THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : NOW FOR THE KOP

In late October 2015, a friendly at home to Latvia the following month was arranged to help Northern Ireland prepare for Euro 2016.

However, it was the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers that the builders were getting ready for, most notably the home match against San Marino on 8th October 2016, with that being the target completion date for the new version of The Kop, after permission to build it was granted in November 2015, with the costs coming from insurance.

November 2015 – Entrances to Railway Stand and South Stand

November 2015 – North Stand entrance.

November 2015 – Windsor Park, as seen from Oympia Leisure Centre.

November 2015 – The Kop

November 2015 – Work on the entrance to North Stand.

Linfield announced that the stadium would be handed over by O’Hare and McGovern in early January 2016, a bit later than anticipated, with the club aiming to have the new stands operational for domestic games in February 2016.

The new club shop would open in early 2016, but a temporary shop would be opening in the North Stand in late November 2015.

Construction of a roof covering the North Stand concourse would be delayed until the Summer of 2016.

In terms of hospitality, it wouldn’t be until the start of the 2016-2017 season that plans would be able to be made for domestic games.

Linfield also announced that an Information Evening would be taking place in the near future.

November 2015 – Stairs in the South Stand

November 2015 – Still some work to do in the South Stand.

November 2015 – Interior of the South Stand.

November 2015 – Progress on The Kop.

The temporary arrangements weren’t to everyone’s liking, as Cliftonville weren’t happy at health and safety arrangements.

Those of a thirsty persuasion who also like Tennent’s were in for a treat, as Tennent’s signed a deal to supply beer and cider at the ground.

November 2015 – Work on the entrance to the South Stand.

November 2015 – Work on The Kop.

November 2015 – Windsor Park, as seen from Olympia Leisure Centre.

November 2015 – Exterior of Windsor Park

November 2015 – South Stand

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 30.9.2016

1. Simple Minds ft KT Tunstall – Promised You A Miracle
2. Bloc Party – Stunt Queen
3. Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Lullaby
4. Cast – Do That
5. Barry Gibb In And Out

This week, saw the 40th anniversary of U2 being formed. So here is a U2 Top 40. Only joking, it’s The Friday Five, not The Friday Forty.

FIVE SONGS BY U2

1. The Fly
2. Hallelujah Here She Comes
3. Discotheque
4. Angel Of Harlem
5. Wild Honey

Oh, i’m going to see Supersonic on Sunday. Can’t wait.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : GREECE IS THE WORD

The progress of the redevelopment allowed 11,700 Northern Ireland fans to attend the Euro 2016 Qualifier against Greece in early October 2015, more than had been able to attend any of the previous four Qualifiers.

They witnessed a historic night as a 3-1 win sent Northern Ireland to France for Euro 2016.

The South Stand was open along it’s Lower Tier, although there was still a lot of work to be done on it.

The junction of North Stand and Railway Stand had seen significant progress, with the structure now coming into place, but had yet to be used.

October 2015 – Junction of South Stand and The Kop.

October 2015 – South Stand

October 2015 – North Stand and Railway Stand, as seen from the South Stand.

October 2015 – Still some work to be done on the South Stand.

October 2015 – Junction of North Stand and Railway Stand.

The nation partied, but the builders just went back to work. Two days later, Linfield faced Glentoran in an Irish League clash, with Glentoran fans in the Railway Stand, entering via Boucher Road. It was the first time the stand had been used in a domestic game.

The dugouts on the South Stand side of the ground were also used in a domestic game for the first time that day.

October 2015 – Glentoran fans in the Railway Stand. Linfield and Glentoran players discussing the weather.

October 2015 – Progress on a wall between Railway Stand and North Stand entrances.

October 2015 – Gates now added to the entrance at Donegall Avenue.

The photograph of the gates outside Windsor Park was taken on Sunday 11th October 2015. You may notice flowers left on those gates. They were placed in memory of a Linfield supporter who took ill and died at a match against Glentoran the previous day.

There were soon rumours that Tayto are lining up a deal for naming rights to the stadium, but this was denied the next day.

David Healy had plenty of glory nights at the previous incarnation of Windsor Park as a Northern Ireland player, and he was hoping for more as a manager, as he was appointed manager of Linfield in October 2015.

October 2015 – Progress on the North Stand and Railway Stand entrances.

Problems with access from Boucher Road for Cliftonville fans meant that Linfield fans would get to use the new Railway Stand in a domestic game for the first time, in a County Antrim Shield game against Cliftonville.

October 2015 – South Stand and Railway Stand entrances

October 2015 – Windsor Park, as seen from Midgley Park.

October 2015 – The Kop

October 2015 – Seats and roof added to North Stand/Railway Stand quadrant.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER 2015

Before it was fully built, the new incarnation of Windsor Park had already had it’s first memorable night, as September 2015 saw Northern Ireland take on Hungary knowing that a win sound send them to Euro 2016.

Northern Ireland didn’t get the win they wanted, but a dramatic late draw kept their destiny in their own hands, and sent the fans home happy.

The new Railway Stand had it’s first international goal in that game. Richard Guzmics is the name to remember for future pub quizzes.

September 2015 – Supporters entering the Railway Stand ahead of Northern Ireland v Hungary

September 2015 – Railway Stand

September 2015 – North Stand, in all it’s multicoloured glory

September 2015 – South Stand, as seen from Railway Stand

September 2015 – Junction of North Stand and Railway Stand

September 2015 – Public Access to Windsor Park

September 2015 – Work on the footpaths on the exterior of the stadium.

September 2015 – Work being done on the North Stand.

September 2015 – More seats added to South Stand.

By late September, work had progressed to the point that 1,500 extra tickets for the Northern Ireland v Greece match in early October.

September 2015 – Progress being made on junction of South Stand and Kop.

Progress was also being made in terms of staffing, as the position of Assistant to the Stadium Director was advertised in early October 2015.

October 2015 – Wall being built and junction of Railway Stand and North Stand

October 2015 – Wall being built between North Stand and Railway Stand.

Assistant to the Stadium Director wasn’t the only job at Windsor Park being advertised in early October 2015, as Warren Feeney resigned as Linfield manager to join Newport County in some earth shattering news.

Thankfully for the progress of the redevelopment, it was only metaphorically earth shattering.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : SUMMER 2015

After working around the clock to get Windsor Park ready for the visit of Romania, the rebuilding continued throughout the summer of 2015. Linfield were able to play both their 2015-2016 UEFA Cup ties at Windsor Park, albeit with some disruption during July 2015, with supporters entering the ground via Olympia Avenue rather than by Donegall Avenue.

The entrance from Donegall Avenue was totally sealed off. Club offices were now located near Midgely Park.

June 2015 – Stairway access to Windsor Park now put in place.

June 2015 – Windsor Park now looking very colourful.

June 2015 – Windows now added to Railway Stand.

June 2015 – Windows now added to Railway Stand/South Stand junction.

July 2015 – View as you enter North Stand section A.

July 2015 – Railway Stand and South Stand, as seen from North Stand.

July 2015 – South Stand.

July 2015 – The Kop

July 2015 – Red seats in bottom deck of North Stand being replaced by Green, White and Blue seats.

July 2015 – Progress being made on the Railway Stand.

July 2015 – Railway Stand, now scaffolding free.

July 2015 – New seats in upper deck of North Stand.

July 2015 – Still some seats to be added.

July 2015 – North Stand seats.

July 2015 – The Kop.

July 2015 – Entrance at Donegall Avenue

July 2015 – Junction of Railway Stand and South Stand.

July 2015 – Repair work being done on the bridge as you walk from Lisburn Road to Windsor Park.

The opening home league match of the 2015-2016 season saw Linfield supporters enter via Olympia Avenue, while away fans were in the bottom tier of the North Stand.

August 2015 – Seats being added to top tier of South Stand.

August 2015 – The Kop

August 2015 – Quadrant between North Stand and Railway Stand being built.

August 2015 – More seats being added to the South Stand.

August 2015 – Work on footbridge leading to Windsor Park taking place.

August 2015 – Exterior of Railway Stand.

September 2015 – Windsor Park, ready to host Northern Ireland v Hungary.

September 2015 – Exterior of Railway Stand

September 2015 – Railway Stand

September 2015 – Footbridge to Windsor Park from Lisburn Road. Mural of Northern Ireland legends now removed.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : THE RACE FOR ROMANIA

By the end of March 2015, the redevelopment was progressing well and Northern Ireland were four points clear in a qualifying position for Euro 2016. Everything was going brilliantly. Too brilliantly. Something surely had to go wrong.

Two days after the Northern Ireland v Finland game, subsidence was discovered in The Kop. As a result, the internet was swamped with fully qualified Structural Engineers.

It was all over the news that week.

It was then announced that Linfield v Crusaders on the following Saturday was postponed due to it.

In the short-term, Linfield’s final two home matches of the 2014-2015 season were moved to Ballymena Showgrounds and The Oval.

There were rumours that the 2015 Irish Cup Final and Northern Ireland’s match against Romania in June would be played at Ravenhill.

Instead of taking the advice of people on the internet, the IFA decided to get professionals and experts in their field to do a report. The report would recommend the demolition of The Kop.

The 2015 Irish Cup Final was switched to The Oval, but Northern Ireland’s match against Romania would be played at Windsor Park, with builders working around the clock to get the Railway Stand and part of the South Stand ready for the game.

April 2015 – Railway Stand/South Stand junction progressing.

April 2015 – Railway Stand progressing.

April 2015 – The Kop, still standing.

May 2015 – Railway Stand/South Stand junction making further progress.

May 2015 – The Kop, now gone.

May 2015 – Railway Stand/South Stand almost ready for Romania.

The IFA were true to their word, and Northern Ireland hosted Romania at Windsor Park on 13th June 2015. Northern Ireland fans were in the Railway Stand, with Romania fans being hosted in part of the South Stand that was ready.

The newly opened Railway Stand didn’t get to see a goal, as the match finished 0-0.

June 2015 – Seats in the Railway Stand.

June 2015 – View from the corner of the Railway Stand.

June 2015 – South Stand, as seen from the Railway Stand.

June 2015 – Inside the Railway Stand.

June 2015 – Seats in the Railway Stand.

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : JANUARY – MARCH 2015

2015 has now started, and the building work continues, as more and more progress is made. There were even hopes that some of the Railway Stand could be used for Northern Ireland’s match against Finland in March.

That turned out not to be the case for the match, which was Northern Ireland’s first on a Sunday at Windsor Park.

January 2015 – Junction of Railway Stand and South Stand now added.

January 2015 – Roof now being added to Railway Stand.

February 2015 – Work on the Railway Stand progressing.

February 2015 – Railway Stand roof now taking shape.

March 2015 – Railway Stand/South Stand junction.

March 2015 – Railway Stand progressing.

March 2015 – Concrete now added to Railway Stand/South Stand junction.

March 2015 – South Stand.

March 2015 – South Stand, as seen from The Kop.

March 2015 – Railway Stand, as seen from The Kop.

NORTH STREET (AND SURROUNDING AREAS) STREET ART SEPTEMBER 2016

Culture Night is one of the highlights of the year in Belfast. I may not have been able to attend the festivities last weekend, but that didn’t stop me getting to experience it.

One of the highlights of Culture Night is Street Art being painted live, incorporating the Hit The North Festival, where the northern parts of the City Centre become an art gallery, usually around, but not exclusively, North Street, Garfield Street and Donegall Street.

Returning from Liverpool on Monday, I had some spare time on my hands in the afternoon, so naturally, I got on my bike and headed to the City Centre to get some photos.

Too many people, too many cars, too many obstacles, and crap weather. It turned out to be a frustrating trip.

So, I decided to wait until Sunday morning and head out again when things were a bit quieter to go a bit snap happy.

There was one of the murals which has suffered some structural damage. What is should look like can be found here.

Enjoy.

Photo Album

See also

North Street Art September 2015

North Street Art September 2014

North Street Art September 2013

North Street Art September 2012

LINFIELD 4-0 ARDS 24.9.2016

Top of the league in August, Ards arrived at Windsor Park on a run of three defeats in four matches. Just over ten minutes into the game, they were on their way to four defeats in five games as Linfield turned on the style.

Linfield were straight on the attack, Paul Smyth forcing Ards goalkeeper into a save from a header. Once again, Smyth was involved in most of Linfield’s attacks. He wasn’t the only one, forming an attacking trio with Ross Gaynor and Kirk Millar. When Linfield were attacking, at least one of them was involved.

A goal for Linfield wasn’t long in coming, and it came on 7 minutes when a Paul Smyth cross wasn’t properly cleared, it fell to Stephen Lowry who played a simple pass to the unmarked Aaron Burns, who fired home.

As soon as Burns got the ball, there was only going to be one outcome.

Within a minute, Burns thought he had made it 2-0 when he fired home from close range from a Paul Smyth cross, but the goal was disallowed for offside..

A quick free-kick set Paul Smyth free out wide, and his cross found Stephen Lowry, who fired home.

The last time Ards visited Windsor Park, Linfield blew a two goal lead to draw 3-3 in a game that let Cliftonville back into the title race in 2014. There was no danger of that happening today. There weren’t even fifteen minutes on the clock, and the game was won for Linfield. The only question, was how many?

After that, Linfield eased off for a while. All Ards could offer was a speculative long-ranger shot. After easing off, Linfield stepped up a goal, with Stafford and Burns having attempts on goal.

It was only a matter of time before Linfield made it 3-0, and it came when Paul Smyth and Chris Casement toyed with Ards before setting up Kirk Millar to finish.

The waves of Linfield attacks continued, with Aaron Burns hitting the side netting from a wide angle after being played through, while Mark Stafford hit the woodwork from a corner.

Natuarally, the second-half wouldn’t be as intense as the first-half, but Linfield still had chances, Paul Smyth having a weak shot saved in the opening minutes of the second-half.

Just after the hour, Linfield made it 4-0 when Ross Gaynor’s cross was put into his own net by Emmett Frairs. If he didn’t try to cut out the cross, Aaron Burns would have had an easy finish from a few yards out.

A start today was Burns reward for goals off the bench in his last two games, with Andrew Waterworth being dropped.

4-0 up, it was the perfect time to bring on Waterworth and Kris Bright. Waterworth forced Ards keeper into a save, but when the game is long won, the attacking intensity isn’t the same.

Today marked the opening of the new bar at Windsor Park, in the corner of the South Stand and The Kop. My own impression was that it was underwhelming.

The thing that stood out, was no TV. When the old viewing lounge was there, I would pop in to check half-time scores in England and Scotland. I was hoping to go in today and watch the United match today. I doubt I was the only one thinking this.

It’s quite a basic thing and not having it is going to turn people away from the bar long-term if they can’t watch football on TV before the game, or have Soccer Saturday on while watching the match.

By the way, there is an excellent view of the game from the bar. Bit of a pity that you can’t watch the game from the balcony though.

Next up for Linfield, is a domestic double header against (barring any recruitment activity in BT4) two former managers, with the Scottish Challenge Cup tie against Queen of the South.

I’m always nervous going into games against Glentoran, but even more so given their form and league position. I’ve been more confident going into games against them when they’ve been top of the league.

A repeat of today’s performance, and we’ll be fine.

Some curious stats around today’s game, it was the third time in the last four home games that Linfield have scored four, and it was Linfield’s fourth clean sheet in eight games.

Long may this continue at both ends of the pitch.

Upon return from Dumfries, is a League Cup tie away to Ballymena, a competition we’re rarely still in come November. Would be nice to win it for the first time in, whisper it, eight years.

The League match against in-form Ballymena has been postponed due to the Challenge Cup, as has Crusaders match against out of sorts Glenavon. It’s fair to say those postponements have worked in Linfield’s favour.

The situation regarding postponements is one to keep an eye on. We’re only one game behind and there’s a date confirmed for it, Tuesday 18th October at Solitude. So it’s not that bad.

It’s been a good weekend for the club, with the Women’s team winning the Irish Cup and the Swifts getting through to the Quarter-Final of the Steel and Sons Cup.

The way the calendar falls this year, the final will be on Christmas Eve, which is a lot more convenient to attend. Hopefully, they can get to the final this year.

You may or may not have seen it this week, but Linfield got an apology this week from the Belfast Telegraph for a story printed in July about Linfield fans causing trouble in Dublin.

Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be bullshit.

I remember seeing it on the news stand when it was published and instantly dismissed it.

That was on the front page. I’m led to believe this apology was on page six.

If you want to read it, you can find it here.

If you don’t want to give them a hit, don’t worry, here’s a screenshot of it.

As you can see, it’s a C minus of an apology, just about scraping the basic requirements, apologising for “any inconvenience suffered”.

Obviously, “We were wrong”, “We lied” or “It wasn’t true” was too much of an inconvenience for them to publish.

The decline in standards at Belfast Telegraph in recent years can be addressed elsewhere. Possibly in a viral video. That’s the only type of story they do these days. A few weeks ago, they did a story about a video of a baby farting “going viral”.

Elsewhere, the corporate launch of Euro 2020 was this week. I know, Euro 2016 has already been consigned to history.

This tournament will have no host country but will take place all around Europe. An utterly farcical idea.

However, i’m a total hypocrite, and i’ll be keeping an eye on the schedule, to try and see what games in Dublin or Glasgow I can try and get to.

And finally, i’ve launched a series this week looking at the Windsor Park redevelopment from start to finish. You can find a link to it here.

The next time Linfield play a match at Windsor Park, against Ballinamallard on October 15th, the redevelopment will be complete.

Hopefully, there’ll be TVs in the bar by then.

Photo Album

THERE WE WERE, NOW HERE WE ARE : SUMMER – WINTER 2014

It was all change at Windsor Park during the summer of 2014 in more ways than one, as Linfield had a new manager for the first time since 1997, with Warren Feeney replacing David Jeffrey.

Feeney would have to wait until the middle of September to lead out Linfield at Windsor Park, as the redevelopment meant they had to play their UEFA Cup ties at Mourneview Park, and their first six league games away from home.

Warren Feeney wasn’t the only person with a new job at Windsor Park, as a Stadium Manager position was advertised in July 2014.

When Warrenpoint Town visited Windsor Park on 13th September 2014, it was Linfield’s first game of the 2014-2015 season at Windsor Park.

Linfield fans were relocated to the North Stand, and had seen the turnstiles at the Railway Stand removed, entering the ground via Donegall Avenue, purchasing a ticket from a temporary office and handing it (or your season ticket strip with the relevant number on it) to a steward.

Over September and October, they would have got to witness the final days of the South Stand, as it was finally demolished, as well as the foundations being laid for the new Railway Stand.

September 2014 – South Stand. Now not in use.

September 2014 – View as you approach Windsor Park

October 2014 – Progress on the Railway Stand.

October 2014 – Railway Stand, as seen from North Stand.

October 2014 – South Stand, now partially demolished.

October 2014 – What remains of the South Stand.

October 2014 – Roy Carroll heads to the dressing rooms, now situated between North Stand and The Kop, having previously been under the South Stand.

October 2014 – Linfield v Institute delayed due to a Floodlight Failure.

October 2014 – Foundations now being set for the Railway Stand.

2014 – South Stand, on it’s last legs.

October 2014 – Final foundations being laid for Railway Stand.

October 2014 – Significant progress made on the Railway Stand.

October 2014 – South Stand, now totally gone.

November 2014 – Railway Stand now coming together.

November 2014 – Concrete now added to the Railway Stand.

November 2014 – Glentoran’s first visit to Windsor Park during the renovation sees their fans in The Kop instead of the North Stand.

November 2014 – More progress being made on the Railway Stand.

December 2014 – Railway Stand rows now filled with concrete.

December 2014 – Railway Stand now towers over Linfield’s temporary club shop.