PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

September’s first football watching didn’t begin until the middle of the month, when Linfield took on Warrenpoint Town.

A home match against Warrenpoint doesn’t usually generate much excitement, but it did on this occasion, as it was Linfield’s first home match of the season, and a first chance to see the ongoing redevelopment work at Windsor Park.

The following weekend, I was Windsor bound to see Linfield take on Glenavon.

As the month ended, it was Fermanagh for me to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard.

The final match of the month, was at Seaview, to see Linfield take on Crusaders in a rearranged Monday night game.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Glenavon

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Crusaders v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

The 2014-2015 football season began domestically in August, with a trip to Portadown, for Linfield’s first domestic game under Warren Feeney.

The optimism was soon gone within 90 minutes as Portadown ran out 3-0 winners.

A few days later, I was in Cardiff for the European Super Cup Final between Real Madrid and Sevilla. It was a fantastic trip and great to visit another stadium for the first time. Was very impressed with the facilities there.

24 hours later, I was headed to The Oval to see Linfield get their first domestic win under Warren Feeney, a comeback win from 2-0 down.

That weekend, I was in Edinburgh, and took in a game, Hearts v Hibs at Tynecastle.

With Windsor Park being redeveloped, Linfield had a run of seven successive away games, so road trips became a regular feature of the opening weeks of the season, with trips to Institute (first time there), Ballyclare Comrades and Dungannon Swifts finishing off August.

Portadown v Linfield

Real Madrid v Sevilla

Real Madrid v Sevilla Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

Hearts v Hibs

Hearts v Hibs Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Ballyclare Comrades v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JULY

After a two month break, my football watching for 2014-2015 began in early July, with the World Cup still going on (on the night of the first two Quarter-Finals) in Bray.

I was over there for a concert, and decided to take in a game as there was one on while I was there, a bottom of the table clash between Bray Wanderers and Drogheda United.

Carlisle Ground is a nice stadium for watching football in when it’s sunny. Unfortunately, when I was there, it was raining. A lot.

It was still an enjoyable game, with Drogheda winning 3-1.

On the night of the now infamous World Cup Semi-Final between Brazil and Germany, I was at Mourneview Park for the UEFA Cup tie between Linfield and B36 Torshavn, my first experience of seeing a Warren Feeney managed Linfield team in the flesh.

The following week, I was back at Mourneview Park again, for the next round against AIK, to see Linfield secure a fantastic 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat meant Linfield’s European hopes were over for another year.

Two days later, I was Bangor bound, as Linfield used Clandeboye Park for a friendly against Cowdenbeath.

My main reason for going was to check out the facilities at Clandeboye, which had recently had some renovation work and a new 3G pitch.

That was my football watching for July, the league season not long away from starting. It was great to be back watching football.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 22.5.2015

1. Little Mix – Black Magic
2. Kodaline – Ready
3. Muse – Mercy
4. The Strypes – Scumbag City
5. Doctor and the Medics – Spirit In The Sky

As if you needed to be reminded, this weekend is Eurovision, and i’m as excited as a Priest singing about a horse. So, to get you in the mood, as if you need to be got into the mood, he’re five Eurovision classics for you.

FIVE EUROVISION SONGS

1. A Friend In London – New Tomorrow
2. Emmelie De Forest – Only Teardrops
3. Katrina and the Waves – Love Shine A Light
4. Jedward – Lipstick
5. Anna Rossinelli – In Love For A While

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 ARSENAL 17.5.2015

For the second time this season, I was Old Trafford bound. This time, it was to see United take on Arsenal as they aimed to secure a Top 3 finish and automatic qualification for the Champions League group stage.

After last season, it wouldn’t take a lot to improve on it, so a jump of 3 places isn’t to be sniffed at. Hopefully, the same will happen next season.

It is particularly frustrating though, to hit a brick wall after some of the best performances of the season which means they will more than likely finish 4th, and face a Qualifier to reach the Champions League.

It’s not a new experience, having reached the groups by this method in 1998, 2004 and 2005. Thankfully, unlike in 2004 and 2005, it won’t cause postponement of Premier League games, meaning United fall behind at a time when teams are jostling for position.

Thankfully, Liverpool let United away with a poor run of form by only claiming one point from trips to West Brom and Hull, meaning United secured a Top 4 finish with two games to go.

It was my third time seeing United take on Arsenal, both the previous games finishing 0-0 draws. I was really putting my record of not seeing a 0-0 draw this season on the line.

Arsenal had a few early attacks but nothing that caused panic, as Untied grew into the game and were the stringer team.

Phil Jones almost scored an own goal by attempting a backpass from too close to De Gea, whose outstretch clearance set up an attack. It was classic Phil Jones.

Alongside him in defence, Chris Smalling, captain for the day, had a fine game.

United’s best player was Ashley Young, being at the centre of all attacking play, most often cutting onto his right foot and playing a dangerous cross.

The one time he crossed with his left foot resulted in United going 1-0 up as his cross went beyond Arsenal’s defence for Ander Herrera to volley home. It was a deserved lead.

Falcao was given a start. It didn’t happen for him. The effort was there, but the goal wasn’t.

Arsenal came out in the second-half a changed team, offering more in attack in the early moments than they did in the whole of the first-half.

United needed a second goal, they weren’t able to get it.

The second-half was in danger of becoming De Gea v Arsenal. The one time Arsenal got past him, Marcos Rojo was there to win the ball inside his own six yard box.

De Gea was injured in that incident, and was replaced by Victor Valdes, who made a long awaited debut for United.

By this point, Robin Van Persie was on for Falcao, as United chased a second goal.

It was Arsenal who got the second goal of the game, to square it at 1-1 with an unfortunate own goal from Tyler Blackett. I was at the side of the pitch where he scored and thought he squeezed it in from a tight angle. TV footage would prove me wrong, that it was an own goal instead.

After that, Arsenal were the mostly to score, the best chance coming when Mesut Ozil hit the side netting.

Robin Van Persie fired over with United’s best chance in the final moments, as it finished 1-1.

A missed opportunity to put some pressure on Arsenal in the race for 4th.

The media have been full of scare stories of the sides that United could face in August. Looking at the sides English clubs have faced (Celtic, Young Boys, Udinese, Fenerbache, Besiktas) at this stage since the format was amended in 2009, they are sides pundits lazily describe as “no mugs” but United should have enough to beat over two legs.

The tournament format will be changed from next season with the Champions of the top eight leagues being top seeds instead of the top eight ranked sides. It is good news for the likes of Benfica, PSV Eindhoven and Zenit St Petersburg.

Amazingly, if United get through, indications are that they will be second seeds, which is impressive for a side that missed out a whole season of European football.

However, the 2010-2011 run to the final will soon drop off, meaning United will need a very good run in Europe next season to have a decent ranking in 2016-2017. Or they could just win the Premier League or the Champions League.

When the fixture list comes out, i’ll have a look and deliberate over what games to go to. What i’m thinking of at the moment, is one fly to, one bus to and a there and back European game. If I fly over for a weekend, i’m hoping it’s a Sunday game and I can get a chance to take in a game at FC United’s soon to be opened Broadhurst Park.

New players to come in, and Adidas kits to come (my first United top was an Adidas one) – it’s all change at Old Trafford. Already looking forward to experiencing some of it in the flesh.

Photo Album

MANCHESTER STREET ART MAY 2015

Had a brief visit to Manchester over the weekend and took the opportunity to get some Street Art pictures. My schedule only allowed me an afternoon in the City Centre, so I headed straight to the Northern Quarter.

The pieces I snapped on my last visit in November are now gone and replaced by new pieces.

When I was in Manchester in November last year, I got some pictures from along Salford Quays. I didn’t get the opportunity due to a lack of time.

Staying in the North-West of England, i’m heading to Northern Ireland v Qatar in Crewe at the end of the month, before spending a day in Liverpool, where I hope to be getting some Scouse Street Art when i’m over there.

Photo Album

See Also

Manchester Street Art November 2014

Manchester Street Art November 2014 Photo Album 1

Manchester Street Art November 2014 Photo Album 2

THE CHARLATANS – LIVE AT CUSTOM HOUSE SQUARE 2.5.2015 (CATHEDRAL QUARTER ARTS FESTIVAL)

After an absence of nearly two years, The Charlatans returned to Belfast for a gig at Custom House Square, as part of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

It was a gig Belfast fans had been waiting for, with Belfast being left off their March tour. A Dublin date was announced soon after, which got fans hopes up, before this date was announced in the middle of March, the excitement begun.

Their last gig was in 2013 at Falls Park as part of Feile. It felt a bit subdued. It would later emerge why that was, as drummer Jon Brookes was gravely ill, before dying the following week. There is a Belfast Telegraph article covering that gig and previewing this one here.

That gig took place in a tent, just like this one. Given the weather outside, fans were thankful of that. The tent factor didn’t go unnoticed by the band, with Tim Burgess commenting “Every gig we do here is in a tent” before being corrected by Mark Collins that it was, in fact, a marquee.

Burgess entered the stage shortly after the rest of the band, who were playing an instrumental version of Forever, with Burgess loitering at the side of the stage, building up the tension.

If it hits you wanted, they didn’t disappoint, with Weirdo, North Country Boy, Tellin Stories, One To Another, How High and Only One I Know all on the setlist.

As well as classic hits, there was also current hits, with singles from their current album, Modern Nature, such as So Oh, May The Good Times Be Never Ending and Talking In Tones all being played.

During the set, someone shouted “Fuck Ronan Keating”, which seemed to be a bit random, until I discovered he got into a spat with the band recently.

Burgess took the opportunity to exhibit his dancing skills during the set, the Belfast crowd danced along with him.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before The Charlatans return to Belfast. If they can’t find a venue to play in, i’m sure somebody will build them a tent.

Photo Album

The Charlatans Live In Falls Park August 2013

The Charlatans Live At Falls Park August 2013 Photo Album

GLENTORAN 1-0 PORTADOWN 2.5.2015

One more domestic game for me in 2014-2015, and it was the Irish Cup Final at The Oval. As I was at Shamrock Park last Saturday, I decided to get a ticket. It was a late decision for me to go to Shamrock Park last weekend, but it meant i’ve been to all but one Irish Cup Final since 2006.

The last two years have been as a neutral, with one of the finalists being at home to Linfield the Saturday before. That was a bit of a lucky coincidence.

Hopefully, next year, i’ll be there watching Linfield. It is expected that the 2016 Final will be held at Windsor Park, assuming there are no more snags with the redevelopment of the stadium.

Even before the problems with the West Stand arose, there was always going to be problems accommodating supporters with only two stands. No doubt the IFA were secretly hoping the two finalists would be two lesser supported clubs.

Ravenhill was mentioned, but not for me. The crowd behind the goal would have been too far from the pitch to get a decent atmosphere. It is curious to see football fans wanting big football matches played at non football stadiums. If Ravenhill had similar problems as Windsor Park, I have my doubts that rugby fans would be crying for Ulster to play at Windsor Park or any football ground.

The Oval was the only option for the game, it’s first since 1995. It was my first Oval Cup Final since 1992.

As I headed to the ground, there was a change in usual arrangements, with tickets being taken off supporters as you entered the tunnel towards the turnstiles, with the turnstiles not being used, as supporters walked in through an empty gate. It will be interesting to see if those arrangements are in place for ticketed league games next season.

At the Sydenham End, there was a temporary stand in place. I didn’t think it was possible to have an arrangement in place, but it seemed to work ok. Feel free to correct me if you were at that end and saw something different.

One thing beyond the organiser’s control was the weather, which fluctuated from slightly wet to very wet. It didn’t really help the game.

I’d previously been to matches between Glentoran and Portadown before. Most recently, the Irish Cup Semi-Final in 2013, which finished 1-0 to Glentoran. I’d also been at the final stages of two matches in 2010 (on my way home from five a side), both of which finished 1-0 to Glentoran.

I’m not sure me being there was going to be a good omen for Portadown.

Curtis Allen had the first moment of the game when a header went wide.

In the early moments, Portadown were nervous, giving away soft free-kicks, throw-ins and corners in their own defensive third. Glentoran couldn’t take advantage of it. Portadown gave them enough opportunities to do so.

Despite their nervousness in their own defensive third, Portadown had some attacking moments in the first-half. Not a lot though. Those that did happen usually had a Glentoran body in the way to clear it. Portadown’s best moment came when Mark McAllister had a shot blocked by a defender.

Glentoran’s best moment after Allen’s header was when David Scullion was able to get enough space to shoot, only to fire the shot over.

In a further example of Portadown’s defensive nervousness, Garry Breen almost presented Curtis Allen with an opportunity to score by dithering on the ball and inviting a tackle. Fortunately for Portadown, Allen was unable to get on his feet to run through on goal after winning the ball, and Portadown were able to clear the danger.

It was a poor first-half, both sets of fans were hoping the game would improve in the second-half.

Portadown started the second-half strongly, a cross causing problems for Glentoran, while Sean Mackle wasted a glorious opportunity to cross, with the ball going straight to Elliott Morris.

The game was won and lost soon afterwards in the space of under a minute. Michael Gault chased a short backpass and was tripped by Glentoran’s Willy Garrett. The referee decided it was no foul. It should have been, and if he awarded it, it would have been a red card.

Even more ludicrously, Elliott Morris picked up the backpass in question, and Portadown didn’t get an indirect free-kick for it.

Glentoran went up the field and created an opening down their left, with David Scullion getting space in the box to fire home.

It was the first real chance of the game. As soon as Scullion lined up to Shoot, there was only going to be one outcome.

Portadown had some pressure afterwards, but it was all huff. They never really looked like scoring for all their possession around Glentoran’s penalty area.

Their best moment came when a Garry Breen header was superbly saved by Elliott Morris.

When Portadown had a set piece, you never felt like Portadown were going to score from it. Even when the ball dropped to them in the penalty area, there was always a Glentoran body in the way to block it.

There was an air of inevitability that it would finish 1-0. As the final moments neared, there was a bit of handbags between both sets of players.

Glentoran held on to win the cup.

The previous night, Warrenpoint beat Bangor in the Promotion/Relegation Play-Off to secure another season of top flight football.

I’ve nothing against Warrenpoint, but I was hoping for a trip to Bangor in August or September. I’ve enjoyed my two visits to Warrenpoint, so hopefully, next season’s visits will be during the warmer months.

No more domestic football until July, when Irish League clubs re-enter Europe. Hoping for Crusaders v Malmo and Glentoran or Glenavon v IFK Gothenborg, if only to tick the two Swedish clubs off my UEFA 101 Club list, and of course Linfield to get one of the unseeded minnows.

Before that possibly, is the Setanta Cup, with the draw supposedly being on Thursday. Details remain sketchy, but i’m hoping for Cork v Linfield as i’ve never been to Turner’s Cross, and haven’t been to the city of Cork for fifteen and a half years.

For me, the 2014-2015 season still has some life in it with trips to Old Trafford, Gresty Road and then Northern Ireland v Romania, before a short pre-season, and then 2015-2016 will be underway. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Photo Album