PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL/MAY

April 2019 meant the run-in was approaching, and my first football match of the month saw Linfield get a crucial 1-0 win against Ballymena United to virtually secure the Irish League title.

The following week, Linfield got the job done with a 0-0 draw at home to Crusaders.

A week later, Linfield lifted the title, on a day they lost 4-0 at home to Glenavon.

My last Linfield match of the season was a lot better, a 5-1 win over Cliftonville on Easter Tuesday.

That wouldn’t be my last match of the season, as I headed to Old Trafford in mid May to see Manchester United lose at home to Cardiff City. Not the way I wanted the season to end.

Tomorrow, you’ll get your chance to vote for your favourite.

So, that’s 2018-2019 over. Here’s to more football photos in 2019-2020.

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield Title Win Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield Title Celebrations Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Cardiff City

Manchester United v Cardiff City Photo Album

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MANCHESTER UNITED 0-2 CARDIFF CITY 12.5.2019

Ole’s at the wheel, but I think the brakes have been tampered with, or maybe the oil has been tampered with.

That’s the end of the mechanical analogies, that’s all I know about cars.

Both teams had their fate decided going into this match, and it wasn’t what either side wanted, with United missing out on a place in next season’s European Cup, and Cardiff being relegated.

Curiously, I’d been to Cardiff City’s ground twice, in 2014 and 2016, but i’d never seen Cardiff City play in the flesh.

The previous meeting between the sides was a rare highlight in United’s season, a 5-1 win in the Welsh capital in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge, a Christmas miracle.

In the dark of winter, that win gave United hope of better days. Now the weather was better, the mood was now darker, with a run of two wins in twelve games resulting in two cup exits and the end of Top Four hopes.

At least a home match against a relegated side would give United the opportunity to end the season with a win.

Having made a handful of substitute appearances, Mason Greenwood got a first start. A misplaced touch in the first minute of the game was the only foot wrong he put in the game, usually being involved in any decent attacking play by United, having another headed chance after one again sneaking in behind Cardiff’s defence.

In the opening minutes, he made a run in behind Cardiff’s defence and was found by Andreas Pereira’s pass, but his instinctive header was turned behind for a corner by Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

United made a decent-ish start to the game without it looking a matter of time before they scored, the only moments of worry for Etheridge was a couple of long range shots that he easily saved.

David De Gea was forced into more work after a shot from Kenneth Zohore.

Soon after, Cardiff got a chance to take the lead when they were given a penalty when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was fouled by Diogo Dalot.

I was at that end and though it was a penalty, though United’s players protested. TV footage showed it to be soft, though there was no need for Dalot to make a challenge on a player who was going nowhere, it only invited the referee to award a penalty.

Seeing how United’s final weeks of the season had gone, you didn’t expect Medez-Laing to miss, and he didn’t firing home to put Cardiff 1-0 up.

For once, United actually had a decent response to a setback, with Neil Etheridge being forced to turn around a goalbound Mason Greenwood shot around for a corner, while a counter-attack saw Greenwood hit the side netting with his left foot though he should have scored, a shot with his right foot would surely have done that.

What United needed was an early goal in the second-half. There was one, but it was for Cardiff.

A long throw in, it wasn’t even a good one, saw Josh Murphy get in behind United’s defence to cross it to Mendez-Laing to put Cardiff 2-0 up.

I was at the other end and was closer to them than United’s defence. It was once again another poor goal.

Has anybody scored a good goal against United this season? The vast majority of goals conceded by United this season would embarrass a pub team.

All it took for Cardiff to score was a long throw-in, and it wasn’t even a good throw-in either.

Later in the game. a long punt upfield almost put Bobby Reid through on goal to make it 3-0.

All United could offer in response was a header from Marcus Rashford saved by Etheridge, who also saved a shot from Anthony Martial.

United never looked like scoring. To many times in recent years, a setback means game over, they don’t have the toughness to fight back from adversity.

In truth, United deserved to get something from the game, and didn’t play as bad as the scoreline suggests, it’s just that there was an inevitability where the three points were going once Cardiff went 1-0, and then 2-0 up.

It was a perfect summary of the season – All over the place in defence and no belief up front, as Neil Warnock celebrated his first ever win against United.

The result meant that United finished 6th, though a win wouldn’t have changed things in that regard.

That means if Watford win the FA Cup, the 2019-2020 season will begin in July in the 2nd Round of the UEFA Cup.

If that happens, they’d better draw Ballymena United, Cliftonville or Crusaders. Might as well have something good happen out of this.

It was a season wasted, written off in mid September. It shouldn’t have been that way, it should have been the next step back to the top.

The previous seasons saw two trophies (2016-2017) and the highest post Ferguson League position (2017-2018). 2018-2019 should have built on this and gone to the next stage.

2017-2018 was also the third successive season United reached a Cup Final. You could argue it all started to go wrong with that poor performance against Chelsea at Wembley, a Chelsea team who had just come off the back of a 3-0 defeat to Newcastle.

We could have went into the summer with a third successive season of silverware, looking forward to going for the big prizes.

United got a lot of criticism in 2017-2018, but were never in danger of finishing below 2nd. They beat every team in the League.

There’s something that has become apparent about United post Ferguson, that they don’t finish a season strongly.

The record in April and May between 2014 and 2019 is P 40 W 19 D 9 L 12

United’s record in the Premier League in 2018-2019 was P38 W 19 D 9 L 10

At least they’re consistent.

This run of results includes :

– Failing to beat or score at home to West Bromwich Albion. Three times.
– Failing to beat relegated Hull City, Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City
– Losing 3-0 and 4-0 at Goodison Park
– Losing 1-0 at home to relegation threatened Sunderland

Once, if United were nine points off the top in December or January, you wouldn’t be too concerned as you knew there would be a strong finish to the season.

2014 – Couldn’t get together any run of results to secure European football. We would have been celebrating 30 successive years of European football in 2019-2010, the only English team to do so post Heysel.

2015 – 2nd with six games to go. A run of one win in the last six saw them scrape 4th thanks to Liverpool spectacularly bottling it. 2nd would have sent out a message. The Moyes era was truly over and United were eyeing up the next step. Nope.

2016 – City seemed determined to give United 4th with one win in their last five games, but United weren’t up for taking advantage. They lost out by allowing themselves to be bullied and intimidated by West Ham, a West Ham team who had just lost 4-1 at home to Swansea.

2017 – The worst of the lot, gifting 4th place to Liverpool by concentrating on the UEFA Cup. Though United ended up in the European Cup the following season, they could have done so at the expense of a rival and stifled them.

2018 – Seeing the season out by failing to score against West Brom, Brighton and West Ham instead of building momentum for the FA Cup Final and the start of the following season.

2019 – Grim. Presented a Top Four place on a plate but couldn’t take it. Never looked like taking it. Threw it away.

There are people who say that United are no longer a big deal. That is bollocks. Just look at the media coverage United generate. Just look at the reaction of opposition fans when they beat United.

The only people, it seems, who don’t realise that United are still a big deal are United fans and players themselves.

It’s amazing what a bit of positivity can do. Liverpool almost grifted their way to the Premier League title by sticking a slogan on the side of a bus and made opposition teams believe they were scared of them.

Folks, do you not remember the Summer of 2016? You should know not to believe what you read on the side of a bus.

Liverpool have went from 5th to 8th to 4th (secured on last day) to 4th (secured on last day) to a title challenge.

United fans seem to specialise in worshipping opposition teams. “Let’s be like City” “Let’s be like Liverpool” “Let’s be like Tottenham”

No. Let’s be the best Man United we can be. That’s all we should be worrying about.

The only way United have emulated Charlton in recent years has been Athletic, not Bobby, with their end of season capitulations.

It stretches back to David Moyes complaining about a difficult run of opening games when he should have been saying to bring the big games on.

Positivity and negativity are contagious. Let’s have to good type of contagion.

It’ll take more than good vibes to help United, but Top Four isn’t a closed shop, teams have been interchangeable. Just because you’re out, doesn’t mean you can’t get back in.

Get the players in, get them in early. The Summer of 2018 cannot be repeated.

You could argue that Jose Mourinho took his eye off the ball by appearing on Russia Today during the World Cup, but it would be hypocritical to do so, as Sir Alex Ferguson did punditry for ITV at tournaments during the 1990s.

If the transfer work is delegated, there’s no issue. It clearly wasn’t. We waited for signings that were needed. This should have been the Summer that United kicked on, now they are back where they were in 2014.

As well as ins, there has to be outs. Not only are too many players there long after they should have been, not progressing to the level required, there are players there that are taking up space in the squad such as Matteo Darmain and Marcos Rojo. You probably forgot they were still at United.

When someone is missing, there’s not always options to bring someone in. Not someone who can be brought in that makes you think things will be ok.

It’s not all doom and gloom, away wins in cups against Juventus, Arsenal, Chelsea and Paris St Germain prove that. Sadly, they are the exception. The potential is there though.

This match ended 2018-2019 for me. I’m beginning to think that Linfield’s 5-1 win over Cliftonville would have been a better way to bow out in terms of football watching.

Now, it is all about 2019-2020 for me.

It’s looking like Kyle McClean won’t be part of Linfield’s plans after signing a one year deal with St Johnstone. There’s no definitive statement that he won’t be back on loan, but the wording of both club’s respective statements to the deal suggest he’ll be playing his football in Perth next season.

He will be back at Windsor Park this Summer though, with St Johnstone and Motherwell visiting for Pre-Season Friendlies. Good in terms of preparation for Europe, but a bit rubbish in terms of groundhopping and travelling.

Linfield’s European game(s) will be part of a busy July of football watching, hopefully. I’ll be heading to Dublin over the July Holidays, so i’ll be looking to catch a few games while there, as well as doing all the touristy stuff.

As part of that, i’ll be keeping an eye out for any English or Scottish teams playing games there on the Saturday that i’m there.

I’m already making plans for the July Holidays in 2020, as i’m hoping to be in London on the weekend of 11th/12th when the Final will be at Wembley.

I’m primarily over to do all the touristy stuff, but if there’s a friendly on the Saturday, I might pop along to that.

I’ve also got a random urge to head to Mainland Europe at some point in March, but it’s just an idea at the moment, nothing planned.

This week saw the launch of the Unite The Union Cup in November between Linfield (as Irish League Champions) and the 2019 League Of Ireland Champions.

I would have thought the end of our season would have been better to schedule it with the weather being better, but it would be up against Semi-Finals of UEFA Cup and European Cup, which might not be appealing to broadcasters, which is fair enough.

I’ll wait and see what the arrangements are, but I hope to go to this, though the matched will take about three weeks with every player getting booked or warned by the referee demanding that a Trade Union Representative be present when doing so.

Other potential Linfield trips in 2019-2020 will come in the Scottish Challenge Cup. Ayr and Stranraer away if we get a Scottish team.

If we progress and can draw non Scottish teams, I think Waterford will be one of the League Of Ireland representatives. A return visit having gone there last year is very appealing.

While I was in England, Cliftonville beat Glentoran to reach the UEFA Cup. I feel for Glenavon, being screwed out of a European place by a system which rewards mediocrity. No amount of high scoring games will change that.

For me, 2018-2019 is over. Scouseageddon didn’t happen but the alternative wasn’t much better.

Now we’re relying on Tottenham to make things bearable. Tottenham, I know.

If you believe in omens, i’ll be at a concert on the night of the European Cup Final, just as I was last year.

Randomly, I got a programme for a Documentary Festival taking place in Belfast in June (didn’t order it and don’t remember being on a mailing list)

I had a quick browse and there’s a film about Maradona, so I might go to that, as well as a short film about a match between Bohs and Shamrock Rovers.

United wise, i’ll be hoping to do a midweek match in November. The last time they were in the UEFA Cup, I did a Thursday-Monday double header which was great, but not something i’d want to do every year. We’ll wait and see.

I’m off to hope Spurs save us all (We know they’ll be unbearable if they win, but Piers Morgan and Scousers having a meltdown in one go is too much to turn down), dream and scheme a possible trip, and pretend that I care about the UEFA Nations League.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : WHEN SATURDAY COMES – JULY 2012

England are at the European Championship, with Ashley Young on the cover of When Saturday Comes confidently predicting that England will do better than they did at Euro 2008.

He has good reason for his optimism, as England failed to reach Euro 2008.

There is a review of the recent Scottish Cup Final, where Hearts beat Hibs 5-1, including a feature on 102 year old Hibs fan Sam Martinez, who says he hopes to see Hibs win the Scottish Cup before he dies, with their drought now at 111 years.

In Northern Ireland, Linfield won their sixth double in seven years, to some apathy from fans, with one fan arguing that history will be a lot kinder to David Jeffrey in the future than it is now.

To cover the full length of the UK, we then move to Wales, where Cardiff City fans are upset at an attempt to rebrand the club, including a change of colours by Vincent Tan.

At Aston Villa, there is an article on the future of manager Alex McLeish, whose time was believed to up when he celebrated a draw at home to Stoke.

Match Of The Month is the Championship Play-Off Final between Blackpool and West Ham, two clubs aiming to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

There is also review of the season in all three divisions of the Football League.

On the continent, Serbia’s Cup Final was held outside Belgrade and ended up in a riot, while Auxerre have been relegated from France’s top flight.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : WHEN SATURDAY COMES – DECEMBER 2002

Having just broken into the Everton team, teenage sensation Wayne Rooney give an interview to When Saturday Comes. Well, sort of.

A blank speech bubble represents the fact that Everton manager David Moyes has blocked media requests to interview his young player.

The editorial focuses on racism in football, most notably at the European Championship Qualifier between Slovakia and England, but warns that football authorities in England need to address concerns closer to home.

There is a profile of former Belgium goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff, now forging a new career as a Reality TV star in a Flemish version of The Osbournes.

There is a feature on four clubs at differing ends of the football pyramid who are looking to move out of their current ground to a new one – Wimbledon, Chelsea, York City and Brentford.

In Scotland, there is a feature on the race for one of the more invisible honours, 3rd place, aka The Best Of The Rest after Rangers and Celtic, looking at those clubs aiming for that spot.

A more curious phenomenon in recent years was Masters Football, which WSC likened to ageing rock stars only playing hits from 20 years previously.

There is a feature on “lost footballers”, big money signings on high wages. The poster boy of this feature is Mark Bosnich, earning ÂŁ40,000 in Chelsea’s reserves.

This edition focuses on young players, with a look at the number of French coaches at underage level in England.

Cover star Wayne Rooney is part of a feature looking at the history of hype of young players in English football.

There is also a feature on club football in Czech Republic, due to improved perfomances in Europe this season, with many teams boosted by Euro 96 stars coming home to play their club football.

Yeovil Town get a feature, so long a famous Non League giantkiller, and now on the verge of joining the giants they used to kill.

The rivalry between Cardiff City and Swansea City gets a feature, being described as becoming a poisonous affair in recent years.

The magazine ends with a brief look at the history of Cheltenham Town’s highlights and lowlights.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 22nd MAY 1993

This edition focuses on Shoot’s 1993 FA Cup Final review edition, which unfortunately for them, required a replay to be played on the date of publishing.

The cover stars are Paul Warhurst and Ian Wright battling for possession in the original game.

A report of the FA Cup Final gets a double page spread.

In rumours which look silly now : Barnsley want Gordon Strachan to be their manager, and Manchester United are going to sign David Platt, Stuart Pearce, David Hirst and Roy Keane.

Aston Villa apparantly want to sign Stan Collymore. They did, four years later, after he had spells at Nottingham Forest and Liverpool.

Brian Clough marks his retirement with an exclusive interview, which gets a page dedicated to it.

Aldershot Town get a page dedicated to them. Founded in 1992 from the ashes of Aldershot FC, they were started again in the bottom tier of English football.

Manager Steve Wignall said the club have a realistic ambition of being a Football League club again by 2003. They did make it back to the Football League, but not until 2008.

Jimmy Greaves letters page is as crazy as ever.

Ashley Ballhatchet from Farnham Common cheerleads for Julian Dicks getting into the England squad.

John Richards from Sunderland is unimpressed by the idea of Sunderland leaving Roker Park to a new 40,000 all seater stadium.

Meanwhile, with qualification for the 1994 World Cup looking unlikely, the plight of Scottish football gets a double page spread.

Scotland ended up qualifying for Euro 96 and France 98, but nothing since.

With Manchester United winning their first title in 26 years, long serving captain Bryan Robson gets a double page spread about his delight at this.

It was a good year for Welsh football. With the national team making a serious bid for World Cup qualification (they eventually lost out in the final game), Cardiff City and Wrexham were promoted from Division and Swansea City reached the Division Two play-offs.

In Division Two in 1992/1993 were current Premier League clubs Stoke City, Bolton, West Bromwich Albion (all three promoted), Fulham, Wigan Athletic

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : FOUR FOUR TWO – JULY 1999

The summer of 1999 is the focus for this edition of “The Magazine Archive”, looking at Four Four Two and their end of season awards.

Bizarrely, despite winning The Treble, there were no Man United players featured on the cover.

Cheltenham Town’s promotion to the Football League was the subject of parody with a mock tourist brochure being drawn up showcasing the delights of Cheltenham.

A column by Paul Simpson looking at footballing achievements remarks that Man United’s treble still has a long way to go before matching Linfield’s Seven trophies in 1922.

The always funny in retrospect feature “The Boy’s A Bit Special” makes an appearance profiling current Norwich City player Adam Drury, Clinton Morrison, and Seth Johnson, the player often used to personify the transfer excesses at Leeds United under the Peter Ridsdale/David O’Leary.

In the letters page, one reader wrote to express his opinions on the behaviour of players during a recent Old Firm game, and how their actions can affect crowd behaviour.

Given the recent furore about the Scottish Cup Replay between the two sides, it seems some things never change.

Dwight Yorke won the award for “Best Premiership Player” with Didier Domi being ranked 50th.

Kieron Dyer, who that summer signed for Newcastle United was voted best in Division One, while ex Portadown player Peter Kennedy was voted 36th.

In Division Two, then uncapped Northern Ireland players Maik Taylor and Steve Robinson were in the Top Ten.

Kevin Horlock was 41st, 4 places below former Glentoran player Glen Little.

It’s not too hard which goal was voted the best that season. If you haven’t worked it out yet, it was Ryan Giggs goal in the FA Cup Semi-Final Replay.

In the world of advertising, David Seaman, quite appropriately given the name, is advertising Admiral Aportswear.

Four pages are dedicated to the Youth World Cup, held in Africa (Nigeria to be precise) which was won by Spain.

History repeated itself when Spain left Africa with the World Cup trophy 11 years later, this time, the senior trophy.

A quick look through Wikipedia reveals that Iker Casillas, Carlos Marchena and Xavi played for Spain in both tournaments.

There is a feature on English goalkeepers and why there are so few of them.

A chart is made of the goalkeepers at each Premier League club, with comments on the situation.

For Manchester United, the comment reads “Bad news for Nick Culkin as Peter Schmeichel is likely to be replaced by Edwin Van Der Sar”

Van Der Sar did replace Schmeichel, unfortunately, he wasn’t signed until 2005.

The “More Than A Game” feature focused on the Welsh derby between Cardiff City and Swansea City.

In 1999, both clubs were in the bottom division of the Football League in run down stadiums. How times change.