PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – AUGUST

August’s football travels began on the first day of the month in East Belfast, as Linfield continued their pre-season preparation with a defeat against Harland and Wolff Welders.

On the plus side, I spent a lot of the evening chatting to friends, visited a ground i’d never been to, and got some good shots.

The picture of the guy sitting on his chair (I think he’s a H and W official) relaxing and watching the football is what it is all about. He is probably the happiest man in the world.

My next game, came at Easter Road for the Edinburgh Derby between Hibs and Hearts.

I go to Edinburgh every year, and usually try to watch a game while i’m there, so it was pure luck that it happened to be that game when I was there.

Having been to Tynecastle twice in 2011, it was always going to be the case that the fixture computer would give me a trip to Easter Road.

I was actually hoping that it would be against Dundee United as I could tick them off my UEFA 100 Club list.

Was an enjoyable game with nice weather and got some good shots, so it was all good.

My next visit came three days later for the international between Scotland and Australia, played in a downpour of rain, the most Scottish weather possible.

While checking the Northern Ireland score that night, it was announced that Arsenal and Manchester United had done a deal for the transfer of Robin Van Persie.

Interestingly enough, the only other time I was at a Scotland home match, I got a text to say that Mikael Silvestre had joined Arsenal.

It appears that when I go to a Scotland home match, Arsenal and Manchester United do a transfer.

Upon my return to Belfast, it was Windsor Park bound for the matches against Coleraine and Donegal Celtic, my first domestic games of the season.

It was great to be up and running.

Harland and Wolff Welders v Linfield

Hibernian v Heart of Midlothian

Hibernian v Heart of Midlothian Photo Album

Scotland v Australia

Scotland v Australia Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Donegal Celtic

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – JUNE/JULY

For me, the 2012-2013 season began just two and a half weeks after the 2011-2012 season ended.

I had thought about going to the Holland v Northern Ireland game when it was announced, but I was going to Amsterdam in February 2012, so the idea was put on the shelf.

In March 2012, I won free flights with an airline. I had to redeem my prize within three months. Looking through the possible destinations, a trip to Amsterdam for the Northern Ireland match soon became a no brainer.

I had a great weekend in Amsterdam, and having been there before was so useful in getting around. Fantastic city, fantastic stadium, unfortunately, Holland have a fantastic football team (though they didn’t show it at Euro 2012)

The seat I had wasn’t that great for match photos, but I still managed to get some good shots.

My next football shots, came off the pitch in late June, as a new mural in Sandy Row celebrated the life of local heroes, including those who’ve had football careers such as Tommy Dickson and Joe Bambrick.

July started with European football, going to Linfield and Crusaders home matches.

The Crusaders match, v Rosenborg, was the most productive of the two in terms of phototaking, with the closeness to the pitch and a bright night making for good conditions.

The month ended with the Pre-Season Friendly between Orangefield OB and Linfield. It was a mixed night in terms of phototaking, but I got a good one of Orangefield’s bench.

Holland v Northern Ireland

Holland v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Crusaders v Rosenborg

Crusaders v Rosenborg Photo Album

Orangefield OB v Linfield

LINFIELD 1-2 CRUSADERS 27.4.2013

Finally, this season is over.

I was at Windsor Park today for the match between Linfield and Crusaders. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact i’d already paid for it with my Season Ticket, I wouldn’t have bothered.

So, I arrived, hopeful of ending a horrible season on a high. How wrong I was.

It was the final match for Linfield for William Murphy, who was captain today and got a guard of honour pre-match. It was disappointing not to see Crusaders form part of it, especially as both teams took part in one for Jeff Spiers in 2007, and Coleraine players joined their Glentoran counterparts in doing one for Colin Nixon.

Murphy’s release, sadly, is correct, as his best days are behind him. It was also handled in the right way, to allow the player and fans to say goodbye to each other.

The first-half, wasn’t that bad actually. Linfield played some good stuff (at times) and were the dominant side, leading through Michael Carvill, before Gary McCutcheon got his customary goal against us this season (Five in eight since you ask) to level.

McCutcheon’s goal saw Linfield revert back to being awful in the second-half, going 2-1 down within five minutes, and not looking like scoring, Crusaders being comfortable at 2-1 up.

Rare good moments, but mostly awful, no belief, and didn’t look like scoring. A season summed up in a match.

It started awful, it ended awful, and it wasn’t much better inbetween.

Five defeats in eight games to Crusaders this season, after eight wins in ten games over the previous two seasons.

In other related news, the redevelopment of Windsor Park will begin on September 9th, which means there will be a few more games in the South Stand.

Not sure where home fans will be based at Windsor Park next season, but hopefully, somewhere which is photo friendly. At least, I can spend next season, and the season after that, doing a photo diary of the Windsor Park redevelopment, even if the football isn’t up to much.

Not sure if today was my last match of the season.

If Bangor v Tobermore United next Saturday is a relegation decider, I might pop along to that. For that to happen, Bangor need to beat Carrick on Tuesday night.

At the other end of The Championship, Warrenpoint Town are in pole position for a play-off spot. Seemingly, they wouldn’t play at their home ground if promoted, which is why i’d prefer Institute to get promoted, especially as i’ve never been there.

Worth keeping an eye out for, starting Monday, is Photo Diary Of A Football Season, a month by month look back at the season just passed.

So, thank goodness for that, the season is now over.

So, I shall sign off with a pre-season wishlist, hopefully away games against Stranraer, PSNI, Dundela, Ballyclare and Larne.

But what I really want in pre-season, is that the overhaul of the playing squad that needs to happen, happens

Photo Album

TEN LOWLIGHTS FROM A SEASON OF LOWLIGHTS

I really could done a Top 40 and left a lot out.

Here, is a Top Ten of the worst moments. If there was to be a Number 11, it would be the fact that most, if not all, could have been so easily avoided.

1. EUROPE

I’m not expecting us to win the European Cup, but at least have a go. We played 4 games and didn’t score a goal.

I know that we progressed a round, but even that was a lowlight, scraping through a penalty shoot-out against a team from the Faroe Islands.

Before anyone plays the “No easy games at this level” card, the two other seeded teams won their first legs 7-0 and 8-0.

2. HOME RECORD, SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER

In the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons combined, Linfield lost 3 games at home. By the first weekend of October 2012, we had lost 3 home games.

Already playing catch-up after 5 points from 4 games when we lost to Crusaders, jockeying for position when we lost to Cliftonville, there was no margin for error after the defeat to Ballinamallard.

Linfield conceded 8 goals at home during the whole of 2011-2012. By October this season, it was 7.

To emphasise the importance of home records, Cliftonville dropped 5 points this season (17-1-1) with one to play and Crusaders dropped 8 points (14-4-0) with one to play (I wrote this before the Crusaders v Cliftonville game on Monday 22nd April)

Linfield dropped 20 points (10-4-4) with the game against Crusaders on Saturday 27th April to come. compared with 10 (5 of which came after the title was won) last season.

You can see the foundations on which the two North Belfast clubs have built their success on this season.

3. DROPPED POINTS IN OCTOBER

Bad defending late in games turned a win into a draw at Dungannon, and a draw into a defeat at Coleraine.

A combined three points stupidly thrown away.

4. CLIFTONVILLE AWAY – NOVEMBER

4 wins in a row, 4 clean sheets in a row and off the back off a 6-0 win at Ballymena, we kicked off at Solitude in November 9 points behind Cliftonville.

A win here, the gap is 6 points, and Linfield now have momentum. A must win game, no doubt David Jeffrey will have his side fired up.

Wrong, we didn’t perform, conceded two bad goals (because backing off Liam Boyce on the edge of the penalty are and giving him a clear shot on goal is a good idea) and the game looked over.

Attacking our fans in the second-half, and with an epic team talk from Jeffrey, no doubt we’ll have a go at them to try and retrieve the game.

Wrong, a comedy own goal and a red card later, the game was up.

And Jeffrey’s excuse? The players felt intimidated by the crowd. Pathetic, on so many levels.

Possibly the day the title went to Solitude, definitely the day it wasn’t coming to Windsor Park.

5. DRAWS V GLENAVON (NOVEMBER) AND DISTILLERY (DECEMBER)

After the Cliftonville debacle, the fixture list was kind to us by giving us games against the sides 10th and 12th.

An opportunity to get some points on the board and build some winning momentum.

Wrong, not only were both games draws, they were lucky draws. A speculative long range shot denied Glenavon, while Distillery were foiled by us taking advantage of them reorganising after they had a player sent-off

6. CRUSADERS (IRISH CUP)

We had them on the ropes twice, at 2-1 against an outfield player in nets in the original tie, then at 1-0 up at Seaview.

Not only did we surrender the advantage in both games, we went out limply at Seaview, with Crusaders being shamefully comfortable at 2-1 up.

7. SETANTA CUP

Joint biggest Setanta Cup defeat, biggest aggregate defeat, not won a knock-out tie since 2007, not won outside Northern Ireland since 2007, pub league defending in both games, comedy penalty miss, and sanctimonious pantwetting in the media from politicians.

Another season where the Setanta Cup campaign has been nothing short of a disaster.

8. DEFENSIVE RECORD

From the 6-0 win over Ballymena in November to the 1-0 defeat to Ballinamallard in April, Linfield played 29 games and kept 4 clean sheets.

There lies a massive problem which was not addressed. There was 12 games from the Ballymena game until the Transfer Window opened (That includes the Cliftonville game on New Year’s Day, as any pre January signings wouldn’t have been eligible to play in that game) in January.

We went into the season short on defensive options, and having lost Albert Watson in January, we were even more short, yet no signings were made, not even a short-term loan signing.

Now stats can say one thing, but just look at the goals were conceded :

The two goals which gave Cliftonville a win at Windsor Park in September, reckless tackles that cost us points at Solitude and The Oval late in both games, the goals conceded in the two Sky games, the three goals conceded against Cliftonville in November, the goals conceded against Shamrock Rovers, especially the stupid free-kick for the first goal in Tallaght, Distillery’s goals in the two 1-1 draws ……. there’s a recurring theme here.

9. CONTINUED DECLINE OF WEBSITE

Not wanting to have a go at people, but really, the club’s official website is a complete shambles.

The layout, is bad enough, but the main gripe, is the complete lack of editorial control as to what goes on it. The club needs to create an editorial policy regarding the website, as some of the stories appearing on it, are frankly, ludicrous.

Compare our site to that of Cliftonville, Glentoran and Coleraine, you will see how bad our is in comparison.

There are some stories which are only going to be a news in brief in the programme. They don’t deserve a headline on the official site. If they must be online, a Tweet will suffice.

Some of the articles are either Cut and Paste, or just the bare minimum posted.

For the Rangers game announcement, the story was lifted off Rangers website. It came complete with information on how Rangers fans can get tickets. There was no information on how Linfield fans can get tickets.

In the build-up to Ballinamallard away in March, a pub in Fermanagh sent a Press Release via e-mail, which was Cut and Pasted. We effectively gave them a free advertisement.

Somebody e-mailed the club to try and sell a signed shirt. That is for Ebay or Gumtree, not the official Linfield website.

Every bit of Supporters News doesn’t need a headline. In fact, it should be digested into a twice weekly round-up, either Mon/Thu or Tue/Fri.

And then, there was “Buster Cherry”

There needs to be some sort of editorial control. If there is no news, there is no news. We don’t need to have a set amount of new stories every day.

The sad thing is, chancers chance the Linfield website for free ads as they know they will get lucky. They wouldn’t try their luck with another Irish League club website.

10. HARLEM SHAKE

You know when you watch a news story which has the line ” ….. has done their own version of Gangnam Style/Harlem Shake” ……. don’t you automatically think, what a bunch of cunts?

I thought Linfield were better than that. I thought wrong.

TEN HIGHLIGHTS FROM A SEASON OF LOWLIGHTS

It’s fair to say that the 2012-2013 wasn’t the best season in Linfield’s history. If you look hard enough, there were highlights. Not many though.

I managed to find ten of them.

1. EUROPEAN QUALIFICATION

Apparantly, there’s a European club competition which takes place on Thursday nights. Well, Linfield will suffer an away goals defeat in the First Round to a team from a former Soviet Republic in it next season. I’m so positive and optimistic that I think we’ll actually score a goal in Europe next season.

The only thing Linfield actually achieved this season and it was achieved in farcical circumstances as we lost on the day we achieved it, but Crusaders beat Coleraine to help us out.

The following week, we built on this by claiming 3rd place ……… after a defeat, but Crusaders helped us out.

So, um, cheers for that Crusaders.

2. BALLYMENA (IRN-BRU CUP)

5-0 up at half-time away to a team riding high in the top half, 4 clean sheets in a row, climbing up the table, through to the County Antrim Shield Final, through to the League Cup Semi-Final for the first time in 5 years.

For a brief period, things were looking up.

As it turned out, we lost the next games in County Antrim Shield and Irn-Bru Cup, and it turned out that seemingly every team in the league would go on to thrash Ballymena. Even Glenavon.

3. CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR

For a run of games between Christmas and New Year (from Crusaders 2-2 to Coleraine 5-2) matches were enjoyable.

Players getting stuck in, playing nice football, prepared to battle for everything (Still conceding goals, but scoring more than the opponents)

That run of games was what Linfield should have been playing like. It never happened before in the season. It never happened again afterwards.

4. UNBEATEN V GLENS

Now at the point of scraping the barrel. As bad a season as it was, at least we didn’t lose to Glentoran, even though the 1-1 draw in February felt like a defeat.

5. YOUNGSTERS

There were new names on the Linfield teamsheet this season, with Niall Quinn and Ross Glendenning being the two makign the most impact, with Ross Clarke also involved scoring the winner on Boxing Day.

In the post Seaview Sky apocalypse, debuts were given to Reece Glendenning, Conor McMenamin and Gareth Deane.

Add to that, Linfield Rangers won the IFA Youth Cup, Jude (Kilmarnock) and Carl (Oldham Athletic) Winchester progressing to senior professional football, and Gareth MacAuley (this might be scraping the barrel) helping West Bromwich Albion to a Top Ten finish in the Premier League.

With an expected overhaul of the playing staff, perhaps the players for the future are right on our doorstep?

6. BRIAN McCAUL’S PENALTIES

Having become used to seeing Linfield players missing penalties, it was nice to have a player who can take penalties.

Yes, I know he missed one against Shamrock Rovers, but take your negativity elsewhere, this is a blog post about positivity.

Why concentrate on the one he missed instead of all the ones he scored?

7. UNOFFICIAL TWITTER

Having made the most of this a couple of times when missing games, the unofficial Twitter account has been a great resource for supporters not at the game.

Getting the right mix of banter, opinion and interactivity, it also provides links to Linfield related news stories, as well as sometimes covering reserve and youth games.

The season might have been awful, but at least we’ve always been kept up to date.

If you’re not already following : @linfield_fc

8. BALLINAMALLARD AWAY

As soon as they were promoted, supporters of other clubs were most looking forward to the trip to Ballinamallard, mainly for the fact it was a new place to visit.

Went up in December, had a nice lunch in the town, with representatives greeting Linfield fans in the bar we were in.

And, on the pitch, Linfield won 3-1.

Those who made the return journey in March were rewarded with a 0-0 draw.

Hopefully, the fixture computer will give us a sunny day in August or September.

9. RANGERS AWAY

Bad times when you’re including a friendly.

As soon as it was announced last May that Linfield would be invited to Ibrox for a friendly game, this caused excitement amongst Linfield supporters, either because they have Rangers as their second team and were getting to see them meet at Ibrox, or because it was an opportunity to see Linfield play in a new stadium they’d never been to before.

Even when something good happens, there has to be a farce surrounding it, with the game being announced two and a half weeks before, just after the Easter break, on a midweek, meaning many supporters were unable to get to the game.

It was clear that people were wanting the game to be a Saturday game during pre-season. Even if we had to wait until the summer of 2014, it would not have been the worst thing in the world.

Pity about the result.

10. IT’S ALMOST OVER

90 more minutes. Let’s have one big effort to avoid a fifth defeat of the season to Crusaders. Yay!

MUSICAL TASTES OF THE LINFIELD STARS

Have you ever wondered what music your favourite footballer listens to?

Well, if you support Linfield, today is your lucky day, unless of course, your favourite player didn’t get a profile feature in (Self-proclaimed) Ireland’s Biggest Soccer Magazine.

This season, Look At Linfield included a common feature of football programmes, a player profile asking players what their favourite thing of various subject matters are.

In the 1980s, all footballers listened to Phil Collins and watched Coronation Street, except when they went on a night out to the cinema to watch a movie starring Robert De Niro.

But football has moved on. Players no longer fight over controlling the Ghetto Blaster, the power struggles in dressing rooms at all levels are about who can plug their ipod into the Portable Speaker System.

So here, is a run down of the musical favourites of Linfield players and staff for your reference and/or pleasure :

COACHING/TECHNICAL STAFF

On the weekend of his 50th birthday in October, David Jeffrey was featured, stating that his favourite singer was Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen. Yep, The Boss is a fan of The Boss.

Given his past career, it’s a surprise that David Jeffrey didn’t list ‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk as his favourite song.

His favourite song, is ‘Born To Run’ by Bruce Springsteen. I’m not old enough to remember his playing career, so I can’t verify if he was.

Bryan McLaughlin’s favourite singer is George Michael. There have been times this season when you have needed to have Faith. McLaughlin is seen by many as a Father Figure to many young players.

He is also trusted by David Jeffrey and can be relied upon to share a secret as he will never have a Carelss Whisper.

Alfie Wylie stated that Roy Orbison is his favourite singer. When David Jeffrey issues and instruction to him, he can usually be heard to say “You Got It”

Terry Hayes has Lady Antebellum and David Bowie as his joint favourite acts. After a victory, Terry Hayes can usually be found Dancing In The Street, especially during Linfield’s Golden Years.

He does sun the limelight though, and doesn’t want Fame.

Even though he is responsible for the well being of Linfield’s players, he doesn’t feel Under Pressure.

PLAYERS

Ryan Henderson says his favourite band is Coldplay. Having spent a period on the treatment table, the rumours that he asked Terry Hayes to play ‘Fix You’ during treatment are unfounded, as he tried to get fit in order to make runs into the opposition penalty area at the Speed Of Sound.

Matthew Tipton’s favourite band is Stone Roses. After a disappointing 2012-2013 season, hopefully the 2013-2014 season will the his Second Coming as an Irish League goalscoring force.

After stating that his favourite band is The Wanted, i’d like to think Brian McCaul is kept well away from the stereo. He does say that his favourite song is ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ by Aerosmith, which appears to be his motto when taking penalties.

Of the three teenagers featured, one of them sticks out for having a different taste.

Niall Quinn (Drake) and Ross Clarke (Sasha and Digweed) show me up for being and old fart by liking acts I have vaguely heard of but I guess are quite big wiv da kidz, while Ross Glendenning lists Snow Patrol as his favourite band.

When offered a new contract earlier in the season, Glendenning was advised to Just Say Yes.

Johnny Black’s favourite band is Matchbox Twenty and his favourite song ‘3AM’, although ‘Mad Season’ would have been more apt.

Stephen Douglas is a player who divides opinion within Linfield’s support. Some Might Say his legend will Live Forever, All Around The World. His favourite band, is Oasis and his favourite song is Wonderwall.

Ironically, at training, they were working on a routine where he received the ball from a throw-in, and he would build an attack.

David Jeffrey could be heard to shout “Today is gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you. By now you should have somehow, realised what you’ve got to do”

If you’re wondering why there are so few entries, it’s because the series ended in January. At least it lasted longer than Linfield’s title challenge.

MUSICAL FAVOURITES IN FULL

Johnny Black – Matchbox Twenty
Ross Clarke – Sasha and Digweed
Steven Douglas – Oasis
Ross Glendenning – Snow Patrol
Terry Hayes – Lady Antebellum/David Bowie
Ryan Henderson – Coldplay
David Jeffrey – Bruce Springsteen
Brian McCaul – The Wanted
Brian McLaughlin – George Michael
Niall Quinn – Drake
Matthew Tipton – Stone Roses
Alfie Wylie – Roy Orbison

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 26.4.2013

1. The D.O.T – How We All Lie
2. Travis – Where We Stand
3. Haim – Falling
4. The Strypes – Blue Collar Jane
5. Frank Turner – Recovery

This week, saw St George’s Day. So, here’s a Top Five chart of songs by English acts. Not nescessarily the five best, but five songs that are worth checking out.

I would have liked to do a chart of English cities, but apart from London (honourable mention to Little Jimmy Osmond of course), English cities aren’t usually used in song titles in the same way that American cities are

FIVE SONGS BY ENGLISH ACTS

1. Cast – Finetime
2. Lightning Seeds – All I Want
3. Amy Studt – Misfit
4. Talk Talk – Life’s What You Want
5. The Bluetones – If

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 5.10.1985

There’s a North London feel to this edition of the Magazine Archive, as Ray Clemence is the cover star, while there is a free poster commemorating 100 years of Arsenal, in this edition of Shoot.

Frank Stapleton gets a double page feature where he expresses his shock that Manchester United were prepared to sell him to Bordeaux but he declined the move.

Celtic star Mo Johnston spoke about getting a new car as his Porsche makes him a target for Scottish police.

There was a story linking Graeme Souness with a return to Anfield in 1986 as Assistant Manager to Kenny Dalglish when his contract with Sampdoria ends.

In 1986, Souness would get his first job in coaching, in his native Scotland as Player-Manager of Rangers, before eventually succeeding Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager in 1991.

There is a double page spread of action from the recent World Cup Qualifier at Ninian Park between Wales and Scotland. The match finished 1-1 which put Scotland into a World Cup play-off against Australia, which they won.

The match though, will be remembered for what happened after the final whistle when Scotland manager Jock Stein suffered a heart attack and died.

The headline of the double page spread is “JOCK STEIN’S LAST BATTLE”

Ray Clemence is subject to a Q and A, where he states he will retire in 1987, and expresses his sadness at English clubs being banned from Europe, while having some enthusiasm for the Screen Sport Super Cup (he must have been the only one)

Meanwhile, Ian Rush writes a piece cheerleading Steve McMahon for inclusion in England’s squad for the 1986 World Cup.

Neil Webb is subject of a Player Profile. Bill Cosby and Cheers make Neil Webb laugh, and his hobby is listening to music.

His long term ambition was to be successful at Nottingham Forest (he won a League Cup) and get into the England side (played in a World Cup and two European Championships)

In Jimmy Greaves Letters Page, Paul Barrett from West Midlands wrote in to say that Aston Villa’s promising younsters such as Steve Hodge and Tony Dorigo will help Aston Villa challenge for the league in the near future. Aston Villa were relegated in 1987.

Dorigo and Hodge did eventually get a league medal ……. with Leeds United in 1992.

LINFIELD 0-1 BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 20.4.2013

To be honest, if it wasn’t for my Season Ticket, I wouldn’t have bothered with this game.

But, having paid my admission last summer, I thought I might as well turn up.

3rd place should have been confirmed 3-4 games ago, but Linfield needed a point today to secure it.

The game had an inevitable end of season feel about it, and when the action started, it was slow paced and uninspiring. The only positives today were the performances of Gareth Deane (debut) and Conor McMenamin (first start)

When your biggest attacking threat is a teenager in his first start, there’s a serious problem there. More senior players weren’t stepping up and taking control of the game.

For all Linfield’s possession, it was Ballinamallard who had the more dangerous opportunities in a goal-less first-half.

At half-time, the tannoy played ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’ by The Clash. I was having that thought myself.

Early in the second-half, Ballinamallard went 1-0 up, and that, was that.

Never looked like scoring from open play, never looked like scoring from a set piece. The lack of direction is glaringly obvious to see.

The stats, are damming, on so many levels. Not just the fact that we are 15 off 2nd place and 26 off 1st place.

Linfield have won just 2 of the last 11 games. Flip it around, we have lost 5 of our last 11 games. That is simply not good enough.

We’re not even finishing the season strongly. Serious changes in personnel need to be made. I have a massive fear that the changes need over the summer won’t happen.

Meanwhile, in other news, Ards got promoted today.

That’ll be an away trip to look forward to, as they play in Bangor. Ideally, that’ll happen on a nice warm day in August or September.

At least that’ll be something to look forward to next season.

Photo Album