PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park, a place where I would spend four of the five Saturdays during the month, to see Linfield scrape a 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.

Postponements would then frustrate my football watching, as Linfield’s trip to Carrick was postponed, as was the FA Cup Replay between Crewe Alexandra and Blackburn Rovers, which I had planned on attending.

The reason for this was that I was in North-West England to see Manchester United take on AFC Bournemouth, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

I then headed to Windsor Park on successive Saturdays to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville.

That was then followed by a Boxing Day trip to The Oval, the less said about that, the better.

After that, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Crusaders. The less said about that, the better.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Manchester Untied v AFC Bournemouth

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth Photo Album

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

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MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 AFC BOURNEMOUTH 13.12.2017

On Wednesday night, I made my first visit of the season to Old Trafford, as Manchester United took on AFC Bournemouth.

Win, lose or draw, I was hoping to have a better time than when I previously went to see United take on Bournemouth, having been evacuated from the ground prior to a match in May 2016, which was ultimately postponed.

United have made progress this season, but not as much as hoped. They’ve advanced in two cup competitions and are still to join in the FA Cup. It’s the League that matters, and United are chasing Manchester City and a gap of eleven points following defeat to them on the Sunday before this.

United sit 2nd in the table, but they’re not in a title challenge at the moment. A win on Sunday would have put them in one. Defeat means they’re the best of the rest, trying to swat off the teams below them instead of trying to overtake the team above them.

In short, this was a must-win game for United. Especially after Chelsea won the night before, and that Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool would be facing clubs in the bottom three and all looking likely to pick up victories.

Jesse Lingard had a spectacular attempt on goal that went wide in the first minute as United went straight on the attack. It was not to be the start of an onslaught.

In fact, it was Bournemouth who had the better of things in the early stages. Charlie Daniels being able to run at United’s defence to have a shot which was saved by De Gea, while Dan Gosling had a shot saved by De Gea after the original cross evaded him.

The best that United could offer was an Anthony Martial cross which narrowly evaded Juan Mata.

On 25 minutes, United took the lead when a header from Romelu Lukaku hit the back of the net. It was against the run of play, but United had the lead.

Lukaku’s only previous involvement prior to that was heading clear in his own box, to sarcastic cheers from a small section of the crowd, which United couldn’t totally get rid of, Phil Jones having to spectacularly head voer in his own six yard box.

The goal didn’t deflate Bournemouth, with David De Gea having to save from Ryan Fraser, who cheekily tried to exploit a gap he left when anticipating a cross.

United began the second-half looking for the second goal they needed to secure the points. Juan Mata had a shot blocked on the edge of the box while Anthony Martial fired over from a few yards out, after Lukaku’s shot was blocked, when he really should have scored.

I was sat in the back row, and one advantage of this was that the Corporate Boxes were right behind me, so I could have a sneaky look at the TVs behind me if I needed to see a replay.

It was Martial’s last involvement in the game as he was subbed for Marcus Rashford.

Rashford’s first involvement was to keep alive a Scott McTominay cross which evaded everyone to set up Jesse Lingard, who slipped. Rashford then hit the bar from the edge of the box, as his introduction gave United’s attack in injection of life that had been missing so far.

Borunemouth responded with a substitution of their own, bringing on Jermaine Defoe. Despite struggling at Bournemouth so far, he’s still a player with an eye for goal. He scored in his first couple of games against United for West Ham, so I have it in my head that he always scores against United.

He gave United fans a worry when his shot from a tight angle was saved by David De Gea’s legs.

The mood wasn’t helped by United’s inability to keep possession. This was summed up by Marcus Rashford trying to win a corner from a corner by hitting it off a Bournemouth player, the ball going straight to Bournemouth’s goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

As the full-time whistle approached, Bournemouth won a free-kick outside the box, which was teed up to Ryan Fraser, but shot straight at De Gea.

3 minutes and 50 seconds into 4 minutes of injury time, that was Bournemouth’s last chance, as United took the points.

David De Gea being the matchwinner against Arsenal shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but he shouldn’t be the matchwinner at home to Bournemouth.

It was a win, but not quite the response United needed. They won’t get away with it if they play like it in upcoming games against on form Bristol City, Burnley and Everton.

I would have included Leicester on the list, but they’ve since lost 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace, equally on form.

When I booked the trip, it was unknown if this game would be Tuesday or Wednesday, so I booked Tuesday to Thursday. It meant that I was free on Tuesday evening.

Crewe were scheduled to play Blackburn in an FA Cup 2nd Round Replay. It wasn’t far from Manchester and the ground is easy to get to.

Unfortunately, the match was postponed, but rescheduled for the following day.

I could have went to Burnley or Wigan, but in truth, I couldn’t be bothered.

This was Jose Mourinho’s first home League win against Bournemouth and the first time i’ve been to a United League win of note with him as manager.

My next scheduled trip to Old Trafford is in May for the last game of the season against Watford.

Unfortunately, it’s not looking like a title party.

Photo Album

Manchester United v Bournemouth May 2016

MANCHESTER UNITED P-P AFC BOURNEMOUTH 15.5.2016

I Headed to Old Trafford today to see Manchester United take on AFC Bournemouth as they tried to win the 4th Place Trophy. As you now know, there was not a competitive ball kicked in anger.

I travelled over with my dad and we were due to be sat together but we made our separate ways to the stadium. I preferred to go into the City Centre on Sunday morning and make my own way to the ground, and we would meet in the ground.

I did my usual Old Trafford pre-match ritual, waking around the stalls, having a look at the stuff in Red Star Sports, before heading into Old Trafford just before 2pm for a 3pm kick-off.

I was sat in my seat, reading my programme as the teams warmed up when there was a PA announcement looking for the Head Of Safety (or some job title like that) to report to somebody. I found it a bit odd but carried on, admittedly having a look at he people around me.

It would have been around 2.40pm when stewards were evacuating people. There was no panic amongst fans were I was, all very calm and orderly. I overheard one supporter saying to their child that it was probably an alarm accidentally set off.

I was in the Family Stand, just above the players tunnel, and was evacuated to the Car Park where the Ticket Office is based, being evacuated further back to the point that I was at the bridge as you walk towards the stand.

When the stadium was evacuated, my dad wasn’t with me, so I made a quick phone call to tell him I was ok. He was trying to get into the stadium when the evacuation happened.

After that, I phoned family back home to let them know I was ok.

Thankfully, we live in a digital age, so I began checking Twitter to see what was happening. It was clear as mud.

The early indication was that kick-off would be delayed by 45 minutes.

At about 3pm, the scheduled kick-off time, stewards around me began shouting that the game was off. I headed to leave the general Old Trafford area, while checking Twitter, which had still not confirmed anything relating to the status of the game.

When I travel to Old Trafford independently, I usually stay at Salford Quays, so I know the area relatively well. It was near to where I was, so I naturally headed there.

By the time I was facing the Premier Inn, there was confirmation the game was off.

The bus I would be taking back to my hotel was parked at Trafford Hall Hotel. To get there, I would have to walk along Sir Matt Busby Way.

Unsurprisingly, that street was all one way traffic, and I was heading in the wrong direction.

I phoned my dad to tell him of this, and now my plan was to get a tram from Salford Quays to Trafford Bar.

I got the tram, albeit having to stop off at Cornbrook as it wasn’t direct, before heading to the bus back to the hotel.

There was plenty of time left in the day to go to the City Centre, it was more of a hassle given the circumstances. If I was travelling on my own, I probably would have went to the City Centre for the afternoon.

Naturally, it was disappointing for the match to be postponed. I’m not a security expert, so I have to respect the opinions of those that are.

Whenever people go to a football match, there is always a possibility that it could be postponed. I managed to spend some time in the City Centre on Saturday and Sunday, got some Street Art photos, so it wasn’t a wasted trip.

I even walked past the Bournemouth team in the City Centre this morning.

Onto the football, Manchester City got the draw they needed to secure the 4th Place Trophy. The damage was done for United over the past 37 games, and most fatally on Tuesday night at West Ham.

We didn’t deserve to win at Upton Park, but being 2-1 up with so little time left, we should have had enough smartness to see the game out, especially having won there 2-1 in the FA Cup last month. That result gets even worse when you see that West Ham lost their games either side of that.

In terms of the rearranged game, all it will decide is if United finish 5th or 6th. Still, got to go out and try to win it to avoid ending the league season on a low note.

European football is confirmed, the next two games in the season will decide if United qualify for the group stages of the UEFA Cup automatically or not.

If United do reach the group stages, I would be tempted to head over on Matchday 5 or 6, especially if I can do a double header with a home Sunday match.

It’s been nearly 23 years since my first trip to Old Trafford. Today won’t put me off.

Whatever you’re opinion of Louis Van Gaal’s employment prospects (personally, I think there should be a parting of the ways as soon as the season ends), he deserves better than for his Old Trafford finale to be in a behind closed doors match.

Hopefully, he gets a nice send off at Wembley next weekend.

I haven’t had much luck with my trips to Old Trafford this season. I’ve been three times, only seen two games, and haven’t seen a United goal.

I chose this game over the Leicester game because I don’t like going away in March/April when the Irish League season reaches it’s finale at the same time. It’s easy to say I made the wrong decision in retrospect.

The postponement might be inconvenient, but as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

In 30 days time, the 2016-2017 fixture list will be published and I’ll be plotting my next trip to Old Trafford. Hopefully, I’ll be writing about the football.

FOOTBALL IN 2016

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.

EURO 2016

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.

LINFIELD

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.

MANCHESTER UNITED

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

NORTHERN IRELAND

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.

SCOTLAND

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.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 6th MAY 1995

This edition sees us visit the end of the 94/95 season with Matt Le Tissier the cover star, as a campaign for him to be included in the England team gets into full swing.

The headline “TAKE MATT” is a pun on the popular mid 90s beat combo, Take That, who were riding high in the hit parade.

Meanwhile, Southampton defender Jason Dodd is featured in a player profile, where he declares that his dream babe is Teri Hatcher, and that he tapes The New Adventures Of Superman just to see her in it.

In competitions, you could win a pair of Mitre boots endorsed by John ‘The Hart’ Hartson. No, that nickname never really caught on.

In rumours that look silly now : Sheffield Wednesday want Bryan Robson to be their manager, Bournemouth will appoint Harry Redknapp if he gets sacked by West Ham, Celtic want to sign Marc Degryse and Gary McAllister is set to join Rangers.

The results section includes reports on Euro 96 Qualifiers where Northern Ireland beat Latvia, Wales drew with Germany and Scotland beat San Marino.

Matt Le Tissier gets a double page spread where stars such as Gary Flitcroft, David Linighan, Ian Bishop and David Howells plead his case. For some reason, Terry Venables ignored their calls.

Greavsies letters page is it’s usual brilliance.

Imagine if Twitter existed back then and Jimmy Greaves had an account?

Nathan Amery of Colchester suggests QPR would struggle if they sold Les Ferdinand. He joined Newcasle United that summer, and QPR were relegated in 1996.

Jeremy Dwyer of Birmingham, possibly an Aston Villa supporter says that Birmingham City would never get back into the top flight. For seven years, he looked right.

James Franey of Worcester says that if Blackburn Rovers get into the Champions League, they would struggle. He was right.

David Spencer of High Wycombe suggests that Tim Flowers should be England’s first choice keeper ahead of David Seaman. Hmmm.

Rangers seventh successive league title gets a full page, with captain Richard gough putting it down to regular boozing sessions. Innocent times.