At this time of year, I usually write about my hopes for football watching over the following year.
In truth, I never really know what is going to happen. As 2015 turned into 2016, I would not have predicted that I would be travelling to Dumfries to see Linfield playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup, or that I would be evacuated from Old Trafford because somebody forgot to remove a dummy bomb.
I’m going to try though, with my football watching hopes for the year ahead.
Win the League, win the Irish Cup and win the County Antrim Shield. That’s what I want. That would bring European football, with hopefully a run, and some games against clubs in the 102 Club.
As well as playing in Europe, domestic success would also qualify us for the Scottish Challenge Cup. I absolutely loved the trip to Dumfries, so hopefully a trip to somewhere in Dumfries/Galloway or Ayrshire would be great.
Or even the Central Belt, if flights were a decent rate.
Then there is pre-season. The same criteria applies, a ground I haven’t been to, or haven’t been to for a while, and is close to Belfast. So, that criteria would be any of Loughgall, Moyola Park, Knockbreda or Annagh United.
Going to the League match against Hull at the end of January. I’m going Tuesday to Thursday, with the Hull game provisionally scheduled for the Wednesday. On the Tuesday, i’m free. Wigan play Norwich that night, so it could be a chance to see the almost mythical Will Grigg. There are no scheduled games in League One and League Two, that date might be used for rearranged games. I’ll wait until quite late before deciding wether to go to a game that night.
I’m hoping to go to the Crystal Palace game at the end of the season.
Hopefully, United will be back in the European Cup in 2017/2018, and this would allow me to go to a midweek group game. Ideally, in November/December, so I can take Manchester Christmas Market.
I’ll be keeping an eye on the Championship table and the promotion race. The way the table is at the moment, it looks like Warrenpoint will be promoted, with Institute, Ballyclare and Larne battling it out for the play-off. If there is a team to be promoted via the play-offs, I wouldn’t mind it being Larne as I haven’t been there since 2005.
February 18th will see the League Cup Final between Ballymena United and Carrick Rangers at a as yet undecided venue. I might see about getting a ticket for this as a neutral. Carrick are at home to Linfield the previous weekend, so there would be a good opportunity for me to get a ticket.
In 2017, Christmas Day will fall on a Monday for the first time since 2006. That year, the Steel and Sons Cup Final was held on Saturday 23rd December as there were no top flight games on that day. I’d be tempted in going in 2017 if there was a similar arrangement.
LEAGUE OF IRELAND
Usually, I take in a day trip to Dublin and take in a League Of Ireland game while i’m there. The fixture list was announced today, and i’m still digesting it.
Bray Wanderers (close to Dublin) used to play on Saturdays (far more convenient) but they’ve now decided to play on Fridays.
There is a full fixture list on Saturday 25th March 2017 due to an international the day before. However, Linfield are away to Ballinamallard that day, so Linfield take priority. If Linfield’s match is postponed due to international call-ups, this would be tempting. The options would be Bray v Limerick, Cabinteely v Cobh, UCD v Longford or St Patrick’s Athletic v Shamrock Rovers.
There may be games moved to Saturday or Sunday due to European games in June/July. I’ll keep an eye out, though there’s no real obvious other date for me to go down.
I can’t say i’d be planning on going to Russia if we reached the World Cup, but it would be great if I could be in a situation where i’m toying with the idea.
I didn’t go to the Edinburgh Festival in 2016 but i’m planning to return in 2017. Naturally, that would take in whichever of Hearts is at home, and if I could get a bonus of another game in the Central Belt.
So, that’s my football watching hopes for 2017. I’ll be amazed if any of this goes to plan.