CHAMPIONS 2017 – WINDSOR PARK CELEBRATIONS

With so many fans unable to get into Solitude, it was announced that if Linfield were to be successful in their pursuit of the Gibson Cup, a celebratory event would be held at Windsor Park at Saturday teamtime for fans the congratulate the team.

As soon as disembarking the bus outside Ballysillan Leisure Centre, it was straight in the car to Windsor Park. I wasn’t the only one.

For those who weren’t able to get a ticket for Solitude, it was their chance to party.

For those who were at Solitude, it was an extension of the party.

In short, we were all there to party.

The Railway Stand was used for this event, and it was full. Players were introduced to the field in numberical order (Apart from Jamie Mulgrew, who came out last with the trophy) which meant that Number 38 Paul Smyth was made to feel like a Zimbabwean athlete at the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Talking of which, he could be in with a shot of a Gymnastics medal in Rio to go with his Irish League medal judging by the double somersault as he entered the pitch.

Fans got the see the team and the trophy, and got a few words from David Healy, while kids were able to pose for photos with their favourite players, and some adult did as well. Everybody who was there got something from the day.

After five years, i’d almost forgotten what title celebrations felt like. They feel good. Hopefully, same again next year.

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CLIFTONVILLE 1-3 LINFIELD 29.4.2017

With 37 out of 38 games of the Irish League season completed, there were still some things that needed to be decided.

Portadown’s relegation had been confirmed, as had Coleraine’s qualification for the UEFA Cup. We knew who would be playing in the UEFA Cup Play-Offs, but not who would be playing who. Most importantly, the league title was still up for grabs.

On thing was guaranteed, that the title would be won in North Belfast. Linfield fans were hoping that the trophy would not be staying there as their side headed to Solitude looking to win the League for the first time since 2012.

The maths was simple, all they had to do was avoid defeat. If they did lose, they would be hoping that Crusaders would fail to beat Glenavon.

You could say that the venue was apt. The last time Linfield had entered the field as League Champions was in April 2013. The fans who arrived at Solitude did so hoping that things would now go full circle.

Cliftonville fans had a sense of deja vu going into this game. They’re used to seeing the title won in the flesh. As well as their side’s successes in 2013 and 2014, Glentoran (2009), Linfield (2010, theoretically in 2011) and Crusaders (theoretically in 2015, 2016) win the league against them.

The omens were good for Linfield. I was travelling on my own (We’ve lost the three times my dad has went) and I had my lucky scarf with me. I bought it from a charity shop last November, and Linfield have won all but one of the games i’ve had it with me. That game was a draw with a last minute equaliser.

Just to be sure, I went and had lunch at the same place on Oldpark Road I had lunch in before the 3-0 Irish Cup win at Solitude last season. This was not a day to leave things to chance.

If the Irish League was a TV show, we were treated to a reintroduction of a former character ahead of the series finale, in the shape of Tommy Breslin (assisted by Peter Murray) being appointed Cliftonville interim manager for the remaining two, possibly three games of the season. Crusaders fans were hoping this would result in one final plot twist.

Paul Smyth was serving a one match ban meaning there would be one change to Linfield’s starting line-up. The general consensus was that Kirk Millar would come in and replace him. David Healy sprung a surprise by bringing in Mark Stafford, moving Mark Haughey to right-back and pushing Chris Casement to right-midfield.

It was a move designed at countering Cliftonville, though it wouldn’t be as if Chris Casement would be spending the game in his own half.

It wasn’t just Linfield’s starting eleven that raised eyebrows. The faces on Linfield’s bench were just as much of a pre-match talking point as the new faces on Cliftonville’s.

Joining Millar on the bench was Cameron Stewart, back after injury, and Gareth Deane, a rare occasion that David Healy named a goalkeeper on the bench.

The game got off to a slow start. Mark Haughey had Linfield’s first attacking moment of note when he shot from a wide position when a cross looked a better option.

Within a minute, Cliftonville won a corner. A few minutes earlier, they had a corner, and every player was tightly man marked and the best they could get was a speculative header from a wide angle that went well wide.

This time, they changed it, taking a short corner, and caught Linfield out, with Daniel Hughes finding enough space in the box to head home.

It got worse for Linfield. By this point, Crusaders were already 1-0 up against Glenavon. As things stood, the title was heading to Seaview. Linfield were Heartsing it.

It was so important for Linfield not to concede early on. Not just to stop giving Crusaders encouragement in their own fixture.

In recent years, there have been very few occasions when the team who scored first has lost. Linfield hadn’t come from behind to beat Cliftonville in the League since 2011. They hadn’t come from 1-0 down to beat Cliftonville in the League since 2005. In that same time, Cliftonville only had wins at Windsor Park in 2012 and 2014 where they had come from behind.

All that Linfield could offer in response was a Matthew Clarke cross that evaded everybody. Cliftonville almost made it 2-0 when Roy Carroll had to tip around a goalbound Chris Curran shot. Linfield were playing so bad that their fans were hoping they could go in at half-time only 1-0 down.

Despite that, Linfield had one big moment in the first-half, their only moment of quality attacking play which saw Andrew Waterworth get free in the box to get on the end of a cross, only to head wide. Well wide. He really should have scored.

Linfield went in at half-time, a half which had a ridiculous lack of injury time considering how long Cliftonville took at set pieces, 1-0 down. A vast improvement was needed.

There were mixed emotions in the away end. Some felt that their side was going to blow it at the final hurdle. We all knew, that when Linfield attack a goal with their fans behind it, that anything was possible.

Linfield needed a quick response in the second-half.

Their first attack saw Niall Quinn almost get in behind Cliftonville’s defence. He caused enough panic for Cliftonville to concede a corner.

From that corner, Mark Stafford headed across goal and it fell perfectly for Andrew Waterworth to fire home from close range.

In truth, I barely saw it. All I saw was players celebrating and fans going wild and limbs all over the shop. Those really are the best goals.

As it stood, Linfield would be champions, but there would be no margin for error.

A few minutes later, Waterworth got the ball in a wide position, advanced into the penalty area, creating enough space to fire home and make it 2-1. It looked like there would be a plot twist on the last day, but the twist was in Linfield’s favour.

It then looked like Waterworth was going to get a hat-trick as he set himself up to shoot from a few yards out, a foul by Chris Ramsey denied him. The referee awarded a penalty, and a red card to Ramsey.

It was Linfield’s seventh penalty in ten matches, four in the last three. Who would take it was up for debate. Logic dictated that Aaron Burns would take it having scored in his last two games. He was denied a second penalty against Coleraine due to being subbed when it was awarded.

However, Andrew Waterworth wanted a hat-trick, and nobody was going to tell him he wasn’t taking the penalty. He put the ball in the net to make it 3-1.

I thought he had panenkaed it. TV replays suggested he scuffed it. Things were going his way, he probably could have farted the ball into the net.

It was the third successive game that Linfield had a quick flurry of goals. Against Glenavon, they went from 0-0 to 3-0 in fifteen minutes. Against Coleraine, they went from 0-1 to 3-1 in seven minutes.

Against Cliftonville, it was 0-1 to 3-1 in thirteen minutes.

This is a Linfield team that gets on top and goes for it, showing no mercy to opponents and kills the game when they are on top, and doesn’t give rivals an opportunity to get back into the game.

They wanted more goals. Aaron Burns couldn’t adjust his body to score when the ball fell onto his right foot, while Chris Casement fired over from outside the box.

David Healy then turned to his bench, bringing on Cameron Stewart for Aaron Burns, his first appearance since injury in March.

It was a good day to be a Stewart in Belfast (isn’t every day?) with Liam Stewart winning a medal at the Ice Hockey World Championship at The Odyssey later that day.

It is unclear if his dad Rod stopped by at Solitude before heading to The Odyssey, having got a guided tour of the ground in 2013.

It was too early a kick-off to say that Tonight’s The Night for Linfield, but it certainly was the day, as Cliftonville never looked like scoring or making an unlikely comeback.

Kirk Millar then came on for Chris Casement while Sean Ward came on for Andrew Waterworth, who unsurprisingly got a standing ovation after Van Persieing Linfield to the title.

Waterworth was one of seven David Jeffrey signings (not including Chris Casement, who was originally signed by Jeffrey, then re-signed by Healy) in Linfield’s starting eleven.

They had all been through the lean years together.

That stat isn’t designed to take away from David Healy’s achievement. He’s taken Jeffrey’s players, he’s taken Warren Feeney’s players, and added his own, and turned them into title winners.

Much will be made of the gap Linfield closed down from mid February onwards, but it shows what Healy has added.

Linfield surrended the title too quickly and too easily in 2014 and 2015. The day the title was won, Linfield lost on those days. They didn’t push their opponents all the way.

Even when Crusaders went eight points clear in April last year, Linfield kept on winning (wining their four final games by an aggregate of 12-0) and made Crusaders have to win the title.

This year, Linfield did the same. They issued a challenge to Crusaders and never gave up. They got their reward.

Any time over the previous four seasons, Linfield would have lost this game. They would have lost at Coleraine. They would have conceded a late equaliser at home to Crusaders. They would have lost at Ballinamallard.

Not this season, not this Linfield team.

I was under the impression that any trophy presentation would take place at Windsor Park later in the day, I was caught by surprise when a podium was starting to be erected.

I thought it was just for celebration photos to get the sponsor’s logo in.

It was a nice surprise to see the Gibson Cup at Solitude, ready to be presented.

The podium almost blew over in the wind. It gave us all a laugh.

Talking about the presentation, it was great that it took place close to Linfield’s fans, meaning that fans could get close to the ceremony.

I appreciate that the arrangements were different due to being at an away ground, but a big complaint about Windsor Park presentations were that they took place in the centre circle, far away for fans to see.

Hopefully, should Linfield win the League in future and be presented with the trophy at Windsor Park, the presentation will take place closer to the stands.

Elsewhere this week, new air routes from Belfast were announced. They were mostly sunbathing places with no real football teams of note. Naples stuck out though.

Those of us of a certain age will feel a romantic nostalgia to Napoli. Maradona, Careca, that sky blue top sponsored by Mars.

Plus, there are murals of Maradona in Naples.

I’m already dreaming of a trip to Naples. I’m not booking one in the immediate future though.

These results confirmed the Semi-Finals of the European Play-Offs as Ballymena United v Dungannon Swifts and Cliftonville v Glenavon. I’m glad that Linfield aren’t taking part in this ridiculous charade.

Hopefully, natural justice will prevail, and 4th place Ballymena win in, just like 4th place Cliftonville did last year.

Ideally, either Ballymena or Dungannon for me. Mainly because they’ll play home games at Seaview, which would be convenient for me to attend if they draw a team in the 102 Club list.

These games will take place on Monday 8th May and Friday 12th May.

I can’t see why they can’t be accommodated on Sunday 7th May and/or Saturday 13th May. Weekend dates will be more convenient to fans of competing clubs, and might even attract some neutrals.

Talking of Play-Offs, Ballyclare and Institute meet to face Carrick for the last spot in next season’s top flight. I’ve no particular favour to any of the three teams regarding who goes up.

The second leg of Carrick’s game will also be on Friday 12th May. Surely it could have been on a different date from the European Play-Off in order to make it a standalone event in terms of unique media coverage.

It’s looking like Linfield will start next season in late June in the First Round of the European Cup. 26th May 2018 in Kiev if you’re optimistic and into forward planning.

Hopefully, a tie against a team from San Marino, Andorra or Malta. More than winnable.

Playing European games on Tuesday and Wednesday will also be convenient in terms of arranging Saturday friendly games inbetween, as opposed to playing on a Thursday.

Pre-season friendlies can wait, 2016-2017 is still ongoing.

It’s already been good. It could end up great.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 28.4.2017

1. Beth Ditto – Fire
2. Hurts – Beautiful Ones
3. The Amazons – Black Magic
4. Paramore – Hard Times
5. Goldfrapp – Systemagic

So, concert news – The Kooks confirmed as supporting Arcade Fire at Belsonic. Not that fussed on Arcade Fire and £45 seems a bit steep just to watch a support act.

Ryan Adams update. Guess what? Still looking for a Standing ticket for his Ulster Hall gig at Face Value.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : KERRANG – 22.6.2002

Matt Bellamy of Muse is the cover star of this edition of Kerrang, which promises to reveal his dark side.

In news, Joey Jordison of Slipknot is unmasked, as he reveals his sideband Murderdolls.

Kerrang looks at the best of the web, and with the World Cup ongoing, lists a website dedicated to ugly footballers as their website of the week.

Cover star Bellamy gets five pages, revealing that he brought ouija boards into school as a ten year old.

There is a look at actors trying to be rock stars, as Jack Black and Jared Leto have gone into the recording studio with their respective bands.

Barney Greenway of Napalm Death shows Kerrang around his house, including a poster of Aston Villa’s 1996 League Cup winning team, and a Villa mug he has had for 12 years.

In album reviews, Dreamland by Robert Plant gets 3 out of 5.

In boxsets, both Buffy and spin-off show Angel both get 4 out of 5.

In upcoming concerts, Queens Of The Stone Age were gig of the week, while Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Vines were recommended.

The magazine ends with an advert for the following week’s edition of Kerrang, which offers free stickers.

AND IT’S GOODNIGHT FROM ME ……

…… and it’s hello again from Glen Molloy.

You may remember Glen Molloy featuring prominently on this blog during the Winter months for his work across Belfast, on the Wall Of Fame just off Corporation Street, and portraits of recently deceased celebrities such as Carrie Fisher, George Michael and Prince.

He went quiet for a while, but now he’s back, with a social media post of a new mural he had just completed – a tribute to The Two Ronnies.

It is just their faces. You may recognise that the end of the show’s opening credits had just their faces. You may notice that this mural replicates this by having Ronnie Corbett on the left as you approach it and Ronnie Barker on your right.

The mural is in the car park at Smithfield, opposite North Street, if you want to go and visit.

Curiously, it is not far from the Mace on Royal Avenue, where I found out that Ronnie Barker had died in 2005, as I popped in to get some things and it was the lead story on the top of the hour news on the instore radio station.

As there was another mural above it, the photos aren’t the best, so apologies for that.

While I was checking that out, I walked past the David Bowie mural by Visual Waste that was painted within weeks of his death in January 2016.

Sadly, it’s fallen into a state of disrepair, so it might not be there for much longer.

Hope you enjoy the photos, i’m off to Smithfield Market. I’m hoping to pick up some fork handles.

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COLERAINE 1-5 LINFIELD 22.4.2017

Good things come to those who wait. For Linfield fans, it was a first win against Coleraine this season. It could lead to something bigger that Linfield fans have been waiting a bit longer for. I can’t even say it for fear of jinxing it.

As with most of the season, Linfield simply had to win and hope. There was no margin for error. Defeat today could have seen Crusaders declared Champions.

Linfield began like a team determined to get three points, Paul Smyth getting free of his man in the opening minute but his cross evaded everyone.

Linfield piled pressure on Coleraine’s goal in the opening minutes, and looked to have been rewarded when Andrew Waterworth scored from close ranger after Coleraine keeper Chris Johns dropped a shot.

Celebrations were cut short when the goal was disallowed for a foul. The keeper only had one hand on the ball and Waterworth was entitled to go for it. It was a soft decision and an incorrect one.

Even though they didn’t get the goal they wanted, Linfield were able to shut out Coleraine, limiting them to speculative long range shots.

After a dry period as an attacking force, Linfield ended the half as they started it, by piling pressure on Coleraine’s goal.

Aaron Burns headed over from close range from a corner, before he tried to recreate Alessandro Del Piero’s goal against Germany in the 2006 World Cup, except that he fired well wide.

Some neat passing play saw Andrew Waterworth fire just wide, while Aaron Burns volley over from the edge of the box. It was not his day so far.

Linfield had endured a frustrating half. As they headed to the dressing room, news was filtering through that Ballymena and Crusaders were also drawing 0-0 at half-time.

Linfield were making the chances, they just needed to start taking them.

The first goal of the day came in the opening minutes of the second-half, but for Coleraine, when James McLaughlin headed home from a corner, the third time he had scored against Linfield this season.

As things stood, Crusaders were one goal away from the title. Questions were being asked of Linfield, they had no choice but to answer them.

Linfield fans got behind their team, urging their team on.

As players waited in the penalty area after some build-up play, Linfield fans were screaming for a cross into the box. Aaron Burns played the cross in, and it went straight in. It will look good on TV, but it was a fluke, not that Linfield fans cared. You do have to appreciate the irony of him scoring when he didn’t mean to, after enduring a frustrating first-half when he was trying to give Linfield the lead.

The game was back to square one, and Linfield were in to mood to charge to victory.

Paul Smyth was leading that charge, and was denied a penalty when his heels were clipped from behind. A few minutes later, Smyth got on the end of a cross from the left that was just asking to be scored to put Linfield 2-1 up.

With the score at Ballymena still 0-0, Linfield were top of the league as it stood, and their fans begand chanting “WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE!!!”

Not me. We’d been through this the last two games. I didn’t want to tempt fate.

Smyth did eventually get his penalty, which was converted by Aaron Burns. From 1-0 down to 3-1 up in the space of ten minutes. The pressure was now all on Crusaders.

At 3-1 up, it was time to do nothing silly, just see the game out and don’t even give Coleraine the encouragement of a comeback.

Coleraine were shut out, as all of Linfield’s fans attention turned to Ballymena.

The news came through that Ballymena had went 1-0 up. The celebrations in the Linfield end got louder.

There was even more celebrations when a cross from the left went to Andrew Waterworth with an open net. He didn’t make perfect contact with it. There was a look of horror on his face as he readied himself for the ball coming off the post. That then turned to relief and celebration as it was now 4-1. It was most definitely Linfield’s day.

With the game won, David Healy looked to his subs bench. Mark Stafford came on for Mark Haughey and Kirk Millar came on for Aaron Burns. They were the obvious and most sensible substitutions as Burns and Haughey were a yellow card away from missing the Irish Cup Final.

Jamie Mulgrew then made way for Sean Ward. Just a precaution, with Mulgrew going off injured on Tuesday night.

It would have been nice to see teenage striker Ryan Strain get some game time, but protecting those most at risk from suspension or injury was the bigger priority.

A handball gave Linfield a second penalty. With Aaron Burns now off the pitch, it fell on Paul Smyth to take it.

His shot was saved but Coleraine couldn’t clear it, and Andrew Waterworth headed home from a resulting cross to make it 5-1.

The news from Ballymena just got better, with the hosts going 2-0 up. Linfield fans could now relax and party, which they did in the final minutes of the game, by chanting the name of former manger David Jeffrey in gratitude, before doing the same of David Healy.

The final whistle blew and some people were on the pitch, they think it’s all over. The way this season has gone, the title race definitely isn’t.

Next weekend for Linfield, is a trip to Solitude. It’ll be my first this season having not gone to the midweek game in October.

Cliftonville might have lost four games in a row and have been generally rotten since Christmas, next Saturday’s game is anything but a guaranteed three points.

Having seen Crusaders win the League at Solitude in the past two seasons, and then be guests at Glentoran (2009) and Linfield (2010) title parties in recent years, Cliftonville fans will be sick of the sight of teams winning the League against them.

They also know that 4th will secure home advantage if they make the UEFA Cup Play-Off Final.

To use a Boxing analogy, Cliftonville will (metaphorically) throw a lot of punches early on. Linfield have the capabilities of withstanding them and throwing a few KOs of their own.

There is a slight margin for error in that a draw will do the job for us. We simply have to go for the win and not leave it to chance.

Elsewhere, in England, Leyton Orient got relegated from the Football League. It was only just over three years ago I went to see them when I was in London for a weekend. They were chasing promotion to The Championship. Before you say anything, I didn’t jinx them.

For Linfield, it comes down to the final game at Solitude with Linfield fans getting behind their team, those in the away end more vocal than those Linfield fans who will be paying into the home end.

I almsot envy them, as they’ll miss out on the pre-match ritual of Linfield fans waiting for buses.

Hopefully, at 4.45pm, it will be buses waiting for Linfield fans. We’re hoping to stay behind after the game to have a party.

Photo Album

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 21.4.2017

1. Paramore – Hard Times
2. Kasabian – Bless This Acid House
3. Prince – Deliverance
4. Camens – Boys Will Stray
5. Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Today is Robert Smiths’s birthday, and it’s his favourite day of the week. It’s the first time it’s fallen on a Friday since 2006, and won’t happen again until 2023, so he had better enjoy it.

To celebrate, here’s a The Cure Top Five

FIVE SONGS BY THE CURE

1. Friday I’m In Love
2. Lullaby
3. Hot Hot Hot
4. Close To Me
5. In Between Days

This Sunday, is St George’s Day, so time to lie back and think of England with some themed playlists for you

FIVE SONGS BY SINGERS CALLED GEORGE OR BANDS WITH SOMEONE CALLED GEORGE

1. Wham! – Freedom
2. One Night Only – Say You Don’t Want It
3. George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag
4. George Ezra – Blame It On Me
5. The Beatles – While My Guitar Gently Weeps

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS FROM ENGLAND

1. Pulp – A Little Soul
2. Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
3. Cast – Finetime
4. The Beautiful South – Ole Red Eyes Is Back
5. Duran Duran – Ordinary World

Gig news, Paramore are coming to Belfast. The downside is, i’m already going to see The 1975 that night. If their marketing team had any brains, they could get them to do a gig at the bar of a South Belfast hotel and call it “PARAMORE AT THE PARADOR”

No doubt you all saw May’s big announcement on Tuesday morning. Brian that is, not Theresa. “Queen” are coming to The Odyssey in November. I’m not a big fan of him as a solo artist (apart from What Do You Want From Me?) but Adam Lambert is a capable vocalist and Queen + Adam Lambert looked decent at their BBC New Year’s Eve concert in 2014/2015. However, £74? For £74, i’m expecting Freddie Mercury and John Deacon on stage, and David Bowie to make a guest appearance on Under Pressure.

Ever since BBC Four had a night of programming dedicated to Depeche Mode, i’m been rediscovering how brilliant they are. There’ll be a Belfast gig this year, date to be announced, so I might pop along to see them.

Ryan Adams update. Still looking for a ticket for his Ulster Hall gig.

LINFIELD 3-0 GLENAVON 18.4.2017

There were low levels of excitement in the second-half at Windsor Park on Tuesday night, but that wasn’t a bad thing, as Linfield had the game wrapped up at half-time. At this time of year, it’s all about results, not excitement. Linfield are getting the results. Unfortunately, so are Crusaders.

Glenavon started the game strongly and it was Linfield were looked nervous, struggling to clear crosses and putting themselves under unnecessary pressure. The bets that Glenavon could offer during this time was a free-kick straight at Roy Carroll.

Linfield then got a grip of the game and started creating chances. Paul Smyth had a shot saved from a wide angle, while Jamie Mulgrew burst into Glenavon’s penalty area and saw his shot saved, Glenavon being able to clear from the rebound.

It was a night when the first goal would be vital. If Glenavon had got it, there would still be every chance Linfield could still come back to win, but it would have been a long and uncomfortable evening. If Linfield had got it, Glenavon’s early confidence would have been dented, and Linfield could charge forward and take advantage of it.

Just before the half hour, Linfield were gifted the opportunity to take the lead when a stray backpass played Andrew Waterworth through on goal, he rounded the keeper and was brought down. A penalty was awarded, but only a yellow card.

You could see it now. Tuffey saves the penalty and has the game of his life in a 0-0 draw.

Aaron Burns was now on penalty duty and made no mistake from the spot.

Just as they finished celebrating that goal, Linfield fans were celebrating another goal, this time across the city at Seaview as Coleraine took a 1-0 lead against Crusaders.

And just as Linfield fans had finished celebrating that goal, they were celebrating another goal from their own team as Mark Haughey headed home to make it 2-0.

Linfield weren’t happy with that, and wanted a third before half-time, and began to put more pressure on Glenavon’s goal.

That third goal came in the final minutes of the half when a flick on played in Paul Smyth clean through, and he made no mistake.

It was all going well for Linfield. At Windsor Park at least. By this point, Crusaders had already gone into a 2-1 lead.

Linfield made a sloppy start to the second-half, but the best Glenavon could offer was a long range shot over the bar.

At half-time, Sean Ward came on for Jamie Mulgrew while Mark Stafford came on for Mark Haughey in the early minutes of the second-half.

I’m not sure how serious their injuries are, but David Healy wasn’t taking any chances and rightly so. There’s no point risking players when you’re 3-0 up, especially when there are capable and direct replacements on the bench.

Linfield’s final sub in the final minutes was Kirk Millar for Aaron Burns. I would have brought on teenage striker Ryan Strain just to give him some game time.

Having been denied by a foul from Jonathan Tuffey, Andrew Waterworth was determined to get on the scoresheet. He burst through Glenavon’s defence but his shot was saved. He then beat Tuffey with a later shot but a defender on the line denied him this time.

In the end, Linfield had to settle for 3-0. A lack of extra goals didn’t matter for Linfield. If the League is to be decided on goal difference, Linfield’s advantage is too much for Crusaders to turnaround in one match.

At the final whistle, Linfield players did a lap of honour, as it was the last home game of the season.

Unfortunately, Crusaders got a 3-2 win against Coleraine, maintaining their lead at the top to one point. Despite that, it is still all to play for.

Linfield fans will be hoping that they can repeat what Cliftonville did in 2014 and storm to the title in the Split. There is the fear that it could be a repeat of 2009 when they missed out on the title by a point.

The other result in the Top Six saw Ballymena United beat Cliftonville 4-1. Seeing Ballymena get a confidence boosting win ahead of their match against Crusaders on Saturday is no bad thing.

In the bottom half, Portadown’s relegation was confirmed, meaning that Linfield won’t drop costly points against Portadown on a Friday night in February 2018.

After the game, I spent an hour queuing for tickets for Linfield’s final game of the season at Solitude next Saturday. The queue was so slow moving, I was worried about not making kick-off for that match.

It’s an occupational hazard of being a football supporter is that you can buy a ticket to a match expecting it to be a match with it all to play for, only to find there is nothing to play for.

That will be the case if Linfield lose at Coleraine on Saturday and Crusaders win at Ballymena.

Linfield fans remain hopeful that Crusaders will slip up. There are only so many times a team can get away with coming from behind.

All that matters is that Linfield get the three points to take the title race to the last day.

It would be nice if Linfield could enter the pitch at Solitude on the last day as league leaders. All we want, is for them to leave the pitch that day as Champions.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 16.8.1986

With a new national team manager appointed and the league season due to Start, the cover of this edition of Shoot doesn’t just focus on Scotland, but a Welshman bound for Italy – Ian Rush, who has just signed for Juventus.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page feature from Shoot columnist Bryan Robson, with his hopes for Manchester United in 1986-1987, with him expecting Gordon Strachan, one of Scotland’s stars at the World Cup, to continue his return to form.

Strachan’s future international caps would be coming under the recently appointed Andy Roxburgh, an internal appointment having been Director of Coaching, beat off competition from Jim McLean and Billy McNeill for the role, with the man who appointed him, SFA President David Will, describing him as “knowing more than Alex Ferguson”

Shoot’s editorial focuses on Billy Bingham preparing to agree to become manager of Saudi Arabian club Al Nasser while managing Northern Ireland as well, and that he could struggle taking on the two roles at the same time.

In news, Jesper Olsen is set to leave Manchester United, with PSV Eidnhoven his most likely destination, while across Manchester, City manager Billy McNeill wasn’t too unhappy at missing out on the Scotland job, as he and his family were settled in the North-West of England.

One Scotsman who could be on the move was Paul Sturrock of Dundee United, with Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson looking to sign him

Northern Ireland’s champions Linfield are celebrating their centenary with a friendly against Brazilian side Flamengo, with Zico and Socrates both guaranteed to be playing.

Meanwhile, England’s top flight clubs have examined the practicalities of a breakaway Super League, with representatives running up an expense bill of £32,000

It’s a new era in Scotland with the top flight now comprising of 12 clubs, and Rangers have a new manager in Graeme Souness, beginning the season away to Hibs.

There was a double page spread with the fixture lists for England’s top four divisions.

One player determined for make a good start in that new season was Graham Roberts, who wasn’t selected for the World Cup, blaming himself for that, but he did get to face England’s nemesis Diego Maradona, as he had played in Ossie Ardiles Testimonial in May.

With players such as Warren Aspinall and Mike Newell joining top flight clubs, Wigan Athletic get a feature, looking at their reputation as a breeding ground for tomorrow’s stars.

A current star is Ian Rush, who has signed for Juventus, but will play for Liverpool for a season before heading to Turin in 1987. In the feature, Shoot looks at the fortunes of players who have previously moved between British clubs and Italian clubs.

In letters, one person wants Bryan Robson replaced in the England team by Steve Hodge, one person hates Denmark’s kit and a Scottish reader is unsure that Andy Roxburgh should have got the job as national team manager.

With Wimbledon about to begin their first season in top flight football 9 years after being elected to the Football League, with Shoot looking at what challenges face clubs looking to enter the Football League, as 1986-1987 was the first season to have promotion and relegation to and from the 4th Division.

Beside it, Shoot has a feature on World Cup stars moving outside their native countries to head to Mainland Europe on their back of their World Cup performances.

Also on the move was Alan Mullery, who had returned to Brighton for a second spell as manager, and gets a full page feature.

Someone who was on the move for the first time was Paul Power, who signed for Everton after 11 years at Manchester City.

The PFA have set up a working group amongst clubs in the North-West of England to try and make football more family friendly.

In adverts, Puma have brought out a new Kenny Dalglish branded boot.

LISBURN STREET ART

Described as “The city for everything” by Christine Bleakley, Lisburn even has some Street Art for you if you’re that way inclined.

I’m going to confess something, this is a blog post that took six months to write.

Back in October last year, I was using up Annual Leave, and decided to spend a Monday morning cycling to Lisburn. I didn’t take my camera with me as I didn’t think there’d be anything worth photographing. How wrong I was.

As I headed into the City Centre, I spotted some murals on scaffolding beside R-Space Gallery on Castle Street.

I decided to wait until the next Bank Holiday to head back on my bike with a camera and get some snaps.

Days off over Christmas came, but Storm Barbara stopped me. St Patrick’s Day came, and more rain stopped me. So, Easter Monday, dry in the morning, I got out on my bike and got snapping as soon as I reached Lisburn.

The mural I saw back in October was still there. You may recognise it as being similar in style to one which appeared at City Gate Quays in Belfast after Culture Night 2015.

Beside that, was a mural of Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction. I think.

R-Space was closed today, but there are also some murals at the entrance of the facilities. I wasn’t able to get photos of it today as the gates were closed. If you are in Lisburn, do take a chance to check it out.

This wasn’t my first experience of Street Art in Lisburn. Back in 2013, I got a picture of this quote on a wall.

My geographic knowledge of Lisburn isn’t the best, but i’m 99.9% certain this was in Castle Street, the same street as today’s murals.

Unfortunately, it is no longer there.

Despite that, there is still some Street Art worth checking out if you are in the Lisburn area.

Photo Album