Another year of football watching is over and it’s time to look forward to the year ahead. I’m jumping straight in, going to my first match just fifteen hours into the year.

In truth, I don’t really know how the year will pan out. This time last year, I didn’t imagine I would end up watching Dunfermline Athletic at East End Park, but I did.

So, here are my plans and hopes for football watching in 2016, even though they might fall apart.

EURO 2016

First thing up, i’m definitely going to a match in Euro 2016 in France in the summer. The thing is, I don’t know which one. I applied for tickets for group matches last summer, and was successful. The match I was successful for, turned out to be Republic of Ireland v Sweden.

I’m planning on going to Northern Ireland v Poland in Nice and have applied for a ticket. I’m hoping to be successful despite the small allocation for Northern Ireland fans. If i’m not successful, i’ll apply to swap my Republic of Ireland ticket in the Official UEFA Swap Portal when it opens in March.

The ideal scenario is that i’m successful for Northern Ireland v Poland, and then can swap my Republic of Ireland v Sweden ticket for Albania v Switzerland in Lens.


Well, not losing a manager and/or a stand would be a good start. The title might be beyond us, but, you never know if we get a winning run behind us.

As the song goes, if we don’t win the league, the Irish Cup will do.

Also, the County Antrim Shield would be nice. It’s a pointless competition, but we’re in the final so we might as well win it.

So, I want European football, the Irish Cup and a strong start to 2016-2017. Not much.

Pre-season, i’d love some away friendlies at grounds i’ve never been to or haven’t been to for a while such as : Larne, Ards/Bangor, Knockbreda, Moyola Park, Dundela, PSNI.

Seeing as Ayr United appear to having one home pre-season friendly against an Irish League team, would it be too much to ask?

In October this year, the redevelopment of Windsor Park will hopefully be completed and i’m looking forward to watching football in the completed stadium.

I’ll be launching a photo blog from late September to commemorate this to coincide with the opening of The Kop.


In terms of other Irish League, whisper it, but i’ll be keeping an eye out for redevelopment work at Solitude, The Oval and Seaview to do a similar photo blog to my Windsor Park one.

Regarding promotion from The Championship, it looks like being one of Ards, Larne or HW Welders for the automatic spot. I’ve no particular favourite as i’d look forward to travelling to any of those grounds for a league game.

Hopefully, other Irish League clubs in Europe during the summer will be drawn against clubs that are members of the UEFA 102 Club, so I can tick them off my list.


I’m going to Old Trafford in late January for the Southampton game and for the Bournemouth game in May. I’ll keep an eye out for flight prices to possibly go to a game if they reach the later stages of the UEFA Cup.

I’ll have to wait for the fixture list to come out for trips to Old Trafford in the first half of 2016-2017.

With rooms available at £27 per night, I might do more midweek matches. If they get into the European Cup group stages and have a Wednesday home game, I might fly out on Tuesday and take in a game in the Greater Manchester that night.

If there is a home game on the weekend of the FA Cup 1st or 2nd Round, I might go over for a weekend and try to take in an FA Cup tie in the Greater Manchester area as well as the Untied game


I’m hoping to get a ticket for the game against Poland, as already mentioned.

Apart from that, i’m excited about the San Marino game in October as The Kop will be opened. All I need to do now is get my Block Booking changed from the seats I have.


I’m planning to go to at least one League Of Ireland game during 2016. Which one, I don’t know.

There has been an influx of TV programmes focusing on the Wild Atlantic Way, and it’s really tempting me to do a cycling holiday in Donegal, and going on a week when Finn Harps (Friday) and Sligo Rovers (Saturday) are at home to do a double header.

I always keep an eye out for the line-up for Live at the Marquee in Cork to head down, but there’s nothing in this year’s line-up which is making me want to travel down.

More likely, i’ll go for the Dublin option. There’s a full fixture list with two Dublin games on Sunday 29th May (there’s an international on the Friday, hence games being on a Sunday) which is a Bank Holiday weekend which is tempting.

If not that, i’ll do a day trip to Dublin on a Saturday during Irish League pre-season and take in a Bray Wanderers home match that evening.


In August, i’m hoping to go on my annual trip to Edinburgh for the Comedy Festival. While there, I try to take in at least one game.

Having taken advantage of Edinburgh’s location in the Central Belt to visit Dunfermline, i’m hoping whichever of Hearts or Hibs are at home that weekend have their match moved to the Sunday so I can go to a nearby town on the Saturday to visit a new (to me) ground.


My football watching for 2015 is now over, so, it’s time for a statistical look back at the football I watched.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 143

Red Cards : 10 (Doesn’t include Caoimhin Bonner being sent-off in the tunnel after the game)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 6

Hat-Tricks : 2 (Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Dungannon Swifts. Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Warrenpoint Town)

Teams Seen : 40

Arsenal, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Bray Wanderers, Carrick Rangers, CE Europa (1st time), Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Dundee (1st time), Dunfermline Athletic (1st time), Dungannon Swifts, Espanyol (1st time), Finland, Glenavon, Glentoran, Greece (1st time), Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hungary, Institute, Latvia (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Masnau, Northern Ireland, NSI Runavik (1st time), Partick Thistle (1st time), Portadown, PSNI, PSV Eindhoven (1st time), Qatar (1st time), Rangers, Romania (1st time) Scotland, Sligo Rovers, Spartak Trnava (1st time), Tobermore United, Valencia (1st time), Warrenpoint Town

Stadiums Visited : 23

Ballymena Showgrounds, Carlisle Grounds, Drumahoe, East End Park (1st time), Estadi Cornella y Prat (1st time), Ferney Park, Fortwilliam Park (1st time), Gresty Road (1st time), Hampden Park, Ibrox, Milltown, Mourneview Park, Newforge (1st time), Nou Sardenya (1st time), Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue (1st time), The Oval, Tynecastle, Windsor Park

Competitions : 13

European Championship, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, La Liga, League of Ireland, Scottish Championship, Scottish League Cup (1st time), Scottish Premier League, Tercera Division (1st time), UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiousities, other than a match with kick-off delayed for an hour due to the weather

UEFA 102 Club : Espanyol, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia (now at 35 clubs)


Let’s face it, Belfast Telegraph is an awful publication these days, and their social media output especially reflects that.

They have three types of stories.

The first, is themmuns and thoseuns, designed to get angry people on the internet angry, so that they can use words like #seo and #interaction to advertisers, when it’s really just the same two people arguing about the same thing they argued about yesterday and the day before and the day before.

It is a change in editorial direction I totally blame on themmuns.

The second, is “inspiration porn”, which is not really inspirational, just people not being a dick, or just getting on with it.

The third, is their obsession with “Viral videos”, which is usually some culchie doing something stupid on a night out or somebody singing in a Chippie.

But there is one area in which the Belfast Telegraph has excelled, that being it’s use of stock photos, used to accompany stories.

So, in honour of this excellence, here’s a countdown of the Top 50 Stock Photos used by Belfast Telegraph in 2015.






46. RATS






Boxing Day when the year ends in 5 is usually memorable. 1995 was all about a white ball and snow, while 2005 saw Linfield record their biggest win in the annual fixture.

2015 would be end to end and dramatic, and that was before a ball was kicked, as kick-off was delayed until 4pm in order for water to be cleared off the pitch to make the pitch playable and avoid a postponement as the internet became filled with rumours that it would be postponed and pass a pitch inspection at the same time.

Just after 3pm, when the action should have been starting, came confirmation that the pitch was playable and the match was on.

Supporters who had waited all year now had to wait an extra hour for the game to start, and another ninety minutes to see if it was worth the wait.

We shall see in 721 days time, but this could be the last Boxing Day encounter at The Oval as we currently know it, with the stadium being recently approved for funding for redevelopment work.

The state of The Oval in 2017 wasn’t of interest to anyone, it was the state of the Linfield team of 2015 that matter to those in the City End, with the team ending the year in not as good shape as they began it.

Though, they were ending the month in a much better state than they started it.

Inside the first five minutes, Jimmy Callacher was already covered in muck. It was a day when you had to get dirty in order to win.

Linfield had the better of the early exchanges, with a Matthew Clarke cross being cleared when the attack looked to be getting dangerous.

Niall Quinn cut in and fired a shot goalwards which was deflected over the bar. Linfield were getting a lot of joy down their left hand side in the first-half between Clarke and Quinn. Paul Smyth was even helping out and joining the party.

Linfield were having the better of the play but had to be wary of Glentoran’s attacks, as Curtis Allen had a free-kick tipped over by Ross Glendinning.

Linfield had their own free-kick which didn’t quite work, as Kirk Millar set up Niall Quinn, only to be dispossessed and then foul his opponent.

Linfield had more pressure on Glentoran’s goal, Jamie Mulgrew shooting wide, Sean Ward hitting a long range shot against the bar and Kirk Millar having his shot saved when he had a brief glimpse of goal.

Glentoran replied with Curtis Allen and Jay Magee having headers wide, before Glentoran heads were needed in their own penalty area when Andrew Waterworth’s goalbound shot was headed off the line.

As half-time approached, Linfield took the lead from a Niall Quinn free-kick.

At the other end of the pitch, the view is never great at The Oval. I wasn’t quite sure what happened. A glance at TV replays showed it went through the goalkeeper’s hands. A belated Christmas present that Linfield were more than happy to accept.

Having got a lot of joy down the left in the first-half, it was all about the right sided players in the second-half, with Kirk Millar and Paul Smyth, assisted by Andrew Waterworth, were making it happen for Linfield in an attacking sense.

Smyth had the beating if his man. He knew it, and every Linfield player knew it, getting the ball to him at every opportunity.

It was down the middle though, came the chance to make it 2-0, when Waterworth won possession clean through but couldn’t finish.

It wasn’t long before it was 2-0, when Smyth got the the byline, cut back, and saw his cross/shot deflected into the net.

The goal had been coming, not just in this game but in Smyth’s career. Hopefully, it will be the first of many for him in a blue shirt.

Just as Linfield fans were looking forward to the rare prospect of a nice nerve free final half hour of a match against Glentoran, The Glens struck back within a minute, when a cross was fired home by Jonathan Smith from close range.

Linfield needed a third goal and had chances to get it though Andrew Waterworth and Niall Quinn.

Curtis Allen, who got a late equaliser when the sides met in October, headed over with five minutes to go.

That was it for Glentoran. Nobody would say it out loud though. Football fans are a superstitious bunch who don’t dare tempt fate.

Linfield were able to hold onto possession, and in Glentoran’s defensive third, where they couldn’t do any damage, and got the 2-1 win, the 4th successive year they had won this fixture by that scoreline.

Linfield ended an eventful, but ultimately disappointing (which is a bit of an understatement) on a winning note.

Like at Ballymena, players and fans celebrated together at full-time.

As well as Christmas tradition and local bragging rights, this was a big result for Linfield in terms of the league table as a result of today’s other results.

Coleraine and Glenavon, just below Linfield, both won, while Crusaders and Cliftonville drew. Linfield are now one point behind Cliftonville and nine behind Crusaders, though both teams have a game in hand.

Linfield host Crusaders on New Year’s Day, knowing that a win could reduce the gap at the top of the league to six points. There might even be talk of a title challenge.

There’s never any middle ground when it comes to Linfield, everything is either brilliant or falling apart. It would be nice to have some positive ridiculousness on Friday compared to the ridiculousness that followed in November.

Photo Album

THE SOUND OF 2015 : 1-25

So here we go, what you’ve been waiting for …….. The Top 25 songs of 2015. Enjoy.

1. Blossoms – Charlemagne
2. The Strypes – Get Into It
3. Chvrches – Leave A Trace
4. Muse – Revolt
5. Chemical Brothers – Go
6. Muse – Mercy
7. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Ballad Of The Mighty I
8. Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do
9. Florence and the Machine – Queen Of Peace
10. Everything Everything – Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread
11. Calvin Harris ft Haim – Pray To God
12. Mumford and Sons – The Wolf
13. The 1975 – Love Me
14. Little Mix – Black Magic
15. Taylor Swift – Style
16. Mini Mansions – Death Is A Girl
17. Florence and the Machine – Ship To Wreck
18. Muse – Dead Inside
19. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – SOB
20. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – You Know We Can’t Go Back
21. FFS – Piss Off
22. John Newman – Come And Get It
23. Everything Everything – Regret
24. Soak – Sea Creatures
25. Paul Weller – Saturn’s Pattern

So, congratulations to Blossoms. I bet they didn’t think that supporting Paul Weller and The Charlatans on tour could be topped, but it has.

If you haven’t heard the song before, here you go …..

They join an illustrious list of winners. Sadly, Bebo has wiped their archive, so I can’t link you 2006-2008.


2014 Jamie T – Zombie
2013 Haim – The Wire
2012 Taylor Swift – We Are Never Getting Back Together
2011 Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – AKA …. What A Life
2010 Marina and the Diamonds – Shampain
2009 Little Boots – New In Town
2008 Sons and Daughters – Darling
2007 Feist – 1,2, 3, 4
2006 Kasabian – Empire


There’s still another week of the month to go, but this pictorial round-up will end in time for Christmas with a look back at the final month of 2015. So far.

The months began at The Limelight, as Marina and the Diamonds made a welcome return to Belfast after a five year absence.

Five was also the number on people’s lips on the 5th of the month, as Linfield took on Coleraine, aiming to avoid a fifth successive defeat, which thankfully they did.

Unfortunately, it was a false dawn, as I was back at Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield play out a drab draw against Ballinamallard.

The following Saturday, it was a lot better, as I headed on the road to see Linfield win at Ballymena.

The day afterwards, there was The Ash Christmas Bash, at The Empire.

There’s still a week left of 2015, but that’s a round-up of what i’ve snapped so far this year.

I’ll be snap snap snapping away in 2016. I’ve got high hopes that June will be memorable.

Marina and the Diamonds live at The Limelight

Marina and the Diamonds live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Ballymena United v Linfield

Ash live at The Empire

Ash live at The Empire Photo Album