PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JULY

After a two month break, my football watching for 2014-2015 began in early July, with the World Cup still going on (on the night of the first two Quarter-Finals) in Bray.

I was over there for a concert, and decided to take in a game as there was one on while I was there, a bottom of the table clash between Bray Wanderers and Drogheda United.

Carlisle Ground is a nice stadium for watching football in when it’s sunny. Unfortunately, when I was there, it was raining. A lot.

It was still an enjoyable game, with Drogheda winning 3-1.

On the night of the now infamous World Cup Semi-Final between Brazil and Germany, I was at Mourneview Park for the UEFA Cup tie between Linfield and B36 Torshavn, my first experience of seeing a Warren Feeney managed Linfield team in the flesh.

The following week, I was back at Mourneview Park again, for the next round against AIK, to see Linfield secure a fantastic 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat meant Linfield’s European hopes were over for another year.

Two days later, I was Bangor bound, as Linfield used Clandeboye Park for a friendly against Cowdenbeath.

My main reason for going was to check out the facilities at Clandeboye, which had recently had some renovation work and a new 3G pitch.

That was my football watching for July, the league season not long away from starting. It was great to be back watching football.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

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)

FOOTBALL IN 2015

Another year of football watching is over, and it’s all about looking forward to 2015. But what, realistically, are my hopes for 2015?

Well, these are my football watching hopes for 2015.

LINFIELD

Well, stating the obvious, I obviously want Linfield to win the Irish League and the Irish Cup.

This season’s Irish Cup draw has already given a treat in the form of an away game against Tobermore United – another new ground to visit.

In terms of pre-season, it’s the usual wishlist of Dundela, PSNI or Stranraer away. Seeing as we invited Cowdenbeath over for a friendly in the summer of 2014, would it be too much to ask for them to return the favour in the summer of 2015?

In terms of promotion, i’m hoping Carrick Rangers go up as i’ve never been there. So again, a new ground to visit. If there is to be another team promoted, hopefully it will be Ards or Bangor, with an away game early in the season on a sunny day.

Of course, there is also the ongoing redevelopment work at Windsor Park. It is expected for this to be completed by November.

Obviously, i’d be getting use of the South Stand, but hopefully, i’ll get an opportunity to sit in the Railway Stand just to see what it’s like. I’m guessing it might have to be used for a Linfield match before it is passed for a Northern Ireland match, in the same way Wembley had to stage an underage international with a restricted attendance before being allowed to host full events.

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Obviously, i’m hoping for Linfield to be in the European Cup, but i’m hoping that the other Irish League sides get fallen giants who are part of the 101 Club, that I can tick off my list.

The closest an Irish League side got in 2014 was when Crusaders got duffed by a Swedish team who went on to play Torino.

Seeing as Glenavon are best mates with PSV Eindhoven, if they want to invite them over for a friendly, that would be great.

MANCHESTER UNITED

I’m hoping to get to Old Trafford before the end of the season. I’ve nothing booked yet, but i’m eyeing either Tottenham in March or Arsenal in May.

Hopefully, there’s be European Cup football returning in September 2015. I might be tempted to a there and back group game. Just have to wait until the 2015-2016 fixture list comes out.

NORTHERN IRELAND

I’m planning to be at four Northern Ireland games in 2015 – the home games against Finland, Romania, Hungary and Greece. I bought a Block Booking for the first time ever for this campaign. The downside is, i’m going to go to hell for attending the Finland game, which is on a Sunday night.

Tempted by the Scotland friendly in March. Haven’t booked anything yet, but a quick there and back for an away friendly is very tempting.

EURO 2016

Whatever the fate of Northern Ireland’s qualification campaign, i’m planning to be in France in the summer of 2016. The reason i’m posting it with reference to 2015 is, the flights will probably go on sale in August/September 2015, and i’m planning to be straight in with my booking. The plan is to go out for the first four days of the tournament and be based in Paris, with two games there, one in Lille (one hour away) and Lens (one hour away)

BIRMINGHAM

Toying with the idea of heading to Birmingham in September for the Rugby World Cup, as Australia and South Africa play on successive days at Villa Park. If I was to do this, i’d be planning to try and take in a football match taking place in the city (if feasible) at either Birmingham City or Walsall. Nothing definite in this idea though.

BARCELONA

Going to Barcelona for a weekend in February. Espanyol are at home to Valencia that weekend, so i’m hoping to take in that match. I’m also looking at lower league sides in the area to try and catch more than one game. The most likely bet is CE Europa, who play in Spain’s 4th tier. Frustratingly, Barcelona B (in Spain’s second tier) are away that weekend, to Real Zaragoza, a 101 Club member.

LEAGUE OF IRELAND

I don’t plan to go to a League Of Ireland game every year, but there’s usually something that takes me to Dublin, so I end up taking in a game. If I do end up taking in a game in Dublin, hopefully, it will be UCD, as the Bellefield Bowl is the only football ground in Dublin I haven’t been to.

SCOTLAND

As well as the previously mentioned international i’m tempted by, i’m planning to head to Edinburgh in August for the festival. Obviously, there’ll be Hibs and Hearts, but i’m hoping they’ll be at home on a Sunday, leaving the Saturday free to see Spartans or Edinburgh City, hopefully by now promoted to League Two (4th tier)

Of the two, Edinburgh City look the most likely. The downside is, they play at an athletics stadium.

MOROCCO

One place i’m definitely not visiting in 2015 is Morocco. I was tempted as they were the host of the 2015 African Cup Of Nations. It turned out I made the right decision by not making plans, as they were stripped of hosting rights, which were given to Equatorial Guinea, which is a bit harder to get to.

2014 IN PICTURES – JULY

July began for me with a trip to Dublin, then Bray, primarily for a concert headlined by James and Paloma Faith, a bit of football to see Bray Wanderers, and some Dublin Street Art.

The following week, Linfield’s season was back up and running with the second leg of the UEFA Cup tie against B36 Torshavn at Mourneview Park, my first time seeing Warren Feeney’s Linfield in the flesh.

A 1-1 draw was enough to giver Linfield a tie in the next round against AIK, again at Mourneview Park, where and Andrew Waterworth goal secured a 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat in the away leg eliminated Linfield.

Two days later, it was back on the football wagon for Linfield’s friendly against Cowdenbeath. The only reason I went was to see Clandeboye Park, after having had some work done.

The month ended with another Wonder Villains gig, an instore at HMV.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

James – Live At Killruddery

James – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

Wonder Villains Live At The Loft Photo Album

LINFIELD 0-1 COWDENBEATH 19.7.2014

Last time I went to Bangor, it had a grass pitch and was called Clandeboye Park. In the 14 months since my last visit, it has had a 3G Pitch installed, had some renovation work done, and been renamed the Bangor Fuels Arena as part of a sponsorship deal.

With Windsor Park out of use, Bangor Fuels Arena was the venue for Linfield’s “Home” friendly against Cowdenbeath. A trip to the Seaside in the middle of July? That sounds good. We were treated to typical Northern Ireland summer weather ……… pouring rain.

Less than 48 hours after the UEFA Cup game against AIK, this was a much changed Linfield team, 11 changes in fact.

I knew what sort of team to expect, but my main reason for going today was to see what Bangor Fuels Arena Clandeboye Park was like.

Obviously, the pitch was done, and had a Seaview style fence around the pitch, tarmac between terracing and the fence if supporters want to get closer, and supporters can now stand behind the end where the houses are. Though, with the weather as it was today, nobody took up that option, unsurprisingly.

The inexperience Linfield side held their own in the opening exchanges, with Ross Clarke being the focal point of the attacking.

Sometimes he lost the ball trying to do too much, but he was always trying to make things happen.

Eventually, Cowdenbeath took control of the game, creating some chances, which required some last ditch Linfield defending to deny them.

In the final ten minutes of the half, they got behind Linfield’s defence, and (just about) made it count.

Ross Glendenning hesitated, not knowing if he should stay on his line or run out to force the shot, and did neither, but the Cowdenbeath attacker crossed, and it was turned into his own goal by Niall Quinn, trying to intercept it.

Cowdenbeath stepped it up and it became important for Linfield to keep it 1-0 to half-time at least, as such an inexperience line-up could have fallen apart if the gap widened.

Linfield came out for the second-half strong, with Rodney Brown forcing a save from Cowdenbeath’s keeper, who also had to be alert as Conor McMenamin was unable to get a touch to a cross. If he did, he would have scored.

The rest of the second-half was typical pre-season fare, largely interrupted by substitutions from both teams.

Even though it was an inexperience Linfield team, there were still first-team players. In a departure from recent seasons, friendlies have run alongside European games, instead of being announced once elimination has been confirmed, meaning that players such as Ross Glendenning, Ross Clarke, Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher and Niall Quinn are getting game time ahead of the start of the domestic season.

Linfield had a late rally but couldn’t get a goal that would have secured a deserved draw, and Cowdenbeath’s travelling fans celebrated the win.

Hopefully, next year, there’ll be a return fixture.

Photo Album