Monday, 3 April 2017
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).
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.
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.