Albert McCann - Bend it like Albie
Posted on 29th Mar 2023 by David Taylor
Albert McCann 1941-2012
It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce (January 2014) the death of one of Pompey`s much loved sons of the sixties, Albert McCann. Albert was seventy two and had been ill for some time.
Albert was born on 1 November 1941 in Maidenhead and began his career at Luton Town but had to wait until he joined Coventry before making his league debut. In January 1962 Coventry visited Fratton Park in a third division match which the home side won 3-2 but Albert scored that day and so impressed Pompey boss George Smith that he signed him for just £8,000 in the summer of 1962. He made his debut for the Blues in a 1-0 home win over Derby County in September of that year -that was incidentally Pat Neil’s final league game.
For the next ten years Albie was to be an almost ever present in the side playing 372 times and scoring 98 goals. As a young fan growing up at the time he was neither a hero nor a villain to me; he was Albie! Albie played every week usually in the number ten shirt too although as his career developed he did move to the wing on occasions.
Every fan who saw him play will remember two things, his bow legs and his step overs he used to totally bamboozle opposing defenders. He was a unique player from that point of view and Pompey fans would love seeing Albie put a player on his backside, once Albie began to swirl his legs the crowd would always encourage him to make his opponent look a fool.
Banana shaped legs also produced banana shaped shots. The term banana shot was much used by schoolboys back in those days and Albie was an early exponent. Duggie Reid a decade earlier earned the nickname ‘thunderboots` for his ability to hit the old leather football with such power. But now in the sixties the ball was not as heavy and that allowed more skillful players to bend the ball by hitting across it and a large number of Albie`s goals came that way with his accurate right foot.
Three seasons between 1966 and 1968 Albert was Pompey`s top scorer although he never managed more that fourteen in one term. Pompey were a struggling side for most of his career and it was lit up by Albie`s presence – all of his league games for the club were played in the Second Division! He did manage one hat-trick at Bristol City on a Friday night in October 1966 in a 3-3 draw.
What position did Albie play in? Well he was probably the last of the inside forwards and the game changed to 4-2-4 etc. He was not a striker or a midfielder he was both. Later in his career as I have already mentioned he was used by manager Smith and Ron Tindall on the right wing but he was not a pacey winger like John McClelland who played in the same side but relied purely on his trickery.
His finest goal was probably at Highfield Road Coventry in the FA Cup 3rd round second replay against Hull City which earned Pompey the prize of a plum tie at Spurs – sadly a game Albie would miss through injury. I did not go to Coventry that night but seem to remember it followed a long and mazy dribble.
Albert was rewarded for his loyalty to the club with a Testimonial match against West Ham in May1973. That was a season when gates had dropped to an all-time low of 4,688. Chairman John Deacon helped Albie out by splashing huge amounts of cash on Peter Marinello, Ron Davies and Phil Roberts before the game and they all played as the Hammers were thrashed 4-1 with Davies netting three and Albie the other. The amazing thing about that night was the crowd of 22,070 the largest for a testimonial game at Fratton Park even larger than the 19,000 for Jimmy Dickinson! Even more amazing was the fact that the average league gate that season had been just 9,600. Yes, they came to see their new players but also to play homage to a great Pompey man.
Albert played seven more games the next season 1973/74 before trying his luck in South Africa.
Albie was inducted into the Pompey Hall of Fame in 2011.
When I was young I used to deliver papers to quite a few Pompey players who lived in the Bedhampton area include Albie, when he retired he became a newsagent in Winter Road we had our papers delivered from his shop. One day the shop was short of staff and when there was a knock at my door, there was Albie delivering MY newspaper – strange but true.
Thanks Albie, we will never forget you!!