too Much Football?

In the six week period from 6th October to last Saturday, Sheffield FC played no less than 14 games.

This has been a huge haul for part-timers, especially as it included high prestige games against Sheffield United, a Non-League XI (all their players from higher Leagues than us) and finally the Inter-Milan Match in front of Pele and a crowd of 18,471.

Up to the Inter-Milan football feast at Bramall Lane, Sheffield FC had won 9 competitive League and cup games in a row.

But under all of this physical and emotional stress, the inevitable occurred. Following the Inter-Milan game, we went to lowly Carlton Town for a League game and crashed 4-1.

Where Has The Crowd Gone?

But I was in my place to then watch us defeat Lincoln United 4-2 in a fine display just 3 days later. This was impressive stuff as Lincoln are in the League above us. It was a fine calm evening, but only 150 spectators turned up. Our smallest home crowd of the season and only 0.8% of the attendance to watch Inter Milan!

Where Has The Crowd Come From?

Yet on Saturday, the crowd bounced up to 647 for a game against Goole . Not only was it our top home crowd of the season, but it was higher than the sum total at five other Unibond Division One South clashes that day.

The new arrivals were mainly captives from the Inter Milan game, as neither Sheffield United nor the Wednesday had fixtures that day. When I arrived, there was a unprecedented queue to get into the ground and no programmes left.

Inevitably, Sheffield FC put in one of their worst performances of the season, yet they started with the same line up which did so well against Lincoln United. It was a 0-0 draw in an ill-tempered game. Perhaps there were some grudges from a 1-1 cup draw at Goole earlier in the season which we had won 5-4 on penalties.

Goole had a striker sent off after only 15 minutes. And when we were awarded a penalty at the start of the second half, Rob Ward a hero from the Inter-Milan game managed to miss three chances in as many seconds. First his penalty was saved. Next his shot from the re-bound was also saved with the keeper pushing the ball into the air. Finally, Rob rushed forward to head the ball over the bar.

0-0 was a fair result. Neither side deserved to win.

Yet More Football

From next Saturday we again face 3 matches in a week. The dust might have to settle before we get back into our winning streak.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Darker Side Of Life In Iraq

Life is always two sided. As I speculated on signs of improvements in the condition of the Iraqi people in the item I posted yesterday, there came this hideous news of developments in Basra.

The paradox is that whilst there are signs of some positive moves in the areas dominated by American troops, things may be getting worse in areas that had previously been until British control.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Iraq - Is There Now Hope?

Here are three signs that in spite of the continuing problems of life and death in Iraq, things might just be turning the corner. But there is a long way to go.

(1) The number of killings is in decline.

(2) Children are returning to school.

(3) Oil production and its exports are rising.

There is, of course, a long way to go with each of these; plus masses of other outstanding problems. But seeking to advance practical help to improve the conditions of life of the Iraqi people should be seen as our first priority, especially as improvement is now feasible.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Disband These Armies Now

Here is another killing by a Private Security Firm in Iraq.

The case against the Mercenary Army run by Blackwater in Iraq is given here.

The case against the wider Privatised Military Industry is given here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Press Your MP To Sign This

Whatever Political Party your MP belongs to, press them to sign the following Early Day Motion which has been submitted on an all-party basis. It is important and self-explanatory.

EDM 141


Anderson, David
Bottomley, Peter
Brake, Tom
Drew, David
Russell, Bob
Vis, Rudi

That this House condemns the attempted assassination on 18th October 2007 of Iranian trade union activist Majid Hamidi by three masked gunmen; notes that Iranian labour activists are convinced that armed attacks of this type are done with the knowledge of the Iranian government; shares their concern that this represents a considerable escalation in persecution of trade unionists, which they have called a Colombianisation of the situation in Iran; notes the continuing imprisonment of independent trade union activists such as Mansour Osanloo, leader of the Tehran bus workers' union, as well as Mahmoud Salehi and Ebrahim Madadi, documented on the Labour Start website; and calls upon the UK Government to press the International Labour Organisation to raise this issue as a matter of urgency with the Iranian government.

Friday, November 09, 2007

50 Years Of Sensible Extremism.

Into The Labour Party

I attended my first Constituency Labour Party Meeting exactly 50 years ago today. It was a meeting of the Easington Divisional Labour Party, held in the Workmen's Club, Blackhall, County Durham.

I attended in order to collect the second prize in an essay competition run by the local Labour M.P., Mannie Shinwell. In fact I joined the Labour Party in order to qualify to enter this competition. The topic was "Nationalisation".

I had been wondering whether to join the Labour Party for almost a year, after ending my National Service in Iraq. And as I was starting to write letters about socialism to the Sunderland Echo, this was a further chance to express my stance on paper and finally make a move into the Labour Party. But I was still worried about what I saw as the limited and reformist nature of Labourism

The first prize went to the late John Alderson from Peterlee. He was a teacher in the Constituency at Shotton Colliery, who later became Chair of the Peterlee and District Fabian Society and I became its Secretary. He also taught at the school my future wife attended as a pupil, but it was to be almost 4 years later before I met her.

The third prize went to Derek Rutherford who was then a 6th form student. Mannie preferred his essay to the rest, but had handed the decision-making over to a Committee. I don't know if many entered the contest, but I had to use No.16 on my entry. But that could have been a ploy to make the numbers look reasonable. I believe that Derek went on to become General Secretary of the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

Socialist Sustenance

I submitted my essay on September 19th, just before leaving for a Conference in London run by the International Society for Socialist Studies (ISSS) at which it adopted its Constitution. GDH Cole was elected President and Stuart Hall was one of those elected to its Executive Committee.

The week-end's activities started with a public meeting which included Barbara Castle, Kingsley Martin (editor of the New Statesman), Kenneth Kaunda and Lelio Basso of the Italian Socialist Party.

Claude Bourdet, the editor of France Observateur (a leading weekly on the French Left) sent his apologies. I heard him, however, later at a further ISSS Conference. Whilst Vladimir Dedijer was refused a visa to attend by the Yugoslav Government.

A Two Footed Stance

I feel that moving into the short lived ISSS and the now much changed Labour Party at one and the same time, typifies my general approach to politics since then. I have always had a foot in two camps. One foot has been with comrades who help keep socialist ideas alive and the other has been placed within the institution of the Labour Movement; especially within the Labour Party and the Trade Union Movement. With the later I have attempted to be what GDH Cole himself called a "loyal grouser" and a "sensible extremist".

We Sign Pele

Joining The Top Team

Pele has just become a member of Sheffield Football Club; signing up alongside other famous names such as Gordon Banks, Uriah Rennie, Sepp Blatter, Michael Vaughan, Def Leppard, Bobby Robson, Bobby Charlton, Derek Dooley, Richard Caborn, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Kenny Dalglish, Bob Piper and myself.

Our new signing was paraded in front of a crowd of 18,471 at Bramall Lane last night when we met Inter Milan in a match to celebrate our 150th birthday as the Club who kicked off football.

Pre-Match Jinks

The crowd was in fine festival mood and was slightly larger than normal. Up 18,273 on those at Saturday's home game.

Yet the kick-off was held up 24 minutes to allow everyone to get in and to ensure that everyone then experienced the pre-match hype. We had the well trusted techniques of balloons, announcements, music and some 50 youngsters in Sheffield and Inter-Milan strips placed around the centre circle.

Then we had the unique bit - our new signing Pele surrounded by cameramen and other important people. He broke loose and ran round the centre circle vigorously waiving at everyone. We loved it.

Pele was then presented to the teams, the youngsters and the big-wigs. For the first time I suddenly thought we might win, for he was presented to 21 players from our side and there were only 13 from Inter-Milan. Unfortunately, officialdom ensured that we kicked off with the usual 11 a side. It must have been in those rules which Sheffield FC drew up in 1857.

Watch Out - Its Inter-Milan

Whilst Sheffield FC enjoyed the early play and shots (with one even on target), Inter-Milan established their superiority with a 3-0 half time lead adding a fourth shortly after half-time. With official encouragement, we took our minds off the rout with rounds of Mexican waves. At first they seemed to be unending, then like Sheffield FC's chances they petered out.

But suddenly, the game was transformed as the Sheffield FC manager played his great substitution trick. Whilst he started out with his top defence, he held back some of his best mid-fielders and strikers. Then as Inter-Milan started to substitute some of their best players, he improved the make-up of his own team on the field.

The plan immediately worked. Sheffield FC pulled two goals back, through two new arrivals, Stuart Copnell and Rob Ward. The third new face in Chris Dolby sent over the fine free kick from which Rob headed the ball into the net. Then Stuart all but delivered a third with a lob that was only cleared off the goal-line itself.

Eventually, Inter-Milan finished up 5-2 winners. But we had our spell of glory.

The Winners - Sheffield FC And Football

Few left the ground, apart from the family next to me when the father said "I have really enjoyed this" when they up and left. It also looked as if all 21 Sheffield players were given a spell on the pitch, as the whole of the first-line defence (including the goalkeeper) were eventually replaced. The great substitution trick had given way to a policy of giving everyone their five minutes of glory against the mighty Inter-Milan.

The best of all for me, was coming across regulars and hearing them shouting. The young men with the large Sheffield FC banner were chanting in the background and the distinctive call of "Howaye Sheffield" came from a well-recognised voice.

Our next home game is against Lincoln United in the 3rd Round of the Unibond League Cup. I wonder where we are going to put all our new supporters? For even if most of them were Sheffield United supporters in disguise, it is an evening match and their first love has no fixture that night.

A Move To Shia-Sunni Unity In Iraq

Iraqi Mojo reports on this move.

Given the significance of religion in Iraqi politics, lets hope it is as significant as the Ian Paisley/Gerry Adams deal in Northern Ireland.

P.S. In time the hard line Shia and the hard line Sunnis might become the Iraqi Chuckle Brothers, just like these Northern Island counterparts.

P.P.S. If only Maqtada Sadr would learn to chuckle kindly.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

'Slab' In The Slammer - Well He Was Arrested

The Criminal Assets Bureau was established in the Republic of Ireland in 1996. It investigates persons who are suspected of deriving assets directly or indirectly from criminal activity. For those it establishes a case against, action is taken in the Courts to deprive or deny those charged of the assets and of the proceeds of their activity.

'Slab' Murphy has been said over a considerable time to have been the Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA and has a farm which straddles the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. He has just been arrested by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The Bureau has an impressive record. I was a member of the Northern Ireland Select Committee which went to Dublin to examine its work. Our report was influential in encouraging the establishment of its equivalent in the UK, known as the Assets Recovery Agency.

The Agency is no doubt taking a close interest in developments over 'Slab' who has always had his farming boots either sides of the border.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Campaigning To Free Osanloo

Following on from the item I posted immediately below this one, I present the e-mail which the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITW) are circulating to enable us to assist in this campaign. See the important links I provide.

Dear Friends,

Please find attached our "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)" of our campaign.It is designed to be a four-page A5 leaflet. (Note: I don't have the technical skills to display this attachment, but see pages 10 to 14 here from the ITW which covers Osanloo's plight. HB)

I hope you will find it useful; for yourself as well as for wider distribution.

We plan to translate this into the following languages.
French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Turkish, Arabic, Farsi, Russian, Thai, Bahasa, Japanese and Korean.

They will be posted on our campaign page. Or you can email the ITF with the request. And if you have a request for another language, feel free to contact us as well.

We welcome your feedback on this publication as well as our campaign in general.

Yours in solidarity

Mac Urata

Have you signed the petitions?
Vahed Union:

Monday, November 05, 2007

Tehran Bus Workers' Appeal

This is their appeal on behalf of (a) their Trade Union Leader Mansour Osanloo who has been unjustly imprisoned in Iran following earlier maltreatment and (b) Ebrahim Madadi for giving backing to Osanloo. I previously raised the issue here and here.

Syndicate of Vahed Strongly Condemns the Unfair Verdicts of 5 Years Prison for Mansour Osanloo and 2 Years for Ebrahim Madadi

Whereas always the Supreme Leader and government’s authorities encourage all people to engage in their own fate and defend their rights by being in present at any scene, whenever workers defended their legitimate rights they have been faced with the judiciary system and prison. Nowhere in the Constitution of Law, Labor Law, Civil Rights, and Islamic Sharia Laws has been written that the consequences of defending workers rights would be prison, repression and dismissal. Creating the atmosphere and preparing the environment by infusing the idea of arresting labor activists whenever they want to arrest a worker’s activist, imprisonment of workers, secret courts, unofficially informing workers from the issued verdicts, and long term prison sentences are not the generous awards to the labor activists who devote their entire life to get the workers legitimate rights. Any enlightened conscience doesn’t accept the way that workers have been treated with contempt.

Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburban Bus Company, Vahed, strongly condemns the unfair verdicts of five years prison for Mansour Osanloo, because of his trade and syndicalism’s activities, and two - year prison sentence for Ebrahim Madadi, only because he went to Mansour Osanloo’s house to express his sympathy with his family, and requests all international labor organizations to react seriously to this unfair and anti-workers decision globally.

Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburban Bus Company, Vahed,
November 3, 2007


Free Two Imprisoned Syndicalists

Sorrowfully two imprisoned syndicalists, Mr. Mansour Osanloo and Mr. Ebrahim Madadi have been sentenced to five and two years prison, respectively. What crimes have they been committed to? Are defending syndicalism’s rights and demanding to form the independent syndicate of workers at Vahed Company considered crimes?

Dear Esteemed Judiciary Authorities!

The principle 165 of Constitution of Law requires all trials to be open to the public with the presence of defending attorneys. Why were the cases tried in these hearing while none of the attorneys, families, and workers of the Vahed Company was in present, in order to find out for which criminal activities the members of the Syndicate’s Executive Board were sentenced?

Why do you think that the activities of the two members of the executive board of the Vahed’s Syndicate are against national security? Why are the defenders of the legitimate rights of workers at Vahed Company, who live under the poverty line and should receive more attention, being treated with oppression and unkindly? How long would the trade and syndicalism’s activities pay this large amount of cost? At the moment, more than 30 workers of the Vahed company have been suspended and they are financially embarrassed, and about 13 of the workers have received the reinstate orders from the board of dispute resolution of Labor Ministry, but the managers of the Vahed Company denied to accept them. These workers are the hardest workers in the society and are in a hard living condition.
We ask the esteemed head of the judiciary power to free the two imprisoned syndicate’s workers immediately.

The Founding Board of the Workers’ Syndicates, expressing the sorrow at the issued verdicts, demands the immediate release of Mr. Mansour Osanloo and Mr. Ebrahim Madadi.

Founding Board of Workers’ Syndicates
November 1, 2007

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cup Fever

"Match Of The Day" Had Nothing On This One.

Sheffield FC were at home to Kendal Town in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy yesterday. And even without instant replays, numerous camera angles and paid experts; this was really something.

Kendal play in the Unibond Premier Division, which is the League that Sheffield are seeking to gain promotion to. So this was a key test of the progress we have made this season.

Yet the match only attracted half of last weeks crowd - 208 compared to 411. It was a sign that three home games in the past week could only finally cater for the regulars. Even I had missed a mid-week victory over Grantham Town in the President's Cup. But I had the excuse that I got the dates mixed up. It is the sort of thing that happens when you pass three score years and ten.

What No Mascots?

We had none of the celebrations which I reported from last week's game. No guard of honour from 50 children and, therefore, no crowds of parents with cameras. But the sun shone and my cloth cap came in handy to block it from my view. It was also much less crowded in the Club's Pub.

Kendal set off at a cracking pace. But with Martin Kearney (who isn't our regular keeper) in fine form and a sound defence in front of him, it looked as if we would weather the initial storm. But in the 7th minute disaster struck.

As Kendal moved forward two players ran past the Sheffield defence (whose line was some 30 yards from their goal) and one of them took a through ball and hit it into the back of the net. I was amongst the home supporters in line with the incident and we had never seen a clearer offside. Unfortunately both the linesman and the referee took a different viewpoint and we were 1-0 down.

A Turning Point?

As with last week, it took us 15 minutes to threaten the visitors. Our attack was soon slipping on the fallen leaves near the visitor's goal. Leaves which no-one had bothered to sweep up.

On 28 minutes Asa Ingall slithered in an equaliser. With the scores level at half-time, the home supporters felt that (given justice) we were really 1-0 ahead.

Whilst our defence remained sound in the second half, it began to push up field as we attacked. Gavin Smith our right-back scored with a fine shot from outside the visitors penalty box in the 62 minute.

4 minutes later it was the turn of Paul Smith the left-back. His fine work down the line from the half way mark led to a situation where a well executed shot from Rob Ward put us 3-1 ahead.

Never Leave Before The End

In added time just as we seemed to have things wrapped up, mayhem broke out.

First, the regulars were convinced we would be given a penalty. But as the ball rolled out of play, the referee decided to give us a consolation corner instead. It could only be a consolation as the ball seemed to go out of play off one of our players.

But then the referee's tendency to compromise did not last long as he gave a penalty at the other end of the pitch for "something-we-know-not-what". Kendal's Wright scored and it was now 3-2.

The Kendal player who had earlier scored the off-side goal then rushed to recover the ball from the back of the net. When our goalkeeper held on to it, Mulvaney then whipped his legs from under him. The culprit was red carded and a free for all broke out. Even the Kendal goalkeeper was shouting, although he had earlier received a yellow card for abusing the referee.

When the referee managed to get the game restarted, he immediately blew his whistle for full-time. A grumpy Kendal left the pitch in an argumentative mood. Wisely Sheffield held back near the leafy end of the pitch until the coast was clear. Half the crowd stayed on to cheer their heroes off back to the dressing room. Tom said that he could imagine the Kendal players hammering on the walls in the next room.

Bring On Inter-Milan

Anyone who had stayed away from the game to watch the Arsenal v Man United game on the telly made the wrong choice. It was the die-hards who had all the fun and the exercise of their lungs. Then in the end we could be philosophical about the two goals against us, which should not have been. For with fair decisions (including the penalty we never got) we could have won 4-0. Yet we are into the next round.

After all the fun I had at the match, I thankfully missed the Premiership scores so I was able to watch "Match Of The Day" last night without knowing the script in advance.

We have now won 11 out of our last 12 competitive games. It is only the celebratory friendly games we lose. So I won't get upset if Inter Milan manage to nick the big game against us at Bramall Lane on Thursday night. For I know there will be plenty more excitement in store for the loyal 200 just down the road from my home.