Monday, 3 April 2017

Gigs, Gigs, Gigs....

I have had the great fortune to be able to go to many gigs over the years.  On a recent Facebook post, one of my old school friends listed the bands he had seen over the years and I thought maybe I should do the same so here goes.  Cast, Audioweb, The Nicotines, The Lightning Seeds, Marillion, No Sweat, Thunder (4 times), Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, U2, Glasvegas (never again....), Marillion, Steeleye Span (9 or 10 times), Rogues in Resin, Rock, Salt & Nails, Jethro Tull (twice), Iona (twice), The Palladinos, Eden Burning (twice), Terl Bryant, PFR, Martyn Joseph (four times including once with Steve Knightley), Chrome Molly, The Amorettes, Sweet Savage, Saxon, Iron Maiden (twice), Wolfsbane (twice), The Quireboys, Petra, Wilko Johnson (twice), UFO, The Sound and The Fury (awful...), Black Star Riders, Thee Hynoptics, Europe (three times), FM, Diamond Head, Thin Lizzy, Foreigner, The Dave Spencer Trio, Terrorvision, Black Stone Cherry, Reef, Avenged Sevenfold, Within Temptation, Lauren Harris, Magnum and last but not least Michael Schenker (pictured left).  I am sure that I have forgotten many other non memorable support acts in that list as well, but a lot has happened in 25 years.

I saw Michael Schenker perform on his "Michael Schenker & Friends" comeback tour after he stopped touring following an alcohol related breakdown.  Due to the small size of the venue I got to stand right in front of Michael and got to view close up his phenomenal guitar playing.  All of the Michael Schenker Group & UFO classics were played that night and there was no doubt in my mind that he was back.  His career since then has continued to rise on an upward curve with sell out tours, successful albums and a recent reunion tour with former MSG vocalists Graham Bonnet, Gary Barden and Rob McAuley.  His guitar playing continues to inspire me, although I would never have discovered the second MSG album or Michael Schenker if it hadn't been shared with me from an unlikely source.  My Maths teacher, Mr Sanders, knew that I liked heavy rock and taped some MSG and Gillan albums for me and whilst my Maths skills remain patchy at best, my love of these albums has remained throughout the years.  So thank you to Mr S (The Maths) and Mr S (The guitar wielding legend).

Getting closer.....

As you may already have gathered, one of my passions is railways and especially anything to do with the Great Western Railway (GWR).  I expect this is partly to do with the fact that most of the places I have lived in have been former Great Western territories such as Cardiff, Weston-super-Mare and of course Bristol.  The village I grew up in, Eynsham, was once part of a former Great Western line that used to run between Oxford and Fairford via Witney.  The GWR took on this line from the East Gloucestershire Railway in 1890 and ran the line until nationalisation in 1948 when British Railways took over the entire rail network.

One former Great Western line which is now part of the preserved rail network, is the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway.  The line was built and opened in 1906 and whilst local passenger services ceased to operate in the 1960's, the line remained open for freight until a serious derailment in 1976.  This happened when a coal train heading for Totton near Southampton derailed near the site of the former Winchcombe station.  The damage to the line was deemed too costly to repair by British Railways and the line was closed and lifted by 1979.

The story doesn't end there however, as a group of dedicated volunteers formed the GWSR in 1981 with the intention of preserving and reopening the line between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway. Stations have been restored or rebuilt at Toddington, Winchcombe and Cheltenham Racecourse with new stations currently being rebuilt at both Broadway and Hayles Abbey.  Whilst the railway achieved its goal of reaching Cheltenham in 2003, they are now raising funds via a highly successful share issue to ensure that trains will return to Broadway in 2018.  This will be the first time trains have stopped in the town since 1960 so it will be a significant milestone.  At present a new station is being built on the site of the old one, whilst trackbed preparation, ballasting and tracklaying is continuing as well. Having travelled on this beautiful line a few times I can't wait to visit Broadway station when the trains return next year.  The railway's longer term ambition is to extend beyond Broadway and to link up with the Cotswold line at Honeybourne, which would mean the line would have a connection to the main line network once more.  Plans have also been suggested at extending the line south of Cheltenham Racecourse to the Prince of Wales stadium, but right now the focus is all on Broadway.

Thank you, "Super Kevin McNaughton!"

During the few seasons that I was a season ticket holder at Ninian Park/CCS one of my favourite players during that time was full back Kevin McNaughton. "Superkev" was a tough tackling defender who played a big part in the City sides during the tenures of two different managers namely Dave Jones and Malky Mackay.  One of my abiding memories was of his determination to keep going even in games where things weren't going City's way.  One such game was a 3-0 home defeat to Sheffield United at Ninian Park when referee Paul Taylor reduced City to 9 men within the first 30 minutes by sending off both Gabor Gyepes and Ross McCormack.  Kev switched from full back to centre back that afternoon in what became a game of damage limitation thanks to the poor decision making by the referee.  For example Ross McCormack was sent off for use of the elbow, when the replay showed his arms were by his side, Gabor Gyepes won the ball but was sent off for tackling from behind.  It was one of the few times City were soundly beaten but were applauded off at the end of the game.  Superkev was given a standing ovation for his efforts that day.

Last Sunday he returned to the club for a well earned testimonial game even though he left the club in 2015.  His nine years at the club were memorable ones with FA Cup Final, Premier League promotions and other Wembley appearances. In a visible sign of how much he remains respected,  the amount of former players who turned out to play in this game shows how popular he is.  It was great to see the likes of Robert Earnshaw, Neil Alexander, Craig Bellamy, Mark Hudson and many more coming back to the City for the day.  Like with many other football clubs you never forget your favourite players, I still look back on YouTube on videos featuring my City heroes like Cohen Griffith, Phil Stant, Carl Dale, Michael Chopra and Jay Bothroyd. McNaughton's goal against Hereford in 2008 is also one I watch regularly as he wasn't the most prolific of goalscorers. Superkev's team won the testimonial game on penalties after a 5-5 draw and he scored the winning penalty.  It was a fitting end to his time with the club and he will always be welcome at the Cardiff City Stadium.