MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 WEST HAM UNITED 27.11.2016

Having gone to my first game of the season at Old Trafford against Feyenoord, it wasn’t long to wait for my second game, just three days later, as West Ham visited in the League.

I’d waited until the UEFA Cup Group Stage draw was done and hoped for a double header, and got lucky with this one.

Too many dropped points, especially in drawn games at Old Trafford, meant this was a must-win game for United, especially with Spurs losing the day before, presenting United with an opportunity to close the gap on the side in 5th, especially as they visit Old Trafford in mid December.

It was West Ham who were straight on the attack, winning a soft free-kick in a wide position. It all looked so sluggish from United, and it continued when Diafra Sakho got to the ball from that free-kick in front of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to head home.

The was not the start United needed, especially against a side they had only beaten once in their last five meetings.

United responded eventually, their first shot on goal came from Juan Mata.

The pressure built up, and an equaliser came when Ibrahomovic made up for his shoddy defending by flicking hom a Paul Pogba through ball.

Pogba’s next involvement came when the referee booked him for deeming to have dived, which resulted in Jose Mourinho beiung sent to the stand for kicking a water bottle.

Mourinho’s departue didn’t affect United, as they had chances to go in front. Rashford having a shot saved while put through, and Jesse Lingard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic having shots blocked.

More chances came, with Rooney and Lingard having shots saved before Lingard had a goal disallowed for offside.

It looked like being one of those days for United, as West Ham seemed to get bodies in the road every time the ball was in their penalty area.

As much as I enjoyed being able to do a Thursday-Sunday double header, it’s not something i’m planning on doing next season. I’d rather United be playing their European matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Last season, I made my first trip of the season to Old Trafford in November and things were going fine, but an awful December saw their season in tatters by the time I visited again in late January.

This season, i’m due back at Old Trafford in late January for the League match against Hull. Hopefully, there’ll be a reversal in fortunes and the league table will have a better look to it.

Photo Album

BURY 2-3 MILLWALL 26.11.2016

AKA …….. Two postponements in one day.

Taking in two United matches and having a spare Saturday afternoon in the North-West of England, that could only have meant one thing ……. to go and see in another local game while I was there, ideally at a ground i’ve never been to before.

I had a look at the fixture lists and one game stood out, Oldham v Peterborough. It was mainly due to both clubs having a Northern Ireland connnection.

Both managers (Steven Robinson and Grant McCann) are former Northern Ireland players, with Robinson being part of the coaching staff at Euro 2016.

On the playing staff, there were Northern Ireland players who began their careers with Irish League clubs, Oldham boasting Cameron Dummigan (Cliftonville), Ryan McLaughlin (Glenavon), Carl Winchester (Linfield) as well as Billy McKay (never played for an Irish League club).

Peterborough count boast Michael Smith (Ballyclare Comrades and Ballymena United) but not Joe Gormley (Cliftonville) who is out on loan to St Johnstone.

And as a bonus, tickets were being offered at a discount. I think we have a winner here folks.

I headed to Boundary Park around lunchtime, the plan being to get some lunch near the ground, I had a check on my phone to see if the game was still on.

Manchester was frosty on the Saturday morning, so a postponement was a possibility. The game was on when I boarded the tram at Victoria, but off when I checked Twitter upon getting off in Oldham.

So a change of plan then.

As a side note, the game has been rearranged for Tuesday 24th January 2017. Frustratingly, i’m in Manchester for the Hull City game (League match, not the League Cup Semi-Final) the following week.

When getting the tram, there were a couple of FC United fans who got on and disembarked at Moston/Newton Heath.

I knew their ground is in Moston, having visited it when it was still a work in progress when I was over for a match in November 2014.

FC United were at home in the FA Trophy, and it’s on the Metrolink route back to the City Centre. Well, I might as well head to Broadhurst Park.

Broadhurst Park is a ground I have noted that I want to visit, so I might as well make the most of this opportunity.

I arrived and checked and followed the directions on the club’s website, and checked Twitter to see if the game was still on. It was, but only just, as there was a pitch inspection pending.

So, I waited outside the ground for confirmation that the game was on before entering. Just after 2pm, I saw supporters leaving the ground and steward shouting “MATCH OFF!! MATCH OFF!!”, confirming what I was already suspecting.

There wasn’t a lot of football in the North West that day.

By this point, I was determined to see some football. So, I decided to brave negotiating the Metrolink to get to Bury for their match against Millwall, getting a taxi from the station to the ground for a fiver (you can barely get down the street for a fiver in Belfast) and only missing the first five minutes.

In the early months of the season, this looked like it would be a top of the table clash, but a run of nine successive defeats (fourteen without a win in all competitions, two draws and twelve defeats) saw Bury hover just above the relegation zone and manager David Flitcroft leave the club, while Millwall were in a traffic jam of clubs outside the play-offs.

And despite not getting to Boundary Park, there would be some Northern Ireland interest in the game in the shape of Shane Ferguson, who was involved in most of Millwall’s attacks in the first-half.

One of those attacks saw a mid air collision result in what looked like a Bury free-kick. As the game was stopped, I decided to check Irish League scores on my phone. I was surprised to hear howls of derision from the crowd as the referee awarded a penalty to Millwall.

Not quite, as the referee consulted with the linesman, and he reversed the decision to applause from the Bury fans. Football fans can be so fickle.

Neither side were on top in the first-half with no real attacking threat. Bury’s cause wasn’t helped by poor decision making when on the attack.

Just after the hour, Bury took the lead when a James Vaughan header hit the bar and went in off the keeper after hitting the bar. Finally, a break for Bury.

Bury were now on the up, and soon made it 2-0 when Vaughan was played through, and showed the type of finish that saw him playing in the Premier League at 16.

It was all going well Bury, too well, and they were brought back down to earth when Niall Maher handled a goalbound shot on the line, with the double whammy of a penalty and a red card.

The penalty was converted by Shaun Williams, prompting an inevitable melee in the goalmouth as Milwall players tried to grab the ball to restart the game, the referee booking a player from each side at the end of it.

The game had now changed and the impetus was with Millwall, who were applying all the pressure while Bury were defending.

The inevitable equaliser came when Callum Butcher headed home from a corner on 85 minutes. Bury were dead on their feet. Supporters around me had seen enough and headed for the exits.

There was still time for a winner, and Millwall knew it. They got it in injury time when Aiden O’Brien got on the end of a cross. Like the equaliser a few minutes earlier, there was an exodus around me, but greater in numbers this time.

A rather entertaining game that made it worthwhile making the dash from not one, but two postponed matches.

Broadhurst Park

Photo Album

FEYENOORD STICKERS

Got ……. Got …….. Need.

It’s been a while since i’ve done a sticker blog, but Feyenoord fans left so many in Manchester while visiting for their UEFA Cup tie at Old Trafford, it made it impossible not to do one.

Now, has anybody got a Gaston Taument shiney?

Photo Album

SALFORD QUAYS STREET ART – NOVEMBER 2016

While in Manchester, I took the opportunity to walk along Salford Quays and get some pictures of the Street Art along Salford Quays, which can clearly be seen from Metrolink services going from the City Centre to Media City or Eccles.

Part of Salford Quays is closed off due to subsidence (it’s actually been that way for a while) so I had to start my journey at The Soapworks, and then walk towards Cornbrook Metrolink Station.

I headed out on the Friday which (actually, like most of my time there) had a lot of natural daylight to work with.

The only problem with some of the photos was that I couldn’t get any backlift, otherwise I would be in the canal.

Enjoy.

Photo Album

MANCHESTER STREET ART – NOVEMBER 2016

I was recently in Manchester, primarily to take in two games at Old Trafford, but while I was there, I managed to get some Street Art photographs.

As a relatively regular visitor to Manchester, I have a good idea where to go when it comes to finding Street Art.

Naturally, as I arrived in the City Centre, I headed to the Northern Quarter. I had a piece in mind, as a Prince mural was painted since my last visit in May, but that has sadly been painted over by a mural of Shaft.

The mural of David Bowie in the Northern Quarter is still there.

As I kept walking around the Northern Quarter, I kept on finding and discovering new pieces.

When I was about to head to Salford Quays (That will be on a seperate blog), I discovered a Car Park close to Cornbrook Metrolink Station with a mural of Muhammad Ali on a wall.

I had hoped to check out Antwerp Mansion while I was there, but it was closed whenever I headed there on Friday afternoon.

Curiously, there were murals of Alan Turing and Emmeline Pankhurst at a stall selling mulled wine at the Christmas Market. Pankhurst was born in Manchester while Turing lived and worked in the city.

I also spotted some pieces in Oxford Road, not sure of the street or area but close to Band On The Wall, and beside Afflek’s.

Photo Album

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

2016 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2016 began the same way as 2015, by watching Linfield take on Crusaders. Like the previous year, it was a home win, but thankfully the game was at Windsor Park this year.

Over the next ten days, there were two more visits to Windsor Park, with Ballymena United the visitors both times, once in the Irish Cup and once in the County Antrim Shield.

David Bowie died during the month, and he got a tribute mural in Belfast, which I went down to see get painted, and then snap the final results.

Towards the end of the month, I headed to Manchester, to see United take on Southampton. While there, I took advantage of some Street Art, plus I also went to see The Kooks in concert.

The month ended by heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Carrick Rangers.

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ballymena United

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

David Bowie Mural

David Bowie Mural Photo Album

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Southampton

Manchester United v Southampton Photo Album

The Kooks live at Albert Hall Manchester

The Kooks live at Albert Hall Manchester Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

LONDON STREET ART JUNE 2016

When returning from Euro 2016, I flew back via London, meaning I had a day to spend there.

I’d been to London before, so knew where I wanted to go.

I went to Camden to go to Camden Market, and got some Street Art photos. I also got some Street Art photos in Soho.

I had planned on going to Shoreditch, but the weather was “inclement” (ie – pissing down) so I gave it a miss.

Enjoy.

Photo Album

Camden Street Art February 2013

Camden Street Art February 2013 Photo Album

London Street Art February 2014

London Street Art February 2014 Photo Album 1

London Street Art February 2014 Photo Album 2

PARIS/NICE/LONDRES

This was a trip i’d been waiting a long time for. In fact, probably since 2010, when it was announced that France would be hosting Euro 2016. I’d be going regardless even if Northern Ireland didn’t qualify.

I’d never been to France before. In fact, i’d barely been to Mainland Europe. Subconsciously perhaps, i’d been saving my first French trip for this.

To get to France from Northern Ireland, there were only really three options, with direct flights to Bordeaux, Nice and Paris, though a route to Lyon was added earlier this year.

When the schedule of the tournament was announced, Paris was a no-brainer. The first four days of the tournament would see two games in Paris, one in Lens and one in Lille. Lille and Lens are both one hour away from Paris.

Last summer, there was an open draw for neutral tickets. I applied for a game in Lens on 11th June, a game in Lille on 12th June and a game in Paris on 13th June.

I sat eating my lunch one day last summer, when an e-mail came through from UEFA. The Subject Box said my application was Partially Successful. I sat staring at it, trying to make sense of it. Partially Successful?, that means i’ve got a ticket for at least one match. I opened the e-mail to check that was the case.

Monday 13th June 2016, 1800 hours, Stade De France, E3 v E4. I had a ticket for this match. I didn’t know who I would be seeing, but I would be going to a match at Euro 2016.

On the day the flights went on sale, I jumped in and got a bargain. I’d be going out on Thursday 8th and returning back on Tuesday 14th. With no flights from Paris to Belfast on a Tuesday, I booked to return back by London. An evening flight, spend the day in London. Might as well make the most of it.

The day of the draw came, and I had written down what every game would be, and where. I knew where C1 would be playing, I knew where F4 would be playing. My eyes were on E3 and E4.

There were two games I didn’t want. A Saturday night game in Marseille or a Sunday teatime game in Nice.

I had taken a gamble. If Northern Ireland were in Group F, i’d be flying back on the day they play their first game.

Northern Ireland came out in Group C. If it was C2, it was a Sunday night in Lille, and a 50,000 capacity stadium. C3 or C4, and it was the game in Nice, a 6 hour train journey away from Paris.

I couldn’t believe, the one game I didn’t want, and Northern Ireland got it.

My group came out, Group E, and it was Republic Of Ireland, and they were E3, the game I would be going to.

This was like an episode of Give My Head Peace.

It would turn out that Republic Of Ireland would be playing Sweden. I consoled myself with the fact i’d be getting to see Zlatan in the flesh.

I had resigned myself that i’d have to settle for watching Northern Ireland v Poland in a pub in Paris. Only briefly, I decided that I was going to Nice. This was too big to miss. I booked the last hotel room, and began to look at trains.

Nine months after booking the trip, the big day arrived. It felt like it would never come. I was even tempted to do that Facebook cliche of tagging myself as being in The Lagan Bar.

During that nine month period, a Francophile friend had been giving my advice and some key phrases. The one word i’d be hearing and saying most over the weekend would be billet, which means ticket.

My first billet, would be from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Gare Du Nord. Even though it was peak commuter time, we were squashed in on the train, with barely any room to put my luggage. It just seemed logical to me that a train serving the airport should have luggage storage facilities. The French must travel light.

As I got off at Gare Du Nord, I began to follow the directions to my accommodation, to find the Rue it was on. That’s French for street by the way. I had taxi drivers shouting at me to give them my custom, giving me sob stories about how they need work in these tough times, before quoting me €45 for a journey that is no more than ten minutes. They didn’t really grasp the correlation. I decided to walk it.

I found my accommodation, after navigating streets filled with binbags piling up and having to dodge smokers at a rate which is worse than Belfast, an impressive feat considering that Belfast City Centre is a smoke riddled shithole.

I have to say, this wasn’t the best first impression of Paris.

I then decided to have a walk around Paris and my impression got better. I checked out some Street Art on shutters. It was late enough for shops to be closed, but still daylight, a perfect combination.

I had planned to do a Street Art Tour but I wasn’t able to commit to the time (it only left on a Saturday morning, and I wasn’t sure if my Saturday morning would be in Paris or Lens), preferring to stumble upon pieces.

Friday was spent wandering around Paris. I bought myself an all day Metro ticket. I had a brief visit to Parc Des Princes to see what it was like, but it was heavily cordoned off. From there, I headed to the Saint Germain region, having a look around the shops.

A lot of the shops were very high end clothes stores that would attract the likes of France’s suavest men such as Francois Mitchele and Jacques Fullerton.

Friday night was the opening game of Euro 2016, France v Romania. The cheapest ticket for this was three figures. I decided to head to Stade De France to take in the atmosphere and try to pick up a cheap ticket.

The fact that tickets were still on general sale on the day of the game suggested this could be a Buyer’s Market the closer you got to kick-off.

I was planning to wait until 8.45pm (kick-off was at 9pm) before trying and would go no higher than €60. This wasn’t the game I headed out for, it would be no loss to me. I could find a pub and watch it there.

At around 8.30pm, I got approached by a tout (the fact I was milling about was probably a giveaway) who offered me a €195 ticket for €150. I said €60 and we settled on €80. For the extra €20, I was getting in the ground earlier and ensuring I would see all of the game.

Not only did I get to see all of the game, I was even in the ground in time for the opening ceremony. I’m not sure if that was a good or a bad thing, getting to witness David Guetta telling people to make some noise and wave their hands. What a showman.

France won the match 2-1, and everyone went home happy. Especially me, who discovered a shortcut to my accommodation from Gare Du Nord, and some Street Art within the station.

Saturday’s original plan was to go to Lens to try and get a ticket for Albania v Switzerland. Upon seeing that it would cost €70 for a one hour journey, I decided against it. Especially disappointing as SNCF had promised special discount prices for fans travelling to and from Paris.

I then walked around Paris some more, finding myself in an area called Le Republique, as well as stumbling upon some Street Art around the back of Gare Du Nord.

I had planned to watch Slovakia v Wales in the Fanzone at the Eiffel Tower, but I took a wrong turn on the RER and missed it totally. Saturday night was spent watching the first-half of England v Russia and having a bite to eat before heading for an early night.

The reason why I was having a early night, is because I needed to be up early to get a 0720 train to Nice. I thought i’d be the only one on the train, but it was packed, mostly Northern Ireland fans.

I found my hotel in Nice and checked in, relaxing for a bit before heading to the stadium.

The only way to get to the stadium was via a free shuttle bus from the City Centre, which dropped fans off a thirty minute walk from the ground.

The match I was in Nice for, was Northern Ireland v Poland. The stadium was fantastic, as was the scenery around it. The problem was, there was nothing else around the ground.

The match itself was a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Northern Ireland. Afterwards, I headed to get my bus back to the City Centre. What I saw, was utter chaos.

There was a line of people, but no queue. Basically, the bus parked wherever it liked, meaning it was pure luck if you were able to get onto a bus, a bus which was usually filled over capacity.

The match finished just before 8pm, and I didn’t get onto a City Centre bound bus until 9.30pm. There were still a lot of people waiting for a bus when I got mine.

It really ruined my plans for the evening. I’d planned on being in the City Centre by 9pm and watching a bit of the Germany v Ukraine match.

When I booked a hotel room in Nice, the plan was to head back to Paris the next morning. Due to the extortionate prices, I got on an earlier train just after midnight.

Even though I wouldn’t be sleeping in Nice, I still got value out of the room as it allowed me to drop my stuff off, relax, and get showered ahead of my train journey.

From what I saw of Nice, it looks like a city I would love to visit in full one day. There is the potential of some decent sport watching, with OGC Nice in France’s top flight, with Monaco nearby, as well as Toulon in Top 14 Rugby.

I had a look out of curiousity, and unfortunately the flights are seasonal (April to October. I’d prefer to go in February)

Back in Paris, and a wee lie-in on the Monday, it was to the Stade De France to see Republic Of Ireland v Sweden, before getting something to eat, and then beginning to pack up, ahead of an early morning Eurostar to London.

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with France. I found Paris to be filthy, the public transport to be incompetent (The time of my train out of Nice was put back by twenty minutes without being told), police and stewards to be power crazed, and taxis to be a rip-off.

I won’t be rushing back, but don’t rule it out maybe one day.

It’s a pity, as there is the potential for a decent Football Weekend in Paris to be had, with PSG and Red Star, as well as Lille, Lens, Amiens, Reims nearby.

So Tuesday, was spent in London, as I flew back from there.

I’ve been to London before, so I knew where I wanted to go to, especially with only a day on my hands.

I headed to Camden, taking in Camden Market and getting some Street Art photos, before heading to Soho, to visit a shop called Vintage Magazine Shop, which is as it says.

I had a look around but found it too expensive for my liking, for someone who considers themselves a hobbyist rather than a collector.

On that note, I can exclusively reveal that there will be a new series of The Magazine Archive in January 2017. Keep an eye out for that.

It’s still a shop worth visiting, but I wouldn’t consider buying anything there. I’ll stick to rummaging for bargains in Empire Exchange whenever i’m in Manchester.

I’d planned to go to Shoreditch, but a monsoon stopped that plan.

With my flight at 8.10pm, I decided to go the the airport early to check-in so I could watch Austria v Hungary (kick-off at 5pm) while getting something to eat.

A strike in France meant that Easyjet wouldn’t allow me to check-in until 6.10pm.

Even though I was no longer in France, they were still managing to ruin my plans. I’ve never seen a more incompetent country.

To add to that, the hotel in Nice that cancelled my booking last December as they had no rooms, meaning I had to book another hotel, charged me for staying there. I’m currently getting that sorted by Booking.com.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer says “If you don’t like you’re job, you don’t go on strike, you just do it half-assed. That’s the American way”

The French way, seems to be going on strike and doing things half-assed.

I loved going to the matches, but didn’t really enjoy being in France.

I would have loved to have stayed a few extra days though, if only to see Northern Ireland v Ukraine, and James in concert in Paris.

The only concerts on in Paris when I was there were Iron Maiden and Adele, neither who i’m fussy about.

Despite that, i’m looking forward to going to Euro 2020. Hopefully. That tournament will be played all over Europe.

The games that interest me are the ones at Hampden Park and Lansdowne Road.

Hopefully, the Scots and/or Irish will be slightly more organised than the French.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – JANUARY

Like in the previous season, January began with a game between Linfield and Crusaders. Again, it was a home win, though this time, it was at Windsor Park instead of Seaview.

The following Saturday, it was the Irish Cup at Windsor Park, with Linfield edging out Ballymena United after extra-time.

Three days later, same venue, same two teams, but a different competition, the County Antrim Shield Final, with Ballymena winning 3-2.

A frozen pitch saw Linfield’s home match (YES! another match at Windsor Park) against Dungannon Swifts postponed, so my next football was the trip to Old Trafford to see United take on Southampton.

The football watching month ended with Linfield’s routine win over Carrick Rangers at, you’ve guessed it, Windsor Park.

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ballymena United

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Manchester United v Southampton

Manchester United v Southampton Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers