PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

Football watching in March got off to a delayed start, due to Linfield’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville being postponed due to snow.

I had to wait a week to get to a match, Linfield’s home game against Carrick Rangers.

The following midweek, was that postponed Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville, resulting in a defeat for Linfield.

It didn’t get better the rest of the month as Linfield had to come from behind to get draws against Glentoran and Ballinamallard United.

At least the month ended on a high note, beaming with parental pride (sort of) as Paul Smyth came off he bench to score the winner for Northern Ireland against South Korea on his debut.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Glentoran

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v South Korea

Northern Ireland v South Korea Photo Album

Advertisements

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me with a midweek trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town.

That was followed four days later by Linfield’s 0-0 draw with Dungannon Swifts.

Two away games followed for Linfield on the following weekends, against Cliftonville and Ards, before finishing the month with a midweek home match against Glenavon.

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Cliftonville v Linfield

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January 2018’s football watching was supposed to start at Coleraine on the first day of the month, but the weather saw to that, so I had to wait a week to visit Taylor’s Avenue for my first game of the month, to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win over Carrick Rangers.

There was another postponement in the middle of the month, at Warrenpoint, which meant I had to wait a whole week for my next match. It wasn’t really worth the wait as Linfield lost 3-2 to Glenavon.

Towards the end of the month, I headed to London for a short weekend away. Naturally, I hoped to take in a game while I was there, and the game I chose was Millwall v Rochdale.

My final game of the month was a trip to Coleraine, which should have kicked off the month, to see Linfield score two late goals to secure a dramatic draw.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Millwall v Rochdale

Millwall v Rochdale Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

/

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 WATFORD 13.5.2018

As I travelled over to this match the day before, it occurred to me that it was the 25th anniversary of my first ever United match.

That match was a 1-1 draw in a friendly against Aston Villa at Windsor Park, as United fans were still celebrating their side’s first title in 26 years. Little did they know what the next 25 years would bring, albeit the first 20 years of that period being a lot more enjoyable.

Aston Villa’s goal that night came from Dwight Yorke. Little did we know that he would be a future goalscoring hero for United.

As fans left Windsor Park that night, little did they know that a future United goalscoring hero would be born the next day. This game fell on Romelu Lukaku’s 25th birthday, but he wouldn’t be getting a chance to celebrate with a goal, as he missed out through injury, an injury which restricted him to a role as a substitute in the FA Cup Final.

When I booked this trip, I thought it would be the second successive season that I would be seeing Marco Silva bring a team to Old Trafford, having seen United take on Hull last season. That wouldn’t be happening as Watford change their manager every three months. I had to check Google to see that it was Javi Garcia.

This game was also the last game for United for Michael Carrick before retirement, having made his debut against Charlton Athletic in August 2006. If he had waited a few days, his first and last game would have been against Watford.

If he had made his debut a few days earlier against Fulham, I would have been at his first and last games for United.

Being out of sync is a familiar theme to United’s season.

If this game was about paying tribute to Michael Carrick, the weekend before, it looked like being a tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson, but thankfully he is on the road to recovery, as announced in the days leading up to this match.

There was not a lot to play for in terms of the League positions. United had confirmed 2nd prior to this, their highest finish in the post-Ferguson era, while Watford were floating about in mid table, with a forth successive season of top-flight football confirmed, a feat they haven’t achieved since their glory days under Graham Taylor in the 1980s.

Watford made a positive start to the game, having a lot of possession in United’s half.

It was United who had the first attempt on goal of the game when an ambitious Alexis Sanchez volley went wide.

Marcus Rashford was causing problems for Watford’s defence, trying to get in behind them. United weren’t slow in trying to give him opportunities to do so. He only needed to get lucky once.

And that he did, after a through ball from Michael Carrick played in Juan Mata who set up Rashford to score from close range.

Sergio Romero, getting a rare start in goal, made an excellent save from a Richarlison close ranger header. I was at the end of the ground and thought it was sneaking in. Thankfully, it didn’t.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Marcos Rojo lost possession but was saved by an offside flag as the ball fell to a Watford attacker.

United searched for the second goal that would secure the game, the closest they came was an Alexis Sanchez cross which evaded Juan Mata.

Having spent the first-half trying to run behind Watford’s defence, Marcus Rashford was now not running at Watford’s defence every time he got the ball, to audible groans in the stands.

It was a very dull game, the only moment of note in the final minutes of the second-half came when Michael Carrick was substituted to a standing ovation.

The match finished 1-0 to United, as United finished the season with a win ahead of the FA Cup Final.

The FA Cup Final would ultimately decide if it has been a season of progress. The fact that United have had their highest League position since Sir Alex Ferguson was Manager shouldn’t be overlooked, nor should the fact that United have beaten every team in the League, including come from behind wins against Manchester City and Chelsea.

On the flip side, United lost away to all three promoted sides, as well as dropping points to relegated Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, as well as relegation threatened Southampton.

In those games, United only picked up the pace when they fell behind and the points looked set to be slipping away, when they should have been going at it from the start.

It was probably apt that the season should end with a similar performance and result in the FA Cup Final.

That attitude was the same against Bristol City in the League Cup, as United waited to win it in extra-time while Bristol City wanted to win it in 90 minutes.

United’s start to the season wasn’t that bad, but it was a run of dropped points in October and November killed off any hopes of a title challenge.

In any other season, United would only have been a couple of points off the top on New Year’s Day, but City’s start to the season put them out of reach.

The fixture list for the 2018-2019 season will be released on the morning of Thursday 19th June. Curious timing, as it is the opening day of the World Cup. That seems strange from a Marketing point of view.

When it is released, i’ll keep an eye out for possible games to go to, more than likely a midweek game. I’ll have to wait until the dates are released.

Pre-Season Fixtures have been announced and it looks unlikely there will be a Pre-Season game in Dublin, like there was in the Summer of 2017 against Sampdoria.

I forgot to mention in my last football blog that Institute will potentially be playing home matches at The Oval next season. Bit underwhelming that, was hoping to visit a new ground (for me).

In Scotland, unsurprisingly, Spartans failed to overcome a 4-0 deficit against Cove Rangers and will be playing in the Lowland League, meaning I won’t be seeing them in League Two action if I go to see them when I visit Edinburgh in August.

Meanwhile, the UEFA Cup Play-Offs went as disastrously as expected, with Linfield losing their Semi-Final 4-3 to Glentoran.

For a start, it is an absolute sham and it makes a mockery of the League that such a system is in place.

Could you imagine if the title was decided this way, and Linfield won the League after finishing 4th but winning two matches in May.

Imagine if something similar was in England, and Newcastle United were given an opportunity to play in Europe despite spending most of the season in the bottom half.

It’s not sour grapes me saying that, check my archives, my view has been consistent throughout.

Natural justice was done in 2016 and 2017, but sadly not in 2018. Having Play-Offs to decide UEFA Cup places is a reward for mediocrity.

As bad as Linfield have been this season, you can’t tell me that Cliftonville, Ballymena United and Glentoran are more deserving of a place in Europe.

Just wait five years when people are sitting about wondering why the Irish League’s co-efficient takes a battering because we let lottery winners play in Europe rather than deciding places on merit.

Having thrown away 3rd place during the regular season, Linfield should have been making no mistake in this Play-Off sham. We were 2-0 up at home to a team that finished 7th, and had lost three of their last four games – to the bottom three.

When it went to 2-1, you knew what was happening. Far too many times Linfield have capitulated and felt sorry for themselves after conceding a goal. Too many players hide when the going gets tough.

It is made even worse when you see how many times Linfield battled back from adversity to win the League in 2016-2017.

In November 2016, Linfield came from 2-0 down with nine men to get a draw at Glenavon. It spurred the team on for the rest of the season.

In October 2017, Linfield lost 2-1 at Coleraine due to a controversial goal. The response? a 5-2 defeat at home to Crusaders.

And on that note, being afraid of Crusaders. They can cut that shit out right away. I thought they had cut that out in 2016-2017.

A team of hoofers and thugs, and we made them look like Real Madrid. FIVE TIMES.

It’s a team of players approaching or in their 30s. It will need an overhaul over the next few years. There is a potential that this will blow up spectacularly for them. We have to be ready to pounce. Coleraine are no doubt ready to do so.

Departures have already happened. A new centre midfielder was a priority before Stephen Lowry left. It is even more so now. As is a striker who can put the ball in the net.

June 2018 will be the first month since June 2015 that Linfield haven’t played a competitive match. It’s simply possible that Linfield’s players experienced burnout this season, especially considering that players such as Jimmy Callacher, Mark Haughey, Mark Stafford, Niall Quinn, Matthew Clarke, Jamie Mulgrew, Stephen Lowry, Kirk Millar and Andrew Waterworth have been with the club during this period.

Hopefully, we can use a Europe free summer to our advantage, and get players such as Jordan Stewart, Jimmy Callacher and Andrew Waterworth back to full fitness so that they can hit the ground running in August.

So, Pre-Season wishlist. All away, grounds i’ve never been to or haven’t been to for a while – Moyola Park, PSNI, Knockbreda and QUB. Am I being ambitious to hope for an away game against one of Queen Of The South, Ayr United or Stranraer?

It is a League next season that will feature away game(s) against Newry, a ground I haven’t been to since 2010. Looking forward to that.

Of the Irish League teams in Europe, they will enter the competition between Tuesday 10th July and Thursday 12th July.

Any team at home that week will play on Tuesday 10th July. It’s common sense. That won’t stop Northern Ireland’s gutter press going to work, especially if one or two of them draw Glasgow teams.

After a season of fixture scheduling farces, here’s two to look out for next season.

Carl Frampton is having a fight at Windsor Park on Saturday 18th August 2018. You would expect Linfield to be away that day. You’d hope. It would be an utter disgrace if they have a home game scheduled that day that needs to be rearranged.

Saturday 23rd March 2019 is a date set aside for Euro 2020 Qualifiers. The draw is yet to happen. I’d like to think contingency plans are in place should Northern Ireland be at home that day.

That’s me for my football watching for 2017-2018. In some parallel universe i’d be writing about how i’m heading to Villa Park to see Morocco v Iran or going to St James Park to see Denmark v Peru.

Photo Album

SALFORD QUAYS STREET ART – MAY 2018

As pointed out in the last update, it should probably be called Pomona Wharf Street Art, but it leads to Salford Quays. so i’m sticking with this title.

Whenever I travelled by Tram between Old Trafford and Manchester City Centre, I always noticed this from outside the window, a constant row of walls of Street Art.

Eventually, I decided to investigate this for myself, getting off at Cornbrook Metrolink Station, and found it on foot, getting as many photos as I could.

Every time I have travelled over to Manchester since, I have always made sure I visit here to get photos.

Over to see United play Watford recently, I spent the morning of the match in Manchester City Centre, so that I could make a short tram ride to Cornbrook to then walk to Salford Quays, and then on to Old Trafford.

The weather was nice, which meant I had a lot of daylight to work with.

Another stroke of luck was that I took a wrong turn, and stumbled upon a new piece with a swarm of worker bees with the caption “WE (HEART) MCR”.

I walked along Pomona Wharf and got photos of the new pieces I hadn’t seen before, as the walls had a mixture of old and new pieces.

Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art December 2017

Salford Quays Street Art January 2017

Salford Quays Street Art November 2016

Salford Quays Street Art May 2016

MANCHESTER STREET ART – MAY 2018

I was in Manchester at the weekend, so I decided to go out and get some Street Art photos.

I didn’t have much time to work with, so I had to make the most of what I had.

The plan was to go to Northern Quarter and Ancoats where I normally go.

My last visit to Manchester was in December 2017, five months ago. To my surprise, there was still a lot of work that was still there from my last visit.

That included Stevenson Square, which usually has a high turnover of Street Art.

I managed to stumble on a piece in defiance against the bomb attack in the city in May 2017 in Dale Street which I had previously missed, as well as spotting an owl in Ancoats.

When you go in search of Street Art, you have to keep an eye out for things.

On the Sunday afternoon, I thought I had seen as much Street Art as I could, until I stumbled upon a mural of Muhammad Ali just off Portland Street

Photo Album

Manchester Street Art – December 2017

Manchester Street Art – May 2017

Manchester Street Art – February 2017

Manchester Street Art – November 2016

Manchester Street Art – May 2016

Manchester Street Art – January 2016

Manchester Street Art – November 2015

Manchester Street Art – May 2015

Manchester Street Art – November 2014

NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS – LIVE AT THE ODYSSEY 9.5.2018

After spending most of 2018 touring to promote his third solo album Who Built The Moon?, Noel Gallagher headed into Belfast, a city that he has a lot of history with.

Of course, he was at The Limelight (with 250,000 others) on the night Definitely Maybe went to number one, he has also been here on the weeks of previous album releases both solo and as a member of Oasis.

This album had an even bigger link to Belfast, with part of it being recorded here.

Noel Gallagher spending time in Belfast and I didn’t see him once, yet somehow I always manage to walk past Uncle Andy from Give My Head Peace at least once a week.

Support came from Baxter Dury, who sings a lot like his dad. If that’s your scene, you will enjoy him.

I would have preferred it if Blossoms were supporting him, as they did when he toured Mainland Europe last month, having previously seen them supporting Paul Weller in 2015 and Kasabian (well, supposed to) in 2017, as well as a headline gig at The Limelight in early 2017.

No pressure on Noel, but I was missing Linfield v Glentoran for this. As Noel entered the stage, Linfield had just gone 2-0 up. Noel was well on the way to being my favourite Gallagher as I missed a County Antrim Shield defeat to Ards to see Liam in concert last November.

I had a quick check again two songs in and it was 2-2 en route to a 3-4 defeat. It was now Noel’s job to cheer me up rather than entertain me.

Unsurprisingly, he entered to the sound of Fort Knox, a great introductory song with an epic build up with a 1990 vibe. You could just imagine it being in the background as you hug Tony Wilson or Peter Hook in The Hacienda.

Noel was on vocals for the “Hey hey hey” bits which didn’t really work as well live as it did on the record.

This then led in to Holy Mountain, the lead single from Who Built The Moon?, a song that took a while to grow, best described as Roxy Music with flutes. Amazingly, it works.

Everybody in the venue was punching the air as Noel sang “She fell, she fell, right under my spell”, as is tradition when you reach the chorus of a Glam Rock stomper.

The opening songs were dominated by songs from Who Built The Moon? It has it’s moments, but it’s weird enough to scare off teenage parka wearing fuckwits who previously turned up at his concerts acting like shitebags, meaning that this was a more civilised affair.

One of those songs was It’s A Beautiful World, which was the opposite of Fort Knox, which sounds a lot better live than it does on record.

This block of solo hits also included stuff from previous albums such as In The Heat Of The Moment, Riverman, Ballad Of The Mighty I, IF I Had A Gun and Dream On.

Three albums in, he can fill out a set with solo material, Oasis classics are now the minority. The his now Noel properly solo, or Noelo, if you prepare.

Noel then spoke to the crowd asking “What about ye?” in a very authentic Belfast accent, asking what had happened since he was last here, answering himself with “Fuck all”, as someone threw a baseball hat at him, he took a look at it and kicked it away in disgust, before asking “Who the fuck walks around Belfast wearing a Los Angeles baseball hat?” before making another fashion based observation that judging by the way people were dressed, there were a lot of Oasis fans in the building.

That got a cheer, it was a nice link to a couple of Oasis classics, Little By Little (sounding far better than on record) and The Importance Of Being Idle before Love Is The Law, and underrated classic from Who Built The Moon?

Another stand out track from Who Built The Moon?, She Taught Me To Fly was next. Just before that song, he introduced his backing band, The High Flying Birds. The loudest cheer was for Charlotte Scissor Queen, as this was the song she plays scissors on. There were also familiar (Familiar to millions, you could say) faces in the form of former Oasai Gem Archer, Chris Sharrock and Mike Rowe.

It was then back to Oasis for some singalong classics, Half The World Away and Wonderwall, before signing off on AKA …. What a Life.

Onto the encore, and an Oasis classic not usually performed by Noel, as it was sung by Liam, Go Let It Out, with a slightly more Primal Scream-ey vibe and no Noel shouting “PICK UP THE BASS” between verses.

That was then followed by a stripped back Don’t Look Back In Anger, Noel as per usual just letting the audience do the singing.

The show ended with a cover of All You Need Is Love. Oasis did covers of I Am The Walrus and Helter Skelter as B-Sides and frequently talked about their love of The Beatles.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get the balloon drop that has happened at other concerts on the tour when he performs this song.

Want to feel old? Definitely Maybe is the mid point between now and The Beatles splitting up.

As he left the stage, he told the crowd “I’ll see you down the road”

Whatever could be mean?

Ormeau Park? Custom House Square? Titanic Slipways? Holywood Rugby Club?

Photo Album

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at Titanic Belfast 2016

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at The Odyssey 2015

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at Custom House Square 2012

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at The Odyssey 2012

BANK SQUARE STREET ART

We recently had Bankmore Square Street Art, so naturally, that would be followed by Bank Square Street Art.

Boarding at the site of building work for a new Boutique Hotel at Bank Square has provided an opportunity for some new Street Art.

This was done live in conjunction with Seedhead Arts Festival Of Fools. Unfortunately, I missed it being done live, which was a pity.

The two pieces were done by Friz and Kev Largey.

The piece by Kev Largey is of a performer called Frankie Magilligan.

I headed down on Tuesday lunchtime to get some photos. Then, after seeing the weather get better by Tuesday teatime, I decided to go out and get some more.

Another Street Art observation I have noticed is a sad one, that the mural of George Michael and Prince in Botanic has been defaced.

Belfast doesn’t really help itself.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park, a place where I would spend four of the five Saturdays during the month, to see Linfield scrape a 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.

Postponements would then frustrate my football watching, as Linfield’s trip to Carrick was postponed, as was the FA Cup Replay between Crewe Alexandra and Blackburn Rovers, which I had planned on attending.

The reason for this was that I was in North-West England to see Manchester United take on AFC Bournemouth, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

I then headed to Windsor Park on successive Saturdays to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville.

That was then followed by a Boxing Day trip to The Oval, the less said about that, the better.

After that, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Crusaders. The less said about that, the better.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Manchester Untied v AFC Bournemouth

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth Photo Album

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November’s football watching began with a long trip to Fermanagh to see Linfield beat Ballinamallard 6-0 in the pouring rain.

Up next, was Northern Ireland’s World Cup Play-Off against Switzerland. The following day, I headed to Ballymena to see Linfield take on Ballymena, giving me two disappointing results on successive days.

Results took an upturn in the final weeks of the month, as I headed to see Linfield beat the top two in the League, Coleraine and Glenavon, in successive weeks.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Switzerland

Northern Ireland v Switzerland Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield