From the Ashes – Welsh Books Council review

This review is from, posted here with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Cardiff City is, in 2013, arguably the biggest and most successful football club in Wales. It was the first to achieve ‘Championship’ status within the new League structure, boasts a squad peppered with highly rated international players, and is now beginning to live up to its time-honoured ‘sleeping giant’ tag. But this has not always been the case.

Cardiff City is no ordinary soccer club. No, its very existence is miraculous. And that miracle is of biblical proportions. Firstly it rose, Lazarus-like from the grave. Secondly its rise was heralded by the appearance of a mysterious man from the east.

Soccer literature in Wales is at its peak, and the presence of two Welsh soccer clubs in the English Premiership League is unprecedented. But this does not rekindle that old argument of soccer versus rugby: soccer has always been the national sport of Wales, and there are more affiliated soccer clubs in Gwent alone than there are affiliated rugby clubs in the whole of Wales.

This book is an unashamed homage to Cardiff City, but it has been written with so much warmth mixed with irony that even a Swansea City fan will be able to appreciate it. The introduction alone is worth the price. The story of Cardiff City reads like an eulogy, and a deserved eulogy at that. It remains the only club outside England to win the English FA Cup, and indeed came within a whisker of winning the old First Division title.

The author is also honest enough to admit that the Bluebirds so easily ruffle so many feathers. For one thing, the team plays the beautiful game in the heartland of Rugby Union. We are also reminded of the unsavoury fact that Cardiff City has become synonymous with football hooliganism: `In the grand scheme of things the club is a black sheep,’ writes the author. But enough of sheep and their unsavoury connotations to English fans. A very thin line separates loyalty and hooliganism, and the author likens the loyalty of Cardiff City fans to that of the followers of Owain Glyndŵr. It is a form of patriotism.

From the Ashes is a substantial addition to soccer literature. It chronicles chronologically Cardiff’s rise, fall and second coming, placing the club’s history within the connotations of Welsh and British history. The club was born in an era when football in England and Scotland had already become a defining element of working-class culture. We are led from 1899 to the present day. We savour the highs and lows. The book is an unashamed tribute to a club that is a microcosm of Wales and the Welsh. To steal the mantra of another club located in London, `No one likes us, we don’t care!’

Yes, it’s a good time to be a Cardiff City fan. Just as it is a good time to be Welsh.

Lyn Ebenezer

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About cmsaunders

I write stuff. Pretty much any stuff. My fiction and non-fiction has appeared in over a hundred publications worldwide and my books have been both traditionally and independently published. My first book, Into the Dragon's Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales was published back in 2003, and I've worked extensively in the freelance journalism industry, contributing features to numerous international publications including Fortean Times, Bizarre, Urban Ink, Loaded, Record Collector, Maxim, and a regular column to the Western Mail newspaper. I lived in China for over nine years where I taught English at universities in Beijing, Changsha and Guangzhou during my search for enlightenment, before moving back to the UK in January 2013 to work as staff writer on Nuts magazine. Later, I was senior writer on Forever Sports magazine, associate editor at a shortlived title called Coach, and I currently write business news for a trade magazine about the plastics industry. It's far more satisfying than it sounds. My latest fiction releases have been Human Waste (on Deviant Dolls Publications) and X5, my fifth collection of short fiction. I also edit, proofread, ghost write, and drink far too much craft beer. View all posts by cmsaunders

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