THE FRIDAY FIVE – 31.10.2014

1. George Ezra – Listen To The Man
2. Kasabian – Stevie
3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – In The Heat Of The Moment
4. Beady Eye – The Roller
5. Twin Atlantic – Hold On

This week’s X-Factor theme was “Saturday Night At The Movies”, or “Movie Night”, as it seems they are trying to give fancy new names to the same themes they rehash. Anyway, a chart based on the theme.

FIVE SONGS FROM MOVIES

1. Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters
2. Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget About Me
3. Lisa Loeb – Stay
4. The Cardigans – Lovefool
5. George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag

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50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : OCT 24 – OCT 30

We begin this week, in 1981, with Vangelis, he of the epic sporting anthem theme. There’ll be another sporting anthem coming soon.

80s pop legend Glenn Hoddle celebrated a birthday this week. Just think what might have been if his football career hadn’t got in the way.

I don’t care what anyone says, this is an 80s pop classic. I can’t help but wonder how many people bought this thinking Glenn and Chris were Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze.

By that stage though, Glenn Hoddle was a TOTP veteran. Again, this is a brilliant song, and I don’t even support Spurs.

The name’s Bon. Simon, Le Bon.

Kelly Osbourne, fading to grey, hit the big 30 this week.

New Order. You won’t regret listening to this one. (boom boom)

We end, with East Kilbride’s finest musical export. Sorry, Roddy Frame.

LINFIELD 1-2 CRUSADERS 25.10.2014

After defeat to Cliftonville last week, Linfield were aiming to bounce back against Crusaders, who were also aiming to bounce back, after a defeat at home to Glenavon last weekend.

Crusaders had the better of the play without being dominant, having a few shots over the bar, and a few shots that Jonathan Tuffey was able to save easily (I know what you’re all thinking)

Linfield didn’t really offer much up front, having an Aaron Burns shot over the bar, and a Matthew Clarke shot on the stretch saved by Sean O’Neill.

Linfield were toothless up front, mainly due to lining up in the wrong shape, with Ross Clarke playing just behind Andrew Waterworth. Clarke was ineffective due to being played out of position.

Logically, it would have made a lot more sense to swap him and Ivan Sproule around. Eventually, Clarke was moved to right midfield in the second-half and was a lot more effective. By then, it was too late.

The game was won for Crusaders in a five minute spell in the second-half of the first-half, with a free-kick from Colin Coates, and a finish from Paul Heatley.

Heatley’s goal, was especially bad. A ball played out wide for Diarmuid O’Carroll should have been seen to safety by Chris Hegarty, even if he had to play it back to his goalkeeper.

Instead, he was beaten to the ball, to enable him to set up Paul Heatley to fire home.

Like last week, the heads dropped, players standing about looking for inspiration, and nobody showing leadership or taking the lead.

Again, the bad habits returned, playing Crusaders at their own game, with predictable results.

At least at 2-0 down at half-time, the players could get a chance to rectify the situation, rather than going 2-0 down in the second-half.

Action was swift, with Michael Carvill and Jamie Mulgrew (remember him?) joining the action. Andrew Waterworth had a partner up front, at least.

There wasn’t an instant response, but Linfield did gradually get more into the game and have more pressure. Just before the hour, the goal came from an Andrew Waterworth header.

The momentum, couldn’t be built upon though.

Crusaders, were lucky to have eleven men on the pitch with both Magowan (yellow card foul while on a yellow) and Coates (wreckless high foot) not even getting a card for their respective fouls.

Referees being gutless and useless is hardly something new. Today’s ref got made a mug of by Crusaders every time they got a throw or goal kick, walking to get the ball that went out, rather than the ball they were given.

To add insult to injury, there was only just over two and a half minutes of injury time. What an absolute farce.

Not that it would have made much of a difference, with Linfield running out of ideas and creativity.

Now represents a major test for this Linfield team. There have been bad results, but not two in a row. A lot of players need to step up in order to make sure if doesn’t become three or four.

The situation at the top of the table isn’t as bad as it should be for a team with four defeats, only three points off the top, with there still being congested traffic at the top of table. For the first time since the opening day, Linfield have a significant defecit from the top of the league.

Unfortunately, Linfield are at the tail end of this traffic jam. Any more results like today, and we might not be able to see the top of the league with our lights. If traffic analogies are your thing.

Next week, represents an opportunity for Linfield to overtake one of the sides above them, with a trip to Mourneview Park to face a Glenavon side who have won their last two games 4-1.

With Glenavon playing Portadown and Cliftonville in November, and Cliftonville playing Crusaders as well, teams above Linfield will drop points in November. Linfield need to get back to winning form to take advantage of this.

To get you optimistic, Linfield have won eight of their last nine league visits to Mourneview Park.

Just need to defend better, stop giving away soft goals, be more creative and attacking, and ruthless up front. This football lark is rather simple.

Meanwhile, a significant milestone in the redevelopment of Windsor Park happened this week, as steelwork for the Railway Stand was erected. Hopefully, we’ll not be experiencing the paradox of Windsor Park being built while Linfield’s season falls apart.

You can find slideshows of the progress here.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 24.10.2014

1. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – In The Heat Of The Moment
2. Per Gessle – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
3. Simple Minds – Midnight Walking
4. Foo Fighters – Something From Nothing
5. Cheryl – I Don’t Care

So, the live finals of X-Factor have started, and as is tradition, a Top Five based on the previous week’s theme. In truth, I haven’t watched any of it yet. Fell behind watching it and haven’t really bothered to catch up. Might just tune in for the final.

Unlike the X-Factor, my chart will feature songs that actually meet the criteria of the theme.

FIVE SONGS FROM THE 1980s

1. Falco – Rock Me Amadeus
2. Paul Hardcastle – The Wizard
3. Glenn and Chris – Diamond Lights
4. Starship – We Built This City
5. Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday

Meanwhile, the news we’ve waited 11 years was announced this week – that S Club 7 are reforming. Albeit, just for Children In Need, but we can dream of a full comeback.

To keep you occupied until then, here’s an S Club Top Five.

5 SONGS BY S CLUB 7

1. Bring It All Back
2. Reach
3. You’re My Number One
4. Alive
5. Don’t Stop Moving

50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : OCT 17 – OCT 23

Welcome to this week’s 50 Years Of Top Of The Pops, which doesn’t have any Calypso songs urging people to vote UKIP.

We do though, have the newly reformed S Club 7, as they made their final TOTP appearance.

And Alvin Starudst, who died today, feeling like Buddy Holly.

It’s a quiet week this week, not much in the way of pop birthdays or death anniversaries.

We move on to Wyclef Jean, such a Perfect Gentleman.

Karl Wallinger turned 57 this week. The name might not be instantly recognisable, but he did write this.

Double Fugees birthday this week, Pras also blowing out candles

Meanwhile, Tom Petty is a year away from being an OAP.

If you want to get Mark King from Level 42 a birthday present, some hand insurance sounds like a good idea. I’m guessing Pete Powell is a fan of Level 42.

This song, by Strawberry Switchblade, is a sadly forgotten classic.

Time for a bit of Bluetones

Dan Woodgate from Madness celebrated a birthday this week. He was also in Voice Of The Beehive between Madness split and early 90s reunion. Yep, that’s him with the ponytail.

PS : I’m going to see Madness in 8 weeks. Thought i’d share that with you all.

NORTH STREET ART EXTRA/DUKE OF YORK

A few weeks ago, you may have seen me blog about Street Art in North Street as part of Culture Night.

There were some pieces that weren’t finished, but now they are. So here’s a tidy up definitively showing all the Street Art in North Street.

Not just North Street, but surrounding streets, and some work in the car park of the Sunflower Pub.

Meanwhile, there is a new work in the garden of the Duke Of York pub is a new piece depicting a row of houses in Belfast, with the best and worst stereotypes of the city, and the various sort of people who live in Belfast.

Further information on the work at Duke Of York can be found on Extramual Activity.

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LINFIELD 1-3 CLIFTONVILLE 18.10.2014

Having taken 12 games to get to the top of the league, Linfield faced an immediate test as Cliftonville came to Windsor Park.

Three points behind Linfield at kick-off, Cliftonville knew a win would take them above Linfield, while Linfield could go six points clear of Cliftonville, a significant lead, even at this stage of the season.

Three times last season Linfield went into games against Cliftonville with decisive leads. Three times Linfield lost and allowed Cliftonvile to close the game or overtake Linfield at the top. It was ultimately what decided the title.

In the opening minutes, both teams, to use a pundits cliche, “felt each other out” before Linfield took control, creating openings, or having openings created for them by Cliftonville, who looked defensive suspect when put under pressure.

Linfield got the lead on 14 minutes when Lowry and Carvill tried to pass through Cliftonville’s defence before the ball bounced to Aaron Burns, whose soft header to Andrew Waterworth, who volleyed home.

It was Waterworth’s third goal in four games. It looks as though his season is finally kickstarting.

In the four league games last season, Linfield didn’t take the lead against Cliftonville.

More chances came for Linfield, Michael Carvill unable to head home from a cross, and Ivan Sproule firing over from close range when he should have scored.

It was Sproule’s only involvement in the first-half, mainly due to most of Linfield’s play coming through Ross Clarke.

Towards the end of the half, Cliftonville came more into the game, but didn’t create much of note.

On 43 minutes, they got an equaliser, when short passing set up Jude Winchester to fire home from close range.

Seconds earlier, a free-kick was cleared out wide. From that position, you shouldn’t really been conceding.

Even more frustrating, when other half-time scores came through (Crusaders and Portadown losing) and were all in Linfield’s favour.

An excellent first-half performance ruined by conceding right at the end. Time to start again.

Except, that Linfield didn’t start at all in the second-half, with Cliftonville going 2-1 up in the opening minutes when David McDaid fired home from close range.

Looking around in the immediate aftermath of the goal, it was disturbing to see the number of players with their heads down, and nobody trying the gee them up or raise spirits.

It’s not as if it was the first time Linfield had gone behind this season, or even, in recent weeks.

Most damming was the lack of options on the bench, showing how much of a miss Peter Thompson is, and how vital it was to get another striker before the transfer deadline.

Kirk Millar, a player I am a big fan of, came on for Ivan Sproule, and was awful.

Sammy Morrow. The polite thing I can say is, he’s not very good. Seeing him coming off the bench is hardly going to install fear in any Irish League team.

It might be time for Warren Feeney to stick on the boots again? It’s noticeable that his only appearances came when he was Linfield’s only fit striker. It’s clear he’s reluctant to play himself.

He has held his own when played, but just can’t sustain 90 minute apparances. A better option than Morrow from the bench until Peter Thompson returns.

From there, Cliftonville strangled Linfield and made it 3-1 with 20 minutes to go.

Like when it went to 2-1, the body language of the players was disturbing. Heads down or head in hands. Nobody taking the lead to lift spirits.

They played like a beaten team for the rest of the game. Glenavon got 2 late goals to get a 3-3 draw with Cliftonville earlier this season. If they got 1, they could get another.

Got to have a sense of perspective, though not top, Linfield are level on points with the team at the top (Portadown) of the league, and there are 25 games to go.

The congestion at the top of the table remains, with five teams separated by two points. A chance to break up some of that congestion was missed. Another chance comes next week, with fifth place Crusaders heading to Windsor Park, in a game that could see Linfield go five points clear of them,

Interesting to note, that Linfield’s 3 defeats have come the against the other teams in the Top 4.

Overall, the breakdown is :

v Top half P 6 W 1 D 2 L 3

v Bottom half P 7 W 6 D 1 L 0

Need to get wins against teams in the top half in order to half a serious title challenge. Linfield had a similar record in the first half of the 2010-2011 season, before turning it around with 7 wins out of 7 against Cliftonville/Glentoran/Crusaders.

That record needs to improve immediately, with games against Crusaders and Glenavon coming up. Linfield could be cut adrift from the top of the league before mid November.

In Redevelopment news, the South Stand is almost gone. There is very little remaining of it. I’m hoping to do a Photo Diary of the Redevelopment, with a Slide Show when it is complete.

I’ve set one up on a website called Slidely for anyone interested. Planning on doing monthly updates. If anyone can suggest other good online slideshows, do get in touch.

Within weeks, the South Stand will be reduced to rubble. Hopefully, Linfield’s season won’t be in the coming weeks.

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GEORGE EZRA – LIVE AT THE LIMELIGHT 14.10.2014

The act that is currently Number 1 in the UK Album Chart was in Belfast this week. It wasn’t The Odyssey, Waterfront or even Ulster Hall that was hosting this, but The Limelight that secured this coup.

It shouldn’t perhaps have been that much of a surprise, as at the start of the year, George Ezra was nominated for the BBC’s Sound Of 2014.

The hype is worth it, as Ezra has recorded three of the best and catchiest songs of the year – Cassy O, Budapest and Blame It On Me.

He was supported by Rae Morris, whose current single “Closer” is well worth listening to.

Ezra casually walked on stage, sipping a cup of tea, prompting someone beside me to remark “He’s drinking tea ……. how cute” before issuing a mission statement, “My name is George and i’m here to play some songs” and jumping straight into Cassy O. The crowd sang along.

A newcomer, Ezra has already picked up some pop star ettiquette, perfecting the “This song is from my new album” line, beaming with pride at being able to say it, with this current tour being his first since his debut

He trolled the crowd with the cliched anecdotes about his time in the city he’s playing, before revealing that his only experience of Belfast was visiting Nando’s, but didn’t clarify if it was the Victoria Square branch or the Ormeau Avenue one.

Ezra’s album, Wanted On Voyage, was mostly written about his experiences while inter-railing around Europe and encountering what he described as “Odd people”

He played two songs about cities – Barcelona (not a Freddie Mercury/Monserrat Caballe cover) and Budapest, the final song of the set. Well, until the encore.

For the encore, he appeared wearing his own merchandise, a t-shirt saying “Good girls go to Heaven, Bad girls go to Budapest”

Quite what Hungary’s Tourism Minister makes of that, is unknown.

During the encore, fans were treated to a cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Girls, and Boys, in The Limelight, certainly had fun.

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LINFIELD 3-1 INSTITUTE 13.10.2014

48 hours after Northern Ireland had beaten Faroe Islands in the European Championships, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Institute.

There might have been a lot of differences between the two games, but there was one big similarity – the home side were looking for a win that would take them to the top of the table with their respective campaigns almost at the 1/3 stage.

A Monday night game against Institute isn’t going to attract the biggest crowd, but the low crowd I saw walking from the bridge made me suspicious that something was up. The fact that the North Stand was in darkness gave the game away.

As I enter the grounds of Windsor Park, supporters awaited to be admitted, as a floodlight failure had put the game in doubt.

Eventually, the problem was fixed, resulting in a delayed kick-off (by 30 minutes) of 8.15pm, which seemed ambitious, as supporters were eventually admitted at around 8pm.

The delayed kick-off was delayed further to about 8.20pm

Amazingly, in my football watching life, it wasn’t my first floodlight failure (Fulham v Manchester United in 2013), latest kick-off (When I went to see Barcelona, they kicked-off at 10pm) or even longest delay (Aston Villa v Leeds in Dublin in 2003 was delayed by over an hour as Villa’s plane was diverted to Shannon)

Curiously, unless my mind is playing tricks, Institute’s last league visit was also a delayed kick-off, but only by 15 minutes.

Linfield kicked-off eager to make up for lost time, going straight on the attack and putting Institute under pressure, winning a corner. A short routine between Ross Clarke and Aaron Burns saw Chris Hegarty head home a cross from close range.

It was no exaggeration to suggest Linfield could have been 3-0 or 4-0 up after 10 minutes, creating chances through neat passing moves, but just coming short.

The actual score, after 10 minutes, though was 1-1, as a quick Institute free-kick resulted in a cross to be headed home by Stephen O’Flynn.

A few weeks earlier, a quick free-kick played out left also resulted in a goal, for Crusaders. A worrying trend.

You got the feeling with Institute’s defence that they were always liable to gift Linfield a chance. Linfield did have chances, but couldn’t convert.

As the half neared the end, Linfield played some neat stuff but with no end product. If it was still 1-0, it wouldn’t have been that bad, but as it was 1-1, it was a frustrating evening.

In injury time, a quick free-kick from Sean Ward to Ivan Sproule saw Sproule pull it back for Andrew Waterworth to fire home, to see Linfield lead at the end of a half that lasted 50 minutes due to stoppages for two Institute injuries. It felt we were never going to get home before Tuesday morning.

Linfield made a slow start to the second-half, and were almost punished when Institute missed a glorious chance with a free header from six yards out.

The 3rd goal that Linfield craved came with 20 minutes to go, when Stephen Lowry fired home from the edge of the box, or so he thought, as the goal was disallowed by the linesman for offside (two players were following up) before the referee overruled him.

Institute manager Paul Kee was sent-off for dissent as the game threatened to boil over.

Interesting to note, that all three of Linfield’s goals came from free-kicks that had short passes rather than firing the ball into the box.

With the points secured, Warren Feeney looked to his bench, bringing on Sammy Morrow. It would be polite to say “It didn’t really happen for him”

Kirk Millar was brought on and looked lively. I’m a big fan of him and would have him starting, but to be fair, Ivan Sproule has improved a lot over the last couple of games.

Millar came on for Sproule. I’d have had him on for Clarke, purely as Clarke was on a yellow card tightrope, which thankfully, he didn’t fall off.

One final sub, was Seanan Clucas. I’d have brought on Jamie Mulgrew to give him game time. That side, Clucas, has hardly had much game time this season.

Having struggled to score but keep clean sheets, it has now reversed for Linfield, with 0 clean sheets in 5 league games, but 11 goals scored in the last 4.

Despite that last statistic, you get the feeling Linfield could still be more deadly up front.

Thankfully, players in defence and midfield have done their bit for the goalscoring cause.

As the final whistle blew, supporters were treated to The Smiths on the tannoy – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. Somebody had a sense of humour.

Of all The Smiths songs to sum up a game, rather that than Panic or Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.

There’s a long time to go before a certain Queen song gets blasted out over the tannoys.

You get the feeling there’s a big performance to come from this team. Saturday would be a good start.

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