Wightman’s Perfect Timing

January 5th, 2021 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I don’t know at what age we can excuse ourselves up-to-date knowledge of modern terminology.

In my case it’s fitting that ‘zeitgeist’ starts with a ‘z’ because I’ve reached the end of the line and can absorb no more. Mind you, LGBT was cropping up so often I felt I had to educate myself and dismiss the foolish notion that it stood for London Transport Bus Guide. Sheer laziness, of course, because the initials are in the wrong order. Anyway, I’m up to speed now, as people say, even if certain phrases are hard to accept. One of the worst is ‘a big ask’, which is quite ugly and should not be taking the place of ‘a tall order’, which served us well over many years.

Political correctness has seen the demise of many essentially harmless (some would say) terms, though I tend to agree that the bingo cry of ‘two fat ladies, all the eights, 88!’ had to go.

On the other hand, the phasing out of Mr Golly, the successful garage proprietor in Noddy’s Toytown, was quite ridiculous. The closest anyone can come to linking gollywogs and foreigners is the very tenuous ‘Working on Government Service’, or W.O.G.S. label carried by Egyptian employees of the British Army in the second half of the 19th century. This has never been confirmed, or even mentioned, in any official history. Mr Golly was an amiable, highly capable businessman and my grandchildren and I are the poorer for his departure.

To lighter matters. As there are only eight days between Mick Channon and me and we’ve shared a few hundred Southampton matches I follow his moves quite closely. Never has anyone I’ve met in sport filled Kipling’s ‘unforgiving minute’ more implacably than Mick, whilst an indomitable spirit has seen him through serious illness and the car crash which claimed bloodstock agent Tim Corby. Alan Ball, Bobby Stokes and Peter Osgood have gone, as well, but Mick soldiers on. None of us has any choice about that but he has more resilience, more self-belief, than most. I think I’d buckle a bit if I saddled Youmzain to finish second in three Arcs.

He was once sent off against Coventry after taking some appalling stick. He took his revenge and walked straight off – a mental picture which has stayed with me. When I checked the date (1972) I read that Albert McCann, once of Coventry but later a Portsmouth stalwart, had died.

I liked old Albert. He looked a bit like Tommy Steele and had the most wonderful pair of bandy legs. ‘Albert, Albert, where’s your horse?’ we used to sing before football chants took on a nastier edge. He scored a great equaliser for Pompey in a 2-2 draw at the Dell in 1965, a few months before Mick appeared. They both appear in my recent book The Long Road From Portman Square and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who’ve made favourable comments about this labour of love.

The late Bill Wightman, my hero in life, is mentioned more often than either of them and I suppose I was gifted an opportunity to end a year which has been very sad for so many on an upbeat note because Mick sent out Wightman to win a modest Taunton novices’ hurdle at 10/1 the other day. An unplaced debut effort at Newbury didn’t look strong enough but Taunton is a very different proposition and Wightman, all out at the finish, added to his single victory on the level.

It’s nearly half a century since Bill readied Mick’s Cathy Jane to win at Bath, giving the footballer his first success, though if memory serves she was registered in the name of feisty inside-forward Brian O’Neill, who still helps out with odd jobs at West Ilsley.

Later on, Mick sent Cathy Jane to Bill’s Wokingham and Stewards’ Cup winner Import, the happy result being Jamesmead, who won the infamous handicap hurdle at Newbury, always referred to as the Schweppes, for David Elsworth. A very talented sprinter, Import was upped in class to contest the July Cup at Newmarket and finished third at 25/1. Asked about his chances, Bill – never one to tilt at windmills, remarked that it was indeed ‘a tall order’.

I guess he was around at the right time.

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