Gary McAllister is the cover star of 90 Minutes as Leeds aim to reach the FA Cup Final, having already reached the League Cup Final.
In news, Manchester United want to sign Fernando Couto from Parma, while Bradford City have announced plans to build a 4,500 seater stand.
There is a three page feature on newly promoted Middlesbrough, who are sliding down the table after making a promising start.
Also getting a few pages is a feature listing the best (or possibly worst) short stays by players at a club.
90 Minutes Live canvasses opinions outside Watford v Ipswich, asking if managers should return to their former clubs, after Graham Taylor has returned to Watford for a second spell.
Leeds get a double page spread, having reached their first Wembley final in 23 years, and are aiming to reach a second on in the FA Cup, while Steve Walsh of Leicester City is interviewed, as they aim for a quick return to the Premier League, adding that none of their rivals stand out.
In competitions, you could win a trip to see Sampdoria take on AC Milan.
The magazine ends with an interview with Scotland manager Craig Brown.
Graham Rix is the cover star of this week’s edition of Shoot, as they look at how he can force his way into the England squad for that summer’s World Cup in Spain.
Shoot’s editorial focuses on the support given by their readers to England’s mascot for the World Cup, a bulldog called Bulldog Bobby.
Also wanting to go to the World Cup is Iain McCulloch, with the Notts County star telling Shoot he wants to break into Scotland’s squad.
Cover star Graham Rix gets a full page profile, with Shoot looking at hos chances of reaching England’s squad for Spain.
Phil Thompson uses his column to state that he wants to become Liverpool captain again, after being relieved from the role by Bob Paisley for his own benefit.
Kevin Keegan is going to the World Cup in goalscoring form, with him leading the race for the Adidas Golden Show at the halfway stage.
Ray Wilkins uses his column to praise UEFA Cup holders Ipswich Town, declaring that if anybody is going to win the double in 1982, it will be them.
Danny McGrain uses his column to propose a revolutionary idea, that Scottish football should be played over the summer from March to November instead of August to May.
An injury to Pat Jennings means that Jim Platt will play in Northern Ireland’s forthcoming Home International against England, and he tells Shoot he wants to use it to stake his claim to be first choice keeper in Spain.
In world news, Pele offers advice to Diego Maradona, telling him to trust in god and he will have a rewarding life.
Don Howe has been appointed to the England coaching staff, and Shoot canvasses Arsenal goalkeeper Pat Jennings, who says this appointment will improve England.
Kevin Bond of Manchester City gets profiled, and he reveals that his favourite singer is Stevie Wonder.
Matchday 3 of the Irish League season saw three teams defending perfect starts. The two sides who have won the last six titles (Three apiece) and a side with ambitions of joining them.
At least one of those records would be guaranteed not to last the weekend as Linfield and Crusaders took in each other at Windsor Park, knowing that a win would see them wake up top on Saturday morning.
They would also know that, even at this stage of the season, it would put the pressure on others. On Larne, to keep level with them, and on Coleraine and Glentoran, already trailing and playing each other knowing they can’t afford to fall further behind.
As this was Linfield’s second home game of the season, the matchday experience is still being fine tuned.
No last minute rogue political announcements, I presume some people have erroneous payments not returned to worry about, meant that the ticket scramble for members was able to take place the day before as planned.
With this game being brought forward to Friday night for live broadcast online, that meant the Friday Night Scramble was a Thursday Night Scramble.
After screaming and shouting at my computer, it eventually worked, so I logged in and made my purchase.
I’m not sure if I was aided by Larne putting tickets for the County Antrim Shield Semi-Final at the same time, diverting traffic there.
I even got my phone set up to download tickets.
Things were going well. Well, until I got to the ground.
For this match, my ticket was in The Kop, meaning I had to enter via Windsor Way.
For some reason, the QR Code wouldn’t scan on my phone. Luckily, I had my iPad with me as back-up, so I was able to use that.
The downside to this new form of ticketing is that casual collectors of ticket stubs won’t be able to keep momentos of games they attend.
Once again, I passed the Temperature Gun Test. That’s three out of three for me this season. Funnily enough, what Linfield were looking for at full-time.
One day i’ll go to a football match and write “And I didn’t have to do a Temperature Test and fans didn’t have to keep a distance from each other”.
That day, sadly, is a long way off.
As the Seating Plan on the website doesn’t let you see what your view is, it was a bit of guesswork when choosing a seat, but I did well, quite central and not too far back.
There was mixed news for Linfield on the injury front, with Jamie Mulgrew missing out (replaced by Bastien Hery) but there was a welcome return on the bench for Shayne Lavery and Stephen Fallon.
It was Linfield who dominated the opening minutes, keeping Crusaders camped in their own half, seemingly intent on replicating the early goal they got on Crusaders last visit to Windsor Park.
The closest they came was an Andrew Waterworth header that went over.
Crusaders best offering was a shot from Paul Heatley that was easily saved.
Set pieces were giving Crusaders plenty of concern, with both Jimmy Callacher and Mark Haughey going narrowly wide from headers.
Despite a period of Crusaders pressure midway through the half, Linfield were the better team but didn’t have a goal to show for it.
As the half neared it’s end, they would have an opportunity to get that goal, in a game where getting the first goal would be so important.
A neat attack saw Conor Pepper make a run in behind Crusaders defence.
From where I was sat, it looked like the pass to him was too lot, but it turned out to be enough for him to get into space, resulting in a Crusaders player bundling him over.
A soft penalty, but still a penalty. It would be a foul anywhere else on the pitch.
The incident reminded how different the game is without away fans. I was expecting someone to shout “SHUT THE FUCK UP, IT WAS A CLEAR PENALTY” in response to protests from away fans in the North Stand.
Penalties against Crusaders at Windsor Park have been problematic for Linfield in recent years. The last two seasons have seen both Jordan Stewart and Bastien Hery miss in drawn games.
There would not be a hat-trick of penalty misses as Andrew Waterworth chipped down the middle to give Linfield a 1-0 lead at half-time.
Some habits are difficult to get rid of. As I was sat in The Kop, where Linfield attacked in the first-half, I was reminding myself not to head towards the far end of the South Stand to get a view of Linfield’s attacks in the second-half as, well, fans aren’t allowed there.
A random observation is that half-time only seems to be ten minutes this season (I think this is commonplace in Scotland’s Lower Leagues, especially in Northern Scotland) due to players being sat outside for half-time. I can see why, plus it also lessens the “Event time” of a football match with spectators in the ground for five minutes less.
I got caught out, no pun intended, when the second-half against Carrick started when I was at the toilet. I thought I had just lost track of time.
Navid Nasseri and Jamie McGonigle both had shots saved. McGonigle’s was the only real chance that Crusaders created in open play. They were mostly pinging balls into the box and hoping to get lucky. Jimmy Callacher wasn’t having any of it.
With Stephen Fallon already introduced for Jordan Stewart, Linfield made two further substitutions with Ryan McGivern and Shayne Lavery coming on for Navid Nasseri and Bastien Hery.
There would be a change in shape for Linfield, but not the three at the back that McGivern’s introduction caused against Carrick, but instead a 4-4-2 with Niall Quinn pushed further forward.
It was Crusaders who had the next attempt on goal when David Cushley, on as a substitute, had a long range free-kick (I know) tipped over the bar by Chris Johns. I thought it was going over, but TV Replays suggested it was going in, so Johns was justified to go safety first.
With five minutes to go, Linfield went 2-0 up when a quick counter attack saw a Kirk Millar cross get headed home by Niall Quinn at the near post having picked up on the other side of the pitch just seconds earlier. And that, was the three points.
Another thing missing about there being no away fans was the lack of sarcastic chants of “CHEERIO, CHEERIO” as the Crusaders fans made their way to the exits.
However, such a scenario would have been premature as Crusaders pulled a goal back instantly, Adam Leckey heading home from a few yards out, and then getting tangled up in the net in the rush to get the game restarted, a surreal silence being the soundtrack around Windsor Park.
Have to say, the silence when Linfield scored at Ballymena the previous week was very beautiful. Hopefully, there’ll be more beautiful silences at Portadown next week.
Naturally, that meant a nervy finish. Jimmy Callacher had declared that Crusaders weren’t getting an equaliser, and they weren’t going to get one, as anytime the ball went into Linfield’s penalty area, he was first to it, getting the ball clear.
As the final whistle blew, the tannoy blasted out Ghostbusters. Cruesbusters more like. Linfield ain’t afraid of no Crues.
Three wins out of three, Linfield were able to put their feet up on Saturday afternoon to see what the others could do.
It was a mixed bag of results, with the Top 5 separated by three points. The top 5 being who you would expect to be there.
Coleraine playing Glentoran meant that something would go in Linfield’s favour. A draw would have been perfect, but seeing Glentoran winless and out of the Relegation Play-Off on goal difference is a nice sight. Puts a lot of pressure on them.
Cliftonville have Dungannon and Warrenpoint up next. They are two games you would expect them to win and build momentum. Although, they usually do have a generous run of games in November before their title challenge falls apart in December/January.
That’s why it’s important for Linfield to keep on winning, especially with their match against Glentoran on Matchday 5 being postponted.
Both Manchester clubs and Celtic are currently finding out that games in hand are nice, you’re better off getting the points on the board.
Talking of Scotland, i’m still monitoring the possibility of going to Edinburgh in January for a weekend. It’s not happening, sure it isn’t.
It would be funny just to see a Hearts team who have been put out of the Scottish Cup just three weeks after winning it.
I’ve got Bray booked for next Summer, but they’ll still be playing in the First Division if there is a game on while i’m there.
Talking of Second Tier Football, Northern Ireland’s Championship got their fixture list published, so at least i’ll have that as an option if I can’t get to a Linfield away game.
Before that trip to Portadown, there is the possibility of a Cup Final.
Tuesday night sees red v blue, too close to call, while the man in The Oval Office is feeling the pressure. However, it’s unknown if Joe Biden or Donald Trump will be keeping an eye on the County Antrim Shield Semi-Finals.
Linfield face a trip to Larne, who they are level on points with.
A win for either side won’t make an impact on the title race, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a Cup Final to look forward to.
There’s no date for that. I would like to think that those in charge might schedule it towards the end of the season to give the opportunity for more fans to attend.
For that reason, I have a suspicion that the final will be held at Windsor Park regardless of who is in it.
Let’s be honest, this country is fucked and football stadiums will be restricted capacity for the season.
Apologies for the less than cheery outlook, but i’m dealing with realism.
When my next football match is, i’ve no idea.
Hopefully, Northern Ireland v Slovakia on Thursday week.
However, starting a season in a reduced capacity stadium in order to avoid a contagious disease was not something that even the most pessimistic of supporter would have predicted back in 2015.
Just twenty hours earlier, they were thankful just to be in a reduced capacity stadium, as on Friday teatime, it looked like this match would be taking place in an empty stadium. I’ll get back to that later.
Arrangements for matches at Windsor Park mean that tickets go to Members first and then a small general sale for Season Ticket holders from last season.
As a Season Ticket Holder, I was anticipating a Friday Night Scramble. Events at Stormont meant that sale was delayed.
Eventually, there was a sale on Saturday morning, hitting refresh on my browser over and over again, before eventually getting through. It felt like I’d got a golden ticket for Willy Wonka’s Chcolate Factory.
Windsor Park’s redevelopment has seen a lot of trial and error in terms of matchday arrangements, finding out what works and what doesn’t. Just as everything seemed to be settled, a whole new set of arrangements come in.
There seemed to be a bit of a mix-up with the Ticket Partner, as the portal wouldn’t open at the allotted time, causing a panic among fans desperate to get a ticket.
Whenever I purchased my ticket, I wasn’t charged for it. I don’t think that was part of the Service Level Agreement. I did e-mail the club to flag it up, so I’ll get the arrangements sorted regarding payment in due course.
A quick look through Social Media suggests that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t charged.
Tickets only being available online presented a bit of a problem for me. I don’t use data on my phone and my phone couldn’t download the PDF anyway to scan in. Libraries were closed so I couldn’t print it off.
That meant I had to take a screenshot on my iPad use that to scan in.
I’m not a take an iPad to the football kinda guy, but I had no choice. It stayed in my bag from that point on.
When you purchase a ticket through the portal, you have to pick a specific seat and stick to it. It’s a change in behaviour I’ll have to get used to (I won’t be the only one) as I like to sit where we attack. If sitting in the same seat all match gets me in the ground, it’s a sacrifice I’ll have to make.
The concept of trial and error applies to this, as I’ll have to find a spot that I’ll enjoy the view from.
For my next match, whenever that is (be positive, Crusaders on October 30th), I’ll try to move somewhere else as front row of the Lower North Stand isn’t the best view of the game.
Before you enter, you get a Temperature Test. I slightly embarrassed myself in front of Eventsec staff as I took out my iPad thinking the Temperature Gun was a Ticket Scanner. At least I’ll know that for the next match (be positive, Crusaders on October 30th) I go to.
The Concourse in the North Stand is quite spacious, which made Social Distancing easy, as was the fact that people were being sensible, meaning I wasn’t having to make an effort to avoid people, I was doing it naturally.
I exited at full-time towards Olympia Parade. Not ideal for my own travel arrangements, but it meant I could boost the step count. At no point, did I feel unsafe or anxious when watching the game.
As with last weekend at Dundela, Social Distancing extended to the players, with both teams warming up in their kit, although both teams were having their teamtalks on the pitch, instead of the away team only, as it was last week.
It has been said that it is important to try and keep a routine in these confusing and uncertain times, and this was evident when walkout music was played minutes before kick-off, even though both teams were already out on the pitch.
Carrick Rangers being Linfield’s opponents for the first game was this season was perhaps apt, as they were Linfield’s last opponents in the League, last March. They were also Linfield’s last opponents in any competition, having met in the County Antrim Shield four days earlier.
Linfield won that match with two early goals, and their attacking intent in this game suggested they wanted to do the same in this match.
They were halfway there when Andrew Waterworth fired home low across the keeper to put Linfield 1-0 just three minutes in. A good sign if you believe in omens, with three being the number of successive titles Linfield are looking to secure.
More pressure continued from Linfield, and the second goal came, a bit later than on Tuesday night, when a neat passing move saw Conor Pepper play a low sliding cross beyond Carrick’s keeper, giving Andre Waterworth the opportunity to slide the ball into an empty net.
It’s easy to forget that Waterworth finished last season strongly, with five goals in the last four games, and he was picking up where he left off. Make that now seven goals in five League games. (SPOILER ALERT : He might make it eight goals in five matches later in the game)
From there, you’d be expecting the game to meander into a routine 2-0 win for Linfield. Well, not quite, as Carrick came back into the game, starting to make themselves at home in Linfield’s half, and got rewarded with a penalty after a foul by Chris Johns.
Caolan Loughran scored to make it 2-1, and Carrick were back in the game.
It was Carrick’s first goal against Linfield since October 2015, twelve games ago.
For the next few minutes, Carrick were very much in the game, and were getting too many sights at goal for Linfield’s liking.
Despite a strong finish to the half, which included a Kyle McClean shot that went just wide, Linfield were glad to be going in 2-1 up, despite their strong start.
The start of the second-half saw Chris Johns have to tip an effort over his crossbar.
That was the most work he had to do, as the game turned away from Carrick Rangers following a red card for Mark Surgenor for a bad tackle on Conor Pepper. He knew what his fate was going to be as soon as the Referee arrived on the scene.
Carrick didn’t even have an opportunity to reorganise or to get settled, as Jimmy Callacher bundled the ball home to make it 3-1.
It might have been precautionary, but Pepper’s game was over, replaced by Ryan McGivern.
McGivern had an instant impact, heading home to make it 4-1 just seconds after the game restarted. It was the second successive season that McGivern had scored on the opening day of the season.
Any faint hope that Carrick had of getting something had well and truly gone.
It was assumed that McGivern’s introduction would push Mark Haughey would move to right-back.
When the game restarted, McGivern and Haughey were part of a three man defence, with Niall Quinn pushed further forward.
That was good news for Andrew Waterworth, who was in the mood for a hat-trick.
It looked like he was going to get it but was thwarted by a header that went just wide.
Not for long, as he soon got his hat-trick, to make it 5-1.
With a long and intense season to come, David Healy gave Jamie Mulgrew and Navid Nasseri a rest, bringing on Daniel Kearns and Bastien Hery.
There were more chances for Linfield, but they had to make do with 5-1, a winning start to the season, for the sixth successive season. I can remember when Linfield used to always drop points in their first game of the season, having only won three openers in the decade before the start of this winning run.
That scoreline was good enough for Linfield to finish the day top of the league on goal difference, as one of six teams on three points, none of which include Glentoran.
They will be knocked off the top of the table by the time they kick off their next match, on Saturday teatime at Ballymena due to Crusaders and Cliftonville facing each other.
If you think a Saturday night in Ballymena is grim, not being allowed to go to Ballymena on Saturday teatime is even more grim.
It’s on at the same time as Man United v Chelsea. I’m not sure that was the wisest time for a broadcast game (It’s on the BBC website) but I’ll be multitasking with a laptop and a TV.
So yes, that Friday Night Farce. I’m all for the Irish League getting a bigger profile, but I’m not sure Coleraine v Ballymena getting featured on the BBC’s Lunchtime News was what I had in mind.
It was announced that no fans would be allowed in to grounds by one Minister, before Arlene Foster overruled her.
The worst aspect of this wasn’t the actual decision, but the way it was handled and communicated.
There quite a lot of MLAs in Stormont who follow football. I know that, because they are usually telling everybody about it when a team in their constituency wins something, or if Northern Ireland look like they have a chance of qualifying for a tournament.
Surely someone would have raised their hands and pointed out there was a football match on Friday night? You know, so that any decision could be made well in advance of that.
I just turn up for a match and go home, I’m not au fait with matchday operations. I do know one thing, a match might start at a certain time, but the matchday starts a lot earlier.
To make an announcement midway through an event was crass and disrespectful.
If Coleraine were acting on the side of caution and evict those in the ground and not let people outside in, only to find out that they didn’t need to do it, imagine the shitstorm that would have been, costing them money because they’ve been mislead and shafted by those whose job it is to guide them.
On Saturday morning, people still didn’t know if they could go to the game.
Decision makers seem to think that football fans sit in the house until 2pm on a Saturday and then go to the ground. Everybody is different and people have different plans and arrangements for Saturday mornings and lunchtimes, they would like to know if a football match will be part of their afternoon.
If football can’t behave themselves, it will face the consequences. The two matches I have been to this season, at two different grounds, I’ve had no problem with the arrangements and felt totally safe.
Far safer than when I go into Belfast City Centre to get some lunch from Monday to Friday, which is a complete free for all.
It’s not a case for Football v Other Sports or Football v Other Industries.
Football fans aren’t asking for full stadiums, just an opportunity to make small steps towards it. The emphasis on small.
Football fans know how much there is too much to lose by not complying so they do comply with Social Distancing instrustions. The rest of society can learn a lot from that.
A group of fuckwits can spread themselves across a footpath in Belfast City Centre because they know they’ll get the opportunity to do likewise the next day. That’s why people have had pubs taken away from them. That’s why there’s no Christmas Market.
Eventually, some day, the penny will drop.
So, no Ballymena for me. Crusaders, we’ll wait and see.
Remember, wear a mask, stay the fuck away from others, use your brains.
Do that, and we can all be in a football ground a lot quicker.