50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : SEP 12 – SEP 18

We begin this week with Maria Mulduar’s 71st birthday, and a Brand New Heavies cover of her, a song, not about Noel or Liam Gallagher.

James Bourne of Busted, remember them? He turns 30 this week.

Busted’s 7th album is rather good.

You’ve been waiting all year for this …… a bit of A-Ha.

You may be amused to hear there’s a town in Norway called Horten. It’s unknown if it has a market, or if Morten Harket has ever been to Horten Market.

Cast. They’re Alright. La.

And while we’re on a 90s theme …..

Sad anniversary time, it’s 37 years since Marc Bolan died.

Joanne Catherall celebrated a birthday this week. Contrary to popular belief, she never worked as a waitress in a coktail bar.

And finally, a Belfast girl turned 30 this week. She has spent a lot of those 30 years researching how many bicycles there are in Beijing.

LINFIELD 1-0 WARRENPOINT TOWN 13.9.2014

I enjoy travelling to away matches, but sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing. It was great to be back at Windsor Park, as Linfield hosted Warrenpoint Town in their, belated, first home game of the season.

Playing away from home didn’t prove to be too much of a disadvantage, as Linfield kicked-off three points off the top, and with a game in home. That game, of course, away from home.

With the redevelopment of Windsor Park taking place, alternative arrangements were made for Linfield fans to be housed in the North Stand, which was previously for away fans exclusively.

The last time I watched a match in the Upper Deck of the North Stand, Warren Feeney (Northern Ireland v Portugal in 2005) scored. That wouldn’t be happening today, as he was suited, rather than booted.

There were seats where the dugouts were, but no roof. Wouldn’t want to be a sub on a wet day.

With boards covering where the South and Railway Stands used to be, hopefully the club are working to secure advertising (there was some advertising behind the goal) for those areas, especially with the camera position now in the North Stand, giving brands prime position on TV coverage.

No turnstiles to access for supporters from Donegall Avenue, supporters without Season Tickets bought a ticket from a Ticket Office beside the North Stand entrance, and supporters walked through. It seemed to work quite well from what I could see.

Not everything went according to plan, as kick-off was delayed by a couple of minutes due to an issue with the sprinkler system it seemed. Hopefully, that would be the only thing on the pitch that went wrong.

The first-half, was mostly attack v defence, with Linfield doing most of the attacking, with Warrenpoint hoping to get lucky with a counter-attack or a set piece.

Linfield stepped it up a gear, getting closer and closer. Curiously, most of the crosses that came in were low, looking for someone to strike, rather than head, the ball home.

Nobody was able to do that, with shots being blocked, or players just not able to get into the box in time. Ironically, it was a cross into the air which brought about the decisive goal, heading home from an Ivan Sproule cross.

At half-time, I had a look at the temporary shop and bar. It’s not a bad set-up, but it felt strange there being no TVs to check half-time scores from England, or to watch Final Score after the game. Some habit, die hard.

Linfield just couldn’t get the 2nd goal that would have killed the game. Warrenpoint showed more attacking intent, but never looked like doing anything of note until 20 minutes from time when the managed to cut through Linfield, but the shot was straight at Jonathan Tuffey when he really should have scored.

It should have acted as a wake-up call and warning to Linfield, but it didn’t

Linfield had shots on goal and situations, but nothing where you thought a 2nd goal was inevitable. Once again, the lack of goals is a concern. Linfield currently have the 3rd worst scoring record, but the best defensive record.

Today was Linfield’s 3rd successive clean sheet, last achieved in December 2011. A welcome development.

With the final minutes being more nervous due to only being 1-0 up, the need to hang on became even more important with scores from other games filtering through, all in Linfield’s favour.

Portadown were the only team above Linfield to win, and that was against the league leaders. Linfield now find themselves sitting in 4th, level on points with Portadown, Glenavon and Ballymena. Importantly, Linfield have a game in hand.

Getting a good start was important, for the new manager, and to keep in touch due to having two games postponed due to internationals in the opening months of the season.

The first of those games, against Crusaders, has been arranged for 29th September, a Monday. Not ideal, playing on the Saturday before, but Crusaders are in the same situation

Before that, Glenavon at home, a must win, and a chance to break away from the traffic at the top.

You may have noticed this week, a story in the Belfast Telegraph, suggesting that Windsor Park could be bidding for the 2017 European Super Cup Final.

I was in Cardiff for this year’s final, and it was a fantastic. To add a tenuous Linfield link, Warren Feeney was on my flight home.

It would be great if it came to Belfast, but I can’t see it unfortunately. We can hope.

Anyway, Glenavon at home next week, where a much improved performance will be required.

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50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : SEP 5 – SEP 11

September is now in full swing. A sure sign that summer is over is that it is the last of Queen’s summer babies (They were all born between July and September) this week, as Freddie Mercury would have been 68.

Not sure what he would have made of this.

Before we get into full swing, why not make yourself a special brew?

And then fast forward 20 years …..

Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries turned 43 this week.

Nina Persson turned 40 this week. Given her chart history, a duet with a Welshman could be want she would want.

Chrissie Hynde also celebrated a birthday this week. The Pretenders had the first new Number One of the 80s you know.

There’s a former Genesis singer celebrating a birthday this week ……. but it’s not Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins. Ray Wilson replaced Phil Collins in 1997, sang on the brilliant “Congo” but is probably better known for being the lead singer of Stiltskin.

And a birthday this week for Dave Stewart.

Siobhan Fahey also blew out candles this week. She’s had two UK Number Ones. You may know “Stay”, but perhaps not know of her involvement in the other one, which took nearly a decade to be a Number One.

Her other Number One, was a songwriting credit on “Young At Heart” by The Bluebells, which took ten years to reach the top of the charts, on the back of a car commercial.

And finally, RIP Robert Young from Primal Scream, who died today.

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 5.9.2014

1. Jamie T – Zombie
2. Twin Atlantic – Brothers and Sisters
3. Augustines – Weary Eyes
4. The Kooks – Forgive and Forget
5. George Ezra – Blame It On Me

Big gig news!!! Echo and the Bunnymen are coming to Belfast in February, after a five year absence. So, in celebration, here’s a Bunnymen Top Five

FIVE SONGS BY ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN

1. Nothing Lasts Forever
2. It’s Alright
3. Bring On The Dancing Horses
4. Ticket To Ride
5. Bedbugs and Ballyhoo

Also this week, the line-up for Guinness Amplify was announced, a series of concerts and surprise concerts later this month which is not in any way similar to Arthur’s Day. Not in anyway whatsoever.

If there is a surprise concert in Belfast, i’m hoping it’s either Bastille or Ellie Goulding. Or both, and that I get a ticket. Here’s a Guinness Amplify playlist to get you in the mood.

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS APPEARING AT GUINNESS AMPLIFY

1. Bastille – Pompeii
2. Ellie Goulding – Anything Could Happen
3. Kodaline – High Hopes
4. George Ezra – Budapest
5. London Grammar – Strong

50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : AUG 29 – SEP 4

Summer is almost over and Winter is coming, but don’t feel down, here’s some classic TOTP for you.

Michael Jackson would have been 56 this week. Sadly, there isn’t that many TOTP performances, especially as an adult.

Turning 55 this week is noted perfectionist, Eddi Reader.

John Phillips of Mamas and Papas would have been 79 this week.

Glenn Tilbrook is still cool for cats at 57 this week.

Manx Manc Barry Gibb turned 68 this week.

Now, for a bit of Jam

Anyone else remember Lucie Silvas?

And finally, a bit of Beyonce …..

DUNGANNON SWIFTS 0-1 LINFIELD 30.8.2014

After dropped points against Institute and a League Cup exit to Ballyclare, Linfield looked to get their season back on track with a win against Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park, a ground they lost at last season.

Even before kick-off, the dropped points at Institute were already starting to bite. Ballymena’s defeat at Glenavon on Friday night meant Linfield would have went top with a win, had they won at Drumahoe last week.

With a game against Cliftonville coming up, and a free Saturday while others play, getting three points on the board, even at this early stage, was important.

It was Dungannon who had the best chance of the opening moments when Kris Lowe get clear from a long ball, forcing
Jonathan Tuffey into a double save. It was too easy, as Linfield were once again defensively suspect.

Like the other games this season, it showed that Linfield need another striker, with Warren Feeney playing up front in a 4-5-1, simply because, we don’t have 2 fit strikers.

Towards the end of the half, Linfield became on top, creating chances. Unlike in previous games where they had possessions and situations, Linfield had actual shots on goal, forcing Dungannon’s keeper into a string of saves.

Nothing world class though, but still enough to make their keeper worried. In some situations though, players were shooting from impossible angles.

Having complained previously about not shooting, it would be hypocritical to complain about players taking too many shots.

With the score at half-time 0-0, there was a danger this could go the way of Ballyclare. The first goal was going to be vital in this game.

We didn’t have to wait long for the first goal, and thankfully, it went to Linfield, as a Matthew Clarke cross fell to Ivan Sproule, who fired home, just 55 seconds into the half.

Within a minute, it was almost 2-0, as Ivan Sproule’s run resulted in the ball falling to Kirk Millar, who was unable to fire home.

Despite this, Dungannon were still in the game and had chances to equalise. Linfield’s fragility in defence means that you are always worried that the opposition might get one, especially with Josh Cahoon’s late equaliser in a game Linfield dominated in October 2012 still a recent memory.

Linfield’s defence gives opposition hope. When you have a good defensive record, it can suck the life out of opponents, meaning that if you are 1-0 up after 75 minutes, they can feel the game is up. Linfield’s defending gives opposition hope of a late goal.

Most frustrating was distribution of possession when in defence, winning second balls, but losing the ball on the ground.

There was a late scare as a long ball into the box saw Jonathan Tuffey run out and collide with a Dungannon player. I was at the other end and haven’t seen a TV replay, but a lot of the fans where I was feared the worst.

You don’t want a keeper who stays on his line, but you’ve got to pick your battles. Like Institute’s goal last week, this was one ball he never had a chance of getting.

Michael Carvill, disappointing on Monday (as the most senior, in terms of Irish League experience, player on the pitch) came on for a sub and was Linfield’s main attacking threat as the game became stretched with Dungannon going for an equaliser, creating opprtunities for others, including fellow sub Andrew Waterworth, thankfully returning to fitness.

Thankfully, the lack of a second goal didn’t come back to haunt Linfield, as they moved level with Ballymena in second, one point behind new leaders Cliftonville.

Tuesday’s game is massive, not just in terms of points, but in making a statement of intent. Too many times in recent years, Linfield have not shown up at Solitude.

The importance is increased due to not having a game next Saturday while others are playing, before welcoming Warrenpoint Town to Windsor Park on September 13th.

I enjoy away games, and travelling to away games, but i’ve missed the burgery aroma of Windsor Park. I’m looking forward to seeing the redevelopment in person, not just in two weeks time, but over the next two years.

Hopefully, we’ll have three more points in the bag by then.

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BALLYCLARE COMRADES 1-0 LINFIELD 25.8.2014

There’s no way to put a gloss on this, as Warren Feeney’s first taste of domestic cup action saw Linfield fall to a deserved defeat against second tier opponents.

48 hours after the league game against Institute, it’s no surprise that there many changes from the team that started on Saturday, nine in fact.

It’s easy to question the team in retrospect, but if Warren Feeney kept the same team, and then Linfield didn’t win on Saturday, people would have been quick to complain.

Yes, there were a lot of kids playing, but there was also a lot of senior Irish League players. Haughey, Quinn, Carvill, Glendenning and Clarke have played enough games not to be considered inexperienced youngsters.

The team that started last night should have been good enough to win.

Linfield had some early pressure in the game, but didn’t get a shot on goal, it was mostly misplaced crossed and defenders getting a final touch to clear the ball.

If Linfield had went 1-0 up, it would have set them up for a comfortable victory.

“If” is the biggest word in football. If Linfield went 1-0 up when on top at Portadown ….. If Linfield went 2-0 up when they were on top at Institute ……

Ballyclare’s attacking play for most of the first-half was restricted to speculative long range shots. That had a chance towards the end of the first-half when they got behind Linfield’s defence, but the shot was fired over. It should have served as a warning.

Like on Saturday, Linfield couldn’t get going in the second-half, and when Ballyclare got an attempt on goal, they scored.

In a game like this, the first goal was going to be crucial. If Linfield got it, it would have been a comfortable victory. Now that Ballyclare got it, they had something to defend and hang on to, not that they were actually hanging on at any point in the second-half.

Soon afterwards, Warren Feeney and Kirk Millar were brought off the bench. Millar, is quickly becoming Linfield’s most important attacking player. He didn’t have the best of games. There was no Plan B.

Ross Clarke, a player I have previously championed, was disappointing all night.

We learnt that Linfield were defensive shaky and in desperate need of another striker. In short, we learnt nothing new.

For the last ten minutes, Ballyclare were comfortable, which was the most damming thing about the performance. Linfield never looked like scoring

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INSTITUTE 1-1 LINFIELD 23.8.2014

After two wins in a row after opening day defeat, Linfield aimed to capitalise on this momentum as they travelled to newly promoted Institute.

It was my first visit to the stadium, and it was very impressive, catering to people’s needs. Seats if you want to sit, terraces if you want to stand, no segregation, and a tuck shop under the stand if you need refreshments.

The first-half, was all Linfield, with many chances on goal. The only one that was converted, was by Ivan Sproule, facing his former club for the first time since leaving them for Hibernian in 2005.

At that point, it was hard to see anything other than a comfortable Linfield win.

To use a cliche, it was “A game of two halves” as Institute gave Linfield an early warning, when they had a goal disallowed for offside, that this game was far from over.

Having been a spectator in the first-half, Jonathan Tuffey was now having saves to make. With Linfield continuing to be defensively fragile, Institute were continuing to create chances to the point that a goal was inevitible.

Despite that, Linfield had their chances to kill the game, most notably a Jimmy Callacher header from a free-kick. No matter how well Institute played, if it had went to 2-0, it would have been game over.

With five minutes to go, Institute got a deserved equaliser when a free-kick into the box was headed in by Paddy McLaughlin. Defence and keeper in no man’s land

Even though it was a deserved point for Institute, it was two points dropped. At 1-0 up with five minutes to go, Linfield should have had enough to see the game out.

There was a fear that when Institute did score, it would be too late for Linfield to react and get a winner, and so it proved, though Mark Haughey had a goal disallowed for offside.

Thankfully, both Cliftonville and Crusaders dropped points, so the draw wasn’t as catastrophic as it should have been, it’s still two points dropped, as a win would have seen us go 2nd, only 1 point off the top.

Up next, is Ballyclare in the League Cup, the start of a busy run of games over the next two weeks. There’s a break on the International Weekend in September with the Crusaders game postponed due to call-ups.

As a result of falling a game behind so early in the season, it’s important to keep winning to keep close to the top. It’s better to have the points on board than games in hand.

Even more important, with the return game against Institute being postponed, due to it being on the same day as Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands (Honestly, we could play Institute with a lunchtime kick-off), we’ll be two games behind in mid October.

I was looking forward to the Crusaders game in September, but the postponement is the right decision as Linfield would be going into the game without Aaron Burns and Kirk Millar.

Millar, making his first start, was the go to guy for all Linfield’s attacks, who made everything happen, showing a creativity that Linfield have lacked in recent years.

Crusaders fans can complain about the postponement, but Linfield should be acting in the interests of Linfield and nobody else, and it’s in Linfield’s interest to play as many games with Millar and Burns available.

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