Just over three weeks after the Road to Cardiff disembarked, The Road to Kiev got underway, with Linfield hoping to have a stop-off in Glasgow along the way.
You may have noticed I avoided the obvious reference to the Green Day concert across South Belfast, and linking it to how Linfield were aiming for a Green and White Day.
I do like Green Day (I would be more of a singles fan, so don’t even ask me what my favourite b-side from Dookie is. I’m not even going to claim I saw them at Richardson’s Social Club in 1991) but I was always going to give their concert at Ormeau Park a miss as it was going to attract pure shitebags. Every large concert in Belfast sadly does.
That’s not me sticking the boot into Green Day fans, it’s just a Belfast thing sadly.
Plus, i’ve already seen them. T In The Park, 2002.
While those in Ormeau Park were hoping for a Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, that’s what Linfield were hoping to aovid.
There was a lot of people urging Linfield on, with people who don’t usually cheer Linfield on wanting them to win, for some reason, I don’t know why.
The prize on offer for the winners of this tie was a 2nd Round tie against Celtic, the famed feeder club to the striped superheroes of Southampton.
I am excited about the prospect of Scotland’s most famous outfit coming to Belfast, and it promises to be an occasion not to be missed.
Anyway, that’s enough about Bay City Rollers playing The Limelight in December.
Onto the match, and it didn’t quite go to plan, though Linfield did get a win and a clean sheet, the tie is far from over.
Even though they made three signings this summer, Linfield only made one change from last season’s Irish Cup Final, with Jimmy Callacher rested to protect him from injury and replaced by Chris Casement.
Linfield were on top from kick-off, and as the chances and possession piled up, it looked like only a matter of time before they scored.
Just after the hour, all that frustration looked to be forgotten when Linfield were award a penalty after high feet from La Fiorita’s keeper, who was lucky to get away with a yellow card.
He took advantage of his good fortune by saving Aaron Burns resulting penalty, albeit a few yards off his line.
It was Linfield’s fifth penalty in their last eight games, and they have missed three of them.
It was beginning to look like a repeat of the 0-0 draw at home to B36 in 2012.
The award of the penalty brought out some ill discipline from La Fiorita, but Linfield couldn’t take advantage. La Fiorita were getting bodies in the way, or the ball was bouncing to their defenders.
Jordan Stewart was introduced from the bench and was immediately involved in the game, creating attacks and chances as Linfield sought a winner.
That came right at the end when a Cameron Stewart pass to his namesake Jordan hit Andrew Waterworth and fell perfectly for him.
It looked like he had lost the opportunity, but was able to get past two defenders and round the keeper and put the ball into the back of the net.
If it had come earlier, Linfield could have won by a more convincing scoreline, but they’ll have to make do with 1-0.
The tie is far from won, but I would expect Linfield to have enough to get through in the second leg which won’t be a Holiday, as La Fiorita had some half chances which gave Linfield a Warning.
As you know by now, the winner of this tie will face Celtic in the 2nd Round.
The possibility of Linfield facing Celtic has generated a lot of column inches. The vast majority of which has been sensationalist, shitstirring, inaccurate and irresponsible.
Let’s take a look at this.
A lot of news organisations were excited at the prospect of Linfield taking on Celtic on 12th July. The truth is, that was never going to happen. History has told us that.
The last time 12th July fell on a Wednesday was in 2006. Linfield were in the European Cup that year, and brought forward their home game to 11th July with a teatime kick-off.
In 2001, 11th July fell on a Wednesday. Again, Linfield were in the European Cup. They played their home match that day with a teatime kick-off.
In 2007, 11th July fell on a Wednesday again, but this time, Linfield were able to move their game to Tuesday 10th.
By 2013, Linfield were in the UEFA Cup, and 11th July fell on the designated Thursday night, but Linfield were able to move their match to Wednesday 10th.
So, when Linfield are scheduled to be at home on 12th July, they’ll play it on 11th July with an earlier kick-off, and when scheduled to be at home on 11th July, they’ll play it on the 10th July.
Regardless of who Linfield were drawn against, they were always going to try to play on 11th July with an earlier kick-off if they were to be at home that week.
And yet, several news organisations ignored this and salivated at the prospect of Linfield v Celtic on 12th July, even though it was never going to happen on that date.
The two biggest serial offenders in this circus have been Belfast Telegraph and Daily Record. Let’s have a look at their reporting.
Belfast Telegraph only has three types of stories these days.
1. Singing culchies
2. Pictures of the inside of houses you’ll never afford
3. Themmuns and thosuns.
Their coverage of this match clearly falling under 3.
The best example of this was a story from June last year about the world’s biggest bonfire being built in Norway.
You’re naive if you think they considered the architectural achievement to be newsworthy.
They just wanted people to get worked up and angry about bonfires in Northern Ireland, so they can boast about how much responses their articles get, when trying to sell advertising.
The first story here is a poll asking if “Celtic v Linfield” should be moved to Glasgow. Apologies for being pedantic, but with Celtic being first, that would be their home game, of course it would be in Glasgow.
No Officials from Linfield suggested moving their home game, nor even did any Supporters Group. So where did they get the notion that there was an appetite from Linfield to move their home leg away from Windsor Park?
The second story, is that a Celtic Blogger wouldn’t feel safe travelling to Windsor Park. I wonder how many Bloggers they had to ask before they got the “right answer”?
The opinions of Bloggers are not news stories. It is just one person and their opinion.
If a Celtic Blogger said they were looking forward to visiting Belfast and seeing Celtic in a stadium they’ve never played in before, would it have been a story? Of course not.
The next story, is about residents fears about Linfield playing Celtic on 12th July.
We’ve already clearly established that Linfield were never going to play a home game on 12th July.
So, a Belfast Telegraph Journalist went into a community, willingly gave people misinformation and asked them for their opinion on it?
If I didn’t know any better, I’d suggest that was irresponsible journalism, and that is being kind.
Next up, is the Daily Record, who,haven’t been much better.
First up, is a column stating the First Leg should be moved from Windsor Park if Linfield can’t guarantee safety.
Ain’t no problem at Linfield’s end. Windsor Park’s geography and matchday operations is more than capable of accommodating Celtic and their fans, it’s the local authorities who wanted the date and kick-off moved, and there’s nothing Linfield can do about it.
Next up, is that a Celtic Supporters Club in Brendan Rodgers hometown urging fans not to travel to Windsor Park.
Well duh. If Celtic aren’t going to accept tickets, what is the point of them travelling to Windsor Park if they won’t get in? That’s just basic common sense.
And finally, claims by former Celtic player Joe Miller that he faced “red dots” when playing for Aberdeen against Linfield at Windsor Park in 1995.
I genuinely have no recollection of this match ever taking place.
I started going regularly to Linfield matches around 1995. I went to pre-season friendlies in the mid/late 90s against Liverpool, St Johnstone and Burnley. I definitely would have went to a friendly against Aberdeen.
A few questions. Why did he not walk off the pitch in protest? Why did he not report the matter to the RUC? Why did he wait 22 years before speaking about it?
This paragraph here interests me, especially the alleged presence of Derek Whyte.
Is this the same Derek Whyte who began his career at Celtic, went to the 1998 World Cup and played in the Premier League for Middlesbrough in five years at the club between 1992 and 1997?
Wait a minute, if Derek Whyte was a Middlesbrough player in 1995, what was he doing playing for Aberdeen against Linfield in a friendly?
This story is falling apart. I’m calling bullshit here. Big thick steaming bullshit.
On Monday night, Linfield issued a statement on the media coverage around this proposed game, specifically addressing Daily Record and Joe Miller.
They have covered the issue in a way I can only dream of. Credit to whoever wrote it. You can find it here.
On Tuesday, the Daily Record sort of backtracked, hanging Joe Miller out to dry.
The story says that Joe Miller has apologised for comments made in an interview with Scottish daily newspapers.
What they failed to report, that Daily Record was the only newspaper (as far as I know) to report these claims. The story did not appear in any other publication. Daily Record fails to acknowledge they published the erroneous claims.
The story begins by describing him as “Devastated Joe Miller”
That almost makes him a victim in all of this. He is not.
What is he devastated about? Being caught out lying and publicly humiliated?
He then claims it was a simple misunderstanding, that he got the grounds mixed up, and blaming it on a memory lapse. Memory lapse, how convenient.
Amazing that he can vividly remember these alleged events, but not where they took place.
Forgive me for lacking in sympathy for “Devastated Joe”.
Not so much an apology, more a face saving exercise from someone who knows they’re in a lot of trouble.
So, to the proposed date of the Celtic match, Friday 14th July at 5pm. 5pm on a Friday, it’s almost as if they want to make it inconvenient for people to attend.
I’m not naive. I know that Northern Ireland can go a bit “full moon” during July. But if the PSNI had concerns, surely bringing it forward to Monday 10th was the most sensible option?
Friday 14th is a bit of a pickle for me. I’m off work that day, due to the fact I was planning to go to Dublin that day, and I have a uncancellable room booking. Looks like i’m taking a £50 hit to see Linfield.
I’m hoping to do my Annual Dublin Day Trip on either of the next two Fridays following that instead, and make UCD my match I go to, meaning I will be one ground short of visiting all of Dublin’s senior football grounds.
Sandwiched inbetween La Fiorita and Celtic is a friendly against Hearts. As Celtic face Hearts on the opening day of the season, this works out brilliantly for Celtic, as they can scout two teams for the price of one. A great chance to Know Your Enemy. I would expect the starting XIs against Hearts and Celtic to be very different though.
There’ll be no Celtic fans at Windsor Park on 14th July. That’s disappointing. It makes a mockery of the tie and the competition. They’re cheating their own fans, who have every right to be angry about it.
Sadly, this farce will seriously dent Belfast’s chances of hoping the 2019 European Super Cup Final. It could all have been so easily avoided and the match easily managed of those in power wanted to
And from Celtic, we move to Rangers. The Carrickfergus one that is.
Carrick will visit Windsor Park on the opening day. Without sounding arrogant, Linfield’s start is generous (Carrick, Ards, Dungannon) and represents an opportunity to get off to a great start.
The first big away game (Crusaders, 2nd September) will be postponed due to the Scottish Challenge Cup as well.
Not only that, by facing Glentoran at home on 9th September, we get our annual stupid home draw against them out of the way early.
Christmas will be fun – Cliftonville, Glentoran and Crusaders in the space of seven days.
Interestingly, for the fourth successive year, Crusaders will be our first match after Boxing Day.
In the Scottish Challenge Cup, Linfield will be at home when they enter in September. Hopefully, we’ll get a decent run and some decent away days. Bray are in it this season. Bray away would be amazing.
Fixtures are also out in England, and I’m hoping to make Bournemouth and Watford my trips to Old Trafford this season. Hopefully, I actually get to see a game against Bournemouth, unlike in May 2016.
I’ll also be going to the friendly against Sampdoria at Lansdowne Road in early August.
I’m also looking around for a footballing weekend in Mainland Europe in early 2018. I’m toying with the idea of giving Paris another try, even though I thought it was a smelly shithole when I visited for Euro 2016.
I’m going to Edinburgh in early August for the Festival but plan on taking in some football as well. My choice is Hibs v Partick or Edinburgh City v Montrose. I’m leaning towards Edinburgh City as I’ve never been to Ainslie Park. TV scheduling might enable me to do both.
Back to Celtic, and there’s no reason why Linfield should be fearful. We have our own European history. In 1967, we reached the European Cup Quarter-Finals. What did Celtic do in 196…..
In the last ten years, Linfield lost 1-0 to Elfsborg, who lost 1-0 to Celtic, while drawing away to Dinamo Zagreb who beat Celtic in 2014.
There’s no reason why Linfield can’t compete with Celtic. It’s scoring more goals over two legs that’s the big issue.
Celtic might have a long European history, but it’s not all glorious.
Remember Neuchatel? Remember Artmedia? Remember Lincoln Red Imps?