It is said that living a bit Scandinavian is good for you. Not for Linfield.
This century, FC Haka, Viking Stavanger, HJK Helsinki, Halmstad, Elfsborg, Randers, Rosenborg and AIK have ended their European hopes.
It’s either a team from Scaninavia or a former Soviet state.
But not since 2014.
After a year’s absence, Linfield were back in Europe, and face familiar, but difficult opponents in Rosenborg, having met in 1986 and 2010 in the European Cup.
They had hoped to meet in 2017, with Rosenborg being who Linfield would have faced if they had got past Celtic.
This match came in a midweek where there was a surprising amount of football in Belfast. Any Rosenborg fans arriving in Belfast a day early had a choice of three games in East Belfast with Glentoran (Harland and Wolff Welders), East Belfast (Ards) and Dundela (Glenavon) all hosting pre-season friendlies.
Fans of Haugesund (Cliftonville) and B36 Torshavn (Crusaders) could have taken in another game if they arrived the day before their respective UEFA Cup ties. I didn’t see any at Windsor Park myself though.
Linfield had one survivor from the previous meeting in 2010, which unsurprisingly was Jamie Mulgrew, though there were a few players from the team that night who are still playing in the Irish League.
Linfield’s starting eleven for this match included Bastien Hery making his debut the day after signing for the club from Waterford, with Michael O’Connor heading the other way on loan.
Hery looked comfortable on the ball and could pick out a pass. He also looked comfortable running with the ball. I know what you’re thinking, he’s going to get fouled about 20,000 times next season.
It also means that we have a player similar to Jamie Mulgrew, meaning that Mulgrew can be taken out for a few games (he’s recently turned 33) when needed in order to save him for bigger games.
In order to prepare for this match, Linfield headed to Spain to train, and came home to rain.
This was a match which drew a big crowd, the queue of people standing in the rain prior to kick-off made me glad I got my ticket on the Saturday before.
It had been so long since my last visit to Windsor Park, I thought I was going to have to look up directions to find it.
Linfield were on the attack straight from kick-off and held their own in the opening minutes, with Niall Quinn heading just wide.
Jordan Stewart was playing tricks on Rosenborg’s defence and getting into good positions, while Matthew Clarke’s low cross was intercepted by Rosenborg’s keeper.
It wasn’t all Linfield though, Rosenborg hitting the post through Tore Reginiussen, the aftermath causing some panic in Linfield’s defence.
Rosenborg took the lead when Mike Jensen snuck in on the right hand side unmarked to finish from close range.
It wasn’t quite against the run of play, but Linfield were holding their own. It wasn’t the end of the world though. This time last year, Glenavon came from 1-0 down in the UEFA Cup to beat Norwegian side Molde, managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Whatever happened to him?
The goal did deflate Linfield for a while though, as the game meandered for a bit.
Bastien Hery had Linfield’s first shot on goal in the second-half, an easy save for Rosenborg’s keeper.
Shane Lavery came on for Kirk Millar, to make his debut for Linfield. Surprisingly for Millar, as most would have expected it to be a like for like change for Andrew Waterworth.
I only know the basics about him, but the general consensus was that this signing was a bit of a coup for Linfield.
His brief cameo appearance looked promising. Good positioning, comfortable on the ball and not afraid to shoot.
Unfortunately, Rosenborg made it 2-0 on the counter attack within a minute of him coming on, wrapping up the game, and more than likely the tie.
So, match 1 of 2019-2020 didn’t get the result I wanted, but it won’t be a European exit for Linfield. If they don’t turn around the deficit, they will face a UEFA Cup tie against HB Torshavn, who trail HJK Helsinki 3-0 from the first-leg.
From next season, the Irish League will lose a UEFA Cup place. The only good that will come out of it will be the end of the ridiculous UEFA Cup Play-Offs.
If they are kept, you could have a situation where a team could finish 2nd, one point behind the Champions. If they don’t reach the Irish Cup Final, they will then go into a Play-Off including teams that sat in mid table all season. Nothing more than a reward of mediocrity.
There have been other ins and outs at Windsor Park this summer. Roy Carroll is one of those. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if he rejoined on a short-term basis when (or if) he recovers from injury.
That means that Alex Moore has now been promoted to 2nd choice Goalkeeper, so it is unlikely he will go out on loan again.
Cameron Stewart and Jonathan Smith have left. Not really surprising in either case, it would be hard to see where they would get games.
Ross Larkin has come in from Portadown, I don’t really know much about him. Mark Haughey is on the way back from injury, which is almost like a new signing.
As things stand, the squad is good to go. It feels like you’ve done your Christmas shopping by November 7th.
Using last season’s team, you have Gareth Deane in nets with Alex Moore as back-up.
Josh Robinson is still injured so that will need to be monitored.
Using last season’s back four of Casement-Robinson-Callacher-Quinn, we will have back-up of Haughey, McGuinness, Stafford and Clarke.
Assuming Hery and Mulgrew will be in midfield, we’ll have Fallon, Mitchell and Larkin as back-up.
Further up the field, we’ll have Stewart, Kearns, Cooper and Millar going for three positions.
Up front, there is Waterworth and Lavery battling for the striking position, with Forde and Reynolds options that are available for the bench.
Tempting fate, but we are good to go.
The fixtures for the new season are out, and i’m not too unhappy. You don’t too easy a start like in 2015 and 2017, so it’s good to have two big games against Ballymena United and Coleraine in the opening week.
We didn’t get Warrenpoint Town away on the day John Power is doing a concert in Warrenpoint. Flip sake.
Not ideal, is a trip to Institute on the day Northern Ireland are at home to Holland. That’ll be a quick rush back, even with an expected 1pm kick-off.
Looking a bit further ahead, I’ve applied for tickets to three games at Euro 2020. A Monday group match in Dublin, a Last 16 match in Dublin (involving the winner of England’s group) and the Final. Wish me luck.
I’ve got my first United match of 2019-2020 booked, a midweek match in January against Burnley, just as I did in 2018-2019. I hope to go to a UEFA Cup group match as well.
I’m heading over to Edinburgh in a few weeks time for the Edinburgh Festival. My football choices are Dunfermline Athletic v Dundee, Hibernian v St Mirren and Livingston v Motherwell.
Dunfermline’s match has been moved to Friday night for TV, which is tempting me, leaving me free to spend Saturday at the Festival.
My only previous visit to Dunfermline was for a match against Dundee in 2015.
Unfortunately, that might be my only football match in Scotland this season, with Linfield not entering the Scottish Challenge Cup, which is disappointing. The competition is staggered through the season and could easily be accommodate in the fixture list.
I bet Glenavon get Stranraer away, just to make it worse.
The draw for the NIFL Cup has already taken place and Linfield are away to Ballinamallard. Not ideal for travelling, but with it being the Tuesday after a Bank Holiday, if you want to sneak in a short trip to Fermanagh, the opportunity is there.
In terms of future football trips, it has been announced that the San Siro is due to be demolished in 2023, so I had better get myself into action if I ever want to visit it.
Harland and Wolff Welders are due to move to a new ground in 2020. I don’t know when in 2020, but if it is during the forthcoming season, i’ll try to sneak in a visit.
Maybe it’s because of this draw, and getting into the music of Sigrid (Hope she announces her own headline show in Belfast to compensate for pulling a sickie at Belsonic), but i’m having a real Scandinavian vibe at the moment.
It could possibly be because i’m in the middle of a house move and it’ll be filled with Ikea, Flying Tiger and Sostrene Grene.
One final thing, the new Linfield kit is a belter.
2019-2020 is now up and running.