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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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

Fifteen hours into 2019, and it was a short trip to the Seaside to see Linfield beat Ards.

More wins came in the month, with Warrenpoint Town, Crusaders and Glentoran all taken care of.

The month ended with a trip to Old Trafford. Unfortunately, the one United match I went to didn’t result in a win, but a draw against Burnley, though I did manage to get some photos of Old Trafford in the snow the next morning.

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Manchester United v Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley Photo Album

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

MANCHESTER UNITED 2-2 BURNLEY 29.1.2019

It had been two months since my last visit to Old Trafford and, at first glance, it didn’t appear like much had changed. There’s still a grey haired chap in the home dugout, but he looks a lot different these days.

Of course, it’s all about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red And White Army these days, with eight wins out of eight going into this game. With each win, I was starting to worry that the first match I go to under his reign would be the first United don’t win, making me feel like a scud.

His reign began with a game against Cardiff City, and will end against the same opposition in May, unless United reach the European Cup Final or the FA Cup Final.

I’m planning on going to that game against Cardiff meaning that this could be the first of two United games i’ll see with Solskjaer as Manager, or the first of many. We shall see.

This wouldn’t be my first time seeing Burnley in the flesh, having seen them play Linfield in a friendly in the Summer of 1997, which I think Burnley won 2-1, with Fast Show legend Chris Waddle being their manager.

Back then, Burnley were over two decades outside of the top flight and barring one season in 1994-1995, were bouncing around the Third and Fourth Tiers for the previous decade.

There are those not much younger than me who only know Burnley as a team of the Top Two divisions of English football having been planted there since winning promotion to what is now The Championship in 2000.

They are currently battling to avoid relegation and secure four seasons of top flight football, to avoid the same fate that fell Ipswich Town in 2002 when they were relegated a year after reaching the UEFA Cup.

Nine successive wins wasn’t the only piece of history United were looking for, they were looking to do the double over Burnley in the Premier League at the fifth attempt. Having finally won a League match at Turf Moor in 2017, the first of three successive wins there, that has been negated by Burnley coming away with a draw in their previous two matches at Old Trafford.

There was a hailstorm in the opening minute at Old Trafford, a few minutes later Marcus Rashford looked certain to put United 1-0 up when he was played through but he toepoked wide when a side foot finish would have put the ball in the back of the net.

It might have been because they were attacking where their fans were based, but Burnley felt confident when they went forward, though all they threw at Untied was a flurry of corners and a shot from Chris Wood.

United had pressure on Burnley’s defence, with a shot from Luke Shaw looping over and a shot from Juan Mata going just wide.

0-0 at half-time but no need to panic, United just needed to step it up.

They certainly did need to step it up when Burnley took the lead on 51 minutes when Ashley Barnes put Burnley 1-0 up after United lost possession in their own defensive third, the first time that United had fallen behind under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The response was to bring Jesse Lingard on from the bench.

Marcus Rashford had a long range shot saved by Tom Heaton saved by Tom Heaton. Every time a cross came into the box, it was always a Burnley head getting in the way, and it always seemed to be a Burnley foot getting to the second ball.

Heaton then made a one hand save to deny Romelu Lukaku from close range. And when United had a shot wide for a goal kick, Heaton would take Elliott Morris amount of time with the goal kick. Spoiler alert – It bit them in the arse later in the game.

Old Trafford was soon stunned as a cross came in and Chris Wood headed home from close range to make it 2-0. With ten minutes to go, and the way the game had gone, it looked like there was no way back for United.

It looked like they were going to get an opportunity to get back into the game with a penalty, as it looked like it had been awarded, but it was a free-kick on the edge of the box, which came to nothing.

On 87 minutes, United did get a penalty for a foul on Jesse Lingard, which Paul Pogba made no mistake to make it 2-1. It was suddenly game on.

With five minutes of injury time to be added on, there was still more than enough time for United to equalise, or possibly even go on and win it.

The pressure continued from United, but Tom Heaton continued to deny them, saving a shot from Paul Pogba, before a goal line save in injury time from Alexis Sanchez looked to have won the game for Burnley, only for the ball to fall for Victor Lindelof to score his first goal for United to make it 2-2.

And still there was time to win the game.

The pressure continued but Burnley were able to hold on for a point. Not an ideal result for United, but it’s better than a defeat.

Even though Arsenal won to go two points ahead of them, Chelsea lost to Bournemouth the following night, meaning that even though United dropped two points, they actually finished the Matchweek a point closer to 4th.

It’s great to have the United of old back. The worst thing that has happened over the last five years is that we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that others are better than us. There’s a serious danger that Liverpool will win the League teams are scared of them. Shamefully, United were one of those teams in December.

Onwards and upwards. Hopefully, by the time i’m next at Old Trafford on the last day of the season, a Top 4 finish will be secured and we’ll have two cup finals to look forward to.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL/MAY

April’s football watching began with a trip to Mourneview Park on Easter Tuesday to see Linfield grind out a 3-2 win away to Glenavon.

That was followed on the Saturday afterwards by going to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-0.

Good start to the month, but that was as good as it got, as Linfield could only managed one point from their next three games against Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville, which would cause them to eventually miss out on European football.

There was only one match for me in May, a trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Watford.

And that, was the 2017-2018 over for me.

Here’s to more football and photos in 2018-2019.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Watford

Manchester United v Watford Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 WATFORD 13.5.2018

As I travelled over to this match the day before, it occurred to me that it was the 25th anniversary of my first ever United match.

That match was a 1-1 draw in a friendly against Aston Villa at Windsor Park, as United fans were still celebrating their side’s first title in 26 years. Little did they know what the next 25 years would bring, albeit the first 20 years of that period being a lot more enjoyable.

Aston Villa’s goal that night came from Dwight Yorke. Little did we know that he would be a future goalscoring hero for United.

As fans left Windsor Park that night, little did they know that a future United goalscoring hero would be born the next day. This game fell on Romelu Lukaku’s 25th birthday, but he wouldn’t be getting a chance to celebrate with a goal, as he missed out through injury, an injury which restricted him to a role as a substitute in the FA Cup Final.

When I booked this trip, I thought it would be the second successive season that I would be seeing Marco Silva bring a team to Old Trafford, having seen United take on Hull last season. That wouldn’t be happening as Watford change their manager every three months. I had to check Google to see that it was Javi Garcia.

This game was also the last game for United for Michael Carrick before retirement, having made his debut against Charlton Athletic in August 2006. If he had waited a few days, his first and last game would have been against Watford.

If he had made his debut a few days earlier against Fulham, I would have been at his first and last games for United.

Being out of sync is a familiar theme to United’s season.

If this game was about paying tribute to Michael Carrick, the weekend before, it looked like being a tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson, but thankfully he is on the road to recovery, as announced in the days leading up to this match.

There was not a lot to play for in terms of the League positions. United had confirmed 2nd prior to this, their highest finish in the post-Ferguson era, while Watford were floating about in mid table, with a forth successive season of top-flight football confirmed, a feat they haven’t achieved since their glory days under Graham Taylor in the 1980s.

Watford made a positive start to the game, having a lot of possession in United’s half.

It was United who had the first attempt on goal of the game when an ambitious Alexis Sanchez volley went wide.

Marcus Rashford was causing problems for Watford’s defence, trying to get in behind them. United weren’t slow in trying to give him opportunities to do so. He only needed to get lucky once.

And that he did, after a through ball from Michael Carrick played in Juan Mata who set up Rashford to score from close range.

Sergio Romero, getting a rare start in goal, made an excellent save from a Richarlison close ranger header. I was at the end of the ground and thought it was sneaking in. Thankfully, it didn’t.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Marcos Rojo lost possession but was saved by an offside flag as the ball fell to a Watford attacker.

United searched for the second goal that would secure the game, the closest they came was an Alexis Sanchez cross which evaded Juan Mata.

Having spent the first-half trying to run behind Watford’s defence, Marcus Rashford was now not running at Watford’s defence every time he got the ball, to audible groans in the stands.

It was a very dull game, the only moment of note in the final minutes of the second-half came when Michael Carrick was substituted to a standing ovation.

The match finished 1-0 to United, as United finished the season with a win ahead of the FA Cup Final.

The FA Cup Final would ultimately decide if it has been a season of progress. The fact that United have had their highest League position since Sir Alex Ferguson was Manager shouldn’t be overlooked, nor should the fact that United have beaten every team in the League, including come from behind wins against Manchester City and Chelsea.

On the flip side, United lost away to all three promoted sides, as well as dropping points to relegated Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, as well as relegation threatened Southampton.

In those games, United only picked up the pace when they fell behind and the points looked set to be slipping away, when they should have been going at it from the start.

It was probably apt that the season should end with a similar performance and result in the FA Cup Final.

That attitude was the same against Bristol City in the League Cup, as United waited to win it in extra-time while Bristol City wanted to win it in 90 minutes.

United’s start to the season wasn’t that bad, but it was a run of dropped points in October and November killed off any hopes of a title challenge.

In any other season, United would only have been a couple of points off the top on New Year’s Day, but City’s start to the season put them out of reach.

The fixture list for the 2018-2019 season will be released on the morning of Thursday 19th June. Curious timing, as it is the opening day of the World Cup. That seems strange from a Marketing point of view.

When it is released, i’ll keep an eye out for possible games to go to, more than likely a midweek game. I’ll have to wait until the dates are released.

Pre-Season Fixtures have been announced and it looks unlikely there will be a Pre-Season game in Dublin, like there was in the Summer of 2017 against Sampdoria.

I forgot to mention in my last football blog that Institute will potentially be playing home matches at The Oval next season. Bit underwhelming that, was hoping to visit a new ground (for me).

In Scotland, unsurprisingly, Spartans failed to overcome a 4-0 deficit against Cove Rangers and will be playing in the Lowland League, meaning I won’t be seeing them in League Two action if I go to see them when I visit Edinburgh in August.

Meanwhile, the UEFA Cup Play-Offs went as disastrously as expected, with Linfield losing their Semi-Final 4-3 to Glentoran.

For a start, it is an absolute sham and it makes a mockery of the League that such a system is in place.

Could you imagine if the title was decided this way, and Linfield won the League after finishing 4th but winning two matches in May.

Imagine if something similar was in England, and Newcastle United were given an opportunity to play in Europe despite spending most of the season in the bottom half.

It’s not sour grapes me saying that, check my archives, my view has been consistent throughout.

Natural justice was done in 2016 and 2017, but sadly not in 2018. Having Play-Offs to decide UEFA Cup places is a reward for mediocrity.

As bad as Linfield have been this season, you can’t tell me that Cliftonville, Ballymena United and Glentoran are more deserving of a place in Europe.

Just wait five years when people are sitting about wondering why the Irish League’s co-efficient takes a battering because we let lottery winners play in Europe rather than deciding places on merit.

Having thrown away 3rd place during the regular season, Linfield should have been making no mistake in this Play-Off sham. We were 2-0 up at home to a team that finished 7th, and had lost three of their last four games – to the bottom three.

When it went to 2-1, you knew what was happening. Far too many times Linfield have capitulated and felt sorry for themselves after conceding a goal. Too many players hide when the going gets tough.

It is made even worse when you see how many times Linfield battled back from adversity to win the League in 2016-2017.

In November 2016, Linfield came from 2-0 down with nine men to get a draw at Glenavon. It spurred the team on for the rest of the season.

In October 2017, Linfield lost 2-1 at Coleraine due to a controversial goal. The response? a 5-2 defeat at home to Crusaders.

And on that note, being afraid of Crusaders. They can cut that shit out right away. I thought they had cut that out in 2016-2017.

A team of hoofers and thugs, and we made them look like Real Madrid. FIVE TIMES.

It’s a team of players approaching or in their 30s. It will need an overhaul over the next few years. There is a potential that this will blow up spectacularly for them. We have to be ready to pounce. Coleraine are no doubt ready to do so.

Departures have already happened. A new centre midfielder was a priority before Stephen Lowry left. It is even more so now. As is a striker who can put the ball in the net.

June 2018 will be the first month since June 2015 that Linfield haven’t played a competitive match. It’s simply possible that Linfield’s players experienced burnout this season, especially considering that players such as Jimmy Callacher, Mark Haughey, Mark Stafford, Niall Quinn, Matthew Clarke, Jamie Mulgrew, Stephen Lowry, Kirk Millar and Andrew Waterworth have been with the club during this period.

Hopefully, we can use a Europe free summer to our advantage, and get players such as Jordan Stewart, Jimmy Callacher and Andrew Waterworth back to full fitness so that they can hit the ground running in August.

So, Pre-Season wishlist. All away, grounds i’ve never been to or haven’t been to for a while – Moyola Park, PSNI, Knockbreda and QUB. Am I being ambitious to hope for an away game against one of Queen Of The South, Ayr United or Stranraer?

It is a League next season that will feature away game(s) against Newry, a ground I haven’t been to since 2010. Looking forward to that.

Of the Irish League teams in Europe, they will enter the competition between Tuesday 10th July and Thursday 12th July.

Any team at home that week will play on Tuesday 10th July. It’s common sense. That won’t stop Northern Ireland’s gutter press going to work, especially if one or two of them draw Glasgow teams.

After a season of fixture scheduling farces, here’s two to look out for next season.

Carl Frampton is having a fight at Windsor Park on Saturday 18th August 2018. You would expect Linfield to be away that day. You’d hope. It would be an utter disgrace if they have a home game scheduled that day that needs to be rearranged.

Saturday 23rd March 2019 is a date set aside for Euro 2020 Qualifiers. The draw is yet to happen. I’d like to think contingency plans are in place should Northern Ireland be at home that day.

That’s me for my football watching for 2017-2018. In some parallel universe i’d be writing about how i’m heading to Villa Park to see Morocco v Iran or going to St James Park to see Denmark v Peru.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park, a place where I would spend four of the five Saturdays during the month, to see Linfield scrape a 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.

Postponements would then frustrate my football watching, as Linfield’s trip to Carrick was postponed, as was the FA Cup Replay between Crewe Alexandra and Blackburn Rovers, which I had planned on attending.

The reason for this was that I was in North-West England to see Manchester United take on AFC Bournemouth, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

I then headed to Windsor Park on successive Saturdays to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville.

That was then followed by a Boxing Day trip to The Oval, the less said about that, the better.

After that, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Crusaders. The less said about that, the better.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Manchester Untied v AFC Bournemouth

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth Photo Album

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 AFC BOURNEMOUTH 13.12.2017

On Wednesday night, I made my first visit of the season to Old Trafford, as Manchester United took on AFC Bournemouth.

Win, lose or draw, I was hoping to have a better time than when I previously went to see United take on Bournemouth, having been evacuated from the ground prior to a match in May 2016, which was ultimately postponed.

United have made progress this season, but not as much as hoped. They’ve advanced in two cup competitions and are still to join in the FA Cup. It’s the League that matters, and United are chasing Manchester City and a gap of eleven points following defeat to them on the Sunday before this.

United sit 2nd in the table, but they’re not in a title challenge at the moment. A win on Sunday would have put them in one. Defeat means they’re the best of the rest, trying to swat off the teams below them instead of trying to overtake the team above them.

In short, this was a must-win game for United. Especially after Chelsea won the night before, and that Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool would be facing clubs in the bottom three and all looking likely to pick up victories.

Jesse Lingard had a spectacular attempt on goal that went wide in the first minute as United went straight on the attack. It was not to be the start of an onslaught.

In fact, it was Bournemouth who had the better of things in the early stages. Charlie Daniels being able to run at United’s defence to have a shot which was saved by De Gea, while Dan Gosling had a shot saved by De Gea after the original cross evaded him.

The best that United could offer was an Anthony Martial cross which narrowly evaded Juan Mata.

On 25 minutes, United took the lead when a header from Romelu Lukaku hit the back of the net. It was against the run of play, but United had the lead.

Lukaku’s only previous involvement prior to that was heading clear in his own box, to sarcastic cheers from a small section of the crowd, which United couldn’t totally get rid of, Phil Jones having to spectacularly head voer in his own six yard box.

The goal didn’t deflate Bournemouth, with David De Gea having to save from Ryan Fraser, who cheekily tried to exploit a gap he left when anticipating a cross.

United began the second-half looking for the second goal they needed to secure the points. Juan Mata had a shot blocked on the edge of the box while Anthony Martial fired over from a few yards out, after Lukaku’s shot was blocked, when he really should have scored.

I was sat in the back row, and one advantage of this was that the Corporate Boxes were right behind me, so I could have a sneaky look at the TVs behind me if I needed to see a replay.

It was Martial’s last involvement in the game as he was subbed for Marcus Rashford.

Rashford’s first involvement was to keep alive a Scott McTominay cross which evaded everyone to set up Jesse Lingard, who slipped. Rashford then hit the bar from the edge of the box, as his introduction gave United’s attack in injection of life that had been missing so far.

Borunemouth responded with a substitution of their own, bringing on Jermaine Defoe. Despite struggling at Bournemouth so far, he’s still a player with an eye for goal. He scored in his first couple of games against United for West Ham, so I have it in my head that he always scores against United.

He gave United fans a worry when his shot from a tight angle was saved by David De Gea’s legs.

The mood wasn’t helped by United’s inability to keep possession. This was summed up by Marcus Rashford trying to win a corner from a corner by hitting it off a Bournemouth player, the ball going straight to Bournemouth’s goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

As the full-time whistle approached, Bournemouth won a free-kick outside the box, which was teed up to Ryan Fraser, but shot straight at De Gea.

3 minutes and 50 seconds into 4 minutes of injury time, that was Bournemouth’s last chance, as United took the points.

David De Gea being the matchwinner against Arsenal shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but he shouldn’t be the matchwinner at home to Bournemouth.

It was a win, but not quite the response United needed. They won’t get away with it if they play like it in upcoming games against on form Bristol City, Burnley and Everton.

I would have included Leicester on the list, but they’ve since lost 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace, equally on form.

When I booked the trip, it was unknown if this game would be Tuesday or Wednesday, so I booked Tuesday to Thursday. It meant that I was free on Tuesday evening.

Crewe were scheduled to play Blackburn in an FA Cup 2nd Round Replay. It wasn’t far from Manchester and the ground is easy to get to.

Unfortunately, the match was postponed, but rescheduled for the following day.

I could have went to Burnley or Wigan, but in truth, I couldn’t be bothered.

This was Jose Mourinho’s first home League win against Bournemouth and the first time i’ve been to a United League win of note with him as manager.

My next scheduled trip to Old Trafford is in May for the last game of the season against Watford.

Unfortunately, it’s not looking like a title party.

Photo Album

Manchester United v Bournemouth May 2016

2017 IN PICTURES – MAY

May 2017 began with Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and a trip to Custom House Square to see The Divine Comedy in concert.

That was followed that weekend, by the Irish Cup Final, where Linfield beat Coleraine 3-0.

I then filled a football free Saturday afternoon by cycling to Lisburn and getting some Street Art photos.

Well, just the one football free Saturday, as the following weekend, I took in one more football match, travelling to Manchester to see United take on Crystal Palace.

While I was in Manchester, I took the opportunity to get some Street Art photos.

The month ended with a trip to The Limelight to see George Ezra in concert

The Divine Comedy live at Custom House Square

The Divine Comedy live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Coleraine Photo Album

Lisburn Street Art – May 2017

Lisburn Street Art – May 2017 Photo Album

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Crystal Palace

Manchester United v Crystal Palace Photo Album

George Ezra live at The Limelight

George Ezra live at The Limelight Photo Album

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2016-2017

So, the 2016-2017 season is over for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed my photographic look back at the season just gone.

I’ve selected some of my favourites, so feel free to vote for the one you like the best.

POLSKA

Taken back in June 2016 at Northern Ireland v Poland, I like the composition, how everyone is fixated on the action at the other end of the pitch, and the colour co-ordination of both sets of fans.



WILGAR

Taken at a pre-season game between Linfield and Dundela, it captures the joys of going to football matches in pre-season, sunshine and relaxation ahead of the hard slog ahead.



SEAVIEW

I like the framing of this, as the crowd is in position, awaiting kick-off in a big match.



CELEBRATION

Linfield fans celebrating Jimmy Callacher’s winner against Glentoran in October. I just like this for some reason other than the obvious.

PALMERSTON

There’s just something about the architecture of old football grounds that does it for me. This is out of use turnstiles at Palmerston Park, home of Queen of the South.

APPEAL

Linfield fans appeal in unison, all making the same hand gestures, for a goal to be allowed. The goal was disallowed for a foul.



ELF

Taken at the Steel and Sons Cup Final. Some people like getting dressed up for Christmas.

GAYNOR

I like the composition of this, from Ross Gaynor’s posture, to substitutes chatting to each other while the game goes on.

UNITED

I like the composition of this, all eyes fixated on the penalty area and the incoming corner.

SPOT THE BALL

I like the composition of this shot, it looks like a Spot The Ball image, except that the ball is in the shot, with two players getting ready for an aerial tussle.



COLERAINE

I love the framing and seeing players in the background running to join the celebrations.

WATERWORTH

Celebrations after Andrew Waterworth’s second goal against Cliftonville, capturing the joy of the event and the achievement just about to happen.