Defending The Rock – Against Lazy Stereotypes

The Rock of Gibraltar

Last weekend I visited Gibraltar for the fifth time and attended some of the events organised by the Gibraltar Literary Festival. The main event that I wanted to attend was a talk given by Nick Rankin on his new book Defending the RockHow Gibraltar Defeated Hitler, more of that later. I also went to a thought-provoking session on mind maps by Ray Keene and a very interesting talk on Brexit, Spain, Catalonia and Gibraltar by, William Chislett, a Hispanist who I hadn’t heard of before but will be keeping tabs on from now on.

Anyway, since this latest trip I have felt compelled to write this blog, as I feel there is much ignorance out there with regards to the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. I know this blog is mainly dedicated to football and there won’t be any football in this article, although Gibraltar did appear in my book Homage to Murcia so there is a tentative link there.

Monkey Business

Other past visits to Gibraltar have been with Spanish friends from Caravaca and to their surprise they loved it. Another visit was in 2015 to the yearly music festival, to see one of my favourite bands, Madness. However, the first time that I visited Gibraltar was about fifteen years ago, when my children were very young. We didn’t live in Spain then; we were on a family holiday in Marbella which is about an hours drive to The Rock. We made the day trip with my brother in law and his family and I remember the day well ….. we arrived at the border showed our passports and did all the touristy stuff like the taxi tour to see the apes, ate fish and chips in a local British pub and of course, washed that down with the obligatory pint of British beer. We walked along Main Street smiling at the quirkiness of the red phone boxes, mail boxes, Marks & Spencers and obviously the British Bobbies. As I left, I never thought I would return and so ticked off another item on the bucket list. I would suggest that the experience that I have just described is more or less one that many other tourists have experienced, especially nowadays as many cruise ships have made Gibraltar part of their itinerary.

But I have grown to discover that there is a lot more to the place than that, and little was I to know then, on that scorching hot August day, that I would return several more times and become fond of the place. The second time I visited was for the wedding of my sister in law, I included this trip in the book Homage to Murcia as it fell within the football season I was covering and I even managed to drag some of the wedding guests along to watch a local team, Lincoln Red Imps, play. Writing that chapter meant I had to do the normal research regarding the history of Gibraltar and as I started digging, I became hooked. From prehistoric times onwards there is an incredible history but it really starts getting interesting around the time of the Moors right through to the Napoleonic Wars and more modern times, for instance World War 2 and the Spanish Civil War. Of course the politics of the area and the tug of war between Britain and Spain for sovereignty is, in itself, an intriguing story. Nevertheless, I am not intending to cover all of that in this blog but what I would like to do is, highlight a few of the things that people get so wrong about Gibraltar and some of the historical things that I love about the place.

Firstly, the name Gibraltar is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq, after an Umayyad general Tariq ibn-Ziyad. He led the initial invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and before these times The Rock was known by the Phoenician name of Mons Calpe. In Greek mythology it is said to be one of the Pillars of Hercules, the other being Monte Hacho in Ceuta (Spanish territory in North Africa) or Jebel Musa in Morocco.

In 1160, the Almohad Sultan Abd al-Mu’min named the city Medinat al-Fath (City of the Victory) and decreed that a permanent settlement should be built on The Rock. He ordered that the settlement should include a castle, the remains of which still stands to this day. In fact, this castle is a prominent feature on the Gibraltar flag. Speaking of the flag, it was granted by Royal Warrant from Queen Isabella I of Castile on 10 July 1502 and the key on the flag is said to symbolise the fortress significance of Gibraltar as it was seen to be the key to Spain by the Moors and the Spanish. Fittingly, the British would later take the key as a symbol of the key to the Mediterranean seaway and therefore reinforcing the strategic importance of the city.

Moorish Castle

Without doubt, the history of modern Gibraltar begins in 1704 when during the War of the Spanish Succession a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet, representing the Grand Alliance, captured the town of Gibraltar on behalf of the Archduke Charles of Austria in his campaign to become King of Spain. These events subsequently led to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht which negotiated and ceded control of Gibraltar, in perpetuity, to the British Crown in return for Britain’s withdrawal from the war. Over the years there were unsuccessful attempts by Spanish monarchs to regain Gibraltar, the most famous of which was Great Siege of Gibraltar between the years 1779 and 1783, it lasted three years, seven months and two weeks.

In more recent times the people of The Rock have been subjected to border closures and delays, none more so than during the 20th century, and in particular during the dictatorship of General Franco between the years of 1936 – 1975.

Whilst the earlier history went a long way to shape the city it has to be said that these more recent events are the ones that play a significant role in modern Gibraltar and from my point of view the ones that are least understood by outsiders. These are the aspects that I would like people to think about before passing judgement on the place.

Gibraltarian “Bobby” with refugee from Spanish Civil War

As I have stated, I was recently in Gibraltar for the Literary Festival and in particular to listen to a talk given by Nick Rankin. Rankin visited Gibraltar many times over a four-year period to write the book Defending the Rock – How Gibraltar Defeated Hitler and although at the time of writing this blog I haven’t finished reading it, I can tell that it has been meticulously researched. Whilst the main narrative is World War 2 many other events are explored before and after that, none more so than the Spanish Civil War. Some of the facts I did actually know, like how Gibraltar accepted many thousands of refugees, mainly from the republican side but not exclusively. From Gibraltar many of these people received safe passage to the UK and other places. Many Gibraltarians have Spanish ancestors or family and many of the divisions that were taking place across the border were being acted out on the streets of Gibraltar too.

Of course many historians have concluded that the Spanish Civil War was a dummy run of World War 2, when the Germans and Italians tested out their firepower and strategies in Spain.

Once war in Europe had broken out, it seemed inevitable that Britain would enter it at some stage which of course they did in 1939. Gibraltar would once more become a place of strategic military importance and Rankin’s book investigates why Hitler never invaded the British enclave. Again, Gibraltar would become a safe haven for people, this time escaping the Nazis and was a key place along the Comet Line that helped escaped British and American airman, via the convoluted route through Belgium, France, the Basque Country, Spain and eventually on to Britain via The Rock. In fact, according to the book over three thousand airmen escaped back to Britain via Gibraltar.

20171119_103956.jpgGibraltar was also the epicentre for Operation Torch the British and USA Military campaign against Rommel in North Africa. Deep within the tunnels of The Rock the British and Americans planned the downfall of the Nazi war machine that was operating in the deserts of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

Then of course because of World War 2 there was the evacuation of Gibraltar. This was a defining moment in the history of the people of Gibraltar. In June 1940 around thirteen thousand people were shipped to Casablanca in French Morocco. Unfortunately, this coincided with the installation of the Pro-German French Vichy Government who obviously didn’t want these British subjects in their territory and wanted to remove them. Added to these tensions between the British government and the Vichy government was the fact that the British navy had recently destroyed a number of French warships to prevent them being handed over to the Nazis and also killed hundreds of French sailors in the process. The Gibraltarians were eventually accommodated on some cargo ships that had been used to evacuate French soldiers from Dunkirk. The families were literally marched up the gangplank at bayonet point, leaving many possessions behind, onto ships that were full of human waste and rubbish.

Book signingThe convoy of ships headed for Gibraltar but they were unwanted there and it is thought that London didn’t want them in the UK neither. However, by July 13th the ships had eventually docked in Gibraltar. At first, the powers that be wouldn’t allow the people off the ships to see their families for fear that once back on The Rock, they would not want to leave again. Eventually, under the threat of riots, strikes and other civil protests the authorities relented and let the evacuees disembark for a few days. This also allowed for the ships to be cleaned up and made semi habitable for humans. The evacuees would ultimately make their journey north to the UK where they would in due course, find temporary homes in places like London, Liverpool, Swansea, Jamaica and Madeira.  All these stories and many more are included in Nick Rankin’s book. He manages also to interweave the human stories of the famous and not so famous and recounts those bygone times much more eloquently than what I have done here.

So, what about The People of the Rock today? There are many inaccuracies about the people who live in Gibraltar and the place generally. For example, a British journalist, Brian Reade, who I have had some time for in the past and enjoyed many of his articles about football and politics has made some scathing attacks on the populace of The Rock on more than one occasion.  He also stated in an article in 2013, albeit tongue in cheek, that he was going to start a “Hand Gibraltar Back campaign”.  In the article he goes on to say that Gibraltar is “a haven for tax exiles, Tory postal voters, winter fuel payment claimants and apes which is ­geographically part of Spain and of no strategic military use to us anymore”.  I have to say that Brian Reade’s lazy stereotyping has surprised me, especially coming from a Scouser who would rightly be in uproar if people did that about his city or Liverpudlians. However, it is likely that there are quite a few misinformed people who hold similar inaccurate views similar to Reade and I suggest that when you think about Gibraltar you take the following into consideration.


Misunderstanding …. Maybe?


What Brian Reade is talking about sounds more like some of the British people who live a bit further up the coast around Marbella or people who I have met around the Costa Blanca. Obviously, there are some ex-pats who live in Gibraltar who might fit into that category too. In fact, I was informed by a helpful young lad on the checkout in the Gibraltar Morrisons that there is a distinct difference between the local populace, the Llanitos (Yanitos), and the British ex-pats. He had been born and raised on The Rock but was still classed as a Guiri (foreigner) because his family hadn’t integrated that much. I was also surprised when he told me he didn’t speak much Spanish.

Most Llanitos that I have met are bilingual English and Spanish speakers. They come from a historical and cultural three-hundred-year mix of British, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Maltese, Jewish, Moroccan and other smaller groups like Indians.

20171119_115540.jpgThere is still a very evident Jewish population in Gibraltar that has been there for over 650 years and significantly they have faced almost no anti- Semitism during that time. In fact, Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, once said “In the dark times of expulsion and inquisition, Gibraltar lit the beacon of tolerance,” and that Gibraltar “is probably the community where Jews have been the most integrated.”

20171118_154436.jpgLiving side by side with their Jewish neighbours is the Muslim community, mainly from Morocco. Many are like Abdul, who works in one of the fish & chip shops. Abdul speaks Arabic, French, English and Spanish fluently and has lived on The Rock for years. He was born just across the straight in Tangiers but now has British citizenship and considers himself a Llanito. He has seen many changes and once worked in a night club that serviced the British Military. Because of that he now has friends from all over the UK. He told me that Gibraltar is now a very different place from those days.

Then there are the new type of immigrants too. Like Zoltan from Hungary and his Moroccan girlfriend, who like Abdul, is from Tangier. We rented their really nice and well situated Air B&B apartment for our stay. Zoltan works in a nearby restaurant and they both appeared to be hard working young people who will make good additions to The Rock.

The politics of the place is hard to fathom out but essentially the current government is a Labour/Liberal collation and the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo is a socialist although with a very small s. I like him, whenever he is on TV (Spanish or British) etc. he talks sense and I think he is a great ambassador for Gibraltar. He has said about Gibraltar’s reputation as a tax haven, that it is now a legitimate low-tax environment, rather than a potentially embarrassing tax-free haven.

Most of Gibraltar’s industry comes from financial services, tourism and online gambling companies and this doesn’t sit right with some people. Smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol has also proven to be a problem for many years.

Monument to cross-border workers

Nevertheless, one of the huge positives about Gibraltar is that it provides work for thousands of Spaniards that live across the border in Campo de Gibraltar. Up to ten thousand people cross the border every day for work, then take the money back and spend it in one of the most deprived areas of Spain which has an unemployment rate of over 35% whilst Gibraltar has full employment. This has led to groups forming like the delegation known as the Cross Frontier Group representing Spanish employers and unions together with Gibraltar employers and unions. In fact, many Spaniards who live near Gibraltar wish that Madrid and London would just keep their noses out and let the people get on with it., even some Spanish Mayors have made similar comments. During my visit I spoke to one such Spaniard working in a local bar, he told me that he thought it was all nonsense and that politicians should keep out of it, I tend to agree. Incidentally, a hard Brexit could affect this free movement of people in the future and put these jobs at risk. The fact is that Brexit was a kick in the teeth for Gibraltar as over 96% of the population voted remain, only 800 out of 20,000 voted to leave. Incidentally, these high percentages reflect the sovereignty referendum of 1967, when the people voted an overwhelmingly 99.64% to remain British and the shared sovereignty (with Spain) referendum of 2002 when 98.97% voted against that proposal too. Self-determination in its purest form I would argue.

Although Brexit could make life difficult for Gibraltar, it will pull through it. During Nick Rankin’s talk he stated how visually The Rock is a shape changer, meaning that from different positions you get different views and it seems to take different shapes. Also mentioned was how Fabian Picardo refers to Gibraltar like a cork that is bobbing about in a turbulent sea and no matter how much the storm tries to sink it, it survives because of its smallness and buoyancy. Two good analogies that sum up The Rock and the resilience of the people.

gib castle
The old and the new

It would be amiss of me not to point out that Gibraltar is not stuck in the past either. If you make your way to the Upper Rock, you can look down past the Moorish castle and see the new developments where the old dockyards used to be. For example, Ocean Village, which has lots of new apartments, a business centre and bars, including the Sunborn Gibraltar which is the world’s first superyacht casino hotel and cost £120M to build. Added to these new developments is the brand new University of Gibraltar, it opened its doors in 2015 and offers degrees and other courses in a wide range of subjects. The university’s motto is Sciatica est Clavis ad Successum which in English is Knowledge is the Key to Success, playing on the key in the Gibraltar flag that I mentioned earlier.

Within the university is the Gibraltar Centre of Excellence that offers specialist training programmes for high level international governmental and private sector officials on customs-related matters, for instance in the control of tobacco products and drugs.

So, is there anything I don’t like about Gibraltar? Well, I am no royalist and the staunch OTT loyalty to the Queen and the Royal family is something I find a bit uncomfortable. Nonetheless, all of that has to be put into the context of the Treaty of Utrecht, which ceded Gibraltar to the British Crown. Therefore, the survival of the British monarchy is probably quite fundamental to the status of this British territory.

20171117_191050.jpgIn conclusion, if you’d like to know more about Gibraltar, then visit it. If you want do the touristy stuff, then enjoy the fish & chips, the British beer, the quirky red phone boxes etc. But, do try to meet some of the people and learn a bit of the history, then make your own mind up.

I have no doubt there will be people out there who will see this blog as maybe a bit naïve and will point out the tax status of Gibraltar along with the smuggling as reasons enough not to like the place but I have read articles on that and have included a couple in the further reading.

As Nick Rankin was closing his talk he was asked what he has taken away from Gibraltar whilst researching his book. He paused to think for a moment and then in a voice that quivered a little with emotion, said that he had grown to love the place. I get that and I hope to return sooner rather than later.

Nick Rankin & Tony Higgins

Tony Higgins (November 2017)


Further Reading/Watching/Listening:



Video: People of The Rock (2009)

Book: Defending the Rock – How Gibraltar Defeated Hitler

Review of Nick Rankin book from Gibraltar Chronicle:

Book: Gibraltar Conquered by no enemy – Marc Alexander

William Chislett talk at the Gibraltar Literary Festival 2017

Brian Reade article on Gibraltar

Gibraltar and The Spanish Civil War (documentary)

New Statesman article July 2014 about cross border workers

John Prescott view

Jeremy Corbyn and The Rock

Unison article on cross border workers

BBC Radio: Chief Minister of Gibraltar talks about borders, specifically Northern Ireland

Legitimate low-tax environment, rather than tax-free haven.

… And for balance here is something about tax evasion etc.


A wee journey ….

For one reason or another, it has been a bit difficult to get to Ciudad matches recently. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been to a couple of games over the last few months.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the World Cup qualifier game, between Northern Ireland and Norway. I’ve written a full and very comprehensive article about the whole trip which will be appearing in Issue 131 of True Faith, the Newcastle United Alternative Fanzine. I’m told there is going to be a very Northern Irish feel to that upcoming issue.
Anyway, before I went over to Belfast, I wrote an article for the Northern Ireland fanzine, everywhere we go (Issue3). The article is about footballers who have played for both Newcastle United and Northern Ireland over the years. The fanzine was on sale before the Norway game and will be on sale before the Norn Iron game versus New Zealand, in June. You can also buy the fanzine online here.


My article appears below, I hope you like it …


Ulster’s Geordie Connection

Whilst the Irish communities of Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and London are well renowned there is not so much known about the Irish that moved in great numbers to Newcastle upon Tyne and its environs. Whilst the afore mentioned cities had many people emigrate from the south of Ireland, usually via Dublin, Tyneside’s Irish generally came across the Straits of Moyle via Belfast or Larne. Their journey to the north east of England was usually via Glasgow and most of those folk came to work in the one of the many shipyards, along the banks of the once thriving River Tyne. Both Glasgow and Belfast are well famed for their shipyards too so there was always a natural link there.

There also seems to be a natural football link between the province of Ulster and Tyneside. Many Northern Ireland internationals have donned the famous black and white shirt and many are still thought of with respect and affection amongst the fanatical Geordie fans.

billmccrackenLet’s go back to the start of twentieth century when international Irish football was governed by one body, The Irish Football Association, based in Belfast. From that same city hailed Bill McCracken who made over 400 appearances for United, in a Magpie career spanning an amazing 19 years. McCracken was capped 16 times for Ireland scoring once and captained both his country and club. He arrived on Tyneside from Belfast side Distillery in 1904 and was well loved by the United faithful who saw him as the original loveable rogue. McCracken is famous for perfecting the off-side game so well that the football powers-that-be were compelled to change the rules in 1925. It’s said that McCracken was a bubbly character who had a mischievous sense of humour which often led to him being in dispute with the authorities on and off the field.

Alf McMichael was a Left-back who won the FA Cup with United in 1952 and is another member of the 400 plus appearances club at Newcastle. He played on Tyneside from 1949 to 1963 after starting his professional career at Linfield in 1945. McMichael made 40 appearances for Northern Ireland and was a member of the 1958 World Cup squad, along with two other United players, Tommy Casey and Dick Keith. In fact, with three players each Newcastle and Portsmouth were the most represented club sides in the squad. McMichael, with 29 caps, was the second highest capped player to represent Northern Ireland in Sweden, with only the great Danny Blanchflower having been capped (30) more times. McMichael went onto win another eleven caps for his country ending up with a total of 40.


In the same 58 squad was Tommy Casey. Belfast born Casey started his playing career at Bangor and played for Leeds and Bournemouth before making his move to Newcastle in 1952. He was part of the 1955 FA Cup winning team and played as a left-half. He made 116 appearances for the Magpies, scoring 8 goals and won 12 caps for his country scoring twice. After managing Northern Ireland in the 1975 UEFA European Youth Championship, in Switzerland, he was considered for the position of senior national team manager, unfortunately for him he was overlooked for Dave Clements.

The third member of the 58 squad was Dick Keith, another former Linfield man who won 23 caps for Northern Ireland. He made 223 appearances for the Geordies and was said to be very popular amongst the fans on Tyneside. Tragically he died in an accident at a builder’s yard in 1967, aged only 33, in times when footballers had to work when their playing careers were over.

david-craig.jpgNext in line is David Craig who was magnificent right-back and fine United servant for 18 years. Craig is yet another Ulsterman who is a member of the 400 plus appearances club. He joined Newcastle in 1960 and finished his playing career there in 1978. I actually remember the tail end of his career and can visualise him playing for Newcastle reserves, when I was about nine years old and standing in the old Leezers End. He was also a member of the famous 1969 Fairs Cup winning team, the last major trophy the Magpies won. He was capped 25 times and often played alongside George Best and Pat Jennings. I have seen Craig a few times drinking in Newcastle and fans still recognise him and pose for photos with him.

SPT_20131118_FOO_062_29644201_I1Another member of the 1969 Fairs Cup winning team was goalkeeper Willie McFaul.
McFaul is a true honorary Geordie who has actually played for, coached and managed the club. He joined Newcastle from Linfield in 1966 and went on to make 290 appearances. The Coleraine man was a fine goalkeeper but only won 6 caps for his country. Of course this was in the times of the legendary Pat Jennings, who if he hadn’t had been around then McFaul would have surely won more caps.

s-l300Tommy Cassidy represented Newcastle 180 times, from 1970 to 1980. He picked up a losers’ medal in the 1974 FA Cup Final alongside Willie McFaul. Again, in the 1976 League Cup Final, he was on the losing side at Wembley. Known for his rocket like shot, he scored 22 times for the club, once memorably in a 3-1 defeat of local rivals Sunderland on New Year’s Day in 1980. He represented Northern Ireland 24 times and was a member of the 1982 World Cup squad, although he had left Newcastle by then, for Burnley in 1980.

Another Toon favourite was David McCreery, who was capped for Northern Ireland 67 times. The midfield terrier was a member of the 82 and 86 World Cup squads and is often first thought of as a Manchester United player. However, he only amassed 97 appearances for the Red Devils whilst playing for the black and white United 272 times, between 1982 and 1989. McCreery claims that he was the first professional player to wear Nike footwear in an international tournament, playing for Northern Ireland in the 1982 World Cup.


Belfast born Ian Stewart joined Newcastle, from QPR, in 1985 but never really hit it off at Gallowgate. He played 43 times for the club but was eventually transferred to Portsmouth in 1987, where he only made one appearance. Capped 31 times for Northern Ireland he scored twice and was a member of the 1986 World Cup squad, along with his Newcastle team mate David McCreery.

DSC_2185In 1987 as an exciting 18-year-old prospect signed for the Magpies from Coleraine. That young lad was the current Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill. In his first season Michael made 22 appearances and notched 13 goals. In that season he played alongside fellow Ulstermen Tommy Wright and David McCreery. Unfortunately, O’Neill’s second season was dogged by injury and although he still made 21 appearances he scored only 5 goals. To make matters worse Newcastle were relegated that season also and the man from Portadown was sold to Dundee United. The greens current boss also made 31 appearances for his country and scored 4 goals.

Highly popular goalkeeper Tommy Wright played for Newcastle for two spells during his career. Firstly, he came from Linfield to St. James Park in 1988 and made 73 appearances for the club up until 1993. He lost his place to the iconic Pavel Srníček and was eventually sold to Nottingham Forest. However, Wright was to stand between the sticks again for Newcastle when he came back to the club in 1999. This time he was only to make 3 appearances on loan to the Mags from Man. City but the fans favourite received a hugely warm welcome back. Wright played 31 times for Northern Ireland over a ten-year period between 1989 and 1999.

imagesKeith Gillespie will always be remembered on Tyneside for two things. Firstly, as the player who was part of the deal that took Andy Cole to Manchester United. That deal had Kevin Keegan on the steps of St. James Park, explaining to the fans why he was selling one of their heroes. Nevertheless, Gillespie soon became a regular in the team dubbed “The Entertainers” and went on to enjoy 3 relatively successful seasons in the North East. The second thing he will always be remembered for, in his final full season at Newcastle, is arguably his best performance for the club when assisting 2 of Faustino Asprilla’s 3 goals in a 3-2 Champions League victory over F.C Barcelona. A night no Geordie of a certain age will ever forget. Gillespie played 113 times for Newcastle and was capped 86 times over a 14-year period.

I was there, the night in 1997, when Aaron Hughes made his debut for Newcastle United in the Camp Nou, Barcelona. Little did I know then what a popular figure he would become amongst my fellow Mags. The versatile player was (and still is) loved on Tyneside and many of my compatriots were gutted when Graeme Sourness sold him to Aston Villa in 2005, especially for a ridiculous price of £1 million. Hughes was always highly dependable, wherever he was asked to play and it is great to see him still enjoying his football, especially for Northern Ireland. A product of the United’s youth development, Hughes represented Newcastle on 205 occasions, the most appearances for any of the clubs that he subsequently played for. Capped 104 times, he is second only to Pat Jennings in the most capped Northern Ireland players.


I interviewed Shane Ferguson once for the Newcastle fanzine the True Faith. He came over as a shy but likable young lad and big things were expected of him. Newcastle signed him from Derry City, in 2001, at the age of 16 but he never nailed down a first team place and was loaned out to Birmingham, after making only 23 first team appearances. He stayed on Newcastle’s books but was furthered loaned out to Rangers and MIllwall, eventually signing full time for the South London club in 2016. He has won 22 caps to date for his country.

There were other bit part players too, like John Cowen and Eric Ross who between them both played only10 times for United in total and received 1 cap each. Also a player called Jimmy Hill, not the Match of the Day one, but a lad from Carrickfergus who joined Newcastle from Linfield and played 11 times for the black & whites. Hill won 7 caps for Northern Ireland.

So there you have it the Geordie Ulster Connection, I think you will agree it’s quite impressive.

Tony Higgins (January 2017)

If you enjoyed that you are sure to enjoy the book Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy, to buy click here

BOOK: Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy

New writing for True Faith #129

tf129_featured_image-470x330I’ve written for the Newcastle United independent fanzine, True Faith, for more years than I’d like to recall.

Anyway, in the new issue (129) I have an article about a trip that myself and eleven others made to see Rayo Vs. Cadiz. We also did a tour of the Spanish Civil War battle site Jarrama. All can be read on pages Page 34 – 38. Link to TF #129

Another good Spanish related article, in issue 129, is a piece written by Fergus Dowd called Basque Brethren – Euzcadi, they hung out the flag of war. This great piece of writing can be found on Page 54 – 58. Link to TF #129

Whilst being a Newcastle fanzine the True Faith is a great read for all football fans and can be downloaded 100% FREE!! It can be read on all devices, smart phone, tablet, lap top etc. p4

Other eye catching articles in this issue are I am the Greatest, an article about Mohamed Ali and a great piece, by Brazil based Mag John Milton, about the sad story of AFC Chapecoense, called #Forçachape Page 92 – 96 Link to TF #129



Tony Higgins (January 2017)

City of Liverpool FC & Haze Fanzine

d32-q65jI am delighted to announce that I have an article, about CAP Ciudad de Murcia, appearing in the unofficial City of Liverpool FC fanzine.  The fanzine is called Haze and can be downloaded here for free HERE. However, the lads do ask that you make a donation to the mental health charity MIND. So please do so after reading. The article is on page 26 &27.

City of Liverpool FC are a new club made up of mainly disillusioned fans from the top three Merseyside clubs. The fans go by the nickname “The Partisans” and the team is known as the “Purps”, after the colour of their kit.

ci7rdpu3I am not going to regurgitate here all the information that you can read on the City of Liverpool FC website. All the information is here on why they formed and what they are all about. There is also information on how you can become part of the club and how to get involved.


I will be following with interest what’s going on at City of Liverpool FC and I hope that one day I can share a pint of Warsteiner with The Partisans.

Tony Higgins (November 2016)


A message from Almudena from Across Madrid

Dear All,
Thank you so very much for coming over to Spain to pay your respects to the memory of the antifascist volunteers who fought in Jarama in February 1937.  As we discussed during our Jarama Battlefield tour, it is particularly relevant today to remember that thousands of people stood up to Fascism and traveled all the way to a foreign country to serve the universal cause of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite.  Thse amazing men and women were fighting for the rights of the working class, and their commitment to their ideas drove them to sign up for a difficult war on foreign soil.  It was particularly moving to hold that minute silence on Suicide Hill, and I hope you can return next February for AABI’s Memorial March, to be held February 18.
If you would like some information on some of the aspects we discussed during the tour, please write to Tony ( and he will forward you plenty of resources for you to explore at your leisure.
You can keep up to date with the work being done by memorialistic associations in the UK like the IBMT here:
For the Irish International Brigades:
And of course, this is AABI’s website:
Thank you for joining me in the due commemoration of the International Brigaders in Jarama.  Remember that the struggle goes on, and that today their rallying cry No Pasaran would be heard across present-day Europe because of the worrying rise of Fascism.
Long live the International Brigades!!!!
Almudena Cros
Across Madrid tours
President of AABI

Indie Fútbol Tours – Fraternity Through Football

mn52qfmb_400x400I’m writing this off the back of a great trip to Madrid, to see Rayo Vallacano play Cadiz (30 Sept. – 3 Oct. 2016). Our group also did a fascinating tour of the Jarama valley, around the sites of a famous battle that the International Brigades took part in during the Spanish Civil War.

Our group contained 12 people from all over the UK/Ireland and we all had a fantastic experience that most of us would like to repeat again.


So with that experience fresh in the mind, Indie Fútbol Tours has been set up to assist likeminded people to meet up in Spain (and maybe other places). The objective is to get similar thinking people together that would like to take part in football, social history and music tours.


Indie Fútbol Tours is exactly that … independent. All participants book their own travel and hotels, obviously some assistance can be given with this if needed. The whole point of IFT is fraternity not profits. The only things we will always organise are specialist historical tours and sometimes match tickets when we can. Facebook, twitter and our blog will be used to coordinate everyone thus ensuring that we are all staying in the same hotels etc. and that everyone is kept up to date with important information about the tour.

Anthony Higgins – October 2016

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Rayo Vrs Cadiz (Football, Spanish Civil War Tour, Music and more…..)

cadi rayo 3

I put this circular together to first see if people are interested in the following event. It has been published on Facebook as a private event but the details are here for those who don’t have Facebook. You can message me directly if you are interested in going. You can make your own arrangements for everything except the Spanish Civil War Tour, please let me know the numbers for that. I can help with accommodation and other things (like match tickets) if needed, just send me an email or message on Facebook or Twitter. I can help with as much or as little as you want.

Last season Rayo Vallacano were unfortunately relegated to La Segunda, from La Liga, and Cadiz, after around 7 seasons in Segunda B, were promoted to La Segunda.

This means that this coming season Rayo will play Cadiz in a competitive fixture for the first time in a long while. Rayo’s home fixture is due to be played the first weekend of October 2016. Rayo play in a suburb of Madrid called Vallecas, very easy access from Madrid airport.

Both clubs are renowned in Spain for having a fanatical supporter’s groups called the Bukaneros (Rayo) and the Brigadas Amarillas (Cadiz). Both groups have a friendship dating back to around 1993. This fixture is sure to be a people’s football fiesta and a great experience for those who like to sample football sub-culture first hand.

rayo cadiz 1

The following is proposed:

  1. Participants will book their own flights to Madrid and onward transport to Vallecas (the working class suburb where Rayo play). Assistance in getting to Vallecas can be provided if necessary but it is very close to the airport and shouldn’t be difficult. Flights to Madrid are available with budget airlines from Dublin, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Edinburgh etc. The sooner you book the cheaper the flights usually are.
  2. Economic accommodation will be sort (if needed) and provided locally in Vallecas for 1-3 nights. The number of nights stay is up to individuals but I would suggest that you come Friday to Monday (3 nights).
  3. Match tickets will be purchased on demand from Rayo and will most likely be in the home section behind the goal (standing) or paddocks.
  4. Some sort of musical concert could be provided, depending on the numbers attending. However, it is suspected that a lot of people from Cadiz will be making a weekend of it, so it is thought there will be plenty of venues providing entertainment in any case.
  5. A visit to the site The Battle of Jarama, where the International Brigades fought, will be part of the tour. The tour will be undertaken by an expertly qualified guide – see link (this tour or similar depending upon availability)

Please feel free to share this with any of your friends who might be interested in this experience.

Any questions please feel free to message me directly.

Anthony Higgins 16 July 2016

STAND fanzine issue #14

It’s always great to have a new fanzine drop through the letter box and I was delighted when the new Stand fanzine, issue #14, arrived in Spain the other day. Especially as it had one of my articles in it, a review of last season (2014-15) at CAP Ciudad de Murcia

STAND issue 14 cover
STAND issue 14 cover

As usual there are also some excellent written articles in issue #14 with my favourites so far, I haven’t read it all yet, being an article by fan owned Lewes FC Chairman, Stuart Fuller (@theballisround), it’s about non-league football, an article about Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne by Jony Brick (@jonybrick), discussing whether the Gateshead born genius was the catalyst of modern football and an article by Curtis Rothwell (@CurtSince92) about George Best and the new spirit in the sky chant about him. I am sure there will be more gems in there too once I get around to reading them.

CAP Ciudad de Murcia article Stand issue #14
CAP Ciudad de Murcia article Stand issue #14

I have written for Stand fanzine almost since its conception in 2012. My articles have appeared in both the printed magazine and on their website, usually about CAP Ciudad de Murcia or SD Eibar. Here is something that I wrote for STAND about the SD Eibar #defendeeleibar campaign back in the summer of 2014.  #defendeleibar article stand 

Stand poster Liverpool July 2013
Stand poster Liverpool July 2013

Back in July 2013 I actually shared a platform with FCUMs Chairman Andy Walsh, at the inaugural STAND conference held in Liverpool. I spoke about fan ownership at CAP Ciudad de Murcia but if I’m honest I was probably a little bit out of my depth back then. Although I am sure that I came over OK. It was a good event and was attended by fan groups like the Spirt of Shankly (Liverpool) and The Blue Union (Everton). There were some great inspirational discussions and talks given by Brian Reade (The Mirror), James McKenna (SoS) and a whole host of others. Later in the evening the music, organised by Boss Night, was provided by local bands like Mercury 13 with Bez of The Happy Mondays doing his famed DJ set, which is always a laugh!

Sharing the STAND platform in Liverpool with Andy Walsh of FCUM
Sharing the STAND platform in Liverpool with Andy Walsh of FCUM

Here is an interview that I did before the event in Liverpool

According to their website STAND fanzine is a fanzine that gives the opportunity for like-minded people to take a considered look at the state of the game. They attempt to introduce and investigate alternatives to negative aspects of modern football and to bring together disaffected fans.

STAND stickers
STAND stickers

Something that STAND stresses that it isn’t is the voice of the Against Modern Football movement. Individually, they identify with #AMF but whilst that encompasses so many different subjects, they say it’s impossible to have one single outlook. They also do not want the return of a game blighted by hooliganism, racism and death-trap stadiums. More information can be found HERE.

Overall Stand Fanzine is a great read and you can find their website HERE you can also take a subscription out HERE.

I’d also like to go on record and thank the lads for helping to promote the book! Which can be purchased HERE .

Tony Higgins – September 2015

BOOK: Homage to Murcia - A Season of Football Anarchy
BOOK: Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy

CAP Ciudad de Murcia: Preview of the 2015-16 season – for those planning a trip to Murcia

For the FCUM Review I recently wrote a short preview for CAP Ciudad de Murcia’s forthcoming 2015-16 season. However, I have decided to elaborate on that and give some information regarding what I believe will be the best matches to attend. This is for anyone thinking of travelling over to Murcia this coming season.

FCUM Review cover
FCUM Review cover

As I mentioned in the Review piece Ciudad will play in the Tercera Group XIII, which is the highest level of regional football and the fourth tier in the Spanish football pyramid. Remember though that there are 18 groups of 20 teams at this level!

Eventually I have got my hands on a fixture list BUT please be aware that this is Spain and fixtures can be changed at the drop of hat and without much warning. That said most games are played on a Sunday afternoon, usually a 4 or 5 pm kick off time.

Unfortunately one of the best games of the season, away to Real Murcia B, has been scheduled for the first game of the season and has been scheduled for an 11am kick off on a Sunday morning. This is to avoid any clashes between fans and has even been moved outside the city boundaries.

So what other games would I recommended? Well any home game is a great occasion but the best ones should be the following. The weekend (04/10/15) sees Plus Ultra visit Murcia City and in the region on the same weekend is Cadiz FC, whose fans have a great relationship with Ciudad fans. There could be a chance to see both games.

In November on the weekend of (22/11/15) Caravaca visit Jose Barnes, there is always a bit of needle between the two clubs and games between the two clubs are generally good.

First home game of the New Year (03/01/16) sees Ciudad take on Aguilas, who are one of the best clubs at this level and have a rich football history.

A week after that (10/01/16) the bitter rivals of Ciudad, Real Murcia, visit and that is a fixture that will always produce fireworks, maybe literally!

In March (13/03/16) there is a good game scheduled against Lorca Deportivo. There is a good relationship between the two clubs and games are usually good. I expect Lorca to be in the mix up for the play-offs.

Away from home the highlights for me are as follows. Early doors on the weekend of (13/09/15) there is a trip to the coast to FC Pinatar Arena. This will be a difficult fixture as Pinatar have big backers. The beaches close by are some of the best in Murcia.

In October there is an interesting trip to a club based in a mining village called CD MInera. I am curious about this one and looking forward to it. (18/10/15).

At the beginning of November (01/11/15) Ciudad will take the to the field in one of the best stadiums in the region. The Francisco Artes Carrasco holds around 8000 people and is a great place to watch football. Lorca Deportivo play there and they have a rich football history too. You can read about them in the BOOK

Just before Christmas there is an interesting trip to Mula (20/12/15). The little club to the north of the Murcia have a great little ground and a support almost as fervent as Ciudad.

As spring kicks in (20/03/16) another trip to the coast is scheduled when Ciudad will travel to Mar Menor. This club is situated right on the coast and is very close to the regional airport at San Javier.

A trip to Caravaca, in the mountains, is planned for mid-April (17/04/16) and as I said earlier always a bit of needle for this one.

The last game of the season (15/05/16) is probably the best away trip for me. Aguilas is steeped in football and general history. You can read in the BOOK how the British brought football to the area along with mining and the railways. The little football museum in the town, right beside the stadium, is a must! Another great attraction is Aguilas is situated right on the beach, what a way to end the season. The home club will probably be going for promotion I reckon so it will be a big game to boot.

So there you have it a preview of what I see to be the highlights of what should be a very interesting campaign. If Ciudad can stay up they would have done very well.

Buy HOMAGE TO MURCIA – A SEASON OF ANARCHY for more hidden gems about football in Murcia and Spain.

Season preview in FCUM Review
Season preview in FCUM Review

Nice words form the lads at True Faith Fanzine (NUFC)

Nice to think my years of support and writing for TRUE FAITH fanzine has been appreciated.

Some very nice words from the editor HERE in relation to the release of the book.

True Faith has been going since 1999 and I have been reading it since the outset. I started contributing to the fanzine in around 2005 and you could say that I cut my writing teeth on the magazine.

Each issue I do an article called Real Spain. I also provide other copy too.

True Faith - Real Spain
True Faith – Real Spain

Subscriptions to True Faith can be taken out HERE …go on you wont regret it!