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[Gorbachev picture]

It is alleged by some - and don't quote me on this - that when Latics played a friendly on 23 March 1970 against Metalist Kharkov, the Russian team's assistant secretary was a gentleman named Mikhail Gorbachev, later the Soviet president.

Latics won the game 3-2, and it has been reported that comrade Gorbachev enjoyed his visit so much that he still keeps an eye out for their scores.

The tale was first reported in the Bangkok Daily Post by a British reporter, Roger Crutchley. He went so far as to say that Gorbachev stopped the jamming of BBC radio broadcasts so he could keep up-to-date with English footy scores.

Fanciful? Undoubtedly.

Improbable? Maybe. Kharkov isn't even "Russian" - it's actually in the Ukraine, although very much part of the USSR in 1970.

But impossible? Well, I have a little theory.

In 1970 the Cold War was in full belt, and Gorby was undoubtedly rising through the party ranks. A trip to England could be a little reward for work well done, and an opportunity to look around - espionage very often consists of just reporting what the "common man" thinks and does. And how does a senior member of the Party get a trip to England?

Hopping on a plane with a passport showing job as "Communist Party Secretary" ain't a good idea. But attached to a football team who were playing a low-key friendly as "Assistant Secretary"? For anyone who is a conspiracy theorist it's not impossible, is it folks?

If you're reading this Mr G., send us an e-mail!!


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Cutting from Daily Express 21 February 1987


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Cutting from The Times 18 April 1999