Category Archives: Huff Post UK

Top 10 Rock Albums of the 1980’s

This list is going to be divisive. It’s unavoidable. Some choices you will agree with, some you won’t. Some might even prompt you to dust off those old CD’s, or nip over to Spotify to see what you missed. The fact of the matter is that for a decade more famous for it’s fashion crimes than anything else, there was a lot of great music produced in the eighties. This list barely scratches the surface. I’ve chosen the albums that were especially meaningful to me, or played a significant role in my life. If you think you can do better, make your own list. Now, let’s rock.

1: U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)

Before Bono disappeared up his own arse, U2 were probably the best band in the world. They hit their creative and commercial nadir with this collection of America-centric songs released in March 1987. In fact, legend has it that it’s working title was ‘The Two Americas,’ to signify what Bono saw as the mythic America and the ‘real’ America. Paradoxically, at the time it was the fastest selling album in British chart history, shifting 300,000 copies in just two days. Universally well-received, it topped the charts in over 20 countries. In his liner notes for the album’s 20th anniversary edition, American writer Bill Flanagan stated, “The Joshua Tree made U2 into international rock stars and established both a standard they would always have to live up to and an image they would forever try to live down.”

Random Fact: The Joshua Tree was the first new release to be made available on CD, vinyl and cassette on the same day.

2: INXS – Kick (1987)

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Apart from AC/DC and the Bee Gees, Australia had never been known for producing international rock stars. That changed with INXS, who found worldwide fame with their fifth opus. Impeccably produced by Chris Thomas, who had previously worked with the likes of Queen, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, Kick was loaded with huge, anthemic choruses set to a rock/funk backdrop, with a liberal smattering of heart string-pulling ballads. Michael Hutchence was the archetypal front man, oozing mystique and sex appeal like a modern-day Jim Morrison. Unfortunately, the parallels didn’t end there. New Sensation still gives you chills.

Random Fact: At the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards, the band took home no less than five awards for the Need You Tonight video.

3: Bryan Adams – Reckless (1984)

BA’s fourth album probably ranks as his best. At least, his most successful. No fewer than six singles were released from the 10-track album, including the classics ‘Run to You’ and ‘Summer of ’69’. Adams ‘came’ clean afterwards and publicly admitted the latter was about a sexual position, rather than a reference to a year. In November 2014, Adams embarked on the Reckless 30th anniversary tour comprising 23 dates in Europe, during which he played the entire album in sequence. Around the same time, Reckless was re-released as a double set with live tracks and studio out-takes. It still sounds fresh as a daisy.

Random Fact: Reckless was the first Canadian album to sell a million copies in Canada.

4: Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA (1984)

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To some, the Boss’s macho posturing and fist pumping, never more prevalent than in the mid-eighties, is tedious and contrived. To others, it is passionate and life-affirming. There can be no argument that this album struck a chord not just in the American psyche, but on the international stage as it remains Springsteen’s biggest commercial hit. The follow-up to 1982’s starkly acoustic offering Nebraska, the album took a more pop-oriented approach, mainly at the behest of producer/manager Jon Landau. Seven singles were released, all making the top 10 in America, catapulting the Boss to a whole new level of stardom. The production lets the album down a little as the keyboards are too high in the mix and it hasn’t aged well but still, great stuff.

Random Fact: Born in the USA spent a total of 84 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Top 10, the longest period in American chart history.

5: Prince & the Revolution – Purple Rain (1984)

The Grammy award-winning soundtrack to the movie of the same name is universally regarded as one of the best albums of all time. And rightly so. Love him or hate him, the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince ticked all the boxes on this one. Featuring a host of his best-loved singles including When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy and the sweeping title track, Purple Rain spent an incredible 24 consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard album charts, before being ousted by Springsteen’s Born in the USA.

Fun Fact: Purple Rain was the first album recorded with and credited to Prince’s backing group, the Revolution.

6: The Alarm – Strength (1985)

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A well-deserved entry on this list by a band often labelled ‘The Welsh U2.’ Released by IRS in October 1985, Strength, their second album, features such cult classics as Knife Edge and Spirit of ’76, which made the UK Top 40. Many of the lyrics concerning poverty, social deprivation and working class struggles strike a chord with British people who grew up during this era. Strength represented the band’s peak, during which they toured with the likes of Bob Dylan, Queen and, of course, U2, and are still active today, albeit with a vastly altered line-up. 2015 has been dubbed ‘The Year of Strength’ by original member Mike Peters, who is undertaking a full tour to mark the album’s 30th anniversary and releasing a re-imagined and re-recorded version.

Random Fact: The band’s live show in front of 26,000 fans at UCLA on April 12th 1986 was one of the first concerts to be broadcast live via satellite.

7: Marillion – Misplaced Childhood (1985)

Misplaced

The eighties saw the return of the concept album, with the third opus by prog rock staples Marillion standing up as one of the best of all time. Mid-way through shows of this era, then-front man and lyricist Fish would announce to the crowd, “Now there is time for one more track. The name of track is Misplaced Childhood,” before performing the 41-minute album in its entirety. The story has many thematic elements mainly based around love, the passage of time, and the loss of innocence, and legend has it that Fish conceived the idea during a particularly fraught acid trip. The result is a deep, emotive piece of work that has stood the test of time.

Random Fact: The boy depicted on the cover in military garb lived next door to sleeve artist Mark Wilkinson.

8: Genesis – Invisible Touch (1986)

English band Genesis had released no fewer than twelve albums before Invisible Touch, though it was their first in three years. Despite some mixed reviews, it quickly became the fourth consecutive release to top the UK album charts, and spawned a total of five singles, all of which made the UK Top 40. It’s worldwide success was largely attributed to Phil Collins’ burgeoning solo career, who had released the insanely successful No Jacket Required album the year before. Music from the album has been featured in such TV classics as Magnum PI, Miami Vice and, er, American Dad .

Random Fact: In the movie version of American psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, Patrick Bateman calls the album the group’s ‘undisputed masterpiece.’

9: Simple Minds – Once Upon a Time (1985)

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Their seventh album marked a transition from the group’s experimental early years to the pantheon of stadium rock, bridged by 1983’s classic Sparkle in the Rain. Recorded at Richard Branson’s London studio the Townhouse in May 1985, Once Upon a Time was released five months later, hot on the heels of the massive single Alive and Kicking. Don’t You Forget About Me, from the soundtrack to the John Hughes movie the Breakfast Club, was left off the album because of their initial reluctance to record it. It would be four long years until the band released any more studio material, and Once Upon a Time remains their biggest seller.

Random Fact: The single All the Things she Said was featured on Grand theft Auto V, which went on to become the highest selling videogame ever.

10: Dire Straits – Alchemy Live (1984)

Yeah, I could have gone for the commercial juggernaut Brothers in Arms, but that would have been too easy. This double live set, recorded at the Hammersmith Apollo over two nights in July 1983 at the very end of the Love over Gold Tour, is where it’s at. From the moody opening strains of Once Upon a Time in the West all the way through to the instrumental set closer Going Home (Theme from Local Hero) every whispered lyric, every plucked chord, is perfection personified. When I first discovered this album a couple of years after it’s release, I had been thoroughly brainwashed by the three-minute pop song. I could barely comprehend the fact that an entire double album could accommodate just ten Dire Straits tracks, one of which, Telegraph Road, is an epic 14-minutes long.

Fun Fact: This is the lowest selling entry on this list, with less than a million combined sales in the UK and US. That doesn’t make it a bad record.

Honourable Mentions:

Heart – Animals (1987), The Smith’s – The Queen is Dead (1986), Jesus & Mary Chain – Darklands (1987), Peter Gabriel – So (1986), Stone Roses – Stone Roses (1989).

This list was first published by the Huff Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/

Check out the companion piece:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/top-10-greatest-80s-movies/


Hey, Russell Slade!

The details behind Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s departure from Cardiff City last September were never really made public. The official line was that he and owner Vincent Tan clashed over ‘a difference in philosophy,’ the philosophy being that Tan wanted to win games while Solksjaer disagreed. The fact of the matter is that the Norwegian proved himself to be so inept in virtually every area that in the end, the whole episode turned into one big farce. Countless formation, personnel, and tactical changes, combined with the usual off-field turmoil surrounding the club, all added up to just nine wins from 30 games, relegation back to the Championship, and a dismal start to the new season.

Ole, Ole, Ole. Go away, go away.

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Enter Russell Slade, world-renowned managerial mastermind behind Scarborough, Grimsby, Yeovil, Brighton and most recently, Leyton Orient. A lot of people were just as confused about the appointment of Russell Slade as they were about that of Solksjaer, but were more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he did win League One Manager of the Year twice. So the fans sat back, folded their arms, and waited to see how things would pan out. Fourteen games into his reign, it’s probably safe to say that things aren’t panning out very well. Yes, Slade has overseen seven wins, but it’s pretty obvious that under his charge the club is going backwards at a rate of knots. He got lucky a few times early on, and the team picked up a few points. But they were not playing well, and his recent record is far more indicative of the overall trend. Despite the much-touted ‘return to blue,’ City struggled to overcome Fulham in their last league game. Before that, City had lost three and drews one. That point came at Charlton, where City played against ten men most of the game and still lost out badly in the possession stakes, came hot on the heels of defeats to Brentford and Bournemouth. In those four games Cardiff managed to ship a total of shipped a total of 13 goals.

It’s just not good enough.

The club may be going through a transitional period (what, another one?) but with the players and backing Cardiff City have, they really should be storming through this division whereas on current form they face being dragged into a relegation battle. At the start of the season, the club had no fewer than thirteen full internationals on their books. That’s more than a whole team. But you would never think it to watch them play. Under Slade, the team is predictable, lacks energy and ideas, and looks devoid of confidence. The 4-4-2 formation he insists upon playing belongs in another age. There’s no point playing with two strikers if the midfield are overrun every game and can’t get the ball off the opposition. Even with two forward places up for grabs, inexplicably, the best striker at the club, Kenwyne Jones, can’t get in the starting line-up. That’s despite scoring more goals in his limited game time than Adam Le Fondre and Federico Macheda, the duo Slade insists upon playing virtually every game, combined. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lack or passion and urgency all over the pitch. One thing Cardiff supporters demand is passion. If the players don’t have it, then it’s up to the manager to inject some. That’s what he gets paid for.

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The club started the season with a wealth of options in every area. Some had to go. But a few of the players Slade has let go for next to nothing (or literaly nothing) were far too good for that kind of treatment. Magnus Wolf Eikrem, Juan Cala and Matts Moller Daehli spring to mind. That trio would walk into most Championship sides, and even a few Premier League squads. Most recently, according to reports Javi Guerra is heading back to Spain to sign with Malaga, a team challenging for a place in Europe next season. And he’s not deemed good enough for a mid-table Championship side struggling for goals?

Then there are seasoned pros like Nicky Maynard, Kim Bo-Kyung, Etien Velikonja, and Guido Burgstaller, who are stuck in a weird kind of limbo, picking up fat pay packets every week but not being given the chance to justify it. It’s not sustainable. Or even sensible. Fair enough, Slade came in and quickly decided on what he thought of as his best First XI, thus providing the stability Solksjaer never did. But what happens when that First XI don’t perform? Especially when they begin to get jaded after a long run of games. You have to be willing to roll with the punches and change things up when necessary. Evidently, Slade doesn’t want to do that. He may be used to working with smaller squads, but come on, Russ. It’s almost as if he’s walking around with blinkers on.

Since the transfer window opened, Slade has brought in what the vast majority of supporters see as mediocre signings. Scott Malone, a £100,000 buy from Millwall, is widely-touted as a replacement for Fabio, who Slade sees as a weak link in the defensive line. Yes, Slade is benching a Brazilian international in favour of a player labeled ‘average’ by his own supporters and has never played above Championship level. The fact that he (reportedly) has the same agent as Slade has absolutely nothing to do with it. The other signing was Alex Revell, a 31-year old striker who, in four years at Rotherham, managed just 28 goals in 150 games. This move could well spell the end for Kenwyne Jones.

The two signings could be part of a cost-cutting exercise. Understandably so, considering the wages some of the Cardiff players (notably Fabio and Jones) are on. But if that’s the case, you could argue why the club needed to make these signings in the first place. Declan John is a more than capable left-back, and Matt Connolly an able deputy. As for striking options, I count nine. As Steve Tucker recently remarked, “There are enough of them to have their own Christmas party.”

The original version of this article appeared on the Huff Post UK.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/

From the Ashes – The REAL Story of Cardiff City FC is available now.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/From-Ashes-Story-Cardiff-Football/dp/1845242130


Ravel Morrison – A New Start at Cardiff City?

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It was announced recently that Cardiff City have signed 21-year old winger Ravel Morrison on loan from West Ham, initially for three months. On the face of it, it could be a decent move for both parties, despite Cardiff already having what is being reported as ‘the biggest and best squad ever assembled in the championship.’ Morrison is undoubtedly a player of quality, and needs some game time after finding himself marginalized at the Hammers. When Sam Allardyce signed him from Manchester United he said the England U-21 international needed to “Get away from Manchester and start a new life,” which seemed to hint at some unpublicized issues.

Tellingly, Morrison has played only 18 games for West Ham, and been farmed out to Birmingham City and QPR over the past two seasons. Reading between the lines, I sense there is something about Morrison. Maybe his off-field problems are weighing heavily on his young shoulders – he is due to go on trial over allegations of harassment of a former partner early next year. The question must be asked, do Cardiff really need a player with this kind of baggage? The club is already in the news almost constantly, and usually for the wrong reasons.

Despite having a wealth of luxuries, especially in midfield, the current Cardiff squad has been criticized for having a lack of raw pace. But with ten or twelve potential first-team midfielders already at the club, do they really need another one? I see eerie comparisons between Morrison and a mostly-forgotten player from the Hammam era.

Anyone remember Leon Jeanne?

If not, you could be forgiven. He arrived at Cardiff under similar circumstances from QPR in 2001, having fallen out of favour with then-manager Gerry Francis amid a series of disciplinary problems. Cardiff, his hometown club, was supposed to be a new start, but weeks after joining he tested positive for a class A drug. He was handed a suspended sentence and allowed to continue his career, but when tested again later in the season the sample he gave was not urine. That was enough and his contract was terminated after he had made only two first team appearances. From there his career nosedived and over the following decade he played for no less than 18 clubs, including Barry Town (twice), Merthyr Tydfil and Afan Lido. All in all, it’s very tragic story, and a cautionary tale of a talented young footballer letting it all slip.

I’m not suggesting for a moment Morrison has the same problems, or that his career will follow a similar trajectory, but the similarities are there. At the same stage in his career, Jeanne was a highly hyped, pacey, skillful midfielder with the world at his feet. He had a few off-field issues, but City took a chance on him. Now he plays for Weston-Super-Mare. Nothing against Weston-Super-Mare. It’s a nice place. I visited once. But let’s hope Morrison doesn’t go the same way.

From the Ashes – The REAL Story of Cardiff City FC is out now:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/From-Ashes-Story-Cardiff-Football/dp/1845242130

Originally published by the Huffington Post UK:

 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/


Cardiff City’s Championship Return

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Cardiff City kick off the new season at Blackburn on Friday 8 August. On paper, for the 2014/15 season Cardiff City probably have one of the strongest squads the Championship has ever seen. If anything, they have an embarrassment of riches all over the park. Of course, that poses its own set of problems. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer showed us last season how much he enjoys tinkering with personnel, formation and tactics. He’s going to have a field day trying to select a team from around 32 serious candidates.

For what it’s worth, here is my pick:

Formation: 4-4-2

GK: Marshall

After last season’s heroics, his place between the sticks is virtually guaranteed.

LB: Fabio

At left-back it was a toss-up between him and young Declan John. Fabio has had an impressive pre-season, and gets the nod because the club have to justify his inflated wages somehow.

CB: Juan Cala

Looked decent after arriving on a free from Sevilla in February, and scored twice in his seven appearances. Should fill the gap vacated by Steven Caulker.

CB: Ben Turner

Closing in on a century of appearances for the club, Big Ben is a shoe-in at this level. His height and physical presence could be key.

RB: John Brayford

Spent last season on loan at Sheffield United, but the 26-year old is back and has a point to prove. In the absence of any stand-out right-backs at the club, I say give him a chance.

LM: Peter Whittingham

Recently signed a new contract tying him to the Bluebirds until 2017. The biggest debate is where his best position is. I think the left of midfield where he can put in some early crosses suits him best. His set-pieces could be crucial.

CM: Aron Gunnarsson

In danger of becoming the Forgotten Man, but the Iceland captain loves the club and knows what it takes to get out of this division. Great stamina and tackling ability. Will slot in neatly alongside new signing Dikgacoi.

CM: Kagisho Dikgacoi

I have high hopes for the South African international who has been handed Gary Medel’s number 8 shirt. Grabbing him on a free from Palace could prove to be a great piece of business.

RM: Craig Noone

Showed what he can do when given the opportunity last season. If he can stay clear of injuries, he could be vital to the team’s cause. Along with Whitts on the other flank, he’ll shoulder the bulk of the creative responsibility.

S: Adam Le Fondre

What City missed last season was a proven goal scorer. The new signing from Reading, where he scored 39 times in 104 games, should go some way to addressing the problem. Has been on fire in pre-season.

S: Javi Guerra

Another new signing. This spot could easily have gone to Machida or Jones, but I’m opting for the Spaniard’s guile and experience. Can drop deep when required.

SUBS: Simon Moore (GK), Matthew Connolly, Declan John, Kim Bo-Kyung, Matts Moller Daehli, Guido Burgstaller, Joe Mason, Federico Macheda.

Controversial selection, I know. On last season’s evidence, many would put Daehli somewhere in midfield. But personally I think he’s still a bit lightweight for the rough and tumble of the Championship. For the time being, I think we would be best served to bring him on late in games when teams are slowing down. There could also be a case to include Austrian international Burgstaller on either flank, but he is a bit of an unknown quantity. Kimbo isn’t in my team because he was awful last season. If he wants to get in he has to improve. He’s lucky to get on the bench. Kenwyne Jones wasn’t so lucky.

My book, From the Ashes: The REAL Story of Cardiff City, is out now:

From the Ashes

From the Ashes

Originally published by the Huff Post UK:

 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/


Top 10 Greatest 80’s Movies

 

They were cheesy and full of bright colours, big hair and even bigger shoulder pads, but the 80’s were a seminal decade for movies. I know there are some notables that haven’t made the cut, but I can’t include everything. That is the nature of lists. They start and they end. Kinda like films.

If you want to nominate your own, you can do so in the comments. And if feel that strongly about it, make your own list. So, in no particular order, here is my list of the Greatest 80s Movies EVER!

10. Rambo: First Blood part 2 (1985)

Our hero John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) gets sprung from jail and sent back to ‘Nam, where he falls in love, takes on a Vietcong army on his own (and wins), but not before getting captured, escaping, releasing a bunch of American POWs, nicking a gunship, and flying it back to a US camp in Thailand to take revenge on the evil pen-pushers that betrayed him. All in a day’s work.

Fun fact: the entire film was actually shot in Mexico.

9. Rocky IV (1985)

Rocky IV Poster

Rocky IV Poster

Only with the benefit of hindsight can you see Rocky IV as the blatant cold war propaganda it was with the callous, cheating Ruskie versus the honest, down-to-earth, all-American hero. Even for an 80’s actioner, Apollo Creed’s death scene is one of the most brutal and harrowing ever committed to celluloid, made even more powerful by all that glitter.

Fun fact: For added effect, Stallone decided he and Dolph Ludgren, who played Ivan Drago, should exchange punches for real when filming the films climactic fight scenes. He changed his mind after Lundgren hit him so hard in the chest his heart swelled up and he had a stint in intensive care. Oops.

8. Less Than Zero (1987)

One of the darker entries on this list sees Robert Downey Jr steal the show as Julian in pre-American Psycho Bret Easton-Ellis’ realisation and destruction of the American dream.

Fun fact: Easton-Ellis has written a sequel called Imperial Bedrooms, in which he claims all the characters are alive and well in the present day. That must have taken some doing, as Julian dies in the end of the first one.

7. Pretty in Pink (1986)

Like a lot of other teenaged boys in the 80s, I had a Molly Ringwald fetish. And like a lot of other teenaged boys, now I find it all a bit mystifying. She wasn’t even hot. She was more like that ropey plump ginger girl that went to every class completely unnoticed.

Fun fact: Who else thought Andie should have ended up with Duckie? That would have made total sense. So thought writer John Hughes, and the original ending was filmed that way. But test audiences disapproved, and the ending was re-made.

6. The Breakfast Club (1985)

How could a film about a bunch of kids stuck detention possibly work? Nobody knows, but it does. Helped no end by the classic theme song, Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds, teen angst never looked so cool. This is the archetypal Brat Pack film.

Fun fact: John Hughes made the Breakfast Club on a shoestring budget of $1 million. It went on to gross over fifty times that amount worldwide in cinemas alone.

5. The Karate Kid (1984)

Karate Kid poster

Karate Kid poster

Wax on, wax off. Who knew being treated like a slave could turn you into a double hard bastard? Another classic underdog movie from John G. Avildsen, director of Rocky. Hands up if after watching this film you subsequently tried taking somebody out with a crane kick, only to fall flat on your ass in the middle of the playground.

Fun fact: Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in his role as Mr Miyagi. He lost out to some dude who was in the Killing Fields.

4. Back to the Future (1985)

The first and by far the best in the BTTF trilogy. Written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Michael J Fox in his pomp, this entry had star quality sprinkled all over it. And so it proved when it raked in over $383 million at the Box Office, becoming the biggest movie of the year in the process.

Fun fact: When filming started Fox was busy making Family Ties, so the makers decided to cast Eric Stolz as Marty McFly instead. Four weeks and $3 million later, all agreed the move was an epic failure, even Stolz. From then on a schedule was devised whereby Fox would work on Family Ties during the day and BTTF at night.

3. The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator

The Terminator

Arnie at his irrepressible best. As wooden and unemotional as its possible to get, just what a machine from the future should be like. The idea for the film came to writer/director James Cameron when he was taken ill in Rome after the release of Piranha II, and he dreamed about a mechanical torso dragging itself from the wreckage of an explosion. His agent hated the idea, and told Cameron to work on something else instead. Cameron fired him.

Fun fact: The studio originally wanted to cast O.J. Simpson as the Terminator, and Schwarzenegger as Reese. This plan fell through because Cameron thought Simpson wasn’t believable enough as a killer. Um, right.

2. Aliens (1986)

This isn’t so much a sequel, as a whole new direction for the Alien franchise. Ridley Scott made the first one, and James Cameron was drafted in for the follow-up, which must surely qualify as one of the best action movies of all time. Watch the Special Edition. It kicks all kinds of extra ass.

Fun fact: Though filmed entirely at Pinewood Studios, England, Cameron wanted only actors who could accurately imitate American accents. As a result, over 3000 auditions by British actors were binned and American actors cast in their places, including three from The Terminator (Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton)

1. The Lost Boys (1987)

Lost Boys poster

Lost Boys poster

Sleep all day, party all night. It’s fun being a vampire. Everything about the Lost Boys is just cool from the loaded soundtrack to the witty one-liners and slick production. As an added bonus, Jami Gertz is smoking hot throughout. One of the few films to actually make you want to be a supernatural entity.

Fun fact: The Frog brothers, Edgar and Allen, were named after the writer Edgar Allen Poe, and the reason Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t explode in the end like the other vamps is that he didn’t really die. This was to be addressed in a sequel called Lost Girls, which never got made.

This post was originally published by Huff Post UK:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/

 

 


BAMMA 15 Review

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It seems that with every BAMMA event I attend, the bar is raised ever higher. The promotion is now arguably head and shoulders above the competition on these shores. Strangely, tonight the entire card was broadcast from start to finish on Facebook, which may well explain a few empty seats in the arena. It could turn out to be a stroke of marketing genius in showcasing BAMMA to a whole new audience, but could well come at the cost of some existing fans. Who in their right mind is going to travel miles and pay hard cash for something they can watch at home for free? Of course, the same can be said for any Premier league fixture, and it never did the profile of those guys any harm. Anyway, moving on, MMA has been exploding in popularity here over the past few years, like it has been almost everywhere else in the world, and now UK crowds are finally reaping the benefits of all that training and dedication. BAMMA now attracts some of the most gifted and highly rated in Europe, if not the world.

At BAMMA 15, the main card kicked off with a flyweight contest between German Rany Saadeh and the undefeated Mahmood ‘Persian Pride’ Besharate. Saadeh has been described in the fight press as a ‘top European flyweight,’ but was up against some stiff competition in the shape of undefeated prospect Besharate, who went in with a perfect 5-0-0 record. As it happened, Saadeh kept his cool to pull off an uneventful majority victory. Next up was Ali ‘The Terminator’ Arish versus the highly-rated Sunderland prospect Ryan ‘Big Baby’ Scope who won a close decision to stretch his record to 8-0-0, despite carrying a potentially serious foot injury.

A late addition to the card was a BAMMA Lonsdale British Middleweight Title Bout between Andy ‘Lion Paw’ De Vent, making his first appearance for the promotion, and Harry ‘Mad Mac’ McLeman, who went in to the fight fresh from his decision victory over Matt Howard at BAMMA 14. And it was Mad Mac who somehow pulled off a victory from the jaws of defeat by majority decision, despite spending much of the fight turtled up and taking some vicious knees to the body. 20-year old BAMMA World Featherweight Champion Tom ‘Fire Kid’ Duquesnoy looked to build on his impressive knockout of James Saville in his last outing when he came up against undefeated fellow Frenchman Teddy Violet. This was obviously a big step up for Violet, who until tonight had a record of 8-0-0, all by knockout, despite only turning pro in June 2012. After seeing this performance, one has to wonder what kind of opposition he was knocking out because for the short time this bout lasted he looked completely outclassed, eventually succumbing to a triangle choke in the second round.

Despite losing his last fight, a tilt at Mansour Barnaoui’s lightweight title, and boasting an overall record of 9-4-0, ex-UFC fighter Colin ‘Freakshow’ Fletcher remains one of BAMMA’s biggest draws. Seven of his nine wins have come by submission and he has never knocked anyone out, but long before the fight there was a feeling he could pick up his first against the USA’s Tony ‘Lionheart’ Hervey, who went into the fight with a decidedly average career record of 16-15-0. Saying that, who could forget ‘Fast’ Eddy Ellis who went into his fight with ‘Judo’ Jimmy Wallhead at BAMMA 13 with a similar record, yet ended up winning a split decision and taking the welterweight championship.

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Contrary to most people’s expectations, however, this was no quick finish, and no easy ride. Over three rounds Hervey rocked the favourite more than once, notably in the second round, and the fight remained standing, which didn’t suit Freakshow’s gameplan at all. In the end he managed to grind out a split decision victory, but not many would have argued the point if the decision had gone the other way. Freakshow’s problem is that despite his scary persona, he is a fucking nice guy. So nice, in fact, that during in his post-fight interview, he even said that he wouldn’t have complained if he had lost the fight. When asked why he didn’t go for more takedown’s, he admitted that he ‘Just couldn’t do it.’ Bless.

An all-English clash between defending champ Wayne ‘Caveman’ Murrie and challenger Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards for the BAMMA Lonsdale British Welterweight Championship followed. Murrie has built something of a reputation as a submission artist, with 10 of his 17 wins coming on the ground. This is in contrast to relative newcomer Edwards, who went into the fight with a 5-1-0 record. However, Edwards was the one who left with the honours, getting his opponent in a deep rear naked choke and forcing a tap in the very first round.

At long last, the main event rolls in, a titanic Heavyweight clash between Oli Thompson and Gzim ‘The Albanian Psycho’ Selmani. 34-year old Thompson has been around the fight game for a while, even enjoying a brief ultimately unsuccessful spell in the UFC in 2012, while his opponent, with a pro record of 3-1-0, is relatively unproven. However, he is taller and heavier, and how can anyone doubt the skills someone with a nickname like the Albanian Psycho? Whilst roaming the cage waiting for his opponent to appear he looked the part, and wasted no time getting to grips with Thompson, knocking the champion to the floor before choking him out via guillotine after just 18 seconds of the fight. Job done. On this evidence, the Albanian Psycho looks a fearsome prospect.

The original version of this review appeared on the Huff Post UK:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/


Cardiff City’s Summer Signings – The Good, the Bad & the Average

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A few months ago I wrote a summary of Cardiff City’s summer transfer activity. Now all the players brought in have had a chance to show what they can do, I feel a quick progress report is in order.

Steven Caulker

The commanding centre back brought in from Tottenham for around £8 million slotted straight into the heart of City’s back four and has proved nothing short of a revelation. We knew he was good from seeing him during his loan spell at Swansea, but his passing ability, aerial presence and composure, have been invaluable to a side lacking experience at this level. So impressive he was soon given the captain’s armband.

Verdict: 9/10

Peter Odemwingie

The £2.2 million signing from West Brom arrived with some baggage but in all fairness, he started reasonably well. He was enthusiastic and ran hard. I say ‘was’ because he seems to have lost some of that urgency of late as City slumped to the bottom of the league. Being played in a lone striker role probably does him no favours, but to my mind he has a tendency to ‘go missing’ during games and a return of one goal in 15 league appearances is simply not good enough.

Verdict: 5/10

Andreas Cornelius.

The £8 million boy wonder who, if reports are to be believed, was at least partly responsible for Malky Mackay losing his job. Much has been made of his potential, but the fact of the matter is that at this stage in the club’s development, they need strikers who can score goals now. True, he spent the first couple of months of the season sidelined through injury, but judging by what little we have seen of him so far (7 substitute Premier League appearances and a couple of starts in the cups) the club’s number 9 is a mere shadow of the player we thought he was. Unfit, inexperienced and low on confidence.

Verdict: 3/10

Gary Medel

The £11 million record signing from Sevilla has featured in virtually every game this season in the holding midfielder role in front of the back four. He has been very impressive until the past few games, where he has started to look a little fatigued. The fans are divided over whether he was actually worth the money or not. I say he most definitely is. If we had a team of Gary Medel’s we probably wouldn’t break any scoring records (not that we would anyway) but we certainly wouldn’t lose many games.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Kevin Theophile Catherine

A snip at around £2 million and quickly proving one of the bargains of the century, rampaging right-back TC has wowed the fans with some powerful, direct displays. Just what you need and expect from a modern fullback. Gets caught out of position at times, but at 24 he is still learning and well on the way to establishing himself as the best full-back at the club.

Verdict: 7.5/10

John Brayford

The £1.5 million signing from Derby County arrived as one of the most highly regarded fullbacks outside the Premier League. However, apart from two League Cup appearances, he has been unable to force himself into the side and currently finds himself behind TC and veteran Kevin McNaughton in the pecking order. A big disappointment, though maybe through no fault of his own.

Verdict: 3/10

Simon Moore

The 23-year old was brought in from Brentford in League One as back up for goalkeeper David Marshall. And on the bench is where he’s stayed. He gets two points for turning up every week, which is more than some of the other players have done.

Verdict: 2/10

This article originally appeared in the Huff Post (UK):

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/cardiff-citys-summer-signing_b_4636965.html

Read my archive:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/

My book, From the Ashes: The REAL Story of Cardiff City is out now on Gwasg Carreg Gwalch:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/From-Ashes-Story-Cardiff-Football/dp/1845242130


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