Lord Martin Thomas writes…The Red Army

I am six inches taller this week. Wales smashed Russia in Toulouse! Russia was our heroic ally during the war but for most of my adult life, we were living under the threat of a huge looming Stalinist empire.

I grew up with soccer, as we used to call it. Saturdays were school rugby in the morning, and the Boys’ Enclosure at the Wrexham Racecourse soccer ground in the afternoon. Tunnicliffe thunders down the wing, crosses to Les Speed in the centre who puts the ball in the net. At our end, the amiable Ferguson tries to keep his knees together in goal – he famously let one through his legs at Stoke in the FA Cup. Soccer was simple then.

Then Hungary with Pusckas put six goals past England in 1953 and the world turned upside down. Russia invaded Hungary  and Pusckas fled to Real Madrid. Soccer became Football. What you have to do now is  stroke the ball to each other in your own half, send it back to the goalie and back again –  intricate patterns of play with the only hope of a goal to wake up the crowd from a penalty, corner or free kick. 

I remember the Cold War. The Wrexham rugby club went to Berlin and we saw the Russian troops at Checkpoint Charlie. Our bus travelled up the Berlin corridor through communist East Germany. One of us was travelling on his wife’s passport but none of the armed guards noticed: we all wore long hair in those days. I played for Berlin against Wrexham in the 1936 Olympic Stadium where Hitler had strutted his stuff. They were short of players, and I was expendable. Berlin lost. They also lost the beer drinking competition to a team weaned on Wrexham Lager. Then the Berlin Wall came down.

Germany came together, East and West. With Britain working with the new Germany and all our other EU partners, there was continuous growth and prosperity until the banking crash in 2008. Again. we pulled together as one and our economies recovered. Meanwhile, the Russian military threat seemed to diminish.

But in these present turbulent and dangerous times,  Mr Putin has ideas of expansion – annexe the Crimea and invade Ukraine. The EU stands as a solid bulwark against him. Hang on, say the Brexiteers, that’s nonsense, it’s not the EU – it’s NATO who defend us.

Now here’s a funny thing. Brexiteers object vociferously to young Polish or Lithuanian or Latvian people freely coming to work in our building trades, our factories, our farms or our NHS. That’s the EU. But they fully accept that if Poland or one of the Baltic States are invaded, the British Army goes to the rescue – that’s NATO. It’s OK for the Royal Welsh Regiment to go on Balt-ops in Poland. So we are supposed to hate young Europeans being in Britain, but we’ll die for them over in their own country.

It’s all nonsense, isn’t it? Europe stands stronger together and we are stronger for being a part of Europe.

But it is Wales which especially stands tall today. We are the Red Army now.  All we want for a perfect weekend is a Remain win on Friday in Britain, a win for Wales in Paris and a Welsh victory against the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday – please, before I pass on to the Millenium Stadium in the sky! Bring it on!

* Martin Thomas is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and the party's Shadow Attorney General

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  • Steve Treveth 22nd Jun '16 - 2:08pm

    Oh what lovely games!
    Please check the scores/do the maths!
    Since 1945, Russia has been involved with some 36 armed interventions. Since becoming the Russian Federation it has been involved with some13 (Wikipedia).
    Since 1945, the USA has been involved with some 136 military interventions, of which 71 have been since 1991. (Wikipedia)
    Russia 36 – USA136
    Russia 13 – USA 71
    Who “wins” may depend on your point of view. Those who lose are the dead, damaged, deranged and destitute.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jun '16 - 5:32pm

    Gareth Bale has a life contract at Real Madrid.
    Spain has a general election on Sunday.

  • eleanor burnham 23rd Jun '16 - 9:28am

    What a fascinating article which reflects on our interdependence in a more human way than we hear /see on the radio and t.v. debates, which have not helped the undecided to make up their minds
    Eleanor Burnham- former NWales Regional A.M

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