CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE

I said it in January that if Linfield turn their season around and win the league, manager David Jeffrey will deserve praise that will come his way, and so, now that the title has been won, congratulations are in order.

Every league title win, is usually followed with a ‘but’. It’s either a ‘but’, ‘But’ or ‘BUT’, depending on how much work needs done before the start of the following season.

In December, the chances of David Jeffrey being in charge at this point, never mind celebrating the title looked bleak. It wasn’t the fact that the team was losing matches, but losing matches in an unacceptable manner.

There was a point in November/December when going a goal down meant game over. That was it, no belief, no fight, no spirit, and the calls for him to go were getting louder, but most importantly, more credible.

That’s the telling point, as the fickle nature of football fans means that there will always be people who complain and want a change of manager.

These people are usually a minority and are generally ignored by the key decision makers at the club because their case for can be easily contested.

If you suggested after leaving the Ballymena game in late December or at half-time in the re-arranged Boxing Day game, nobody could have argued against it. There was nothing, not even a slight glimmer of hope that things would improve.

In late 2003, when he was supposedly one game away from the sack against Dungannon Swifts, the players ran straight to him after going 1-0 with less than 10 minutes to go. In December or January, if we went 1-0 up woth less than 10 minutes to go, I have my doubts if the goalscorer would have ran to him.

The turning point came at The Oval in January at half-time. 1-0 down, outplayed, with Glentoran players mocking their opponents by showboating, to the delight of their fans, the game looked up for Jeffrey.

It’s bad enough to not turn up, but to not turn up in a game of that magnitude is simply unforgivable.

Sometimes, when backed into a corner, you just go for broke and take risks you wouldn’t normally take.

It was a different team, who should have won, but ended up having to settle for a point. Most satisfactorally of all, after Gary Hamilton’s equaliser, the players merely dusted themselves down, to look for a winner, which ultimately never came.

As much as I detest “moral victories”, the fact that the players kept their heads up, whereas a month earlier, they might have lost 3-2 was something to build on, just a glimmer of hope.

Why did it come to this?

Why did the season start in late-January?

After routine victories over Newry and Distillery, the next summit meeting, at home to Crusaders, proved to be a pointer that the 2010 Linfield model could just be the real deal.

It wasn’t an exhibition of total football, but it was one of the best performances of the season. It was everything that had been missing over the past 18 months – Heart, Fight, Passion.

1-0 up at half-time but down to 10 men, perhaps the 2009 could have got nervous, got tired, and dropped the points, the 2010 version took the game to Crusaders and laid down the gauntlet.

If you want an attritional warfare, we’ll stand up and be counted and beat you. If you want a football match, we’ll beat you. Either way, we’ll beat you.

This came a week after a 4-2 defeat to Coleraine. Previously in the season, a disapponting result could have triggered 3 or 4 succesive such results, it was merely a case of dusting themselves down and just getting on with it.

The following week against Portadown, it all came together. Portadown actually started well in the game and were on top for the first 10-15 minutes.

Crucially, not only did Linfield score when on top, they score a second whilst still on top. Before Portadown could get a chance to get back into the game at the start of the second-half, a third goal was scored to kill the game, with a nother two for icing.

Just when things looked set to be coming together, things come to bite you in the ass, as droped points to Glenavon and Cliftonville allowed Glentoran to go into the Easter Tuesday clash at Windsor Park 2 points behind.

After going 1-0 down early on, it could have been a case of “same old, same old” but tonight was different. No feeling sorry for themselves, just a case of getting on with it, a belief that they were better than the opposition, and that the goals to get the win would come.

Following this up with the Irish Cup Semi-Final win over Coleraine, the fear of failure and the crippling fear of not being able to come back from behind was truly put to bed.

Crucially, the squad was proving their worth. The first choice strike partnership for most of 2010 of Peter Thompson and Curtis Allen hit a barren run in front of goal.

Nobody noticed, as other players (in defence and midfield) were standing up to be counted and scoring crucial goals when it mattered, and Paul Munster hitting form in April and Mark McAllister contributing goals, really emphasising the importance of having 4 top quality strikers.

No reliance on the strikers to get the goals. They could be nullified, but a midfielder could take the game by the scruff of the neck and get the decisive goal, or even a defender coming up from the back.

Concern must be raised at the number of defeats, as winning the league with 7 defeats is an unacceptably high amount.

The future of Peter Thompson, currently on loan from Stockport County, needs to resolved one way or the other.

10 cleansheets since alan Blayney returned to the team is a foundation which should be built on. The age of our central defenders is a cause for concern though.

This summer it wouldn’t be a surprise to say farewell to Conor Hagan, Johnny Harkness and Aiden O’Kane.

Before Kris Lindsay got injured, I would have had William Murphy on this list, but he’s taken advantage of his new opportunity and has re-established himself in the team.

Paul Munster looked to be on the fringes, then suddenly scored the goal that virtually clinched the title.

Michael Gault is slowly getting back to his best form, inspired by the lurking shadow of Jamie Mulgre getting back to fitness to take his place.

That’s the importance of a squad, where players are desperate to make the most of any opportunity that comes their way.

The ever decreasing average age of the squad gives hope that success is not just now, but the future.

We are now in a position of strength, the importane thing is to stay there and avoid a repeat of the mistakes of 2008.

There’s pressure every season at Linfield, but next season is the club’s 125th anniversary. Don’t cock this one up Davy.

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JUSTICE FOR JEROME

It has emerged this week that there are dark forces at work at the BBC, far darker than the hairdye used by Donna Trainor so that people don’t confuse her with Pamela Ballantine, as it emerged that Jerome Quinn is suing the organisation for discrimination on the basis that he’s ginger.

“Anti-Gingerism is rife at the BBC, just look at the evidence” said Quinn, highlighting the fact that Cilla Black has never been employed by the organisation, or the fact that The Krankees are no longer on before adding “I notice Jackie McCann is doing a lot more weather reports these days. Is there something about Angie Philips and Cecilia Daly that has offended them I wonder?”

Quinn also claimed that the BBC’s news agenda is geared towards “Protestant sports” such as motorbike racing.

Motorbike Racing has been associated with Protestatism for so long, that a recent poll listed it as the Number 1 protestant stereotype alongside marching on the 12th and supporting Rangers.

The tradition dates back to the reformation, when Martin Luther was heard to shout “Here der bai, see ma noo religion, weeeel ba riding oor baks roon Ballymoney hai”

In fact, The Battle of The Boyne was rumoured to have been started because King James objected to King Billy dooing wheelies in the street late at night.

Jerome, whose CV doesn’t include appearing in Soldier Soldier or singing with Robson Green, is known to his legion of fans (ie – his mum and his sister) as “Mr GAA”.

Unlike some people who give themselves a self-proclaimed nickname in order to hide their insecurities about their popularity, Jerome Quinn actually won the title of Mr GAA by successfully oilwrestling Peter Canavan and Adrian Logan at a ceremony held at Saint and Greavsie’s GAC Ballyaugknock, hosted by popular singer and camogie player, Lady Gaa Gaa.

Like Jerome’s views on society and the Northern Ireland football team, his use of internet technology is very much stuck in the past, as he is alleged to have slagged off his employers on a GAA messageboard, unlike most celebrities who use Twitter and Facebook to make humiliating PR gaffes.

“But things are looking up for me” Quinn told a man walking by who he assumed might be interested “I passed around my business card, JEROME QUINN – MR GAA, AVAILABLE FOR HIRE a few weeks ago, and got an immediate response. I’m meeting a gentleman in The Kremlin who says he wants to hook up with me”

Representing himself, and the millions of other oppressed ginger kids, Quinn says he has chosen to represent himself due to financial hardship, adding “The situation got so bad, I considered applying to work for UTV”

It seems, you can put a price on a lawyer, but not on keeping your dignity.

NOEL BAILIE

In a week which saw the semi-finals of two European competitions and two relegations from the Premier League, the 1000th appearance for Linfield by Noel Bailie might not have made that much of a ripple outside of Belfast.

But for me, this milestone appearance is as much of a joy to see as Arjen Robben’s strike against Lyon or any piece of skill by Lionel Messi.

It’s why we love football. Supporters turn up every week to watch their team and grow attached to those who have achieved everything we ever dreamed of doing.

No matter what the level, the joy of winning is the same, as is the despair of losing.

Attend a Linfield-Glentoran match with me, and try and tell me the passion is any different to derbies in Milan, Buenos Aires, or any other footballing hotbed.

And no matter what the level, the pride supporters have at the individual achievements of their heroes is the same.

Whilst Noel Bailie won’t be playing in the World Cup this summer, nor will he be in contention for the Balon D’or, try telling any Linfield fan at Seaview that Noel’s achievement isn’t one of the great football stories.

He lived the dream, then did so another 999 times.

I had planned writing a 1,000 games tribute for a while, but I decided to start writing it when it happened, rather than prepared it in advance.

If it did, it would have looked like a celebrity obituary that is written and saved on a hard drive five years in advance of the celebrity’s death.

For an achievement like this, it is always better to write how I feel at the time.

Talking of time, it is always the enemy of the footballer, and one day it will catch up on Noel Bailie, which is why we have to appreciate the likes of him while he’s still playing.

For Glenn Ferguson, that final whistle might come this weekend, as he has still to confirm wether he is going to delay his planned retirement.

At some point during the middle of the season, I had hoped Distillery would pick up a bit of form and sneak into the top six.

They would come to Windsor Park on the final day, with Linfield already champions, 3 or 4-0 up in the final minute, when Spike scores a consolation goal.

At that moment, the board comes up, and he is substituted to a standing ovation deserving of someone who gave their all to the beautiful game

Unfortunately, the season won’t be ending that way for him. Thankfully, for Noel Bailie, his career didn’t end last May at Seaview in such underwhelming circumstances.

The mark of a great player is sometimes not how they play at their peak, is how they can continue to remain at the top of his profession whilst their peers have faded away.

Noel Bailie has done that this season, been picked on merit, and only really being noticed when he isn’t playing.

Much has been made of the 1,000 appearance milestone over the last couple of months as each appearance has been followed by a countdown of how long there is to go.

There has almost been a danger that it could overshadow the team and that there could be a sense of disappointment if it didn’t happen.

If he didn’t make 1,000 appearances, it wouldn’t make him any less of a legend. Legend status was confirmed a long time ago.

A personal tribute really shouldn’t be the place for pointscoring, but the lack of coverage of the event before the match on Friday and afterwards on Monday by BBC Newsline was an absolute disgrace.

Likewise, was UTV’s decision to ignore this achievement, instead to show a two minute feature on Rangers winning the SPL really does show how little interest our local broadcasters in local football.

If Noel Bailie played for a club on the mainland, the local news would have given the story the coverage it deserved.

But it’s not the media coverage that Noel Bailie does it for, it’s the love of the game, and his club.

Game 1000 might have been a scrappy goal-less draw, let’s hope game 1001 is more memorable, with Noel doing what he does best – lifting the Gibson Cup.

Noel Bailie is everything that is good about football, and i’m glad he plays for my club.

Noel Bailie : Captain-Leader-Legend

PUNX, A WOLF, AND A BOXER

As promised, I managed to get a photo of the new piece in Sandy Row, of a manga/anime image of a boxer.

As already stated, the text in the top left states “In loving memory of Gary Whittley”, which a google search revealed that he was a promising boxer from Sandy Row, who died after being hit by a car in 2005.

Saw some new pieces in the Holylands, including a typically Northern Ireland piece called ‘Yer Ma

The best pieces that were found in the Holylands was one of a Wolf, accompanied by a heart and a signature left by Belfast Punx.

Enjoy.

CRUSADERS 0-0 LINFIELD 24.4.2010

Not quite the photos I was hoping to get (I had hoped to get photos of a pitch invasion and celebrations, which unfortunately has been delayed) from today’s game.

At least today’s game will be remembered, not for Linfield’s 49th title, but for a higher milestone, Noel Bailie’s 1000th appearance for Linfield.

To commemorate this, a banner was unveiled at the Railway End (to the left of the TV screen if watching a match from Seaview on BBC or UTV) prior to kick-off.

I intend on having a more in-depth tribute to Bailie later this weekend.

As well as the banner, also got some match action.

FAITHBOOK

I’ve got a friend request from God it seems, on the new christian social networking site, Faithbook.

Saw this in East Belfast today and couldn’t resist getting a photo of it.

Facebook in the bible would have been interesting, no doubt it would have given us these nuggets

God : Just spent the last 6 days creating the universe, bloody knackered, going to have a day off.

Jesus : Just raised a man from the dead
Lazarus likes this

Mary Magdelane : Pregnant and going to give birth to the lord and saviour
God and Joseph like this

Meanwhile, I also saw a stickman running away from the police.

The spirit of punk remains as an Alternative Ulster sticker was placed on a ‘Post No Bills’ sign on a building site outside the BBC, not far from a protest poster against the proposed closure of 6 Music.

Fight the power

BILL HICKS, AN AMERICAN HERO

Something that caught my eye recently when flicking through the listings guides was not one, but two, events commemorating one of the greatest comedians of all-time, Bill Hicks.

If you know about Bill Hicks, no doubt you will have already opened up a new window to find youtube clips of him.

If you don’t know about Bill Hicks, google him. It will be the best thing you do today.

I first found out about Bill Hicks during the summer of 2002, purely by fluke.

I was sitting at home, channel hopping in the hope of finding something good. I clicked onto the Paramount Comedy channel, thinking that, as I like comedy, I might see something I like.

The show just starting was ‘Bill Hicks : One Night Stand’. I’d never heard of him, but I thought i’d give it a try. By the time the first ad break came, I was in stitches, trying to store his one-liners in my memory bank, so that I could shamelessly steal and use them at an appropriate moment.

I was instantly in love with his sense of humour. As soon as possible, I went to HMV in the City Centre. I knew they had a section for audio CDs, so I thought i’d give it a try. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw all of his CDs for £5. I bought three of them, took them home and gave them a listen.

And what a decision it was, laugh after laugh, and one-liner after one-liner.

By this point, it was now my hope and dream that he would do a date in Belfast. That night, I logged onto the internet to find out more about him.

After typing ‘Bill Hicks’ into google, I reached his official website, then it just hit me, like a kick in the you know wheres.

I got to the homepage, and it said ‘WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF BILL HICKS, 1961-1994’. Gutted. The comedian I had just found out about, whose routines I fell in love with, and whose live show I wanted to see, had been dead for 8 years. Just gutted.

I consoled myself with the fact that I had a collection of CDs which Bill had recorded, that I could listen to. The best thing about Bill Hicks was that you didn’t know which direction the routine would go. One minute, he is talking of going on a killing spree, taking out Debbie Gibson, NKOTB and Kenny Rodgers, then joking about starting a career as a children’s entertainer called ‘Beelzebozo’, before sharing us his thoughts on American politics.

For those who know about Bill Hicks, the name Dwight Slade will be familiar. Slade was the best friend of Bill Hicks and a funny comedian in his own right. I saw him perform live in 2003. Very funny indeed.

You can’t help but think what sort of jokes Hicks would have come up with in the 15 years since his death, especially with Bill Clinton’s tomfoolery with Monica Lewinsky and George W Bush, being …….., George W Bush.

Many comedians have done funny jokes about such subject matters, but Hicks would have blown them away. The tragedy is, we never got a chance to hear it.

Hicks was a smoker, and proud of it. One of his famous lines was “I’d quit smoking if I didn’t think i’d become a non-smoker”. A man with his stored-up rage having his favourite pastime taken away from him by legislation would have been comic gold.

No point moping about what we didn’t get to hear, but rather celebrate what we did get to hear.

Looking forward to the showing of one of his live performances as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, and the screening of The Bill Hicks Story, at the QFT

See Also :

IMAGE LOADING ……..

Was down on University Road heading towards The Menagerie to check if there have been any new additions to the wall art, and my attention got taken by one in a wee street off University Avenue, with a quote by Fidel Castro.

The best thing about the quote, is that the word “Condemn” is spelt wrong, as well as a shocking lack of commas in the piece.

It reminded me of the famous piece of graffiti in East Belfast a few years ago, which warned would-be muggers of the dire consequences of their actions.

Meanwhile, at The Menagerie, there was only one new addition, a stencil of a progress bar on a computer, with the text, “Graffiti image loading”

In the Holylands, the Ormeau Road Punx (who quite obviously can’t spell) have been leaving their mark.

Keep an eye out for a Manga/Anime drawing of a Boxer in Sandy Row. There’s a “In loving Memory Of Gary Whittley” note at the top.

A quick websearch reveals that Gary Whittley was a promising boxer from Sandy Row who was killed by a hit and run driver in 2005.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get a photo of the artwork as there have been parked cars blocking it.

I’ll try and get a better photo at the weekend, but it’s well worth checking out.

Dodgy spelling in the University Area

Dodgy spelling in East Belfast

Image Loading

LOVESICK MAFIA AND KEV LARGEY

Was out today and stumbled upon some new Kev Largey work on the site where Northern Arcade used to be.

The site previously had a famous protest graffiti against police handling of an investigation into an arson on the premises, but has now been taken over by the Kev Largey piece.

I also spotted a new piece by Anco near Royal Avenue, and a piece near the Royal Mail depot titled ‘Mafia’

Kev Largy Exhibition

Kev Largey/ANCO Previous Article

Woman

Angel and Devil

Crick

Community Confidence

4Fun

Sick

Love

Animal Party

Northern Arcade circa 2007

Northern Arcade 2010

Mafia

ANCO

SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO EVERY MONTH – MAY (UPDATE)

Just a wee update with regards to this, and a happy one at that.

Having taken a gamble on Linfield reaching the Irish Cup Final, Saturday May 8th is going to be my day to look forward to with the Irish Cup Final, followed by Echo and the Bunnymen later that day, appearing at the CQAF.

I remember when they made their comeback in 1997, with ‘Nothing Lasts Forever‘ and, having never heard of them before, thought they were a new band.

I went and sourced out their back catalogue, and haven’t been able to get enough of them since.

Can’t wait to see them live.