INSTITUTE 0-2 LINFIELD 4.2.2017

It was the Irish Cup for Linfield today, and a trip to Drumahoe to face Institute, with a place in the Quarter-Finals up for grabs.

Having successfully negotiated lunch at Applegreen without children holding up the queue, I found roadworks to be a much bigger obstacle, causing me to miss the opening ten or so minutes.

As I walked down the hill towards the ground, I could see an Institute player on the ground and the referee blowing his whistle. I feared a penalty. The referee said it was a dive. TV replays proved it to be a correct decision.

Linfield then began to dominate the first-half, Stephen Lowry having a shot saved from the penalty spot, Cameron Stewart having an attempt at goal just wide before setting up Andrew Waterworth, whose shot was saved when he really should have scored.

It wasn’t all one way traffic, as Chris Casment was forced into a block to deny Institute on one of their rare attacks.

Not even a succession of corners late in the half could bring a Linfield goal, as they had to make do with a half-time score of 0-0.

There wasn’t long to wait for a goal in the second-half, as a quick free-kick from Lowry found Niall Quinn in acres of space, his cross was deflected goalwards, Institute’s keeper palming it away, but only to Cameron Stewart who made sure from close range.

It was Stewart’s second goal for Linfield, coming from a combined distance of one yard out. It doesn’t matter how and how far they go in, as long as they go in.

Linfield were finding it out the hard way as they failed to get a second goal that would kill the tie, Institute knowing that while there was one goal in it, the tie was still very much alive.

A header from a free-kick appeared to level the scores for Stute, until their players started to surround the referee, the crowd only realising that the goal was disallowed.

I was at the other end of the pitch and couldn’t see why it was disallowed. TV replays showed it to be for a push. Soft, but the correct decision.

Aaron Harkin took his protests too far and got a second yellow card.

Chris Casement had a free-kick well saved as Linfield looked to take advantage of their extra man. There wasn’t long to wait as Andrew Waterworth was played through and made it 2-0.

It was job done. A lot later than hoped, but job done, despite Institute having some attempts at goal in the final minutes.

The only concern was Jimmy Callacher going off injured ahead of the County Antrim Shield Final on Tuesday.

Talking of Cup Finals, there is one which might be taking place at Windsor Park in 2019. It appears to have snuck under the radar of the Northern Ireland Media, but Windsor Park has submitted a bid to host the European Super Cup Final.

This has come as no surprise as it was previously reported that a bid would be made as soon as the redevelopment was complete.

That would be fantastic. I went to the European Super Cup Final in Cardiff, and really hope this event comes to Belfast.

It’s a game UEFA want to bring to “smaller” stadiums. Capacity isn’t an issue. Windsor Park is only sightly smaller than Eden Arena which hosted the final in 2013.

The competition comes in the form of Tirana, Toulouse, Budapest, Haifa, Astana, Gdansk, Warsaw, Glasgow and Istanbul.

The first six cities have never hosted a European final, so they have that as a USP, though Tolouse hosted Euro 2016 and Budapest will host Euro 2020 games. That may count against them.

One of the Polish bids will have to be withdrawn, while Glasgow, Istanbul and Astana may withdraw to apply for the UEFA Cup Final or the Women’s European Cup Final.

Suddenly, the shortlist could be very short.

Hampden Park is also in the running for that year’s UEFA Cup Final. Sounds like a good excuse for a trip to Glasgow.

If Hampden Park hosts the 2019 European Super Cup, I could console myself by basing my trip to the Edinburgh Festival around being in Glasgow in this day.

Bids have to be submitted by 6th June and the winning bids will be known in September 2017.

Forget about 2019, it’s 2017 that matters, and up next is the County Antrim Shield Final against Crusaders. The past three meetings this season have shown that Linfield have nothing to be afraid of (well, apart from Raymond Crangle influencing the game from 4th Official) and if they play like they have in those three games, they’ll get their rewards.

There won’t be long to wait for the next meeting against Crusaders, with the sides being drawn together in the Irish Cup Quarter-Finals. Linfield fans have good memories of Irish Cup Quarter-Finals in North Belfast, and a packed crowd willing their team on just as they did at Solitude last year gives us more than a chance.

Hopefully, by then, there’ll be nine more points on the board from wins against Carrick, Ards and Glentoran, as well as the County Antrim Shield.

If there is, the final months of the season could be very interesting indeed.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : FOOTBALL ITALIA – APRIL/MAY 1995

It’s the mid 90s, and Italian football can be found on Channel 4 on a Sunday afternoon. Such is the popularity, that it now has it’s own magazine. Gianfranco Zola of Parma is the main cover star, as Football Italia visits him at home.

Fabrizio Ravanelli and Alessandro Del Piero get a three page feature, described as “Juve’s Twins”, having formed a striking partnership as Juventus aim for a treble of Coppa Italia, Serie A and UEFA Cup.

Such as been Ravanelli’s form, he became the first Italian player to score five goals in a European club game, having done so against CSKA Moscow earlier that season.

“He’s a real star” says Ravanelli of his strike partner, adding “He’ll be leading Juve into the next century”

He was right, Del Piero was at Juventus, staying at the club until twelve years into the next century.

Such was the norm in the 90s was AC Milan picking up a trophy. Their latest one was the European Super Cup, won after a 2-0 aggregate win over Arsenal. This gets a double page spread.

There is a double page spread looking at the run-in to the season, and it’s all about two clubs, Juventus and Parma, aiming to win a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup.

It would end 2-1 to Juventus with Juve claiming both domestic trophies (beating Parma in the Coppa Italia final) while Parma won the UEFA Cup (beating Juventus in the final)

As Football Italia was published every three months, there was a four page look back at what had happened since the last edition was published.

Japanese clubs were rumoured to be trying to tempt Roberto Baggio away from Juventus, while Faustino Asprill was in trouble in his native Colombia after firing off a gun in public to celebrate the festivities. Another player in trouble was Walter Zenga, who has been given a driving ban for speeding.

Inter Milan are lining up a £20m double bid for Eric Cantona and Paul Ince, despite Cantona being in trouble in England for kung-fu kicking a Crystal Palace fan.

Milan’s match against Genoa is abandoned when news emerged of a Genoa fan being stabbed to death by a Milan fan. The following weekend’s games were postponed as a mark of respect.

Sampdoria manager Sven Goran Eriksson’s future is in doubt, with former Samp player Trevor Francis, in charge at Sheffield Wednesday, being linked with a return to the club as manager.

Anglo-Italian relations that month saw a Endsleigh League XI take on a Serie B select in Bari, with the English side winning 3-2.

Juventus want to sign Mario Basler while Parma have cooled their interest in Luis Figo of Sporting Lisbon.

Paul Gascoigne hopes to return from injury in April, sporting a new slim look after giving up beer.

And in more English-Italian relations, Bobby Robson sees his European Cup Winners Cup hopes dashed after FC Porto’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Sampdoria, managed by future England manager Sven Goran Eriksson. To keep up the theme, David Platt was sent-off in extra-time.

All three European competitions get a round-up, with Italian clubs in the semi-final stage of all three.

Guiseppe Bergomi gets a five page spread profiling him, now the only player from Italy’s 1982 World Cup winning squad still playing.

Alen Boksic and Julio Dely Valdes also get profiles.

In big transfer news, Paul Elliott signs for Channel 4 as a pundit, having played for Pisa in the 1980s.

Channel 4’s pundits are asked for their predictions, with Liam Brady and Joe Jordan tipping Parma, whith Graeme Souness, Ray Wilkins and Done Howe predicting Juventus.

When asked who the next British player to go to Italy will be, Brady goes with Matt Le Tissier, How suggests Alan Shearer or Stan Collymore. Souness also goes for Alan Shearer while Joe Jordan suggests Ryan Giggs. Ray Wilkins says none, that the gravy train was over.

None of those players suggested played in Serie A.

There are three pages looking at foreign players in Serie A, looking at the lack of German players.

Talking of foreigners in Serie A, the two English players playing in the league, David Platt and Paul Gascoigne get a full page profile.

Daniele Massaro gets a treble page profile, as he is now a key player in Milan’s team as his 34th birthday approaches.

In further Anglo-Italian news, the Anglo-Italian Cup gets a three page review of this season’s competition, won by Notts County, beating Ascoli in the final at Wembley.

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

FOOTBALL IN 2014

So, Thursday afternoon will see me attend my last football match of 2013. Once that is over, i’ll be looking back at the year, looking at the stats, and oddities witnessed, and choosing my Top 5 games been to.

But this blog, isn’t about looking back, it’s about looking forward. So here, are my football wishes for 2014.

Obviously, I want United and Linfield to win as many trophies as possible, and Northern Ireland to make a winning start to their Euro 2016 campaign.

But what else will I wish for in 2014?

LINFIELD

Getting way too far ahead of myself, having a pre-season wishlist of Stranraer away. Would also love an away game against Dundela, haven’t been there for a while.

I’d love to visit the recently redeveloped Clandeboye Park for a Linfield game. Hopefully an Irish Cup Quarter-Final, a pre-season friendly, or Ards avoiding relegation and Linfield visiting in 2014-2015.

Bangor, unfortunately, haven’t applied for a Premiership licence. Of the clubs who can get promoted, I hope either Carrick Rangers and Institute go up, preferrably Carrick.

An early match to look forward to in 2014 is Linfield’s trip to Warrenpoint on January 4th. Always love visiting new grounds.

Talking of new(ish) grounds, i’m looking forward to seeing the results of the Windsor Park Redevelopment. I’m hoping this blog will become a photo diary for the Redevelopment process.

EDINBURGH

Every August I go to Edinburgh, primarily for the festival, but I like to catch a football match when i’m over. The last two years have taken me to Easter Road, so i’m guessing i’m due a trip to Tynecastle.

I get the feeling it’s an absolute cert that it’ll be Hearts v Rangers on the weekend i’m there, meaning trying to get a ticket will be difficult.

Even if the fixture list sends me to Easter Road, i’m hoping to visit Tynecastle to get a look at the plaque, unveiled earlier this year, dedicated to the Hearts players who died in World War I.

When i’m in Edinburgh, i’m hoping that this will be the year I go and see The Spartans, hopefully by then they’ll be in SFL3.

CARDIFF

Undecided about this one as yet, but i’m tempted to visit Cardiff in August for the European Super Cup Final, regardless of who is in it, hoping to pick up a ticket when i’m over.

As well as visiting a new ground, it would be my first visit to Cardiff since the Wales v Northern Ireland World Cup Qualifier in 2004. It was such a great trip. Wish I had a camera in order to have taken some photos of it.

While i’m there (the match is on a Friday night) i’m tempted to go to Bristol on the Saturday to do the Street Art Tour, then go and see whichever of City or Rovers is at home that day.

MANCHESTER UNITED

As far as the rest of the 2013-2014 season is concerned, i’m hoping to get over to Old Trafford for another game this season (I’ve already been to the Crystal Palace game in September)

Hoping to go the Olympiakos game in March. Haven’t confirmed anything yet, but hoping I can get sorted to go to this game in the coming weeks.

NORTHERN IRELAND

The first big event for Northern Ireland in 2014 will come off the pitch, with the Euro 2016 draw. I’m actually hoping to go to Euro 2016, regardless if Northern Ireland qualify, basing myself in Paris and hopefully visiting Lens and/or Lille.

Anyway, here’s my hopes for the draw. I’d love us to draw England, but with the game at Wembley to be in March 2015. I’ve already been to New Wembley, but i’d love to go there for a Northern Ireland match.

I’d love us to drawn in the same group as Gibraltar, and to play them at home in the first game of the group.

It would be Gibraltar’s first competitive international, and it would be nice to go to a historic game.

As a bonus, would it be too much to ask for the August international date to be used for a friendly against Scotland at Easter Road?

LONDON

Heading to London for a short break in February, and hoping to take in a game while i’m there. Of the games taking place that weekend, Leyton Orient v Peterborough on the Saturday looks the most tempting, though Brentford v Crawley Town is my back-up game.

Spurs are at home to Everton on the Sunday and tempted by that. Had a look for tickets online last night and they are 58 quid. Not sure if adding Everton to my UEFA 100 Club is worth that. Think I might stick with Leyton Orient.

When I was looking forward to 2012, I didn’t imagine i’d be watching Northern Ireland playing in Amsterdam.

When I was looking forward to 2013, I didn’t imagine i’d be going to a Scottish Cup Semi-Final.

In life, like in football, you never know what’s going to happen next. Here’s to more football watching in 2014. Hopefully, I might enjoy some of it.