SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO EVERY MONTH

So, this is going to be my thing for 2010, to have something to do or go and see per month to look forward to.

So far, I have January, February, March, August and December sorted :

January – Neil Delamere (Lisburn)
February – Kelly Clarkson (Manchester) and United v Portsmouth
March – Ocean Colour Scene (Mandela Hall)
August – Edinburgh Festival
December – Boxing Day, Linfield v Glentoran

So i’m needing April, May, June, July, September, October and November sorted.

Shopping around for flights to Sheffield in April to see James (the band, not some bloke called James) sounds tempting, but Flybe are the only ones operating and they’re not too cheap.

Unfortunately, i’m not too confient on Linfield going on an extended Irish Cup run which would see April (Semi-Final) and May (Final) catered for.

So, any suggestions to fill in the gaps?

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BOXING DAYS OF YORE

So, Boxing Day 2009 was a break with tradition due to the weather, as a change of plan involved a Saturday afternoon in the company of Jeff Stelling.

My first Boxing Day (Just to clarify, ‘Boxing Day’ refers to the meeting between Linfield and Glentoran on Boxing Day each year, rather than the actual day itself, as if it actually needed explaining) was in 1991, and was my first ever football match. It finished 3-3 that year, and I was hooked. All the 8 year old me remembers is loads of noise and excitement. It was also the year I got my first two football kits, the then Adidas made Man United shirts of the time. 1991 was most definately an eventful milestone of a christmas.

In 1992, the clash was held at Windsor Park (as is tradition when the year ends in an even number. It’s easy to remember, it’s held at The Oval when the year ends in an odd number, and Glentoran most definately are an odd bunch)

Like the year before, all I can remember is excitement, noise and a 2-0 win. And getting home late as the home fans were kept behind on police advice.

By now, I was loving the Boxing Day experience, and come the final whistle, was already counting down until the following year’s game.

In 1993, Boxing Day was held on December 27th. Why? It was a Sunday and we don’t play football on a Sunday, so in that situation, Boxing Day gets rescheduled to the 27th.

An easy routine 2-0 win for Linfield. The return fixture, would go down in legend.

By November 1994, me and a friend that lived down the street from me and his mates from school were all now attending Windsor Park regularly.

So, we were all excited about that year’s Boxing Day game until my dad had to ruin it all by wanting to go.

How can I be rude and obnoxious and shout abuse at opposition players and referees when i’m with my dad?

After two successive victories, a 1-1 draw was a major culture shock.

Normal service was resumed in 1995 in a memorable and infamous game which got worldwide acclaim on clipshows (including Fantasy Football and They Think It’s All Over) as the Orange ball which was used in the snow burst at half-time, and the ref had no option but to play with a white ball. Throwing snowballs at Glens players and winning 3-0. What a christmas.

Stephen Watson, then a young reporter for UTV commented that the win saw Linfield slide up the table, displaying all the skills he needs to be BBCNI’s main sports anchorman

The following year was the first of four successive draws. A 0-0 at Windsor was not much to write about.

In 1997, I saw something I never thought i’d see, Roy Coyle in the Glentoran dugout. The 1-1 draw didn’t help either side, with both losing out in the title race to Cliftonville.

Back to Windsor in 1998 for a 1-1 draw, played in the midst of a near hurricane. Houses in Belfast lost electricity and the roof on a stand at Mourneview Park blew off during the game but we still played on at Windsor, because men are men, unlike in 2009 where a little bit of frost cancels 5/6ths of the fixture list.

The last Boxing Day of the 90s/century/millenium was a 1-1 draw, which wasn’t exactly dropped points due to Linfield having a double figure lead at the time, running away to a first title in 6 years. Strangely, the sides met 5 days later in a re-arranged County Antrim Shield game. On New Year’s Eve 1999, the last ever football match of the 20th century.

What a way to go out, playing for a shitty shield that nobody wants.

The first Boxing Day of the 21st Century saw Linfield running away with the league and this game billed as Glentoran’s last chance to stay in the title race. Tim McCann was most vocal in the media about how Glentoran “Always come good in the big games”.

The old mantra of “Glentoran say, Linfield do” was never more evident as first half goals from Tony Gorman and Gavin Arthur ensured a 2-0 Linfield win.

In 2001, it ended 3-3, like in 1991. I’m already excited about 2011, although hopefully Linfield will be so far clear at that point, we can afford to drop two points.

The draw was put into perspective by the tragic events that day, as football paled into an irrelevance, as it was announced that Steps had split up.

The 2002-2003 season was a non-event, and so was the Boxing Day after the 10th minute as it finished 1-1.

The following year will simply be known as “The Stuart King Show”. What a day. I was working on the floor in The Globe that night. I couldn’t care how cuntish the spidey little fucks that frequented The Globe behaved, Linfield hade just stuffed Glentoran.

By this point, Linfield were one game away from being 15 years unbeaten. On Boxing Day 1989, Band Aid II was Number One. On Boxing Day 2004, with Linfield already 6 points behind Glentoran, Band Aid 20 was Number One.

If we lost that match, Bob Geldof and Midge ure would have received some hate mail through the post.

We didn’t lose, although the 1-1 draw felt like a defeat.

The following year, normal order was restored with a 4-1 win at The Oval. We even missed penalty at 4-0. I love Boxing Day when the year ends in 5. I’m already excited about 2015.

By 2006, I was doing the final year of a degree and was picking my matches living on a student budget. Like 2002 and 2004, a 1-1 draw having gone in front felt like a defeat.

2007 will have a blank space next to it as the unthinkable happened. It was live on Sky with a 5.20pm kick-off. My mates decided to take advantage of the extra 2 hours and 20 minutes extra drinking time, while the only one with a driving licence (me, for fuck sake) is knocking back the water.

We were to meet a mate outside the ground to give him his ticket. He was late. As a result, i’m stood loitering at the top of Dee Street looking like a fucking drug dealer. He caused us to miss the first 10 minutes. We ended up thanking him as it meant we only got to see 80 minutes of that fucking shambles.

Thankfully, normal order was restored in 2008. the mate who delayed us in 2007 was now married and spending Boxing Day with the in-laws. He phoned me at 5pm that day to get the score. He replied by saying it sounded like an amazing match.

Now, beating Glentoran 3-0, them missing a penalty, Linfield having a player sent off and the PSNI beating the shite out of Legion 1882, the fruitiest firm ever sounds exciting, it was actually quite tame in comparison with past meetings in history, and even past Boxing Day encounters.

But still, i’m not complaining, a joyous day was heading, heading to The Eg to watch a bit of English Premiership action, then a celebratory Chippy Cheese in Stranmillis on the way home.

The ‘fearsome’ Legion 1882 sing “Where’s your famous section F?”, which isn’t really worthy of a response, especially as “Over there, it’s quite clearly signposted” doesn’t really work as a football chant.

To give you an idea of what the Legion are like, forget Section F, if they saw Test Card F, they’d be running crying to their mums.

So, as I finish typing, it is now 364 days until the next Boxing Day, which is to be held on Monday 27th December 2010. Mark it in you diaries. I know I have.

THE SOUND OF 2009

Behold, the best 100 songs of 2009

1. Little Boots : New In Town
2. Muse : Uprising
3. Mr Hudson : White Lies
4. Ellie Goulding : Under The Sheets
5. Jordin Sparks : SOS (Let The Music Play)
6. Mika : We Are Golden
7. Natalie Imbruglia : Want
8. Bat For Lashes : Daniel
9. Little Boots : Every Little Earthquake
10. Lady Ga Ga : Alejandro
11. Kelly Clakson : My Life Would Suck Without You
12. The Crystal Method ft Matisyahu : Drown In The Now
13. Preston : Dressed To Kill
14. Green Day : 21 Guns
15. Sophie Ellis-Bextor : Heartbreak Make Me A Dancer
16. Empire Of The Sun : Walking On A Dream
17. Kid British : Lost In London
18. Hockey : Song Away
19. White Lies : Farewell To The Fairground
20. The King Blues : Save The World, Get The Girl
21 .Jem : It’s Amazing
22. Maccabees : Love You Better
23. The Answer : On And On
24. Temper Trap : Sweet Disposition
25. The Veronicas : Untouched
26. Kelly Clarkson : Long Shot
27. Kasabien : Fire
28. Alicia Keys : Doesn’t Mean Anything
29. Bat For Lashes : Pearl’s Dream
30. Jordin Sparks : Battlefield
31. Bat For Lashes : Sleep Alone
32. Paloma Faith : New York
33. Little Boots : Remedy
34. Muse : United States Of Eurasia
35. Kasabien : Underdog
36. Lily Allen : Everyone’s At It
37. Katy Perry : Waking Up In Vegas
38. Frankmusik : Confusion Girl
39. The Big Pink : Dominoes
40. Sterephonics : Innocent
41. Nerina Pallot : Real Late Starter
42. Mika : Rain
43. Paramore : Ignorance
44. Jay-Z ft Alicia Keys : Empire State Of Mind
45. Ian Brown : Stellify
46. Little Boots : Beat Again
47. Black Eyed Peas : Meet Me Halfway
48. Franz Ferdinand : No You Girls
49. Biffy Clyro : The Captain
50. 3OH!3 : Don’t Trust Me
51. Gary Go : Wonderful
52. La Roux : In For The Kill
53. Fleet Foxes : Mykonos
54. Lily Allen : The Fear
55. The Killers : Spaceman
56. U2 : Magnificent
57. Tinchy Stryder ft N-Dubz :Number 1
58. Pet Shop Boys : Love Etc
59. Ting Tings : We Walk
60. Laura Izibor : Shine
61. Take That : Up All Night
62. Vanessa Hudgens : Sneakernight
63. Kasabian :Vlad The Impaler
64. Pixie Lott : Mama Do
65. Empire Of The Sun : We Are The People
66. VV Brown : Shark In The Water
67. Muse : Undisclosed Desires
68. La Roux : Bulletproof
69. Jonas Brothers : Paranoid
70. General Fiasco : Rebel Get By
71. Eilidh Patterson : Still Learning
72. Florence and the Machine : Rabbit Heart
73. Arctic Monkeys : Crying Lightning
74. Alphabeat : The Spell
75. Manic Street Preachers : Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
76. Flight Of The Conchordes : Too Many Dicks On The Dancefloor
77. Britney Spears : If You Seek Amy
78. Lady Gaga : Just Dance
79. 3OH!3 ft Katy Perry : Starrstrukk
80. Noisettes : Don’t Upset The Rhythm
81. Lady Gaga : Poker Face
82. Flight Of The Conchords : What If the World Was More Like My Dreams?
83. Green Day : 21st Century Breakdown
84. Oasis : Falling Down
85. Kevin Rudolf : Let It Rock
86. Pink : Sober
87. Starsailor : Tell Me It’s Not Over
88. Kid British : Sunny Days
89. Pussycat Dolls : Jai Ho
90. Tommy Sparks : She’s Got Me Dancing
91. Eminem : We Made You
92. Justin Timberlake ft Ciara : Love Sex Magic
93. Metro Station : Shake It
94. Paloma Faith : Stone Cold Sober
95. Florence and the Machine : Drumming Song
96. Saturdays : Forever Is Over
97. Snow Patrol : Just Say Yes
98. Filthy Dukes : Tupac Robot Club Rock
99. Ash : True Love (1980)
100. Shontelle : Battlecry

HISTORY REPEATING ……….. AGAIN

Another Saturday, another farce, and sadly, the points that were raised in the original ‘History Repeating’ blog have been repeated.

I said that if Ballymena went 1-0 up on Saturday, there would be a 90% chance they would win. What I didn’t expect that they playerswould start to feel sorry for themselves so much, they would allow Ballymena to score a second goal, and clinch the win with 45 minutes to spare.

But of course, no doubt we’ll get fed the lines about a positive response in the face of adversity. Well, the last two games, we’ve went into them on the back of a shocking performance and result, and what did we get?

The same old rubbish.

Go behind, feel sorry for ourselves, and get beat.

It was remarked that Saturday was somehow a “Lucky escape” as a result of Glentoran’s defeat to Newry City. I see it as a missed opportunity. One of various missed opportunities throughout the season.

Having derailed Crusaders with a 4-0 win at Seaview in October, we have now let them back into the title race when we should have been picking up momentum and running away from them.

But even if form does pick up and we find ourselves getting clear of Glentoran, that might not be enough.

It’s not about finishing above Glentoran, it’s about finishing abouve everyone else. Finishing above Glentoran but being a distant second or third behind Crusaders and/or Cliftonville will have been a failure of a season.

The game against Ballymena was a strange one. to be honest, Ballymena were more than there for the taking. Even if it was 0-0 or 0-1 at half-time, I would still have been confident of winning, but it was the sloppy manner of the second goal that killed the game.

Perhaps, if an goal had come in the second-half, it could have started a fightback. Realistically, one goal, never mind three, never looked like coming.

Worst of all, the players were making poor decisions when on the ball, and looked lost and leaderless.

There are three key questions that need to be asked :

1. Has David Jeffrey done a good job as Linfield manager?

2. Is David Jeffrey doing a good job as Linfield manager?

3. Can David Jeffrey do a good job as Linfield manager in the future?

The answer to Question 1 is a resounding yes. Six titles in a thirten year period, including the 2005-2006 campaign suggests so.

Question 2, is a resounding no.

For Question 3, I don’t know.

What I do know, is that I can’t say yes and be convincing about it.

I (and many others) gave him a chance after last season’s debacle. I’m loyal, but i’m not blindly loyal.

There is absolutely no doubt that history will judge David Jeffrey kindly.

Our primary concern is not what historians will write in 20/30/40/50 years time, but where Linfield will be when the trophies are being handed out in May 2010.

Victory on Boxing Day, no matter how sweet, would need to be taken with a dose of realism.

It’s just 1 game out of 38 where 12 teams try to gain more points than the other 11, of which 16 will still remain to be played.

And if title winning form isn’t seen over those remaining 16 matches, then it will have been another season of regression.

RAGE AGAINST FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, OR IS IT THE WASHING MACHINE?

So, this week has seen possibly seen one of the greatest feats of social activism, and quite appropriately in this digital age, all achieved through the internet, as one of humanity’s biggest problems was eradicated.

You would think i’d be referring to some policy implemented at the Copenhagen summit but you’d be wrong. I am referring to Rage Against The Machine beating Joe McElderry to the Christmas Number One spot.

Well, that’s that sorted people, we can all relax now, the evil X-Factor empire has been defeated. Our lives are officially now better. But is it really?

Does Christmas Number One really matter anymore?

When people think of some of the great Christmas songs in history, such as John Lennon, Jona Lewie, Greg Lake and Wizzard, they weren’t Number One.

It’s just something nice to say, but in reality, it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

So, why Rage Against The Machine?

It’s not as if they are in need of a commercial leg-up. I can understand the idea of wanting to give X-Factor a bit of a “Bloody nose”, but in reality, is a multi-platinum selling Grammy winning band the best choice of song?

Surely, if these moral do-gooders were wanted to stick it to “The Man”, they could have chosen a song by an act which didn’t get the commercial success it deserved and propel it to the top of the charts.

A good example of this would be ‘Drowned In The Now’ by the Crystal Method.

Personally, I don’t like either song (Actually, Audioslave are far better than Rage Against The Machine) and couldn’t really care who got the top spot, but I really find comments in the media by people cheerleading this campaign to be quite nauseating.

So, basically, I am being urged to buy a song I might not like, by a band I might not have heard, simply to prove a point.

What point am I proving as I am being manipulated by a bandwagon telling me what I should buy?

Oh yes, to make a protest against X-Factor manipulating a bandwagon and telling me what I should buy.

My music buying policy is simple. I like it, I buy it. No group on Facebook is going to make me change my mind.

It doesn’t even make a point about the fact that the charts can be manipulated by digital sales. That was proved four years ago when the rule was introduced as various songs re-entered the charts in a similar campaign.

For those who complain about the Christmas Number One spot is reserved for reality TV stars backed by major label funding should really look at the Chritsmas chart-toppers in the years preceding the reality TV boom.

In the seven years prior to 2002 (When Girls Aloud topped the chart on the back of X-Factor prequel ‘Popstars : The Rivals), Michael Jackson, Westlife, Spice Girls (3 times) and Robbie Williams all occupied the top spot.

Are these all plucky singer/songwriters who had one shot of glory and made the most of it?

Of course not, but apparantly, X-Factor’s big budgeted marketing campaign is worse than those popstars who have similar (or bigger) marketing budgets.

People need to not get so worked up over X-Factor and see it for what it is, a Saturday night light entertainment show. It’s not about music, it’s about entertainment. If a new musical talent is found, well, that’s a bonus. It’s not as if winning X-Factor guarantees a long-term career, just ask Leon Jackson, Steve Brookstein and Michelle McManus.

And the irony of it all?

With four shopping days until Christmas, Joe McElderry will enjoy steady sales while Rage Against The Machine will experience a massive drop now that “The joke” is over, meaning that Joe McElderry will be Number One next week.

So, they haven’t really stopped X-Factor from getting Number One, just delayed it by a week.

But hey, fight the power. Just because you think you are changing and saving the world does not nescessarily mean you are doing so.

WALKING ON THE MILKY WAY

For those who have read my ‘What Am I Listening To’ blogs in recent weeks may have noticed that I have listening to a bit of OMD lately.

Thanks to a big billboard just outside Belfast City Centre, I have fallen back in love with one of my favourite bands.

OMD were recently supporting Simple Minds on their UK tour, and I passed the billboard on Great Victoria Street on my way into work every morning advertising the Belfast concert.

Gradually, OMD got into my mind and i’ve been listening to them ever since.

Before I got into OMD, I only knew two of their songs, ‘Enola Gay’ and ‘Walking On The Milky Way’, which was on constant rotation on VH1 on a day I was off school ill.

‘The OMD Singles’ was one of the first albums I borrowed when I joined the music library, just to see what the rest of their songs were like. It’s now one of my favourite albums.

It was only last week, that I decided to browse Youtube, just to see what the videos were like, having only heard the songs, but never actually seen the videos.

Surely, I am not the only one who imagines what the video to a song will be like when they hear a song?

Some of the videos were not what I imagined, some were.

Whilst browsing, I found this classic advert from a more innocent age, namely 1988.

Oh Our Price, how I remember you. How the prices in the shop were always different to those advertised in the windows.

Ah, the memories of Friday afternoons when I was at Bangor Tec. On Friday’s, we had to go to Ards.

So, instead of jumping off the train at Botanic, it was a case of jumping off the bus outside Musgrave Street Copshop.

So, wandering through the city centre, I would often pop into the music shops to see what the latest releases were.

Later, it would be a case of the first opportunity every Monday popping in to see the new releases.

Of the ‘Four Biggies’, only HMV remain.

And now, even then, their singles options are so poor, I don’t even bother turning up on a Monday anymore

Like with Teletext, the internet, for all the wonderful things it giveth, also taketh away some of our most simple of pleasures.

IT’S ALL JUST A CASE OF HISTORY REPEATING

You could say, i’ve seen better weeks. Sadly, you could say i’ve seen similar weeks. At a shocking ratio.

It’s like a Groundhog Day, or some parallel universe where the 2008-2009 season just gets repeated over and over again, where false dawns and optomism, are usually followed by mediocrity and excuses.

How did Linfield ever become a football club that makes excuses?

It wasn’t just the defeats against Glentoran and Cliftonville, it was the manner of them.

No urgency, no fight, no leadership, clue or direction.

And worst of all, when chasing a game, no urgency. Acceptance of the result. After 75/80/85 minutes. Since when did Linfield start accepting bad results long before the final whistle?

There is one common denominator in this run of bad results, the first goal.

Portadown, Dungannon, Cliftonville and now Glentoran.

Go a goal down and panic. Everytime. The attitude isn’t “We’re 1-0 down, let’s dust ourselves and get an equalising goal, to then go on and win the game”, it’s “We’re 1-0 down, what do we do?”

When did this start to happen?

In the years preceding, if Linfield went 1-0 down, I wouldn’t have been too concerned. Why? Because I knew that at least 90% of the time, the team would come back to win, or worst case, draw. The 2008 CIS and Irish Cup Finals are a prime examples of that.

Sadly, if Linfield go 1-0 down on Saturday, there’s a 90% chance Ballymena will win.

How was such a mentality allowed to become the normal way of thinking at Windsor Park?

And worst of all, when you look at some of the worst performances in 2009 (calander year, not the season) they’ve come when it matters most. Since when did Linfield bottle it in the big matches?

This is not the team I started supporting in the early 90s.

As well as the fact that Linfield could have played until Monday morning without scoring, was the fact that Cliftonville players were doing backheels and fancy flicks while Linfield players just sat back and admired.

Since when did teams like Cliftonville ever come to Windsor Park and do backheels and fancy flicks?

Did nobody out on the pitch see that, and think to themselves “I’m not accepting that, i’m going to grab this game by the scruff of the neck and do something about it”

Why not?

When the players walk through Windsor Park, and see the reminders of the club’s history, do they not think to themselves, “I want a piece of that”?

The door sign on the home dressing room (in)famously says “DO NOT ENTER IF YOU FEAR FAILURE”

If recent matches are anything to go by, the players must get dressed in the corridor.

The players owe the fans big time. Not just one big performance either. A win in the next two games will bring a lot of joy, but if it’s followed by a defeat at home to Crusaders, then it will have been worthless.

The fans want an end to this “Two steps forward, One step back” mentality, and a return to the “Two steps forward, and keep walking on mentality”

Because I am quickly losing faith in David Jeffrey’s management credentials. Or even worse, I have already lost confidence but am in denial about it. For me, Tuesday night was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

A lot of people’s camels have had their back broken a long time.

To paraphrase an infamous bedsheet cover, 18 months of excuses and it’s still crap.

And if history is to repeat itself, there are two ways it can go.

Do nothing, and it will be 2009 repeated. Address the situation, and it will be the preceding years which are repeated.