Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Goodbye Mr T, but it was time for you to go...

After Cardiff City's worst start to a season since 2005, it has come as no surprise that the club have parted company with Head Coach Paul Trollope today.  A dismal run that started with the team being knocked out of the EFL Cup by League One side Bristol Rovers and after only two league wins out of their first eleven games has seen City plummet to 23rd position in the Championship table.  The mood amongst supporters is pessimistic to say the least, but many have commented that Paul Trollope was a nice guy, who was simply out of his depth.

The experienced former Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock has emerged as the bookies favourite to take over and he would be the ideal candidate for the job.  The question is would be want to work with Vincent Tan?

Monday, 23 May 2016

Bye bye, "Big Ben"......

After 5 years service for the club, it has been announced today that Ben Turner will be leaving Cardiff City once his contract expires at the end of June.  He is one of 5 senior players being released by the club today alongside Kenwyne Jones, Joe Lewis, Filip Kiss and Etien Velikonja.

Turner (pictured left) will be remembered for his excellent and wholehearted performances for the club including his equaliser against Liverpool in the 2012 Carling Cup Final.  Today's picture captures the moment when he removed his shirt and twirled it around his head after scoring this goal.  The following season he formed a solid central defensive partnership with Mark Hudson and helped the club to win the Championship League title in 2013.  Unfortunately over recent seasons Ben has suffered from a series of injuries which has resulted in him not being offered a new deal by the club.  Birmingham City and his former club Coventry City are two clubs who have expressed interest in securing his services and I really hope that one of them signs him up.  It is sad to see him go, but thanks for the great memories Ben. You will always be a Bluebird to us.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

More cost cutting at CCS....

During the Malky Mackay and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer eras, Cardiff City FC spent a vast amount on buying new players.  Bankrolled by owner Vincent Tan the likes of Steven Caulker, Gary Medel and the highly unsuccessful Andreas Cornelius all arrived during the clubs single season in the Premier League in 2013-14.  One of the strangest arrivals the season prior to that however was Etien Velikonja (pictured left).

Incredibly Velikonja signed a four year deal with the club but has rarely played first team football for us.  Rumours of him being a "Vincent Tan" signing during the Mackay era could be plausible as he has spent most of the last few seasons on loan to clubs in Europe.  Last season he scored 21 goals in 23 appearances for FC Lierse and with his contract due to expire this summer it would be a big surprise if the club retain his services.

Following the appointment of new Head Coach Paul Trollope yesterday, the club is due to announce its retained list next week.  Fringe players such as Filip Kiss, Ben Turner and Velikonja are likely to be released when their contracts expire in July.  Other players such as Eoin Doyle, Adam Le Fondre and Tom Adeyemi could be sold or loaned out again and the likes of Bruno Ecuele Manga and David Marshall are sure to attract attention from a host of Premier League clubs.  Cost cutting has been promised again this season as City look to balance the books and attempt to become more profitable. It is likely that more players will have to leave to free up the resources to bring in the new players that Paul Trollope wants to add to the squad.  There is also the possibility that we may see more players come through the ranks from the youth academy system.  Over the years this system has given us the likes of Aaron Ramsay, Joe Ledley, Robert Earnshaw and James Collins who have all gone on to play at the highest level for both club and country.  Hopefully we can add the likes of Declan John, Deji Oshilaja and Tommy O'Sullivan to that list this year.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Following the management restructure at Cardiff City, former assistant manager Paul Trollope (pictured left) has just been appointed as Head Coach.  Whilst not coming as a huge surprise it is perhaps a logical step by the club.  His appointment will bring stability and continuity to the existing playing squad, but some supporters were hoping for a more established manager to be appointed instead.  He has already been unfairly criticised for being part of former manager Russell Slade's team and this is before a ball has been even kicked for next season.  The club has also been accused of lacking ambition.

My view on the subject is that he must be given a chance to show us what he can do.  I remember when he was manager at my local team Bristol Rovers, where he led them to promotion to League One.  Following his departure they went into a rapid decline and they have only just got back to League One this season.  Some of my friends who are "Gasheads" still speak fondly of him and of his time in Bristol.  I remember walking past him at a pub in Long Ashton a few years ago, but I digress.  I am hoping that he will bring a fresh approach to the team, new ideas and build a team that can challenge for and reach the play offs.  It will be a tough challenge especially with Aston Villa, Norwich City and Newcastle United being relegated to the Championship.  However, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is proof that an internal appointment can work.  He has excelled as a player and as a manager resulting in AFC Bournemouth being a  Premier League team this season.  Hopefully Paul Trollope can have a similar impact with the City.

Monday, 16 May 2016

The G-man....

Over recent years I have become a big fan of the late Rory Gallagher (pictured right with Gerry McAvoy (left) and Ted McKenna (centre)).  I first discovered his music when Tommy Vance played the track "Walkin' Wounded" from his then brand new album called "Fresh Evidence".  I received that album when I was 14 or 15 and then I didn't really explore the rest of his albums until much later.  I remember taping a concert from 1987 called "Live at Cork" when it was broadcast on Channel 4 in the early 1990's and I really enjoyed it.

However, it was only when Rory sadly passed away in 1995 that I began to delve into his extensive back catalogue of albums.  Guitar Techniques magazine ran a feature called the "A to Z of great riffs" and one month it was devoted to Rory Gallagher.  I learnt some of his best riffs including some from his time as band leader in the excellent blues power trio called Taste.  I then received a DVD featuring clips from "The Old Grey Whistle Test" and it included a performance of "Hands Off" featuring his then classic band of Gerry McAvoy (bass) , Lou Martin (keyboards) and Rod De'Ath (Drums).  This track blew me away and I then began the process of collecting his entire remastered solo back catalogue.  One of my favourite albums is "Photo Finish" featuring the above pictured line up of Rory, Gerry McAvoy and Ted Mckenna.  They also recorded another great album in "Top Priority" and I am also one of the few fans who loves listening to the unfairly panned "Stagestruck" live album.  Since Rory's untimely death, his brother and former manager Donal Gallagher has released a number of quality additional albums including "Wheels on wheels" (an acoustic album) and the binned album from 1977 called "Notes from San Francisco".  Rory didn't like this album and dropped it in the bin (literally) much to the annoyance of his brother who had been due to take the album to record company executives the following day.  Rory later said that he would like to release it one day once it had been mixed properly.  His nephew duly did this many years later for his uncle and it is a great addition to his album discography.  One thing that always grabs me about Rory is whether he was recording an album or performing live he always put 110% into what he did.  He could have been more famous, had hit records, joined The Rolling Stones and been a superstar, but he chose to stick to what he wanted to do instead.  His gritty and authentic music is truly unique and yet it is sad that he is no longer with us.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The first of many, we hope....

Following on from Cardiff City's release from their transfer embargo, I have to admit that I am pleased as punch with our first new signing of the summer.  Lex Immers has today completed a permanent deal to join the club from Feyenoord and after his excellent performances and 5 goals during last seasons loan spell, I believe that City have signed a gem.

When he originally signed on loan for the club in January,  I hadn't heard of him before.  However, he quickly became a fans favourite with his attacking play and goalscoring.  Hopefully his signing is a message of intent and a sign of some ambition being shown by the club.   There is a need for more quality signings to be added to the squad, which in turn will hopefully be followed by a strong push for promotion to the Premier League next season.  The next key step for the club is to make sure that they make a wise appointment of a new Head Coach.  The right appointment could entice the stay away fans to return and I really hope that the club can continue to heal its relationship with our fractured fanbase.  Whilst the club has gone some way to improve this, the effects of the imposed red rebrand has still left a bitter aftertaste with some supporters despite the change back to blue.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

More musical memories

In our current digital and internet age, it is hard to imagine the impact of hearing a particular song on the radio for the first time.  I can vividly remember where I was when I heard certain songs for the first time.  For example I remember travelling to Newquay in Cornwall for a family holiday when I heard Tommy Vance play "Walkin' Wounded" by Rory Gallagher and "Rockin' and rollin'" by Gary Moore's band G Force.  I also remember listening under the bed covers on my walkman radio to "Rock Pile" which was a radio show that used to be presented by Aled Samuels on Radio Wales.  During one of the shows I heard the band Gillan (pictured) and instantly became a big fan, especially of Bernie Torme's guitar work on the track called "Bite the Bullet".

Gillan were around between 1978 and 1982 before disbanding in acrimonious circumstances over money.  During this time they toured extensively and released a string of successful albums including "Mr Universe", "Glory Road", "Future Shock", "Double Trouble" and "Magic".  Following Bernie Torme's departure, future Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers joined the band until they split up.  In the end singer Ian Gillan rejoined his former band Deep Purple after a bizarre spell with Black Sabbath. Bassist John McCoy and Bernie Torme formed a group called GMT, Colin Towns became a film/tv composer (including writing the theme tune to "Doc Martin") and drummer Mick Underwood is currently performing in "Mick Underwood's Glory Road", who play all of the old Gillan tracks.

I love their music and I still enjoying playing their albums, "Future Shock" is probably my favourite of them all though.  Bernie Torme is one of my favourite guitarists and along with Rory Gallagher remains one of Ireland's best musical exports.

My new, old favourite band

Many years ago, the late Alan Freeman used to present a show on Radio 1 called "The Saturday Rock Show".  During one of his shows I heard a track by Be Bop Deluxe (pictured left) which I then forgot about for a few years.  It wasn't because the track was bad, in fact it was a great song ("Maid in Heaven") , but by the early 90's I had drifted away from rock and had started listening to indie and grunge bands instead.

Over the last couple of years I received a CD called "100 Rock hits" and on the CD's were two of Be Bop Deluxe's most well known songs namely "Maid in Heaven" and "Ships in the night".  It suddenly occurred to me what a great band they once were and last Christmas I received a boxed set including their "Axe Victim", "Sunburst Finish", "Drastic Plastic", "Modern Music" and "Futurama" albums.  Needless to say their back catalogue is packed with many great songs including "Fair Exchange", "Sister Seagull" and the incredibly catchy "Rocket Cathedrals".  Just like Budgie they are another band that should have been more successful than they were, but thankfully singer/guitarist Bill Nelson is still writing and performing live.  He is a very talented songwriter and I think I will be listening to Be Bop's albums for some time to come.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Football specials.....

When I first started watching Cardiff City on my own I always used to travel to games by train.  Rather conveniently there is a station called Ninian Park (pictured) which is located just behind our now demolished former stadium. I am watery eyed seeing the picture of the Bob Bank roof in the background.  I love Cardiff City Stadium, but I really miss Ninian Park and especially the Bob Bank.

The station itself is still open and many supporters still use it to get to Cardiff City Stadium, which is literally just across the road from our former home.  I remember Saturday afternoons being stood on jam packed trains full of City fans en route from Cardiff Central (a mere 5 minutes ride away).  During successful seasons it was very difficult to move on board and when the team was particularly unsuccessful during the mid 1990's, I remember one fan making the joke that crowds had dropped to the point where we might need to pay on the train soon!  I always paid before I get accused of fare dodging.  Over recent years I have driven to games instead, but the above picture brings back fond memories of pre match excitement, pints in the now closed Ninian Park pub and the joy and pain of watching Cardiff City over the years.  Cardiff City have remained as one of my lifelong passions and I can't wait to see another game some time in the future.

Monday, 9 May 2016

In praise of request stops....

I don't watch much TV these days, but I have just discovered a programme featuring comedian Paul Merton called "Paul Merton's secret stations".  During the course of the series Paul is going to be visiting various stations on the U.K. network which are classed as "request stops".

Many of the stations featured are small stations in either remote or sparsely populated regions. Locations such as Drigg, St Andrew's Road and Ferryside have appeared and it is amazing that such stations still exist.  They serve both as a vital transport link for their respective communities and also as a reminder to some of the unusual locations that were chosen by railway station builders during the Victorian era.  Thankfully these minor railway outposts still exist and long may they continue.  One such station near me, namely Pilning, clings on to its existence with just 1 train each way each day (except Sundays).  Incredibly there used to be two stations there which were called Low Level and High Level.  Low Level closed when the line from Pilning to Severn Beach closed as part of the Beeching cuts and High Level has survived simply renamed as Pilning.  If you catch the train to Cardiff it is a blurry mass of red brick that you pass through en route.

Rebirth of a railway station....

Over the last few years I have been an avid follower of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway's various excellent websites.  They must be one of the few preserved railways who have sites for pretty much every department.  One of the sites I have especially enjoyed reading has been the one charting the rebuilding of Broadway station in Worcestershire.

In terms of history the existing GWSR line is part of the former line that used to run between Stratford-on-Avon and Cheltenham.  The line remained open until 1976 when a serious freight train derailment resulted in the permanent closure of the line as British Rail decided that the line was beyond economic repair.  The track was finally lifted in 1979 before the GWSR bought part of the trackbed between Cheltenham and Broadway.  Preliminary services began in 1981 on a short section of track and the railway has continued to grow since then.  The current line runs between Laverton in the north and Cheltenham Racecourse in the south with stations at Toddington, Winchcombe, Gotherington and Cheltenham Racecourse.  Further stations are due to be opened at Broadway (pictured above) and Hayles Abbey Halt (also under construction) and these are really exciting times for the railway.  During the last month the "Broadway - the last mile" fundraising share scheme has resulted in £430,000 being raised in just 4 weeks since its launch and hopefully it won't be too long until the target of £1.2 million is achieved.  When trains return to Broadway in 2017/18 it will be 57 years since trains ceased to stop at the old Broadway station.  Hopefully it will then give the railway the additional funds and momentum to reconnect to the Oxford to Hereford (Cotswold Line) at Honeybourne and thus establish a main line connection once more.

The twists and turns at Cardiff City F.C......

Saturday was a rare occasion where my gut feeling proved to be right. In my last post I suggested that Cardiff City's failure to reach the Championship play offs might signal the end of Russell Slade's tenure as Cardiff City's manager. On Friday it was confirmed that Saturday's game versus Birmingham City would be his last before he moves into his new ambiguously titled role as "Head of Football".  No one knows quite what this role will involve, except that he will no longer have any direct involvement with first team matters.  I was pleased to hear however that the fans gave him a warm reception on Saturday and hopefully the new coach can build on what he was able to achieve under often difficult circumstances.  Saturday also saw Cardiff City released from their transfer embargo so this now paves the way for City to bring in some new signings this summer.

Whoever comes in as our new head coach will be aware that anything less than the play offs will be seen as a failure by owner Vincent Tan  At the moment some of the prospective choices for Slade's replacement have been slightly underwhelming at best with Port Vale's manager Robert Page being rumoured as one of the preferred choices.  With further cost cutting on the horizon, it will be more difficult to have a real go at reaching the play offs next season.  With Aston Villa and potentially either Norwich City, Newcastle United or Sunderland to be relegated from the Premier League this season it will be much harder to compete against their budgets next season.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The end of the road for Slade?

After last weekend's 3-0 capitulation away to Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff City's faint play off hopes were ended in emphatic style.  It was a poor performance that has been symptomatic of a season where Cardiff have blown hot and cold and haven't quite been good enough to achieve either promotion or the play offs. Despite this City look set to finish either 7th or 8th depending on how they get on in their final game at home to Birmingham City on Saturday.

Manager Russell Slade (pictured above) has come under a lot of criticism since being appointed in October 2014.  Much has been made of the fact that he is a former P.E teacher who has never played at a professional level.  When he was appointed it was noted that he had only managed clubs in Leagues One and Two and had not led any team to promotion during his lengthy career as a manager. In fact many City fans have questioned why he was even appointed at all, as he had never managed a team in the Championship.

When it comes to unpopularity I can only think of two other former City managers who were despised as much as him, as I shudder to remember the Russell Osman and Alan Durban eras.  I too used to be very critical of Slade, but I now have some sympathy for him.  The difficulty is that over the last 15 years Cardiff City fans have enjoyed a largely successful period in the clubs history.  The dark old days of being a yo yo club swinging between Leagues One & Two, lurching from one financial crisis to another have been largely forgotten.  F.A.Cup, League Cup and play off finals, trips to Wembley, promotion to the Premier League, the infamous red rebrand and change back to blue, the settling of the Langston debt have all occurred during a time when City have become a leading side in the Championship.  Expectations still remain high and Russell Slade has been on a hiding to nothing.  Last season his style of football was heavily criticised with many supporters staying away in protest, which resulted in some of the lowest attendances ever seen at Cardiff City Stadium this season.  Some supporters have expressed frustration at his perceived reluctance to use youth team players and his persistence using under performing players such as Alex Revell and Sammy Ameobi. He has had to continue to reduce the clubs wage bill and playing staff and compared to other leading clubs in the Championship he has had no money to spend on the playing squad this season.  Part of this has been due to a transfer embargo being placed on the club for breaching financial fair play rules, which they will be released from this summer.  The question now is whether owner Vincent Tan will keep faith with Slade after we failed to get anywhere near promotion, or if he will be released after his contract finishes this summer.  My own opinion is that he has done a good job given the circumstances and that he has steadied the ship after the chaos that was Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's reign.  However, I still think it is time for a new experienced Championship manager to be appointed and whilst I am thankful for Russell Slade's hard work, I think it is time for him to leave.  Neil Warnock and Nigel Adkins are two such managers who I think could lead back City to the Premier League. The question is would either of them want to work with Vincent Tan?

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Reminiscing....

Many years ago I remember visiting Dover.  During that visit I remember standing on one of the sea walls and watching one of the cross channel hovercrafts coming into port.  Since that time I have developed a fascination for these hovercrafts as they are remarkable pieces of engineering.

The modern hovercraft was the invention of Sir Christopher Cockerill, a British mechanical engineer.  Recently I watched Pathe news footage of him attending the opening ceremony at the then brand new Ramsgate International Hoverport at Pegwell Bay in 1969. The Saunders Roe Nautical 4 Hovercraft was purposely designed to travel between England and France and at one point two companies, Hoverlloyd (based at Ramsgate) and Seaspeed (based at Dover) were both operating cross channel services.  Due to escalating fuel costs caused by the worldwide oil crisis during the 1970's both companies merged to form Hoverspeed and services ceased to run from Ramsgate in 1981.  The port survived as a servicing and repair depot for a few years, but has since been demolished and the site is now heavily overgrown and neglected.  Services continued to operate out of Dover until Hoverspeed decided to replace the Hovercrafts with a high speed Catamaran known as the Seacat.  The final journeys were completed on 1 October 2000 before both remaining hovercrafts were bought by a private collector.  The site of the Dover hoverport has also recently been demolished as part of a new redevelopment.

Over recent months the two surviving SRN4 hovercrafts, which are currently being stored at a hovercraft museum in Leigh-on-Solent, have been threatened with being scrapped.  Thanks to a worldwide campaign at least one of the two will be preserved as "The Princess Anne" pictured has been deemed in a far better condition than "The Princess Margaret", the other SRN4 hovercraft.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Farewell, Caerleon Campus....

Back in the day (well, the mid 1990's to be specific) I studied at the University of Wales College, Newport (U.W.C.N).  It was a largely happy time for me and I enjoyed the three years that I spent studying there (and the very tasty Chicken Mayonnaise sandwiches in the Uni restaurant too!)  As a result of this period of time, Caerleon and especially the University campus will always have a place in my heart.  I learnt a lot about myself as well as the subjects of English, Philosophy and Religious Studies which has continued to shape the way I look at the world today.  I also enjoyed many fun evenings in Caerleon itself visiting The Drovers Arms and The White Hart pubs.

Over the last year I have signed up to a campaign on Twitter to prevent the closure and sale of Caerleon Campus.  Sadly the University of South Wales has decided to close it and all teaching at the campus will cease in a few weeks time.  The plan is for the site to be redeveloped into housing, which would have a major effect on Caerleon as a whole. Like many other former students here I am very sad to see Caerleon campus go as it was a big part of my life and just like Ninian Park it could be another part of my history that disappears for good.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

You know you're getting old, when....

As I am fast approaching my 40th birthday, it has made me think a lot about life.  Becoming a father for the first time has changed my life for the better. Indeed "little man" is intently watching me whilst I type this blog piece. It has made me want to provide the best life possible for him.  I am also aware of trying to make the most of the remaining life that I still have too.

Rock music has been a major passion of mine for most of my life and at the end of last year and the beginning of this year we have seen the passing away of many great musicians.  The deaths of Lemmy, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Jimmy Bain and Dale Buffin amongst many others has had more of an impact on me than I thought it would.  Whilst I may not have known any of these people personally, their music has played a part in being the soundtrack to my life so far. Sadly former Budgie guitarist John Thomas passed away earlier this week and I have recently discovered the "Nightflight" album by Budgie which he played on.  Budgie were fortunate to have had a host of great guitarists such as Tony Bourge, John Thomas and Craig Goldy during their existence.  Sadly singer/bassist Burke Shelley's own health problems have prevented the band from continuing, but like all of the above musicians they have left a great legacy with the music that they created.  Peter Knight, formerly of Steeleye Span and now part of the excellent Gigspanner summed it up well when he wrote "the singer may die, but the song will remain".

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

A consistently brilliant band...

Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball....er....maybe not...sorry I've been listening to The Who again.  Can't beat a bit of Daltrey, Townshead, Entwistle and Moon.  That's The Who and not a firm of solicitors incidently.

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing British blues rockers Thunder for the 4th time and out of the many bands I have seen over the years they keep getting better.  The first time I saw them was way back in 1990 at the Oxford Apollo on their first headlining tour.  They had just released their classic "Backstreet Symphony" album, which still sounds fresh and vibrant all these years later, whilst enjoying success with a number of Top 40 chart singles.  I then saw them purely by chance a few years later when one of my University flat mates begged me to go with her to see Bon Jovi at the old Cardiff Arms Park in 1995.  Whilst I haven't really liked anything by Bon Jovi since their "Slippery when wet" album I went along to not only make my friend happy, but more importantly because Van Halen were one of their support acts.  We missed the first support act (who I can't remember anyway), but 3rd on the bill was Thunder who delivered another fantastic set.

It was to be another 13 years before I saw them again when they were on a triple bill with Def Leppard and Whitesnake at the Cardiff International Arena in 2008.  Thunder blew both bands away, although I did enjoy hearing "Animal" by Def Leppard and "Still of the night" by Whitesnake. Whitesnake's lead singer David Coverdale's teeth glow in the dark by the way, but I digress.

I jumped at the chance a few months ago to meet up with one of my friends to see them again, even if I did get delayed en route to central Bristol a few weeks ago.  Having missed the first support act King King, I got there in time to see Terrorvision and got to hear the only songs I know by them namely "Oblivion" and "Alice, what's the matter?"  I was always aware of Terrorvision as they always seemed to be on late night music programmes on the TV when I was up writing essays at Uni. Thunder once more did a perfect gig and Danny Bowes voice still sounds as great now as when I heard Thunder back in 1990.  Hopefully it won't be another five years until I seem them play again.

A more optimistic future for the City?

It has been a significant last few weeks regarding Cardiff City's short and long term future.  Over the last couple of months what had begun with the gloom of the club being hit with a transfer embargo (due to breaching F.I.F.A's financial fair play rules last season) has ended with a massive reduction in the clubs debts and the settlement of City's longest known debt issue.  Vincent Tan's decision to write off £78 million of the debt owed to him has not only increased his personal shareholding in the club, but has also vastly improved the clubs balance sheet.  More significantly however has been the full and final settlement of a debt owed to the mysterious Panamanian registered company called Langston. Historically this debt has hung over the club like a millstone since former chairman Sam Hammam's departure from the club in 2006-7.  After a protracted legal battle it proved what most City fans knew all long, the identity of Langston was none other than Sam Hammam himself. With his Life Presidency due to be removed and a ban to be imposed to prevent him visiting Cardiff City Stadium in the future, things are now looking up for the club.  With the team improving and currently sitting in 7th place in the Championship, hopefully an appearance in the play offs would cap off a memorable season for reasons both on and off the pitch.  I had been highly critical of Russell Slade our manager, but he has worked on a much reduced budget and has enabled the team to remain competitive.  He must be congratulated for turning things around after inheriting a shambolic mess following the departures of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and disgraced former manager Malky Mackay.