50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : DEC 26 – DEC 31

The final episode of the series, which i’ve enjoyed writing and sharing with you.

You never know, the BBC might bring it back on a weekly basis. Let’s go out on a high with some classics, and some not so classic.

I’ll probably rehash this in 2024 for 60 Years Of Top Of The Pops. If not, i’ll see you in 2048 for 50 Years Of CD:UK.

And finally, Bobby Farrell died four years ago, on the same day, and in the same city as Rasputin.

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MEDIAWATCH : BELFAST TELEGRAPH AND THE LGBT PLASTICINE PEOPLE

The issue of same sex marriage has been in the news a lot in 2014. Belfast Telegraph, like a lot of other news organisations have covered this.

So, you’ve written the story, and it’s ready to go online. Problem is, you need a photo, so what do you do?

The story isn’t about a specific person, so you need to have an image that fully covers the issue of same sex marriage.

Call the Picture Desk, what are your options?

Raid your archive of stories about same sex marriage and find a picture of a couple and use that?

There are gay celebrities, one of them must be in a relationship, why not use a picture of one of those?

Third option, go to the stock library. There’s bound to be a stock image of two male models all dressed up, cutting a cake, drinking champagne.

That’s the option Belfast Telegraph go for. Sort of, as they go for the option of plasticine men on top of a cake.

Nothing says same sex marriage like two plasticine guys on a cake.

These guys must have a good agent, as they were always used to accompany the text everytime Belfast Telegraph’s Facebook page uploaded a story about same sex marriage.

Along comes Ashers, and the “Gay Cake Controversy”

A story that involves homosexuality and cakes. Surely our heroes will be the photo stars to accompany this story.

No. They got snubbed for Bert and Ernie. In true 2014 style. It looked like they were taking a selfie.

As the year ends, same sex marriage is once again in the news agenda, and the Belfast Telegraph responds by bringing our heroes back into the limelight, albeit, with one of them mostly cut out of the shot.

I know what you’re thinking, what about the lesbians?

Relax Lesbians, Belfast Telegraph hasn’t forgotten about you.

Over in Twitterland, Belfast Telegraph tweet a link to a story about a possible court case in 2015 – and manage to get a photo a nice happy, smiley and blonde Lesbian couple to accompany the story.

Guess what? They’re made of plasticine.

Maybe this is some sort of new editorial policy at Belfast Telegraph that all news stories shall be accompanied by a plasticine stock photo?

If so, i’m looking forward to seeing Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness in plasticine form in 2015.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2014

So, my football watching is over for 2014. Time to look back at the year just gone. And what better way to do it than with a load of stats.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 164

Red Cards : 17 (includes Rhys Marshall getting sent-off after the final whistle, but not Gary Hamilton being sent-off as a substitute before he entered the field)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 4

Hat-Tricks : 1 (Robin Van Persie, Manchester United v Olympiacos)

Teams Seen : 37

Accrington Stanley (1st time), AIK Solna (1st time), Ards, B36 Torshavn, Ballinamallard United, Ballyclare Comrades (1st time), Ballymena United, Bangor, Bray Wanderers (1st time), Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Cowdenbeath (1st time), Crusaders, Drogheda United, Dungannon Swifts, Everton (1st time), Exeter City (1st time), Faroe Islands, Glenavon, Glentoran, Harland and Wolff Welders, Heart Of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hull City (1st time), Institute, Leyton Orient (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Northern Ireland, Olympiacos (1st time), Peterborough United (1st time), Portadown, Real Madrid, Sevilla (1st time), Tottenham Hotspur, Warrenpoint Town,

Stadiums Visited : 19

Ballymena Showgrounds, Brisbane Road (1st time), Cardiff City Stadium (1st time), Carlisle Grounds (1st time), Coleraine Showgrounds, Crown Ground (1st time), Drumahoe (1st time), Ferney Park, Milltown (1st time), Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, The Oval, Tynecastle, White Hart Lane (1st time), Windsor Park

Competitions : 15

County Antrim Shield, European Championship, European Cup, European Super Cup (1st time), FA Premier League, Football League One (1st time), Football League Two (1st time), Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, League Of Ireland, Northern Ireland League Cup, Scottish Championship (1st time), Steel and Sons Cup, UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiosities this year. There were two twins on opposing sides, but i’d already seen it. Other than that, a player setting up a goal with no boots. It was a poor year for curiousities.

UEFA 100 Club : Everton, Sevilla (now at 32 clubs)

FOOTBALL IN 2015

Another year of football watching is over, and it’s all about looking forward to 2015. But what, realistically, are my hopes for 2015?

Well, these are my football watching hopes for 2015.

LINFIELD

Well, stating the obvious, I obviously want Linfield to win the Irish League and the Irish Cup.

This season’s Irish Cup draw has already given a treat in the form of an away game against Tobermore United – another new ground to visit.

In terms of pre-season, it’s the usual wishlist of Dundela, PSNI or Stranraer away. Seeing as we invited Cowdenbeath over for a friendly in the summer of 2014, would it be too much to ask for them to return the favour in the summer of 2015?

In terms of promotion, i’m hoping Carrick Rangers go up as i’ve never been there. So again, a new ground to visit. If there is to be another team promoted, hopefully it will be Ards or Bangor, with an away game early in the season on a sunny day.

Of course, there is also the ongoing redevelopment work at Windsor Park. It is expected for this to be completed by November.

Obviously, i’d be getting use of the South Stand, but hopefully, i’ll get an opportunity to sit in the Railway Stand just to see what it’s like. I’m guessing it might have to be used for a Linfield match before it is passed for a Northern Ireland match, in the same way Wembley had to stage an underage international with a restricted attendance before being allowed to host full events.

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Obviously, i’m hoping for Linfield to be in the European Cup, but i’m hoping that the other Irish League sides get fallen giants who are part of the 101 Club, that I can tick off my list.

The closest an Irish League side got in 2014 was when Crusaders got duffed by a Swedish team who went on to play Torino.

Seeing as Glenavon are best mates with PSV Eindhoven, if they want to invite them over for a friendly, that would be great.

MANCHESTER UNITED

I’m hoping to get to Old Trafford before the end of the season. I’ve nothing booked yet, but i’m eyeing either Tottenham in March or Arsenal in May.

Hopefully, there’s be European Cup football returning in September 2015. I might be tempted to a there and back group game. Just have to wait until the 2015-2016 fixture list comes out.

NORTHERN IRELAND

I’m planning to be at four Northern Ireland games in 2015 – the home games against Finland, Romania, Hungary and Greece. I bought a Block Booking for the first time ever for this campaign. The downside is, i’m going to go to hell for attending the Finland game, which is on a Sunday night.

Tempted by the Scotland friendly in March. Haven’t booked anything yet, but a quick there and back for an away friendly is very tempting.

EURO 2016

Whatever the fate of Northern Ireland’s qualification campaign, i’m planning to be in France in the summer of 2016. The reason i’m posting it with reference to 2015 is, the flights will probably go on sale in August/September 2015, and i’m planning to be straight in with my booking. The plan is to go out for the first four days of the tournament and be based in Paris, with two games there, one in Lille (one hour away) and Lens (one hour away)

BIRMINGHAM

Toying with the idea of heading to Birmingham in September for the Rugby World Cup, as Australia and South Africa play on successive days at Villa Park. If I was to do this, i’d be planning to try and take in a football match taking place in the city (if feasible) at either Birmingham City or Walsall. Nothing definite in this idea though.

BARCELONA

Going to Barcelona for a weekend in February. Espanyol are at home to Valencia that weekend, so i’m hoping to take in that match. I’m also looking at lower league sides in the area to try and catch more than one game. The most likely bet is CE Europa, who play in Spain’s 4th tier. Frustratingly, Barcelona B (in Spain’s second tier) are away that weekend, to Real Zaragoza, a 101 Club member.

LEAGUE OF IRELAND

I don’t plan to go to a League Of Ireland game every year, but there’s usually something that takes me to Dublin, so I end up taking in a game. If I do end up taking in a game in Dublin, hopefully, it will be UCD, as the Bellefield Bowl is the only football ground in Dublin I haven’t been to.

SCOTLAND

As well as the previously mentioned international i’m tempted by, i’m planning to head to Edinburgh in August for the festival. Obviously, there’ll be Hibs and Hearts, but i’m hoping they’ll be at home on a Sunday, leaving the Saturday free to see Spartans or Edinburgh City, hopefully by now promoted to League Two (4th tier)

Of the two, Edinburgh City look the most likely. The downside is, they play at an athletics stadium.

MOROCCO

One place i’m definitely not visiting in 2015 is Morocco. I was tempted as they were the host of the 2015 African Cup Of Nations. It turned out I made the right decision by not making plans, as they were stripped of hosting rights, which were given to Equatorial Guinea, which is a bit harder to get to.

BANGOR 2-3 ARDS 27.12.2014

One last football match in 2014, and it wasn’t a bad way to finish the year, as I headed to Clandeboye Park for the North Down Derby (although the area has now been rebranded as “East Coast”) between Bangor and Ards, also a top of the table clash in Championship 1.

Bangor were top of the league and unbeaten, aspiring to get promoted to the Premiership next year, having not applied for promotion for this season. If they did, they would have had a play-off against Warrenpoint Town, who they beat in the Irish Cup.

To give an indication of how far Bangor have progressed under the management of Garth Scates, the last time I went to see them, they were six minutes away from relegation to the third tier of Irish League football.

A more long-term measure of where both clubs were, is the fact that the last time I saw them play against each other, was in an Irish Cup Final.

Bangor and Ards are two of eleven clubs who have applied for a licence for the Premier League in 2015-2016, and both had their eyes on promotion.

For the record, Bangor were the home team today (both teams play at Clandeboye Park) with Ards home game resulting in a 1-1 draw in August.

I wasn’t the only neutral taking advantage of the fact there were no top flight games today, as I spotted Eddie Patterson (Glentoran play Ards in the Irish Cup next month) and Gary Hamilton (a former teammate of Bangor manager Garth Scates) in the crowd.

A good sight to see that there were queues right up to kick-off stretching to the bottom of the street of supporters wanting to get in.

It was Ards who took the lead with the first moment of note in the game, when James Cully managed to get himself free in the box and fired home, after 9 minutes.

Bangor dusted themselves off and went about getting level. They had good build-up play but couldn’t get a clear sight of goal. Bangor almost scored shortly after Ards went 1-0 up when a long range shot from outside the box smashed against the bar and out.

From where I was stood, I thought it was a goal. The linesman said no. No technology at this level to confirm one way or the other.

Soon afterwards, Bangor had a goal disallowed for offside.

It wasn’t all Bangor though, Ards were having just as much a say in the game, it was end to end stuff.

As the half neared an end, Ards got a free-kick within a shooting range. The clock stated 44 minutes. Sometimes you see a set pices being lined up and you know it will be a goal. So it proved, as Gary Warwick fired home to give Ards a 2-0 lead.

Like at Windsor Park the day before, a goal just before half-time had such a massive bearing on the game.

As when they went 2-0 down, Bangor responded by trying to get a goal to get them back in the game.

Early in the second-half, Bangor had a free-kick tipped onto the post. Bangor had a lot of possession but couldn’t get a breakthrough.

The game took on the pattern of a game where one team is 2-0 up and trying to score, while the other is content not to concede.

Ards had the mentality that they didn’t need to score. Truth was, if Bangor could pull it back to 2-1, they would have so much momentum going into the final stages.

Ards did almost score to go 3-0 up, but a goalbound shot was cleared off the line in the nick of time.

With 15 minutes to go, Bangor got a lifeline when a thunderous shot from Andy Hall hit the back of the net.

I was behind the goal at the time and ducked, as I was convinced the ball was going over. It was one of those efforts when it went right for him.

This spurred Bangor on, but they couldn’t get the equaliser from their pressure.

As each minute ticked by, Ards seemed to be seeing the game out and getting the win.

As injury time approached, Bangor appeared to run out of ideas. When there’s only one goal in the game, at any level, the game is still up for grabs.

Bangor got that one moment, eventually, and made the most of it. They managed to get one more attack and won a corner. The ball went out for another corner, which was eventually bundled home by Jordan Forsythe. The Bangor fans behind the goal celebrated wildly. Derby Day Pride had been salvaged, but more importantly, they wouldn’t be losing any ground to a promotion rival.

Watching as a neutral, I had a suspicion that the scoring for today wasn’t over. I couldn’t tell who would get that all important fifth goal.

It was to be Ards, when a shot off the post fell perfectly for Ross Arthurs to finish and put Ards 3-2 in injury time.

There was still some time remaining, and Bangor had one last chance, which was fired wide from inside the penalty area. It should have been a goal.

Bangor’s unbeaten league run was over, and the race for promotion has just got interested. Championship 1 is a lopsided league as teams often have games in hand due to cup commitments and gaps in the table can be deceptive.

Ards can go within three points of Bangor if they win their game in hand, Harland and Wolff Welders could go two points above them if they win theirs, as could Carrick Rangers.

My football watching is over for 2014 ……. i’ll only have to wait 15 hours before getting started in 2015.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 2-1 GLENTORAN 26.12.2014

It was the biggest day of the season in the Irish League, Boxing Day, when all the derby rivals go head to head. It was coincidental, that even without the derby tags, the fixture list threw up games with teams close to each other in the table, or two in-form teams going head to head.

For Linfield, it would be Glentoran of course. A Glentoran side who had just secured a late win over Champions Cliftonville, and had won four of their last five games.

Stephen Lowry made a statement of intent just two seconds into the game, flying into the tackle. It’s what you have to do on a day like this.

Linfield suffered a pre-match blow with the absence of Aaron Burns through injury, the winning goalscorer on Boxing Day last year, and Linfield’s top scorer this season. Kirk Miller came in for him. He had plenty of runs at Glentoran’s defence, but it just didn’t happen for him.

He wasn’t the only Linfield player for whom it just didn’t happen in an attacking sense. The best moments in the first-half came from inswinging free-kicks.

Glentoran had the first attempts on goal in the game, shots that went wide though. Their best moment saw Ross Glendinning forced into a save from a header.

Linfield scored an advantage of sorts at kick-off, with Glentoran attacking their fans based in The Kop in the first-half rather than the second.

Those fans in The Kop would be celebrating on 25 minutes, when Stephen Gordon finished after a cross. Glentoran had struck when they were enjoying a period on top.

Linfield didn’t have much of a response, struggling to break down Glentoran. There were no real opportunities.

With the end of the half approaching, Linfield struck when Sammy Morrow fired home after a pass from Lowry. It was his third goal in four games. That said, we’ll need another forward player in the January Transfer Window, as the bench was striker free, and we’ll need cover if him or Andrew Waterworth get injured.

When the ball hit the back of the net, I immediately thought of the Cliftonville game in October, but with roles reversed. Cliftonville had been poor that day, but got an equaliser just before half-time and used it as a springboard for victory. Linfield were hoping to do that today.

Linfield started the second-half better, but couldn’t get a lead. Frustrated by Glentoran’s defence. There were no clear opportunities though.

Glentoran didn’t have any clear opportunities either though.

The game, looked like it was drifting to a 1-1 draw. That was, until Ivan Sproule was played through on goal in a wide position.

As he ran through on goal, you just had a feeling he would score. He did. Unfortunately, he took his shirt off when celebrating, and got a second yellow card. I know it’s a passionate game, but he should be keeping his cool. It was a stupid thing to do.

Thankfully, Linfield learnt their lesson from their meeting with Glentoran last month, and didn’t down tools and encourage Glentoran to come at them. Glentoran’s only moment of note came just before injury time, when a shot flashed wide of the post.

Linfield were able to see the game out and secure a third successive Boxing Day win, for the first time since the fixture was resurrected in 1989.

From local issues to national issues, it strengthened Linfield’s position at the top of the league. Though they remain the same amount of points clear at kick-off (four), they moved six clear of Portadown and seven clear of Cliftonville due to other results.

A massive motiviation ahead of the New Year’s Day game at Seaview, knowing that victory will send them at least six clear, and go seven points clear of Crusaders.

With Cliftonville facing the bottom three next, it is important to keep racking up the points.

Talking of Cliftonville, we have a match against them to re-arrange due to their participation in the League Cup Final. I would be pushing for us to arrange it for the midweek before or after that League Cup Final.

We are now six days away from the opening of the January Transfer Window. The most immediate priority for Linfield is a striker. That might sound strange for a team that that has scored at least two goals in their last nine league games.

Once again, there ws no striker on the bench today. We just need an extra attacker to either partner Andrew Waterworth, or to be on the bench, to be able to bring on to add freshness late in the game, or to be thrown on if we are chasing a game. An extra body will be so important in the run-in if Waterworth and/or Morrow get injured or suspended.

For Linfield, 2014 is now over. With the Gibson Cup still not residing at Windsor Park, it was ultimately a year of failure.

It was a year of massive changes on and off the pitch. The changes off the pitch, the renovation of Windsor Park will bear fruit and be visible for all to see in 2015.

Hopefully, the major change on the pitch, a new manager (technically, that’s off the pitch, but he is a player/manager, so technically, it’s on the pitch) will have a visible and positive change as well.

After winning a top of the table clash, then the Big Two derby, it’s another top of the table clash. The big games keep coming. You wouldn’t want it any other way.

Photo Album

CARRICK RANGERS 4-1 HARLAND AND WOLFF WELDERS 25.12.2014

I love football, but getting up early on Christmas morning does test my faith. I was invited along, so it would have been rude not to. It wasn’t my first time at a Steel and Sons Cup Final, but it was a while ago. It was so long ago, the RUC were playing – 1993, and they beat Dundela 5-1.

This year’s game, was a clash between two Championship 1 sides, Carrick Rangers and Harland and Wolff Welders.

Having played a season at Seaview, and a few other matches due to renovations at Taylor’s Avenue, Carrick will have reason to feel at home. Though, with former Crusaders players Gary Smyth (manager) and David Rainey (forward) on their books, The Welders had two key personnel who would be at home at the North Belfast venue. Rainey was only recently ruled eligible for this game, as it was suggested that his role as a non playing subsitute in last season’s Irish Cup Final might have ruled him out.

Welders kicked-off and went straight on the attack, but it was Carrick who dominated the early stages, and went ahead on 17 minutes with a lovely finish from Aaron Smyth.

As half-time approached, Carrick went 2-0 from a header by Kyle Cherry.

Mark Magennis had Welders best moment in the early stages of the second-half when his free-kick was headed off the line.

The next goal was crucial, and it was Carrick that got it, when Conor McCloskey fired home just before the hour. The game was effectively over.

The game didn’t go all Carrick’s way, with 15 minutes remaining they had Daniel Kelly sent-off for a second yellow card. It could possibly have been a straight red card, as he brought down his opponent running through on goal.

From the resulting free-kick, there was a scramble which resulted in Michael McLellan putting the ball in the back of the net.

Welders have a brief lifeline, and against ten men, they fancied their chances.

With each passing minute, they knew a dramatic comeback wasn’t going to happen. In injury time, Ben Roy made sure of it, if there was any doubt when he finished to make it 4-1, celebrating with the Carrick fans behind the goal at the Shore Road End. They knew the job was done.

Carrick were deserved winners.

Photo Album

50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

Own up, who has ever fallen asleep during Christmas TOTP and woke up thinking The Queen was Number 1 with a Spoken Word song? Just me?

As Noddy Holder once sang ITTTTTT’SSSSSS CCCCCHHHHHRRRRISSSSSTTTTTMAAAASSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So here, is a selection of Christmas songs for you.

Keep an eye out for a hilarious Band Aid performance.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

THE SOUND OF 2014 : 1-25

So, here it is, the 25 best songs of 2014. Drumroll please …………… and the winner is …….. Oh just read the next sentence and don’t be so lazy.

1. Jamie T – Zombie
2. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – In The Heat Of The Moment
3. Charli XCX – Boom Clap
4. Wonder Villains – Marshall
5. Gabrielle Aplin – That’s All
6. Hozier – Take Me To Church
7. Courteeners – Next Time You Call
8. Prides – Messiah
9. Royal Blood – Figure It Out
10. Sheppard – Say Geronimo
11. Vance Joy – Riptide
12. Beck – Blue Moon
13. Lea Michele – Cannonball
14. Millers Daughter – Head Over Heels
15. McBusted – Air Guitar
16. George Ezra – Blame It On Me
17. Jimi Goodwin – Oh! Whiskey
18. Sia – You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile
19. St Vincent – Digital Witness
20. Twin Atlantic – Heart and Soul
21. Royal Blood – Little Monster
22. George Ezra – Budapest
23. The Vamps ft Demi Lovato – Somebody To You
24. Grouplove – Ways To Go
25. Rae Morris – Closer

So, congratulations to Jamie T. If you’re reading this Jamie, there’s no prize, just smug self satisfaction, which money can’t buy.

If, for some reason, you haven’t heard the winning song, here you go.

Here’s to more great music in 2015.

The Sound Of 2013

The Sound Of 2012

The Sound Of 2011

The Sound Of 2010

The Sound Of 2009

The Sound Of 2008

The Sound Of 2007

The Sound Of 2006

50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : DEC 19 – DEC 24

Our last round-up before Christmas, and not many pop birthdays, but let’s press on anyway.

There’ll be a special Christmas Day edition of this blog is you fancy going online to escape from your family.

Of course, don’t forget, this year’s Christmas editions of Top Of The Pops will be on Christmas Day at 2pm, and New Year’s Eve at 4.15pm.

I’ll be using clips from those shows in 2024 when I rehash this blog for 60 Years Of Top Of The Pops.

Limahl turned 56 this week.

Sad Anniversary time …… Maurice and Robin Gibb would have been 65 this week.

Richey Edwards would have been 47 this week.

And now, some Motorhead to get you in the mood for Christmas.

But there are pop stars born on Christmas Days as well, such as Annie Lennox, born in a stable in Aberdeen.

And Robin Campbell of UB40, born in a stable in Birmingham

As well as Shane Magowan and Bob Stanley, who we’ll see tomorrow.