Another year of football watching is over and it’s time to look forward to the year ahead. I’m jumping straight in, going to my first match just fifteen hours into the year.
In truth, I don’t really know how the year will pan out. This time last year, I didn’t imagine I would end up watching Dunfermline Athletic at East End Park, but I did.
So, here are my plans and hopes for football watching in 2016, even though they might fall apart.
First thing up, i’m definitely going to a match in Euro 2016 in France in the summer. The thing is, I don’t know which one. I applied for tickets for group matches last summer, and was successful. The match I was successful for, turned out to be Republic of Ireland v Sweden.
I’m planning on going to Northern Ireland v Poland in Nice and have applied for a ticket. I’m hoping to be successful despite the small allocation for Northern Ireland fans. If i’m not successful, i’ll apply to swap my Republic of Ireland ticket in the Official UEFA Swap Portal when it opens in March.
The ideal scenario is that i’m successful for Northern Ireland v Poland, and then can swap my Republic of Ireland v Sweden ticket for Albania v Switzerland in Lens.
Well, not losing a manager and/or a stand would be a good start. The title might be beyond us, but, you never know if we get a winning run behind us.
As the song goes, if we don’t win the league, the Irish Cup will do.
Also, the County Antrim Shield would be nice. It’s a pointless competition, but we’re in the final so we might as well win it.
So, I want European football, the Irish Cup and a strong start to 2016-2017. Not much.
Pre-season, i’d love some away friendlies at grounds i’ve never been to or haven’t been to for a while such as : Larne, Ards/Bangor, Knockbreda, Moyola Park, Dundela, PSNI.
Seeing as Ayr United appear to having one home pre-season friendly against an Irish League team, would it be too much to ask?
In October this year, the redevelopment of Windsor Park will hopefully be completed and i’m looking forward to watching football in the completed stadium.
I’ll be launching a photo blog from late September to commemorate this to coincide with the opening of The Kop.
OTHER IRISH LEAGUE
In terms of other Irish League, whisper it, but i’ll be keeping an eye out for redevelopment work at Solitude, The Oval and Seaview to do a similar photo blog to my Windsor Park one.
Regarding promotion from The Championship, it looks like being one of Ards, Larne or HW Welders for the automatic spot. I’ve no particular favourite as i’d look forward to travelling to any of those grounds for a league game.
Hopefully, other Irish League clubs in Europe during the summer will be drawn against clubs that are members of the UEFA 102 Club, so I can tick them off my list.
I’m going to Old Trafford in late January for the Southampton game and for the Bournemouth game in May. I’ll keep an eye out for flight prices to possibly go to a game if they reach the later stages of the UEFA Cup.
I’ll have to wait for the fixture list to come out for trips to Old Trafford in the first half of 2016-2017.
With rooms available at £27 per night, I might do more midweek matches. If they get into the European Cup group stages and have a Wednesday home game, I might fly out on Tuesday and take in a game in the Greater Manchester that night.
If there is a home game on the weekend of the FA Cup 1st or 2nd Round, I might go over for a weekend and try to take in an FA Cup tie in the Greater Manchester area as well as the Untied game
I’m hoping to get a ticket for the game against Poland, as already mentioned.
Apart from that, i’m excited about the San Marino game in October as The Kop will be opened. All I need to do now is get my Block Booking changed from the seats I have.
LEAGUE OF IRELAND
I’m planning to go to at least one League Of Ireland game during 2016. Which one, I don’t know.
There has been an influx of TV programmes focusing on the Wild Atlantic Way, and it’s really tempting me to do a cycling holiday in Donegal, and going on a week when Finn Harps (Friday) and Sligo Rovers (Saturday) are at home to do a double header.
I always keep an eye out for the line-up for Live at the Marquee in Cork to head down, but there’s nothing in this year’s line-up which is making me want to travel down.
More likely, i’ll go for the Dublin option. There’s a full fixture list with two Dublin games on Sunday 29th May (there’s an international on the Friday, hence games being on a Sunday) which is a Bank Holiday weekend which is tempting.
If not that, i’ll do a day trip to Dublin on a Saturday during Irish League pre-season and take in a Bray Wanderers home match that evening.
In August, i’m hoping to go on my annual trip to Edinburgh for the Comedy Festival. While there, I try to take in at least one game.
Having taken advantage of Edinburgh’s location in the Central Belt to visit Dunfermline, i’m hoping whichever of Hearts or Hibs are at home that weekend have their match moved to the Sunday so I can go to a nearby town on the Saturday to visit a new (to me) ground.