2016 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March began for me at Solitude, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville in the Irish Cup, and get their first win there for four years.

The following week, Glentoran were the opponents, but the result was the same, a 3-0 win for Linfield.

After that, it was Solitude again, with Linfield only managing a 2-0 win this time.

Over the Easter Weekend, I went to see Northern Ireland take on Wales in Cardiff, and decided to make a trip of it between Bristol and Cardiff, getting some Street Art photos, and see Bristol Rovers take on Cambridge United.

Upon my return, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Slovenia.

The next day, I headed to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint, ending a busy Easter period of football watching.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art Photo Album 1

Bristol Street Art Photo Album 2

Cardiff Street Art

Cardiff Street Art Photo Album

Wales v Northern Ireland

Wales v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Slovenia

Northern Ireland v Slovenia Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Advertisements

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – MARCH

March began for me at Solitude, seeing Linfield beat Cliftonville 3-0 in the Irish Cup.

The following saw another 3-0 win for Linfield, this time at home to Glentoran.

It was back to Solitude the following week, this time for a league match, Linfield only managing a 2-0 win.

Over the Easter Weekend, I went to see Northern Ireland take on Wales in Cardiff, before heading to see Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United the following day.

Upon my return, it was matches on successive days on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday – Northern Ireland’s home match against Slovenia, and Linfield’s trip to Warrenpoint.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

Wales v Northern Ireland

Wales v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Slovenia

Northern Ireland v Slovenia Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

That match against Slovenia saw a pop-up shop appear in the Railway Stand for fans to be sold Northern Ireland merchandise.

WALES 1-1 NORTHERN IRELAND 24.3.2016

Wales and Northern Ireland faced each other in their opening match of 2016, as both countries begin their preparation for this summer’s European Championship – a sentence that both sets of supporters are pinching themselves to believe.

It’s the little milestones that make it so real. In the build-up to this game, it was announced that Manic Street Preachers would be doing Wales official song. Obviously, Bonnie Tyler and Shakin Stevens were unavailable. Sadly, we didn’t get a pre-match concert from the Manics.

Supporters buying a programme got a free Panini Euro 2016 sticker book. If ever there was a sign that a major international tournament is getting close, it’s seeing the Panini sticker book be released.

If you’re interested, there are 680 stickers. Yes, 680 stickers. If your kids suddenly ask you for an increase in their pocket money, that will probably explain why.

Panini have even embraced modern technology to create an app top check which stickers you have and don’t have. That takes away most of the fun, threatening to consign the phrase “Got got need” to history.

I’d previously been to Cardiff twice, in 2014 for a World Cup Qualifier between Wales and Northern Ireland, and in 2014 for the European Super Cup Final between Real Madrid and Sevilla.

That game in 2004 was in early September, a lovely sunny day and a totally memorable trip, my first Northern Ireland away game.

It was the second game in the 2006 World Cup Qualifying group, both sides went into it in optimistic mood, after having recent success.

Wales had just lost in the Play-Off for Euro 2004, while Northern Ireland had scored a goal. Success is all relative.

Both countries have a lot in common since then, following up agonisingly failed European campaigns (in Northern Ireland’s case, Euro 2008) by years in the wilderness, before appointing managers in early 2012 (albeit, in totally different circumstances) and reaping the rewards for standing by them after disappointing campaigns in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.

The attendance wasn’t as many as the 63,500 that saw Northern Ireland’s last visit to Wales in 2004, but it was higher than the 529 who saw the last meeting between the sides in Dublin in 2011.

It was a, in my opinion, disappointing, 21,855. Disappointing, in that it was Wales last home game before they head to France. I thought it would have been a full house for Wales fans to see them off.

There was some early pressure for Northern Ireland to defend, George Williams whipping in a dangerous cross that had nobody running in on it inside the first minute, and Paddy McNair having to head another dangerous cross away a minute later.

Wales went into this game without the rested Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, Northern Ireland fans taunted their Welsh counterparts throughout the game, singing “Where’s your famous Gareth Bale?”

Northern Ireland’s line-up wasn’t too dissimilar to that which finished the qualifying campaign, a very full strength team. The most notable name on the teamsheet was Conor Washington of QPR being given an international debut.

After surviving the early pressure, Northern Ireland came into the game more. In truth, it wasn’t a good first-half, as both sides returned to their dressing rooms drawing 0-0.

The second-half was a lot better, with Northern Ireland showing more of an attacking threat.

On 59 minutes, Northern Ireland took the lead when Wales couldn’t clear a dangerous cross from Paddy McNair, falling for Craig Cathcart who fired home. That’s two goals in three games for him. Prolific.

Northern Ireland then went for a second, but couldn’t get it, Billy McKay being the man frustrated by last ditch Wales defending.

As the clock ran down, it looked like Northern Ireland would be getting their first win in Cardiff since 1980, until Wales got a late penalty for a foul by Gareth McAuley. Simon Church fired home the resulting spot kick to make it 1-1.

The goal gave Wales a bit of momentum as they looked for a winner, but both countries had to settle for a draw in their first match of what they hope will be a memorable year.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

The 2014-2015 football season began domestically in August, with a trip to Portadown, for Linfield’s first domestic game under Warren Feeney.

The optimism was soon gone within 90 minutes as Portadown ran out 3-0 winners.

A few days later, I was in Cardiff for the European Super Cup Final between Real Madrid and Sevilla. It was a fantastic trip and great to visit another stadium for the first time. Was very impressed with the facilities there.

24 hours later, I was headed to The Oval to see Linfield get their first domestic win under Warren Feeney, a comeback win from 2-0 down.

That weekend, I was in Edinburgh, and took in a game, Hearts v Hibs at Tynecastle.

With Windsor Park being redeveloped, Linfield had a run of seven successive away games, so road trips became a regular feature of the opening weeks of the season, with trips to Institute (first time there), Ballyclare Comrades and Dungannon Swifts finishing off August.

Portadown v Linfield

Real Madrid v Sevilla

Real Madrid v Sevilla Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

Hearts v Hibs

Hearts v Hibs Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Ballyclare Comrades v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2014

So, my football watching is over for 2014. Time to look back at the year just gone. And what better way to do it than with a load of stats.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 164

Red Cards : 17 (includes Rhys Marshall getting sent-off after the final whistle, but not Gary Hamilton being sent-off as a substitute before he entered the field)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 4

Hat-Tricks : 1 (Robin Van Persie, Manchester United v Olympiacos)

Teams Seen : 37

Accrington Stanley (1st time), AIK Solna (1st time), Ards, B36 Torshavn, Ballinamallard United, Ballyclare Comrades (1st time), Ballymena United, Bangor, Bray Wanderers (1st time), Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Cowdenbeath (1st time), Crusaders, Drogheda United, Dungannon Swifts, Everton (1st time), Exeter City (1st time), Faroe Islands, Glenavon, Glentoran, Harland and Wolff Welders, Heart Of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hull City (1st time), Institute, Leyton Orient (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Northern Ireland, Olympiacos (1st time), Peterborough United (1st time), Portadown, Real Madrid, Sevilla (1st time), Tottenham Hotspur, Warrenpoint Town,

Stadiums Visited : 19

Ballymena Showgrounds, Brisbane Road (1st time), Cardiff City Stadium (1st time), Carlisle Grounds (1st time), Coleraine Showgrounds, Crown Ground (1st time), Drumahoe (1st time), Ferney Park, Milltown (1st time), Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, The Oval, Tynecastle, White Hart Lane (1st time), Windsor Park

Competitions : 15

County Antrim Shield, European Championship, European Cup, European Super Cup (1st time), FA Premier League, Football League One (1st time), Football League Two (1st time), Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, League Of Ireland, Northern Ireland League Cup, Scottish Championship (1st time), Steel and Sons Cup, UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiosities this year. There were two twins on opposing sides, but i’d already seen it. Other than that, a player setting up a goal with no boots. It was a poor year for curiousities.

UEFA 100 Club : Everton, Sevilla (now at 32 clubs)

2014 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

It took a while for August to get going, but when it did, it was rather good.

My first photo adventure came on the second weekend, when I headed to Portadown to see a new era begin, Linfield’s first domestic game with Warren Feeney as manager. The less said of the result, the better.

Late that night, I headed to Falls Park to see Kaiser Chiefs in concert.

The following day, I was off to Wales for a few days, specifically to see the European Super Cup Final between Real Madrid and Sevilla.

I took the opportunity to explore Cardiff, go to Bristol for a day, and spend some time in Bath. Loved the Street Art in Bristol. Would have loved to have gone on the official tour, but it wasn’t on the day I was there.

Back in Belfast, it was off to The Oval to see Linfield come from 2-0 down to beat Glentoran.

I wasn’t back in Belfast long, as it was time to head to Edinburgh, mostly for the Festival, but I did take in some football, Hearts v Hibs. I also managed to get some Street Art photos when in Edinbugh.

Not long back in Belfast, it was time for Tennent’s Vital to see Bastille and The Killers on the same bill.

Two days later, it was on the road to see Linfield, a theme through the opening weeks of the season. This time, it was to Institute, my first time there.

Two days after that, was a trip to see Linfield go out of the League Cup to Ballyclare. The less said of that, the better.

One more road trip, to Dungannon, to see Linfield get a 1-0 win. At least the month ended on a winning note.

Portadown v Linfield

Kaiser Chiefs Live At Falls Park

Kaiser Chiefs Live At Falls Park Photo Album

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art Photo Album

Cardiff/Bristol/Bath

Cardiff

Cardiff Street Art

Cardiff Street Art Photo Album

Real Madrid v Sevilla

Real Madrid v Sevilla Photo album

Glentoran v Linfield

Hearts v Hibs

Hearts v Hibs Photo Album

Edinburgh Street Art

Edinburgh Street Art Photo Album

Bastille Live At Tennent’s Vital

Bastille Live At Tennent’s Vital Photo Album

The Killers Live At Tennent’s Vital

The Killers Live At Tennent’s Vital Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Ballyclare Comrades v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

REAL MADRID 2-0 SEVILLA 12.8.2014

I was in Cardiff recently for the European Super Cup Final, an all Spanish affair between Real Madrid and Sevilla.

The competition, is European football’s version of the Charity Shield, as the European Cup winners and UEFA Cup winners went head to head.

Originally a two legged affair, it became a one-off game at Monaco in 1998, before moving around Europe from last year onwards, in Prague, with next year’s game being in Tblisi.

There was even newspaper talk, of it being played at a redeveloped Windsor Park in the future.

Realistically, that won’t happen. The three stadiums hosting 2013-2015 have a capacity range from 20-33,000, which will be just beyond the redeveloped stadium.

When it was announced that Cardiff would host this game in 2014, i’d always intended to go to this. I’d loved going to the 2011 UEFA Cup Final in Dublin, and really regret not going to the cluster of European finals in Manchester and Glasgow between 2002 and 2008.

I’d managed to get a ticket for the game relatively easy, having missed out on the original application, extra tickets became available two weeks before the game through Cardiff City’s website. I was pleasantly surprised, considering it was a game involving Gareth Bale playing in his home city.

I’d hoped it would be Manchester United v Juventus, but Real Madrid v Sevilla was not a bad alternative.

I got to the ground at teatime, with UEFA putting on free shuttle buses to the ground from the City Centre from 5pm onwards.

Cardiff City Stadium was opening a new section of the ground that night, increasing the capacity to 33,000. It was not without controversy, as these new seats would be red. Incidentally, it was the section of the ground I was in, right on the halfway line.

Located close to Ninian Park, so close in fact, that signposts directing people to Ninian Park still remain, Cardiff City Stadium has a nod to the past with the Ninian Park gates being used for this ground. There is also a plaque as you enter the grounds in memory of Jock Stein, who died at Ninian Park in 1985, as well as recent additions for Simon Insole, who directed policing at the stadium, and former Cardiff City manager Eddie May.

Before the match, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer walked past me as he headed into the stadium.

I entered the stadium and went to my seat, in the second tier, in the new seats, right on the halfway line. Most of the crowd were supporting Real Madrid. I’m guessing The Bale Factor might have had something to do with it.

Wearing red shirts and being sponsored by Visit Malaysia will have guaranteed Sevilla at least one neutral in Cardiff cheering them on.

Sevilla started the game brightly and caused Real Madrid problems before Real took the lead with a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite that, Sevilla were still in the game for the rest of the first-half, almost equalising straight away from a defensive mistake.

Early in the second-half, Cristiano Ronaldo got his second, which killed the game as Sevilla’s attacks were nullified, barring a late rally.

Gareth Bale had a late shot on goal saved, denying him the goal he wanted the most.

An enjoyable trip, and always great to visit a new stadium, Real were deserved winners.

Hopefully, the next time it is in the UK, Brighton’s Amex Stadium would be an excellent venue, and a fantastic city to visit.

Photo Album

CARDIFF/BRISTOL/BATH

Recently, I travelled to South Wales and South-West England. I’d never been to South-West England before, but I had been to South Wales, in 2004.

That trip, in 2004, was to Cardiff for the World Cup Qualifier between Wales and Northern Ireland. I had such a fantastic time, and the match itself wasn’t bad.

Over the following ten years, i’d always wanted to visit Cardiff again. For various reasons, I just never got around to it.

Ten years on, it was another football match that would make me want to visit Cardiff again. Cardiff was chosen as the host venue for the 2014 European Super Cup Final, and i’d long earmarked this as an event to go to.

The game was on the Tuesday, but I flew out on the Sunday afternoon, to give me some time to travel around, instead of heading over on the day and only seeing the game.

Due to the difficulty of getting a hotel, I got one at Cardiff Airport, or so I thought. It had “Cardiff Airport” in the title, but it wasn’t actually at the airport. Not off to the best start.

Thankfully, there was a bus route to Cardiff City Centre outside the hotel, which was convenient. I was steps away from the boundaries of Barry, so I had the option of going there if I wanted.

I decided to spend Sunday night in Cardiff City Centre. Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a lot happening, but it was good to get a bearing of the city and where to go.

Monday morning saw me have a lie-in, mainly due to the stormy weather outside. Eventually, I got up, and went into the City Centre, before getting the train to Bristol.

I’d always decided that if I was to go to Cardiff again, i’d fit in a trip to Bristol as well.

I got off at Temple Meads Station and just wandered about, exploring the city and getting lost in it.

Bristol is famous for it’s Street Art. I’d wanted to do the Street Art Tour, but unfortunately, it only runs on Thursdays and Saturdays.

That didn’t stop me though, and I stumbled upon some pieces. Of course, that will have it’s own blog.

Bristol is a nice city, and had some excellent canal walks on offer.

With a bit of time to spare, I headed to Bath, to see what it was like.

There is plenty to do in Bath, and plenty of Street Entertainment on offer. I had a visit to the Roman Baths, naturally.

From there, I headed back to Cardiff, having a look around the city centre, including the Millennium Stadium.

Tuesday, was always going to be my big Cardiff day, I headed to the City Centre. Unsurprisingly, the city had a Spanish invasion, it looked as though there was more Sevilla fans than Real Madrid fans.

There was no official Fan Park for the game, but both sets of fans were encouraged to congregate in specific areas of the city. Nobody really paid any attention to it.

I headed to Cardiff Fashion Quarter (I’d stumbled upon it on the Monday night and made a note to visit), a series of independent stores, as well as the various indoor markets in Cardiff. If you love music, you’ll love Kelly’s Records, whose stock takes up a lot of space.

I’d planned to visit Cardiff Bay, but I didn’t have the time unfortunately. It was a real pity too as I would have like to have seen it.

I headed back to the hotel to drop off my stuff and get ready to head to the match. Conveniently, there were shuttle buses arranged to take supporters from outside the Millennium Stadium to Cardiff City Stadium.

Cardiff City Stadium is a fantastic stadium, and I had a brilliant view, the only downside was that my seat was red (you know, Tan Out!!)

Like in 2004, football brought me to Cardiff. There’s good enough reasons to visit Cardiff if there isn’t a football match on. I would have like more time to explore South Wales even more.

Was great to visit Cardiff again. Hopefully, i’ll be back before 2024.

Street Entertainer in Bath

Millennium Stadium, Cardiff