CLIFTONVILLE 1-2 LINFIELD 17.2.2018

It was a far different scenario than when Linfield made their second visit of the season to Solitude last season.

Of course, as you will remember, that game in April 2017 saw Linfield needing three points to secure the title. This time around, the three points were needed to put pressure on Glenavon in the race for 3rd, while a defeat would see them drop to 5th.

As recently as last Saturday, Linfield fans didn’t know if or when this match was going to take place. I’ll be touching on that later.

I headed to my usual spot for lunch when I go to Solitude. Every time I go there, we win. Well, apart from the last time I visited Solitude. I’m blaming it on my trip to The Co-Op afterwards to get a banana for jinxing us.

It definitely wasn’t us playing defensively and trying to hold onto a lead and giving the initiative to Cliftonville.

I had to take a carry-out lunch as there were two Linfield players (not in the matchday squad) hogging a table. Shameful behaviour that brings the game into disrepute. Okay, it’s not quite stealing a taxi, but still.

Linfield got off to a good start, putting Cliftonville on the back foot, with Andrew Waterworth flicking the ball over a defender only to see his shot saved. Kurtis Byrne then had instinctive close range shot saved.

Jay Donnelly then had Cliftonville’s first shot, but it was easily saved.

Achille Campion, recalled to the starting eleven, was involved in most of Linfield’s attacks, making life uncomfortable for Cliftonville’s defenders, as was Niall Quinn, with most of Linfield’s attacks coming down their left.

Campion fired over from inside the penalty area after the ball came to him after a Kirk Millar shot was blocked.

Gareth Deane was then forced into his first real save when he made himself big to deny Chris Curran after the ball fell to him.

Cliftonville were then denied when Jamie Harney hit the bar after a header from a free-kick.

Both sides had reason to feel aggrieved that it was still 0-0.

It was becoming clear that this was a game where the first goal would be vital. Five minutes before the break, Linfield got it when a Kirk Millar corner was headed home by Jimmy Callacher

It was the second time he has scored for Linfield at Solitude, having scored there, and at the same end in March 2016.

Paul Smyth made it 2-0 and secured the points that day. He did the same yesterday, but unfortunateley for Linfield fans, it was at Loftus Road, setting up Matt Smith to give QPR a 2-0 win over Bolton.

The opening minutes of the second-half saw some desperate defending from Linfield, with Mark Stafford blocking a shot on the line, and then blocking a shot from outside the box.

Kurtis Byrne then had a shot saved by Brian Neeson as Linfield looked for the second goal that they needed.

Byrne then made way soon afterwards, replaced by Ryan Strain.

At the same time, Cliftonville made a change, bringing on Rory Donnelly for Joe Gormley, the second successive match against Linfield that Gormley had been substituted just after the hour mark.

With fifteen minutes to go, Linfield got the two goal lead they needed when a Niall Quinn free-kick went in. It wasn’t Quinn who scored it, somebody got a touch to put the ball in. Who? That is up for debate.

I was stood to the left of the goal and thought it was headed in by Achille Campion. He celebrated like he scored it. Some media outlets have given the goal as a Tomas Cosgrove own goal. The TV footage is inconclusive.

It will probably go to the Dubious Goals Committe, which in the Irish League is if the attacking player shouts loud enough for it to be awarded to him.

What’s the French for “Oi! That’s my goal?”

2-0 up and coasting, Linfield fans started taking the piss out of Cliftonville goalkeeper Brian Neeson. He responded by offering one of them out, and it wasn’t for a date.

He even managed to do his own Conor Devlin tribute by booting the ball away (like for his red card in the Irish Cup tie in 2016) as Linfield had a corner. He managed to get a yellow card.

It was hilarious to see a goalkeeper getting so wound up and distracted so easily. This is something our players should be looking to exploit in two weeks time. It’s a pity we won’t have fans in the Railway End for that game.

Just when everything seemed to be going smoothly, Cliftonville pulled a goal back on 81 minutes from a low Jay Donnelly shot. It looked a goalkeeping mistake from where I was stood. On looking at the TV replay, it looks like a small deflection off a Linfield player which took the ball over Deane.

Gareth Deane has made some errors earlier in the season but there’s been absolutely no complaints about his performances since he came into the team against Coleraine in late January. Don’t forget, he made a vital save from Chris Curran when the score was 0-0.

The goal also ruined his own personal record against Cliftonville. Prior to this game, he had faced them three times, won every match (by an aggregate of 10-0) and obviously kept three clean sheets.

Four clean sheets in a row was gone, but he was still on course for four wins out of four.

It was around this point in the game that Cliftonville began their comeback in September.

At that game, you could feel a bad vibe at what was going to happen next.

At this game, it was more of an inconvenience.

Cliftonville fired a lot of crosses in, but that it what Linfield had to deal with. Both of their Donnellys had headers, but they went well wide of goal. Gareth Deane wasn’t troubled, and neither were Linfield.

Special mention to new signing Joe Crowe who was solid and reliable and kept it simple. He already looks like a decent acquisition to the squad.

However, David Healy appeared not to learn the lessons of September by bringing on Josh Robinson for Achille Campion. You could argue that Andrew Mitchell would have been a better choice. The real answer was, Stephen Fallon or Brandon Adams. Going defensive to hold on to a lead doesn’t work. It’s bitten us on the arse too many times in recent seasons.

Linfield were able to see the game out and get the win. There was no real danger of points being dropped, as Cliftonville couldn’t get hold of the ball in injury time.

Thankfully. Having been at the Ulster match the night before, I wasn’t in the mood for last minute heartbreak on two successive days.

This match was originally scheduled for the Friday night but was played on the Saturday afternoon. The confusion regarding arrangements for this game has been utterly farcical.

When the fixture list is done in June, the games I look out for are International Weekends and the NIFL Cup Final for possible postponements. The further that Cliftonville advanced in the competition, the more this game was in doubt.

Linfield also had another motive for monitoring Cliftonville’s cup progress as we could have used any potential free weekend to play their oustanding (Postponed from 7th October due to International Call-Ups and also Linfield playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup) League match against Glenavon.

Cliftonville’s NIFL Cup Semi-Final against Ballymena United was postponed three times. That was unfortunate. The fact they were having the third go just ten days before the Final was stupidity on behalf of NIFL.

There were three spare midweeks between week commencing 10th December and week commencing 5th February that weren’t used.

I can understand clubs being reluctant to play on week commencing 17th December as it led into two successive Saturday-Tuesday double headers.

There was a free midweek on week commencing 8th January. Clubs might have been reluctant to play that midweek having played Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, but Linfield played Carrick Rangers on Tuesday 9th January.

If it was good enough for Linfield and Carrick Rangers, it should have been good enough for Cliftonville and Ballymena United.

The third midweek not used was week commencing 29th January.

On Monday 29th January, Cliftonville played Glenavon in a game that was broadcast on Sky Sports, having been postponed on it’s original date of Saturday 9th December 2017.

It is worth noting that Cliftonville v Glenavon on Saturday 9th December was not to have been broadcast on Sky Sports.

Sky Sports schedule their Irish League games on either International Weeks, Midweek Premier League Fixture Lists, European Weeks or FA Cup Weekends as their have no games to show, or don’t have the rights to broadcast games.

We are now in peak season in terms of knockout European football. There are plenty of midweeks in the next month where Cliftonville v Glenavon could have been scheduled for broadcast.

Why was a competition that is timebound for late March (So that 33 games can be played before the split) given priority over a competition that is timebound to be completed for mid February?

Why was Ballymena United v Cliftonville not scheduled for week commencing 29th January 2018 just as Dungannon Swifts v Crusaders was?

The knock on effect was that Linfield fans didn’t know if their team would be playing until 5pm last Saturday.

It wasn’t just any normal game. It is a game where we have to buy tickets and be bussed in. This all had to be arranged in a week.

Linfield fans were expected to purchase tickets during the working week. Thankfully, the club was open late on Tuesday evening for supporters. I was able to take advantage of this but others might not be able to.

The club deserves credit for making this option available to fans.

Linfield fans have all sorts of lifestyles and arrangements and should be given more than one week’s notice as to wether a match is on or off, and what day of the week it is taking place on, so that they can make arrangements to go to the game if they wish, and if they have anything that needs arranged in order for them to do so.

Ballymena United v Cliftonville being postponed three times was unlucky, but the point stands that three spare midweeks were not used to schedule this game into. Linfield fans have been inconvenience by utter incompetence by fixture schedulers.

As a result of Ballymena United v Cliftonville being played last Saturday, Cliftonville’s League game against Warrenpoint Town was postponed to Tuesday, and Cliftonville and Warrenpoint’s Friday games were put back to Saturday, presumably, to allow for more recovery time.

If I was Glentoran and Ards, i’d be asking questions as to why they were expected to play Tuesday and Friday, but other clubs were allowed to play Tuesday and Friday.

Upon heading home from this game, I watched the NIFL Cup Final between Ballymena United and Dungannon Swifts on Sky Sports. Well, flicking between that and the United match on BT Sport.

I was tempted to go to the NIFL Cup Final as a neutral but I was never going to make it from Solitude in time.

I’ve already said in a previous blog that Windsor Park was a poor choice for the Final due to it being too big. It was a lazy choice because they were backed into a corner because they had to choose a venue without knowing who the finalists are.

It was even more hilarious that the link for tickets was being advertised on my Social Media feeds, despite the fact that my own team was playing earlier that day.

Now it has been established (Well, it was established in 2012 when two League games were played at the same time as the Final) that League games can be played on the same day as the League Cup Final, hopefully, this will put an end to Friday night games on this weekend in future years.

Regular readers will know that I go to Edinburgh every August for the Festival, but I also like to take in a match while i’m there.

Last August, I went to see Edinburgh City.

They currently groundshare with Spartans due to the redevelopment of Meadowbank Stadium, which now won’t meet SPFL criteria. I’ll be monitoring this one. Hopefully, it all gets resolved.

Up next for Linfield is a trip to Ards followed by a home double header against Glenavon and then Cliftonville in the Irish Cup.

So that’s the short-term goal for Linfield. Win the next three games and we’ll be (at worst) level with Glenavon and into the Semi-Finals of the Irish Cup.

Linfield’s season began to go awry after the visit to Solitude in September. Hopefully, it will get on course for a strong finish after the visit in February.

Photo Album

Advertisements

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 21.6.1986

Action from the opening game of Mexico 86 between Bulgaria and Italy is on the cover of Shoot, as they bring you the latest news from the ongoing World Cup.

England are hoping to win it for the first time since 1966, and their winning captain that day, Bobby Moore, is now a columnist for Shoot, and he lists the players that have impressed him in the opening games, such as Socrates, Maradona, Platini, Papin, Boniek, as well as Randy Regan and Bruce Wilson of Canada.

Bryan Robson is hoping to emulate his fellow Shoot columnist by lifting the trophy, but it hasn’t got off to the best of starts, as he writes of his frustration of England failing to win their first two games, but predicts England will reach the knock out stages. Beside his column is an advert for New Balance, which he endorses.

There is a double page interview with Jim Leighton, where he reveals that he didn’t want to be a goalkeeper.

News from Mexico includes that Fenerbache made approached Franz Beckenbauer to quit West Germany and become manager of Fenerbache, while in Italy, there is a potential match fixing scandal about to blow open.

Italy’s group opponents Bulgaria haven’t made many friends, by holding training behind closed doors and having armed guards outside their training facilities.

Shoot’s man in Mexico, Bill Day brands England’s performances “A disgrace”, while being complimentary about Northern Ireland, despite losing 2-1 to Spain.

Ray Daly from County Offaly writes to Jimmy Greaves to suggest that when Ron Atkinson’s inevitable departure as Manchester United manager is confirmed, the job should go to United legend Lou Macari.

There is a round-up of results from the 1985-1986 Scottish League seasons, with Steve Cowan of Hibs being top scorer, 2 ahead of Brian McClair. Both men would go on to win league titles outside their native country, Cowan with Portadown and McClair with Manchester United.

Outside of the World Cup, Republic Of Ireland are making progress under Jack Charlton, already lifting a trophy by winning a triangular tournament in Iceland against the hosts and Czechoslovakia.

Steve Hodge gets a full page profile having broken into the England squad in time to head to Mexico. A potential Aston Villa team-mate of Hodge’s is John Hewitt, in a contract dispute with Aberdeen, which gets a full page feature. Discussions are on hold at the moment, due to Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson being in Mexico in his role as Scotland manager.

Nigel Winterburn of Wimbledon, looking forward to playing in the top flight for the first time, gets a full page interview, where he credits his former manager at Birmingham, Jim Smith, with saving his career.

There is also a full page profile of League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers.

In club news, Alex Ferguson spoke of his dislike for agents after Eric Black moved to Metz, while Liam Brady was leaving unsubtle hints for Arsenal to buy him back.

LINFIELD 0-0 DUNGANNON SWIFTS 10.2.2018

You ever have a feeling when you watch a football match and you know early on that it is going to finish 0-0? This was one of those games.

Before the match, there was a presentation made to Jamie Mulgrew in recognition of him making his 500th appearance for Linfield, against Warrenpoint Town on Tuesday, making him just the 513 appearances behind Noel Bailie.

Match number 501 would end prematurely, and wouldn’t be one that would be stored in the memory bank.

In the opening minutes of the game, Dungannon were unable to get out of their own half. Unfortunately for Linfield, Dungannon weren’t really pinned into their own penalty area.

The best that Linfield could offer during this period was a speculative long range shot from Mark Stafford, which had to be palmed around the post by Dungannon keeper Stuart Addis.

It was blatantly obvious that this was a game that Linfield needed an early goal, or this was going to be a long afternoon. They didn’t get it, and it turned out to be a long afternoon.

They didn’t help themselves by getting offside at nearly every attack, Jordan Stewart being a serial offender.

There were goals in this game for Linfield as Dungannon’s defence looked shaky when they had possession. The problem was, Linfield weren’t getting the bodies forward. This was typified by a Louis Rooney cross that was asking to be finished, but nobody was on the end of it.

A Dungannon break saw Jarlath O’Rourke hit the bar after being teed up. Throughout the attack, Dungannon players always looked as though they were one step ahead of Linfield’s players.

A few minutes later, Jimmy Callacher lost possession to Daniel Hughes, who was too wide to shoot directly, so tried a chip which was saved by Gareth Deane, before Jamie Mulgrew cleared the danger.

It wasn’t the first time that Callacher lost possession when on the ball. In fact, Linfield’s defence looked every bit as shaky as Dungannon’s when they were in possession of the ball.

Niall Quinn had a free-kick saved in Linfield’s only attack of note of the half.

It was a half that saw Jordan Stewart leave the pitch later than the other 21 players, as he received treatment for an injury following the tackle. The fact he took his top off as he headed down the tunnel was a massive clue that he wouldn’t be making an appearance in the second-half. That, and the fact that Kurtis Byrne spent the interval getting warmed up.

That was the change that happened at half-time.

Byrne had a low shot turned around for a corner. Linfield had numerous corners in the second-half. Every single one of them was headed clear by David Armstrong. Unchallenged.

It looked like Louis Rooney got in behind Dungannon’s defence and had to options, to shoot or cross, either would have brought a goal. He did neither dragging the ball across goal out for a goal kick.

Rooney was then replaced, making way for Achille Campion, who got past a defender and shot straight at the keeper when a pass to Kurtis Byrne looked the best option.

A ball in behind Dungannon’s defence looked to have set up Andrew Waterworth, but he fired at Addis from close range, when a glancing header over the keeper would have brought a goal.

It was then time for a third substitution, Stephen Fallon. It wasn’t the obvious decision of Kirk Millar making way, but the hobbling Jamie Mulgrew.

Fallon almost accidentally set up a winner when his tackle was almost instinctively headed home by Mark Stafford, but it went just wide. You just knew it was going to be one of those days.

It almost got worse for Linfield when debutant Joe Crowe had to make a block when it looked like Dungannon were going to score. The move came about after possession was cheaply given away by two different defenders in the final third.

And that was that, the first time this season that Linfield failed to score in the League this season. They never looked like scoring. There was no urgency or drive, summed up by a bout of sideways passing three minutes into four minutes of injury time.

The truth was, Dungannon’s chances, not as many as Linfield, were better chances. Linfield had to do more to stop Dungannon scoring than Dungannon had to do to stop Linfield scoring.

With Glenavon drawing, this was a missed opportunity to catch up ground on them, especially as they will be inactive next weekend.

The only positive was that Linfield kept their first clean sheet in four League matches.

Elsewhere, Ballymena beat Cliftonville in the long awaited League Cup Semi-Final, meaning that Linfield will definitely have a match next weekend. I can’t contain my excitement after today’s display.

So, Linfield fans will have to take time out during the working week if they want to go to Solitude.

This could have all been avoided if the NIFL had arranged the Cliftonville v Ballymena Semi-Final for either week commencing 8th January or week commencing 29th January, giving the club more time to arrange selling tickets.

It’s a lot of effort to go to just to watch a 0-0 draw. Sorry, i’m just being cynical and negative about this game, but it does have 0-0 written all over it.

It’s a game we need to win, not just for our League position. It’s not about laying down a marker for the Irish Cup tie on March 3rd. We can’t just turn it off and on and save ourselves for the Irish Cup. We need to start building momentum in all games.

We’ve barely turned it on all season, whatever “it” is.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 10.5.1986

The 1985-1986 season is nearing it’s end, and Malcolm Shotton of Oxford United is the cover star of Shoot, with the club having won their first major piece of silverware, the League Cup, after a 3-0 win over QPR.

Mark Hughes talks about his transfer from Manchester United to Barcelona, admitting that he should have done what Kevin Keegan did when leaving Liverpool, announce his plans to leave at the start of the season, as the protracted move turned out to be a distraction.

Hughes signed an 8 year contract with Barcelona, and he says this will be his only club on the continent. As it turned out, he did emulate Kevin Keegan, by playing in Germany, joining Bayern Munich on loan, before returning to Old Trafford in 1988. He never played for a club on the continent in the final 14 years of his career.

In adverts, there’s an advert for the following week’s edition, which has a free World Cup stickerbook, as well as previews of the FA and Scottish Cup Finals.

Bryan Robson uses his column to sing the praises of Paul McGrath, stating that he wishes he was English as he’d walk into their defence. He comments on his top 11 players of the season.

Shoot previews the three European Finals, singing the praises of Terry Venables, who Shoot believes is set to become Barcelona’s first European Cup winning manager, totally dismissing the chances of their opponents Steaua Bucharest.

Shoot does a double page photo collage of the recent League Cup Final, where Oxford beat QPR 3-0.

Peter Reid writes in his column that Everton have the grit to win the title.

Reid is also complimentary of West Ham, whose young defender George Parris gets profiled, described as “A new Billy Bonds”

Andy Goram, a recent debutant for Scotland, despite being born in England, tells Shoot he wants to join a club in Scotland.

Football in Sheffield gets a double page spread, as both clubs yo-yo between divisions, with Shoot pointing out that there hasn’t been a top flight Derby between United and Wednesday in 18 years.

Bruce Rioch gets interviewed after just being appointed manager of Middlesbrough, talking about what he has learnt from managers in his career, especially Tommy Docherty.

Iraq get a preview ahead of Mexico 86, with their style of play moulded by the influx of British managers in the Middle East in the late 70s, and the current Brazilian manager they have, Edu (not the ex Arsenal player), who is Zico’s brother.

Davie Cooper is interviewed, stating that the appointment of Graeme Souness as manager was a “Bombshell”, but is a top class appointment.

Dual nationality Vince Mennie of Dundee is interviewed, stating that he wants a call-up to the Scotland team, and turned down an Under 21 call-up for West Germany in order to achieve his dream.

Ron Saunders has responded to West Brom’s relegation by having a clear-out of his squad.

Staying in the West Midlands, Birmingham City manager John Bond has appealed to local businesses for help to secure funding to bring Trevor Francis back to St Andrews.

The magazine ends with a double page profile of Sandy Jardine, aiming to win the Scottish League and Scottish Cup with Hearts, 14 years after winning the 1972 European Cup Winners Cup with Rangers.

COLERAINE 2-2 LINFIELD 30.1.2018

This was a match that should have been played on New Year’s Day. Linfield were hoping that this match would kickstarted their 2018, four weeks later than anticipated.

If Linfield take any longer starting this year, they might as well join the Chinese Super League.

Glenavon and Cliftonville dropped four points in their games on Friday and Monday, which meant that Linfield could make up ground on the two sides above them with a win.

While Linfield’s ambitions were to make up ground to try and climb into 3rd. Coleraine’s was a bit more lofty, looking for three points to go top of the League.

It is Coleraine’s strong finish to last season which sowed the seeds for this season’s title challenge that is now what Linfield are aiming to replicate, rather than the Cliftonville 2014 model that did for them last season.

Kirk Millar whipped a cross in the early minutes which had nobody end of it, while Josh Carson had a shot just wide for Coleraine.

Ciaron Harkin’s cross evaded everyone and went out for a goal kick as Coleraine piled on the pressure. There was no immediate danger for Linfield, but the shots were tallying up. Far too many shots for Linfield’s liking.

Darren McCauley had a shot saved by Gareth Deane, deputising for the injured Roy Carroll, while Kirk Millar tried to replicate his goal at Ballinamallard on the opening day of last season after a kick out by Chris Johns, but only managed to put his shot wide.

Jamie McGonigle’s goalbound header was tipped over by Gareth Deane as it looked only a matter of time before Coleraine scored.

That came when McGonigle finished after a quick counter-attack after Linfield lost possession. It was another poor goal to concede.

The goal had been coming, and every time Coleraine attacked, it looked like they were queuing up to score. Even if Linfield had more defenders, Coleraine always looked likely to win out in the situation.

Linfield survived and were relieved to only go in at half-time 1-0 down. They made a strong start to the second-half, with Ryan Strain and Stephen Lowry coming on for Andrew Mitchell and Kurtis Byrne. Kirk Millar looked the more obvious player to make way for Strain.

Stephen Lowry was having an impact. Linfield were now more creative and believable when they attacked.

Andrew Waterworth thought he had equalised but his low shot was saved by Johns. Despite all their possession, this was Linfield’s best attacking moment.

Soon after, Coleraine went 2-0 up when Ian Parkhill was played through and finished. It was another poor goal to concede, as Parkhill didn’t have to move a lot in order to get clear.

The goal had come slightly against the run of the play in the second-half, and it looked like it secured the points for Coleraine.

In the immediate aftermath of the goal, it looked like Coleraine were going to surge on and win 3-0, or possibly more, as their fans taunted David Healy with chants of “Sacked in the morning”, not that it was a realistic scenario.

However, there was to be a late twist, as a cross from Niall Quinn was headed home by Andrew Waterworth with a few minutes to go to make it 2-1. It was the first real moment of attacking quality in the game from Linfield, and suddenly, it was game on.

In February 2016, Coleraine led Linfield 2-0 at home in the first-half. When Linfield pulled it back to 2-1, Coleraine didn’t seem to fancy the fight.

Looking at the body language of the Coleraine players after Waterworth’s goal, it looked like being a repeat situation.

As the board for injury time made an appearance, Linfield had a free-kick out wide.

Stephen Lowry overhit the free-kick, but unbelievably bounced off the bar and hit a Coleraine player and went in. Linfield had got an unlikely equaliser. It was hard to see who scored it from where I was, it didn’t really matter. If you care, it was credited as a Gareth McConaghie own goal.

Various times this season, Linfield have conceded farcical goals and lost games they never looked like losing until they went behind. Now they were on the right side of ridiculousness.

Seasons can turn on the strangest things. Hopefully, Linfield can now use this lucky break as a springboard for the rest of the season.

When the equaliser went in, thoughts went back to a live Sky game in October 2012, when Linfield were deservedly 2-0 down before pulling it back to 2-2 late on, only to lose it 3-2 immediately.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. In fact, if the game last five more minutes, Linfield probably would have won it. If it lasted for ten more minutes, Linfield definitely would have won it.

The draw didn’t help either sides League position. The draw will have cheered up Crusaders fans after they left Stangmore Park following their side’s exit from the NIFL Cup. You have to be a very special team to do a Clean Sweep.

NIFL will have breathed a sigh of relief after that result, avoiding a fixture shitstorm that would have followed a Crusaders win, with them being scheduled to face Inverness away on the weekend of the Final.

It’s a Final that will be played at Windsor Park.

That looks like a lazy one size fits all option, due to the NIFL being backed into the corner by the short turnaround between the Semi-Final and Final.

Crusaders v Cliftonville or Ballymena could have been accommodated at one of the participants home grounds, like in 2014. I could understand using Windsor Park for either of those two combinations though.

Dungannon v Ballymena could be played at Seaview while Dungannon v Cliftonville could be played at Mourneview Park.

Windsor Park being used for the Final means that Linfield now won’t be able to bring forward their League match against Glenavon if they have a free weekend due to Cliftonville reaching the Final.

NIFL were praying that Ballymena v Cliftonville wasn’t postponed. It was. I’ll write about the fall out on that and the knock-on effect for Linfield in my Warrenpoint blog.

Since I last wrote, the draw for the UEFA Nations League was made. Bad news for those wanting to visit Wales, but thankfully bad news for gutter press with no interest in football as Northern Ireland avoided Republic of Ireland.

Unfortunately, we decided to arrange a friendly against them instead. How very underwhelming.

Who we did get was Austria and Bosnia, representing a great chance of promotion.

Austria away is very tempting, especially as you can do a Vienna/Bratislava double header, as there is only one hour between the two cities. Slovakia are at home to Czech Republic the day after Austria v Northern Ireland, but I would guess it would be a bit difficult getting tickets for that game.

Definitely in the calendar is An Evening With Eric Cantona in October. I’ve already sorted myself with a ticket for that.

Linfield have already begun the overhaul of their squad with Ross Clarke being loaned to Ards, Joel Cooper signing in the Summer and the arrival of Joe Crowe from Sandy Row. Yes, actually. That’s his name and that’s where he’s from.

This match was followed by a 1-0 win over Newry in the Irish Cup. I wasn’t at it so can’t comment on it.

It was a match disrupted in the second-half by a floodlight failure. Funny how there’s never a floodlight failure when Linfield are getting beat.

In the Quarter-Finals, is a home tie against Cliftonville, who beat Crusaders. After that match, Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter spoke on Radio Ulster about how his players were cynically fouled and that the Fourth Official was influenced by the opposition bench.

I’m not going to make any comment on any possible irony whatsoever.

Cliftonville have scored four goals in each of their last two games, losing to the team at the bottom and beating the team at the top.

There’s nothing to fear, we can beat them. We’ve got previous against them in Quarter-Finals, beating them at that stage en route to the Final in 1992, 1994 and 2016.

It’s Semi-Finals against Cliftonville when the year ends in 9 that are a bit of a problem. We can worry about that next year.

Photo Album

MILLWALL 2-2 ROCHDALE 27.1.2018

“Your dad always said that one day Del Boy would reach the top ……. then again, he used to say that one day Millwall would win the cup”

The fact that Millwall’s record in the FA Cup was used as a punchline in Only Fools And Horses, it’s fair to say it’s not very good.

The closest they came was reaching the final in 2004. It was a veteran of that campaign, Tim Cahill, who was the talk of the ground prior to kick-off, as he was in discussions to rejoin the club, in a bid to get match fit for this Summer’s World Cup.

That signing was eventually confirmed on the Monday night after this game.

They have had FA Cup runs in recent years, reaching the Semi-Final in 2013, and the Quarter-Finals in 2017.

That Quarter-Final last year was the last FA Cup tie at White Hart Lane, but Millwall won’t have fond memories of that game, with Spurs running out 6-0 winners.

I was in London that weekend, so decided I would take in a game. It was the weekend of the FA Cup 4th Round, so there were no Premier League games scheduled, with games in the other Leagues scheduled, some of which were postponed to accomodate FA Cup ties.

On of those, was Millwall’s game at home to Derby, which I had my eye on. Brentford were playing Norwich in The Championship, while Leyton Orient were at home to Aldershot in the National League, or Vauxhall Conference if you’re old school like me.

I’d already been to Leyton Orient (in 2014) so wanted a bit of variety, while Brentford didn’t have tickets on general sale (to discourage away fans buying for the home end) so Millwall it was. Tickets only being £15 also helped swing the deal, as was the fact that i’d never been to an FA Cup tie.

I’d hoped to go to the 2nd Round Replay between Crewe Alexandra and Blackburn Rovers when I was in Manchester, but that was postponed due to the weather.

Also appealing, was the fact that Millwall have three Northern Ireland players – Shane Ferguson, Conor McLaughlin and George Savile. That was a fiver per Ulsterman.

However, only Ferguson would start the game.

I’d previously seen Milwall before, taking in their League One game against Bury when I was in Manchester in November 2016. I hadn’t seen Rochdale despite my frequent visits to the North-West. I would have taken in their 2nd Round tie if it went to a replay, but it didn’t.

Getting to the ground was easy, an Overground Station was a signposted five minute walk away.

I’m only enough to remember when Millwall’s ground, opened in 1993, was known as The New Den. Now it is known simply as The Den.

Millwall might be looking for a New New Den, due to a dispute with Lewisham Council over land around The Den.

Rochdale were straight on the attack from kick-off, Millwall goalkeeper David Martin being concerned while catching a cross in the opening minute. By this part, Leyton Orient were already 1-0 up. I was wondering if i’d made the right choice of game.

Shane Ferguson had Millwall’s first attacking moment of the game with a run and cross, but The Wee Derry Fella’s cross evaded those in the box.

It was another run which brought Millwall’s first goal, this time by Fred Onyedinma, as he was brought down for a clear penalty. Jed Wallace converted, and it looked like Millwall were set for a routine against their League One opponents.

The “Past Meetings” feature in the matchday programme didn’t have a lot of material to work with, their only recent meetings coming when Millwall were in League One. Rochdale weren’t intimidated by the one division difference, and were very much in the game.

A lovely passing move played in Ian Henderson to finish. It was a goal from the moment it left his foot. There was a small applause from some fans around me, acknowledging that it was a decent goal, before asking questions of their own team.

Rochdale were the better team at the start of the second-half, and were rewarded with a goal when a Andy Cannon shot was deflected goalwards. It was going in but Matt Done tapped it in to make sure, and Rochdale were 2-1 up.

The Rochdale fans behind the goal celebrated. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t get to celebrate wiht their team, due to being in the Upper Tier of the stand.

It always struck me as a bit of a crap matchday experience being stuck up there, but not that the Rochdale fans cared, with their team now heading for the 5th Round.

Tom Elliott seemed to have most of Millwall’s chances, but was having “One of those days”.

As the minutes ticked, it looked like Rochdale were going to hold on for a deserved win, until Ben Thompson’s low finish just as the injury time board was about to make an appearance.

Milwall fans were frustrated throughout the game, but were relieved to get a replay.

The draw for the 5th Round produced a juicy prize on offer for the winner of this tie.

They didn’t know who they’d play, but they’d be at home.

It was either Newport County, from a lower division and representing a great chance to reach the Quarter-Finals, or a glamour tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

Rochdale won the replay of this tie 1-0. Spurs beat Newport 2-0.

Rochdale are only two wins away from Wembley, but a draw in their 5th Round time would be enough to take them there.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 22.1.1972

It’s the early weeks of 1972 and Shoot has gone Cup Crazy, as this week’s edition has a free wallchart for you to chart the progress of the Scottish Cup and FA Cup.

Unfortunately, there was no such chart for the Irish Cup or Welsh Cup.

The chart had an impressive list of admirers in the shape of Bobby Moore, George Best and Alan Ball. Maybe not that surprising that they endorsed it, as they were all Shoot columnists at that time.

George Best went as far to describe it as “Definitely one of the finest charts i’ve ever seen”

Shoot has a Crosstalk colum where two footballers debaate a topical subject. This week’s one saw Alan Mullery (Tottenham Hotspur) and David Nish (Leicester City) debating if you need luck to win the FA Cup.

Mullery would have greater knowledge of that, having won the trophy in 1967, while Nish was a losing finalist in 1969.

Bobby Moore’s colum talks about how he has helped out Luton Town by appearing at social functions, but is determied to put them out of the FA Cup, as they were West Ham’s 3rd Round opponents.

Moore predicts that Arsenal and Leeds will be the two sides most likely to lift the trophy, and so it proved, with Leeds beating Arsenal 1-0 in the final.

Shoot does a double page spread on four top flight clubs that have never won the FA Cup – Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Ipswich Town and Stoke City.

Within 15 years, Coventry (1987) and Ipswich (1978) had lifted the trophy, while Crystal Palace (1990) and Stoke City (2011) have lost a final since then.

George Best’s column comments about how he wants to win the cup in 1972. George Best never won the FA Cup in his career.

Shoot does a double page spread on double winners Arsenal, asking if they can repeat their League and FA Cup success of 1971 a year later.

It wasn’t to be for Arsenal as they finished 5th, and as previously mentioned, lost the FA Cup Final 1-0 to Leeds. Derby County, led by Brian Clough, were Champions that season.

Frank McClintock talks about that final against Liverpool, revealing he was shatterd at the end of a busy week that saw him win the League, Player Of The Year, and get a Scotland recall.

Gordon Banks gets a player profile where he reveals he likes holidays and hates shaving, fog and football hooliganism. The person he would most like to meet in the world is Raquel Welch.

Aberdeen, Scottish Cup winners in 1970, then league runners-up in 1971 get a double page spread look at their recent upturn in form.

John Tudor of Newcastle United gets interviewed, talking about his team-mate Malcolm MacDonald, revealing that he even pressurises himself to score in training, such is his lust for goals.

There is also a double page spread looking at Pele’s career, part of a series, as this as title Part One.

Trevor Hockey of Sheffield United also gets a career profile, while there is a poster of Birmingham City’s Bob Hatton on the back cover.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 4.4.1992

It’s Cup Semi-Finals in England and Scotland, and this is reflected with John Byrne of Sunderland being the cover star.

As you open the magazine, there is an article titled “Stuff Your Seats”, as Shoot canvassed fans for their opinion on all seater stadiums, the majority of responses were against this.

Liverpool and Portsmouth’s Semi-Final gets previewed with Ian Rush and Warren Aspinall profiling their team-mates, while Gordon Armstrong and Robert Fleck do so for the Sunderland v Norwich tie.

Jim Leighton gets interviewed about what he describes as “My United Hell” after being dropped at Old Trafford, and how he had initial doubts about signing for Dundee, and now has ambitions of winning promotion to the Scottish Premier League.

John Murray from Cork suggests that the costs of all seater stadiums means it makes more sense for clubs to groundshar. Jimmy Greaves agrees with him, but can’t see it happening.

In Scotland, Shoot profiles Hearts goalkeeper Henry Smith, who is determined to make up for his error which cost Hearts their Semi-Final against Celtic at Hampden in 1988. Smith’s ambitions are to win the Scottish Cup and go to Euro 92, having made his international debut earlier this year at the age of 35.

Brett Angell of Southend gets interviewed about rejecting a moive to big spending Blackburn Rovers, saying that the timing was all wrong.

There is an advert for the following week’s edition, which will preview the League Cup Final between Nottingham Forest and Manchester United.

The magazine ends with a double page spread on the troubles endured by London’s top flight clubs in 91-92.

LINFIELD 2-3 GLENAVON 20.1.2018

With Coleraine and Crusaders going head to head, Linfield and Glenavon faced each other at Windsor Park knowing that a win could give them the opportunity to keep their faltering title challenges just about alive.

It was Linfield who made the perfect start to the game. Kurtis Byrne looked like he was going to get in behind Glenavon’s defence but was denied by an interception. It would only be a temporary reprieved for Glenavon as the resulting corner was punched away by Jonathan Tuffey, only as far as Byrne, who returned the ball into the box, and it went straight back into the back of the net.

It looked like a speculative effort rather than a shot, but it didn’t matter, Linfield were 1-0 up. It also meant goals in successive games for Byrne. It was the third game I had seen Byrne play in, and the third time I had seen him score. In the two previous games, the team he was playing for went on and won. So, time to put the feet up then.

Well, not quite. Glenavon responded, and were level after six minutes whenever Simon Kelly headed home from a corner. Linfield players were appealing for a foul on Roy Carroll. They can ask questions about a foul all they want, but questions have to asked of them as to why Carroll wasn’t protected by them, and why he was allowed to head the ball unchallenged.

All the good work of the opening minute was undone, and we were back to square one.

Roy Carroll was injured in that incident. What is it with Linfield Goalkeepers and Glenavon?

Mark Haughey must have been stood there thinking to himself “Oh for fuck sake, not again”.

You’ve guessed it, no sub keeper on the bench again. Why do we leave ourselves vulnerable like this? Especially when Roy Carroll has had various injury scares during matches this season. We’re allowed to have five substitutes, we should be utilising all of those to make sure all areas of the pitch are covered.

Thankfully, Carroll was able to continue, and was protected by his defence, although Josh Robinson gave him a dodgy backpass when passing to Mark Haughey was the glaringly obvious option.

If Carroll was being (mostly) protected, Jonathan Tuffey was untroubled at the other end due to a combination of poor passing and poor set pieces, the most bizarre of which was one to Jimmy Callacher in the Left Midfield position which went out for a throw.

Linfield finished the first-half strongly but couldn’t get back in front.

Elsewhere, Crusaders were 2-0 up away to Coleraine. Due to the amount of injury time at the end of the first-half, Linfield v Glenavon would be kicking off a bit later than the other games.

By the time the teams re-entered the pitch for the second-half, Coleraine would have already pulled their game back to 2-1. Linfield were hoping to get an early second-half goal as well. However, that is what Glenavon would do.

A cross came in from the right which was bundled home by Andrew Mitchell, the Glenavon one rather than the Linfield one, who was on the bench.

I was at the other end and was wondering what on earth happened. It got worse when you saw the TV replays, as Josh Robinson set him up by standing on the ball.

Have we conceded a decent goal all season? Every goal we’ve conceded this season has been farcical. If we bring out a Season Review DVD, it should be presented by Danny Baker.

One that goal went in, there was a grim inevitability about where the three points would be going.

There was no direct response from Linfield, or even a delayed response. Once it went to 2-1, there was never a period in the game when Glenavon had their backs to the wall. There was never a moment when you thought that a Linfield goal was only seconds away.

Andrew Waterworth came off the bench for Ryan Strain. Strain was hobbling at the time, but it was a substitution that needed to be made, injury or no injury.

In fact, it was Glenavon who were more likely to score the next goal, Stephen Murray being denied by Roy Carroll when put through on goal.

Glenavon’s likliness to score was aided by more shoddy defending from Linfield. They’re simply not doing the basics right. You can’t blame disruption or unfamiliarity when you consider it was three of last season’s back four, the only change being a player who has won two Irish League medals in the previous three seasons, and spent last season playing professionally in England.

They weren’t even clearing the ball properly, inviting more attacks onto them when they should be starting the attacks for Linfield.

Jordan Stewart and Stephen Fallon were introduced from the bench for Kurtis Byrne and Robert Garrett. Achille Campion rather than Kurtis Byrne looked the more obvious player to leave the pitch as Byrne had the more goal threat of the two.

With ten minute to go, Glenavon made it 3-1 with yet another farcical goal from a Linfield point of view, as Josh Robinson fell over having been beaten on the touchline, giving Stephen Murray the space to cross for Marc Griffin to score.

You don’t want to single players out, but that’s two goals where Josh Robinson’s contribution was questionable. It wasn’t just the Glenavon goals where his contribution was questionable. His passes usually went astray. He wasn’t the only one in a blue shirt.

The three points were now heading to Lurgan, and nobody could say they didn’t deserve it.

In fact, Glenavon were still the most likely team to score at 3-1 just as it was at 2-1, with Roy Carroll having to save from a Bobby Burns volley.

Glenavon were showing the type of attacking urgency and creativity that Linfield were so badly lacking.

Those who stayed until the end had to endure five minutes of stoppage time, we not quite bad enough yet for officials to take pity of us and only play one or two minutes.

As the clock hit ninety-five minutes, Andrew Waterworth made it 3-2 to muted celebrations in the stands and on the pitch. Nobody believed that it was going to be the start of a comeback, even allowing for Glenavon’s reputation for silliness in recent seasons.

This result was made even worse by the score from Coleraine, where Coleraine and Crusaders drew 3-3. If Linfield had won, they would have been level on points with Glenavon. More importantly, we would have known that winning our games in hand would have put us only nine points off the top, the margin we came back from in February last year. It could have given us that glimmer of hope for the rest of the season.

Even worse, we’re now 5th behind Cliftonville, who are awful, backed up by a record of eight points in twelve matches against Top Six opponents. That’s embarrassing. Our record, if you care, is a slightly better but still awful twelve points from eleven matches. Even more embarrassing, is the fact we have lost the same amount of matches as Glentoran. That is not the company we want to be keeping in the table.

Glenavon fans and players know that if they win their games in hand, they are only six points off the top and have to play the top two twice, and have a decent goal difference that can be overturned in their favour in the run-in. They’re fancying this. They’re not out of the title race.

If we’ve given up on the title prior to this game, that is unforgivable.

It’s pretty damming that Coleraine have won only one of their last four matches, and still extended their lead over us in that time.

You can cut and paste from any game over the past two months. Even worse when you see a recurring theme of throwing away leads. Eleven points thrown away from winning positions in the last five weeks. We’d be looking to win our games in hand to go joint top with those points.

The last two home League matches, early leads not built on. Last season, we had goal flurrys and killed off opponents before they had a chance to get their bearings.

Add in the Ballymena game in November, there’s nine points thrown away from being 1-0 up inside the first ten minutes.

It’s clear we are missing Jamie Mulgrew and Paul Smyth, but there is no point having them on the pitch when defenders are not marking opponents, standing on the ball or falling over.

There are also problems at the other end of the field as well due to a lack of creativity. It’s a strange thing to say about a team that has scored in every League match this season. The problem is, we are having to score a lot of goals in order to win matches. That shouldn’t be the case.

We may be missing Mulgrew and Smyth, but we made signings in the summer designed to have a squad to cater for injuries and suspensions. Players aren’t coming in and stepping up when they come into the team.

Mark Haughey, Sean Ward and Ross Gaynor stepped up and had to change position during that infamous game at Mourneview Park in November 2016. Cameron Stewart stepped up when Aaron Burns and Paul Smyth were injured. Chris Casement stepped up when Mark Stafford was injured during the run-in. Alex Moore and Gareth Deane stepped up when Roy Carroll was unavailable.

There are very few examples this season of a player coming into the team and making the place their own.

Up next, are trips to Ballymena and Coleraine, weather permitting.

That Coleraine match is on Tuesday week. Never mind the bad results on the pitch, this has been a crap season for away trips with ten (Ards, Crusaders, Warrenpoint, Ballymena, Glenavon, Carrick Coleraine, Warrenpoint, Cliftonville and Ballinamallard) taking place on a weeknight. We’ll come to the last three of those later on.

This week, saw the second postponement of the NIFL Cup Semi-Finals. This has a knock-on effect for Linfield as we are scheduled to be away to Cliftonville on the weekend the Final is scheduled for.

If Cliftonville do win their Semi-Final, that match will need to be rescheduled for a later date.

Glenavon are scheduled to be away to Crusaders that weekend, but they will be inactive in League terms regardless of the Dungannon v Crusaders result as Crusaders are scheduled to be away to Inverness in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Yep, you read that right.

The NIFL Cup Final is scheduled on the same weekend as the Scottish Cup Challenge Semi-Finals. There were two clubs who could have been affected by this, and we’re 90 minutes away from a shitstorm.

Crusaders fans who have booked travel and accommodation will have every right to be fuming if their game against Inverness is postponed.

If it was postponed because of the weather, that would be unfortunate, it’s an occupational hazard of being a football fan. Matches being postponed due to scheduling incompetence is another matter.

I’ve been highlighting this a lot this season. There’s a potential shitstorm brewing. Watch this space.

The other Semi-Final between Ballymena and Cliftonville is scheduled for 6th February, meaning that Linfield’s trip to Solitude will only be confirmed ten days before the match. You’d like to think provisional plans are being put in place for ticketing for a 16th February game.

If it is Cliftonville who reach the Final, hopefully, we can make the most of a free weekend by bringing forward our rearranged home match against Glenavon.

Last week, Linfield should have been away to Warrenpoint, a match that was postponed at 1.30pm for a 3pm kick-off. I’ve no issue with the match being postponed, but it was the way it was postponed.

Nobody wants to see matches postponed, and you don’t want to postpone a match too early, but is clear from the tone of the Tweets on Warrenpoint’s Twitter page that the match was unlikely to go ahead.

Sitting in Applegreen refreshing Twitter in order to find out if a match is on isn’t acceptable, and I wasn’t the only one there doing that. On the plus side, my lunch was nice.

We all have our different matchday arrangements and I was lucky that I could turn around at Lisburn. Others would have been further ahead. Having a postponement so late simply isn’t good enough.

The away trip to Ballinamallard in March has been brought forward to the Friday night. Even though there is two and a half months notice, this isn’t good enough, and for different reasons.

The reason for this is because Northern Ireland have arranged a home friendly against South Korea on Saturday 24th March at 2pm. I’ve no issue with this friendly, i’m actually looking forward to it. My issue with, is that domestic football has been shunted to accommodate it.

It is shabby, rude and disrespectful to the clubs. The worst part was, the rearrangements weren’t part of the announcement of the game, but made a few hours later.

I get why this game is a 2pm kick-off, for South Korean TV, but were clubs given an option when to play their match.

Some clubs might have preferred to play a Saturday evening game to allow fans the opportunity to go to two matches in one day. Some clubs might have preferred to play on Sunday afternoon.

We’re always getting told about how clubs have to be innovative with matchday arrangements, but here we are going with the same old Friday night.

Or even better, could Northern Ireland not have played on the Sunday afternoon instead?

Talking of Northern Ireland, this Wednesday will see the draw for the UEFA Nations League, and Northern Ireland will play one of Austria, Wales, Russia or Slovakia and then one of Sweden, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland.

Anyone but Republic of Ireland please. Wales away on a Monday or Tuesday in October would be great.

Meanwhile, North Korea and South Korea are sending a joint team to the Winter Olympics. Just watch the “WE NEED ONE TEAM!!!” brigade suddenly becoming experts in Winter Sports. Keep dreaming, it ain’t happening.

On Monday night previously, Linfield had a behind closed door 6-3 friendly win over Sligo Rovers at The Dub. I wouldn’t have minded going as it is a ground i’ve never seen a match at. Even when we get a convincing win, we manage to concede 3 goals.

On Saturday morning, I did a tour of Windsor Park, which was nice, getting to see behind the scenes. It was announced this week that Windsor Park will bid to host the European Super Cup Final in 2020.

It would be amazing if this happened.

There is one slight problem. Part of the criteria is for stadiums to be smoke free. It will be a right laugh when Bid Inspectors visit Windsor Park and see a dedicated and signposted smoking area.

When the stadium was being designed, someone looked at the plans and thought “You know what, we’re not really catering for smokers here”. Seriously, fucking hell.

If we miss out again, we know who we can blame. If it doesn’t win, I hope Nice wins. Give me an excuse to go back. Loved the city when I visited for Euro 2016. Will be roasting in early August though.

The bad news for Kurtis Byrne is that I won’t be going to the Linfield match next weekend as i’m in London for a short break. I’ll be hoping to take in a game on the Saturday when i’m there. The choices are : Millwall v Rochdale, Brentford v Norwich City, Bormley v Halifax and Leyton Orient v Aldershot Town.

I’m leaning towards the Millwall match as it is only £15.

I’ll end with some good news. When I went to see United take on Bournemouth, my flight home was delayed by three hours. The compensation I got meant that the trip was essentially a freebie.

It would be nice if Linfield could stop giving out freebies.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 15.2.1986

The other way around from the movie series, it is Bond sending rather than receiving an SOS, as Birmingham City manager John Bond wants to bring cover star Trevor Francis beck to St Andrews from Sampdoria.

As you open the magazine, Mark Hughes tells Shoot that he doesn’t want to leave Manchester United, amidst rumours of a move to Barcelona.

In news, Terry Venables is linked with a move to Spurs at the end of the season, while leaving White Hart Lane could be Ally Dick, linked with a move to Hibs.

In World Cup news, Billy Bingham hits back at criticism of Northern Ireland’s preparation being against heavyweight sides such as Denmark and France, while Scotland manager Alex Ferguson has added Archie Knox and Craig Brown to his backroom staff for their campaign in Mexico.

Cover star Francis tells Shoot he is still available for England, having missed a recent friendly due to injury, and suggests he could create a place for himself in right midfield in Mexico.

Bryan Robson uses his column to state that the recent signing of Terry Gibson could be a boost for Manchester United in the title race.

In Scotland, Falkirk winger Jimmy Gilmour is playing so well, he is drawing comparisons to his uncle, former Celtic winger Jimmy Johnstone.

Crystal Palace manager Steve Coppell, only 30, tells Shoot that his side have had to change their style of play in order to get results, after previously missing out despite playing well.

Having saved Manchester City and Swansea City from relegation, John Bond is looking for a hat-trick by keeping Birmingham City up. In order to do this, he tells Shoot he wants to bring Trevor Francis back to the club, after Francis left to join Nottingham Forest in 1979 in England’s first £1m transfer.

Gary Mabbutt gets scouted by Shoot during Tottenham Hotspur’s match against Nottingham Forest, stating that he was exposed against a striker like Peter Davenport.

Back to Scotland, and Aberdeen’s John Hewitt tells Shoot that Dons manager Alex Ferguson is hard to please.

West Brom’s George Reilly tells Shoot he is happy at The Hawthorns after a short spell at Newcastle United.

Kenny Swain tells Shoot that he believes his experience of winning the title with Aston Villa in 1981 will help Portsmouth as they aim to get promoted to the top flight for the first time in 27 years.

West Ham goalkeeper Phil Parkes is having the best season of his career, and owes it to giving up booze after a drink driving ban in January 1985.

Ian Rush uses his column to praise his Liverpool team-mate Sammy Lee, who is celebrating his 27th birthday thsi week.

Meanwhile, Shoot does a double page spread on how Sunderland fans are losing patience with Lawrie McMenemy, after failing to launch a promotion bid.

The magazine ends with a “Focus On …..” Gordon Durie. His favourite bands are Depeche Mode and Simple Minds.