Today is Cosmonaut Day in the former Soviet Union, when they commemorate the deeds of the first man in space, YURI GAGARIN, who flew around the earth on 12th April, 1961 for just 68 minutes in his space craft VOSTOK 1.(Vostok means East in Russian).
Yuri was born in Klushino in 1934 near Smolensk, and was only 5 ' 2" tall, so could squeeze in his tiny spacecraft with all the equipment. He became a hero of the Soviet Union and when I was over there 3 years later, taking the Trans-Siberian Express, I was presented with a photo pin lapel badge of the great hero when I was at the University of Irkutsk in Siberia, and still have it to this day. He was a hero of mine as well, and a very brave man going into the unknown. Fame didn't do him any favours and he started drinking a lot. On March 27th, 1968 he died in a mysterious MIG-15 jet crash outside Moscow, along with his flight instructor Vladimir Seregin. Evidently there was a crack in his cockpit panel and they dived at 145 meters a second, ran out of oxygen and never pulled out of the dive.
Another man who seems to be from another planet is CRISTIANO RONALDO dos SANTOS AVEIRO. The Madeira born Portuguese star with Manchester United, who has had rave reviews lately and was another hero after the Reds demolished AC Roma 7-1 in the 2nd leg of their Champions League Quarter Final at the Theatre of Dreams, playing like men from Mars against the Italians. Ronaldo isn't a common Portuguese name, but his father's favourite Hollywood star was Ronald Reagan. United are 1 stop away from an All -Englsih Champions League Final in Athens in late May and have to beat AC Milan who won 2-0 in the Allianz Arena over Bayern Munchen. This is the same AC Milan that was originally banned from the Champions League for the problems in Seri A, but had the ban overturned by UEFA. A favourite night spot in Athens is called GAGARINS.
KEIGAN PARKER is an exciting Scottish winger for Blackpool, my favourite team. He wears the No. 7 jersey as did Stanley Matthews and myself. I have watched him four times this season and he always gives the opposing defence a hard time, but in 2 of those matches he was booked for diving-probably watching Ronaldo on the TV too much. He came from St. Johnstone the Perth club in the Scottish League. Last easter Monday I was at the Galphart Stadium, the award winning stadium of Huddersfield Town. A crowd of 12,000 in the Division 1 clash with The Seasiders ended 2-0 for Blackpool, whose travelling fans accounted for about 25% of the fans and took them to 3rd place and at least a play-off spot to go up to The Championship.
NIAL QUINN to the rescue once again. After Sunderland came from behind to win at Southampton on the English south coast, one of the supporters buses was damaged, so after taking the team to the local airport, Black Cats Chairman Quinn picked up the stranded supporters and took them back to Sunderland on the team bus. Of course, the same as the taxis for the stranded supporters in Bristol a few days earlier, you still end up in Sunderland !!
It was a bad week for Chris 'Cookie' Coleman the Fulham FC coach. With 5 matches left to save them from the drop to the Championship from the Premier League he was fired. Earlier in week the fans had called for his head after yet another loss, and his wife had 'bugged' his Land Rover. He was replaced by the 'Norn Iron' - Northern Ireland coach Lawrie Sanchez who has done a spectacular job with the boys in Green.