Monthly Archives: August 2013

From the Ashes: The REAL Story of Cardiff City FC

From the Ashes

Very few football clubs in the modern age can boast the rich and varied history of Cardiff City. Originally established in 1899 as an extension of Riverside Cricket Club in the Welsh capital, it remains the only non-English club ever to win the FA Cup, and once lost out on the league title to Huddersfield by the lowest ever margin. In addition, there have been unforgettable cup runs, emotion-charged excursions into the European footballing elite, and heaps of controversy, both on and off the pitch. The history of the club is punctuated with moments of glittering success achieved against all the odds, alongside immense tragedy and heartache.

As recently as 1999 they were playing in the lowest tier of league football and struggling to survive, but a decade later the club was taken over and re branded by a consortium of Malaysian businessmen, much to the chagrin of many long-term supporters. As divisive as it was, this development soon paved the way to success. After narrowly missing out on promotion for three consecutive years, the 2013/14 season sees Cardiff City Football Club finally competing in the Premier League, the first time in over half a century that the club has played top flight football.

This book is the inspirational story of the birth, death and subsequent rebirth of arguably the biggest football club in Wales, Cardiff City.

‘From The Ashes’ is an easily readable and enjoyable account of City’s more than one hundred year history which charts the rise, fall and rebirth of the side from its humble beginnings in 1899. It doubles as a superb reference work with full accounts of fixtures, results and team personnel for every season from the earliest days to the present.

– Ceri Shaw (Americymru)

Saunders goes through each one of Cardiff City’s league seasons individually. While it contains nothing revelatory, it is a memory-jogger (it is to Saunders’ credit that the hooligan problem the club used to have is not ignored) and a reminder of sports up-and-down ride for supporters.

– Gareth Rogers (Wales online)

Available NOW in all good (Welsh) bookshops, and from Amazon:

The Legend of Wilf Wooller

Wilf Wooller in his prime

Wilf Wooller in his prime

A forgotten Welsh hero, and probably the best all-round sportsman the country ever produced.

I didn’t know who he was, either. Until recently when I was researching my book, From the Ashes: The REAL Story of Cardiff City Football Club, and his name cropped up in some vintage match reports.

Although he didn’t play many games for the Bluebirds, he seemed a decent enough centre forward circa 1939, and once scored a hat-trick, just before joining the 77th Anti-Aircraft Regiment as a gunner when World War II broke out. The thing that caught my attention was the fact that by then, he was also captain of Glamorgan cricket club AND the Welsh rugby team!

Dubbed in his Guardian obituary ‘a man of charm and a man of arrogance,’ Wilfred ‘Wilf’ Wooller was born on 20th November 1912 in Rhos-on-Sea, Denbighshire. He was a gifted student, going to Cambridge university to study Anthropology. By this time he had grown to a 6’ 2” 14-stone man-monster. In 1933 he made his debut for the national rugby side in his country’s first win at Twickenham in twenty years, and went on to represent them a further 17 times. His greatest moment in a scarlet shirt came in 1935 when he played against the New Zealand All Blacks. With Wales 12-10 down and a man short, he put through a sublime kick that allowed his team to score the decisive late try. The Daily Telegraph said he was ‘like the sacrificial car of juggernaut, leaving a trail of prostrate figures in his wake.’ At club level he represented Cardiff RFU.

In 1938 he played his first game of county cricket for Glamorgan, having won the distinction of becoming a ‘double blue’ by playing for Cambridge against their great rivals Oxford. In his first bowling spell for the county he took three wickets for 22 runs in nine overs, and would go on to represent the club for the next 24 years during which time he scored almost 14,000 runs. He was captain for 13 years, and later became club secretary then president. Although never being called up to play for England, he was a test selector for many years. By that time he had also somehow found the time to represent Wales at squash, Cardiff Athletic Club at bowls, and Barry Town at football. For most of his working life he traded coal in the Welsh capital.

During the war years, he was posted to the Far East and captured by the Japanese in 1942, spending time in the notorious Changi prison in Singapore and working on the Burma railway. After the war ended and his subsequent release, it was reported that Wooller consistently refused to use Japanese-made calculators due to his bad treatment as a POW.

Later in life, Wooller became a respected sports broadcaster for the BBC and journalist for the Sunday Telegraph, building a reputation both for his scathing wit, and for not being afraid to voice his outspoken views. He was involved in numerous clashes with everyone from players to politicians. The story goes that once, the mother of a Welsh rugby international sent him a pair of glasses after he dared criticize her son’s performance in a game. He sent the glasses back with a note explaining that his wife worked for an optician, so he didn’t need them!

He died in Cardiff on 10th March 1997 at the age of 84.

They just don’t make them like anymore. What an asset he would be in these days of spoiled prima donna footballers kicking up a fuss because they have to play on the right side instead of the left. Wilf Wooller, we salute you!

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post UK website.

A Royal Pain in the Backside

This post was originally published in the Huffington Post (UK).

Media Coverage of the royal birth

Media Coverage of the royal birth

I inadvertently started an international shitstorm on Facebook recently. The status update that sparked it all read, “When poor people who have never worked have a kid, they are called benefit cheats. When rich people who have never worked have a kid, they are called royalty.”

Justified, I thought. And topical. There has been a lot in the British press recently about benefits scroungers cheating the system. And, in case you missed it, Prince William and Kate Middleton have just had a baby. Like a lot of other people, I am tired of hearing about it. It’s on every TV channel, every news website, and when I get my morning newspaper, I have to flick past 18 pages of coverage and a 16-page ‘souvenir’ supplement just to get to the sports section.

Private Eye magazine got it right with their front-page headline, ‘WOMAN HAS BABY.’ Does anything more really need to be said? How much more can you say, really? Sure, tell us how big or heavy it was if you must. What time it arrived, maybe. Tell us what they are going to call it. But anything else is superfluous.

The status update got 29 ‘likes.’ But I managed to ruffle the feathers of a couple of people who were quick to jump to the Royal’s defence. They informed me that, apparently, most of the Royal family do have ‘real world jobs.’ These jobs include (or have included) admirals, helicopter pilots, and ‘working for Jaguar.’

Not ‘real world jobs,’ in my book. I don’t know any admirals or helicopter pilots. They are generally regarded as jobs for the privileged. Those from a certain stock. And if they do count as real jobs, which one would assume, come complete with a legitimate (as in, earned), and quite substantial salary, then why do the Royal family as a whole skim around £36 million in additional funds per year from the British taxpayer? And that’s not even including policing costs, which add another few million. I can’t imagine many of them ever putting their hands in their pocket to get the beers in, either.

So what’s my problem? I want to live in a fair society, that’s what. Is that so unreasonable? That is the crux of my argument. Why should a select group of people be entitled to the best quality of life our modern existence can offer, while the vast majority of others have to scrimp and save? These are times of austerity, as we are constantly being told; yet the Royal family and their legion of cohorts and hangers-on fly around in helicopters and dine at the most exclusive establishments at the nation’s expense. And now we have another mouth to feed.

It’s not accumulating wealth that I’m against, per se. If someone gets rich through hard work and endeavor, good for them. But the Royal family just sit back and live off the sweat, blood and tears of others. They have done for centuries. One reason the working classes in Britain struggle so much financially is because of the high taxes, which is where that £36 million-plus a year that keeps the Royals living in luxury comes from.

Many people claim that the Royals pay for themselves because they encourage tourism. Sorry, that argument doesn’t hold any water. Do you think people only come here specifically to see the Crown Jewels? At best, it would just be another thing to cross off a checklist. Britain is the 8th most popular tourist destination in the world, just ahead of Russia and far behind Turkey, China and the US. None of which have a Royal family. France is the number 1 tourist destination worldwide. They don’t have a Royal family, either.

I am from Wales, but I am lucky enough to have lived in several different countries and forged good relationships with people from all four corners of the globe (*I don’t know where that saying came from. Globes don’t even have corners). Interestingly, all the people who took issue with my comment shared the same demographic: white, middle class, university-educated English guys. In my experience, most middle class, V-neck wearing, Volvo-driving English people adore the Royal family. Other Europeans are indifferent, people from farther afield, like the US and China, are baffled by it all. One American friend recently summed up his impression of last year’s Royal wedding by saying, “All the hoo-hah is ridiculous, but fascinating!”

Welsh, Scots and Irish are usually hostile toward the Royal family. Or, more accurately, what it represents. Why? There are many reasons. A particularly pertinent one for us is that the current Prince of Wales is not Welsh. It’s a stolen title, used as a tool to force the will of the establishment upon the Welsh people. The last real Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr, went into hiding after leading a revolt against enforced English rule in the 15th century and was never seen again. Every ‘Prince of Wales’ since has been about as Welsh as Pol Pot. They visit Wales a couple of times a year, to open hospitals or ceramic factories, then swiftly leg it back across the border. And for that, we are supposed to be grateful.

Maybe this makes me anti-monarchist, I don’t know. Call me what you want, I don’t care. The irony of it all is that Britain is keen to market itself as a democracy, a jolly nice place where everyone is equal. But I sure as hell didn’t vote for the Royals. Did you? I say put them to work for a few weeks on minimum wage, let them get a taste of how the other half live.

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