PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : OCTOBER

October. The month that was spent at Windsor Park. Five matches, all at the same stadium. Still, it gave me a chance to document the ongoing redevelopment work, as various construction milestones were reached, such as the demolition of the South Stand, and the first bits of steel added to the Railway Stand.

Unfortunately, the Railway Stand had more steel than Linfield during this month.

The month began well, with wins over Ballymena and Institute taking Linfield top, before defeats to Cliftonville and Crusaders saw them drop down to 5th.

Inbetween Linfield’s wins over Ballymena and Institute, came Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 Qualifying win over Faroe Islands.

Linfield v Ballymena United

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands Photo Album

Linfield v Institute

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Crusaders

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 – OCTOBER

October was mostly spent at Windsor Park, with four Linfield matches and a Northern Ireland match. There was other stuff too.

The first Saturday of the month saw me see Linfield take on Ballymena United at Windsor Park. As the month wore on, the frequent visits to Windsor Park allowed me the chance to document the ongoing redevelopment, from the still unfamiliar surroundings of the North Stand.

The following Saturday, it was Windsor Park again, but for an international between Northern Ireland and Faroe Islands. Unlike club games, I was in The Kop. This view allowed me to get some final photos of the South Stand at Windsor Park, as it entered it’s final days before complete demolition.

Two days after Northern Ireland’s win, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Institute, which kicked-off late due to a power failure at the ground.

The next day, I went to see George Ezra in concert, at Winds ….. I jest, The Limelight.

Back to Windsor Park on the final two Saurdays of the month, to see Linfield take on Crusaders and Cliftonville, with some Street Art on North Street (missed out from Culture Night, the previous month) and Duke Of York

Linfield v Ballymena United

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands Photo Album

Linfield v Institute

George Ezra Live At The Limelight

George Ezra Live At The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

North Street Art Extra/Duke Of York

North Street Art Extra/Duke Of York Photo Album

Linfield v Crusaders

NORTHERN IRELAND 2-0 FAROE ISLANDS 11.10.2014

For the first time in 13 months, Northern Ireland were playing at Windsor Park, in their only home game of 2014.

A lot has happened since that game against Portugal, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. From the step forwards of beating Russia and heroic defeat against Portugal, to the lows of defeats in Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, before going back to the high of last month’s win in Hungary.

Of all the teams to face after that, i’m not sure Faroe Islands would be top of the list. It would be such a Northern Ireland thing to drop points against the Faroes after a win in Hungary.

Past results against the Faroes (1-1, 5-0, 1-1, 4-0) suggested it could go one of two ways. Northern Ireland don’t do expectation very well.

Windsor Park was full. Well, sort of. All the seats that could be sold were sold, with the South and Railway Stands out of use. Foundation work is well underway for the Railway Stand, while the South Stand is halfway demolished.

Northern Ireland kicked-off and went straight on the attack, putting the Faroes under pressure and forcing them into a goal line clearance from a Gareth McAuley header. McAuley was injured making the header and in discomfort. It briefly looked like he might have to be subbed.

Thankfully, he wasn’t, and fired home from close range after a header fell to him within minutes of coming back on. It was the dream start Northern Ireland wanted.

Though, the last time Faroe Islands visited Windsor Park, Northern Ireland got an early goal, before a nervous display for the rest of the half, with a second-half flurry of goals giving the deceptive impression of a 4-0 romp.

This was different, the attacking was relentless. Everytime Northern Ireland had the ball, there was a player always available for a pass or a cross. Everytime Faroe Islands had the ball, they didn’t know what to do, often losing it and giving Northern Ireland the chance to build another attack.

More attempts on goal followed, with Northern Ireland getting closer and closer, before eventually making it 2-0 when Kyle Lafferty flicked home a cross from the left.

More attempts followed, but as the half neared it’s end, it was Faroe Islands who had the next big opportunity when they were awarded a penalty. Thankfully, Roy Carroll saved the penalty and Northern Ireland survived, then picked up where they left off.

As the second-half started, Northern Ireland needed a 3rd just to be sure, despite the fact that Faroe Islands had offered nothing in open play.

The second-half was a bit of a non event as Northern Ireland tried to get a 3rd goal (they had enough chances) but saving themselves for the game against Greece on Tuesday.

Not only did Northern Ireland win tonight, they had two other wins, in the shape of both other group games finishing draws.

Not sure what to make of Greece drawing in Finland tonight. When the draw was made, I had them as runaway group winners, with everybody else bar Faroe Islands playing for 2nd and 3rd.

You could look at it as Greece are maybe not as good as I thought, or they are just waiting to explode into life. Hopefully, the former.

Regardless of what happens, i’m planning on being in France for the finals. Benn planning this ever since France were awarded hosting rights. June 2015 flights went on sale this week so I did a little dry run regarding prices.

Hopefully, Northern Ireland will be there, but there’s a long way to go.

I’d happily take two draws from the away games in Greece and Romania, ahead of Finland’s visit to Windsor Park in March. I might just get shouted down for being too negative.

Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands August 2011

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands August 2011 Photo album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 14.7.1979

Match action from England’s recent visit to Sweden is the cover of Shoot, as they try to fill in the gap during the pre-season of 1979.

In news, Brian Clough has drawn praise from pundits in the Soviet Union after Nottingham Forest’s European Cup win, and Northern Ireland have announced a tour of Australia for the summer of 1980.

Pierce O’Leary of Shamrock Rovers was linked with a move to Coventry City, potentially, the first League Of Ireland player to move to an English club for a six figure fee. Staying in Dublin, Pele was a surprise visitor to Dublin for the friendly between Republic of Ireland and Argentina.

Distillery were facing expulsion from the Irish League if they couldn’t have a new ground by the start of the 1980-1981 season.

And finally, Coventry City became the first Football League team to visit the Faroe Islands, beating a local team 6-0.

The volume of British players in the US meant the NASL got a page of coverage, the lead story being that George Best had went missing for a week.

Gordon McQueen, writing a column, expresses his concern that the games between England and Scotland could be banned due to crowd violence, expressing his anger at a Scottish fan who invaded the pitch with his side 1-0 up, causing a delay. England went on to win the game 3-1.

McQueen also spoke about an 18 year old called Diego Maradona, who faced Scotland and was described by McQueen as “Another Pele in the making”, but was disappointed at the lack of TV coverage of the game, due to a dispute with the BBC.

In letters, a Shrewsbury Town fan complains about the lack of acknowledgement given to boss Graham Turner for his success at the club. A reader from Perth wrote in to complain about the BBC being biased towards Rangers.

A young manager starting out in the game is 32 year old Howard Kendall, and his appointment at Blackburn Rovers gets 2/3 of a page coverage.

RC Strasbourg get a full page profile, with a team poster on the other side.

To fill up space with no football, we get a full page of footballers on holiday, including a picture of Phil Neal throwing Phil Thompson into a swimming pool.

Part 8 of Shoot’s review of the 1978-1979 season reveals that Barcelona want Bobby Robson to be their manager. It only took 17 years for them to get him.

Derek Johnstone’s Scottish football column is accompanied by a picture of him playing video games with his wife.

Wigan Athletic, having just completed their first season as a league club, feature in an article asking if they will “Do a Wimbledon” – Wimbledon (promoted to the Football League in 1977) got promoted in their second season.

Wigan did indeed “Do a Wimbledon” in terms that they reached the top flight (in 27 years compared to Wimbledon’s 9) and won the FA Cup (took them 35 years compared to Wimbledon’s 11)

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

The season finally started in August and it was a wet Mourneview Park for me on the opening day to see Linfield take on Glenavon.

The following week, I was on a week long break in Edinburgh, so I took the opportunity to see a local game, Hearts v Aberdeen.

As luck would have it, Hearts were also at home in the following midweek, against Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Cup, and I managed to blag a ticket for this.

The following weekend, I was in Brighton for a short break. I was unable to get a ticket for the match at The Amex, but I did get some shots of the exterior of the stadium.

Glenavon v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands Photo Album

Hearts v Aberdeen

Hearts v Aberdeen Photo Album

Hearts v Tottenham Hotspur

Hearts v Tottenham Hotspur Photo Album

The Amex

The Amex Photo Album

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL SEASON

You can thank @philmojones4 for the inspiration for this pointless blogpost, when he commented on how many matches he’d been too during the 2011-2012 season, and it got me thinking, then I thought some more, and came up with this statistical analysis of the football season just past (I know technically the season is still going, but for me, it is over)

Matches Attended : 44

Goals Seen : 120

Red Cards : 5

Hat-Tricks : 2

Aaron Burns (Linfield v Dungannon Swifts) Peter Thompson (Linfield v Newry City)

(Last season I witnessed hat-tricks by Dimitar Berbatov and Lionel Messi)

Hat-tricks missed due to being on holiday : 1

Phil Lowry (Linfield v Donegal Celtic)

Hat-tricks missed due to not being arsed with Irish Cup ties v lower league opposition : 2

Rory Patterson (Linfield v Ballyclare Comrades) Peter Thompson (Linfield v Coagh United)

Highest scoring match : 7 (Linfield 7-0 Newry City)

Countries seen football in : 4

England, Holland, Northern Ireland, Scotland

(Last season, it was 4 as well – England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Spain)

Teams seen play : 28

Aberdeen, Ajax Amsterdam, Ballymena United, BATE Borisov, Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Derriaghy CC, Donegal Celtic, Dungannon Swifts, Excelsior Rotterdam, Faroe Islands, Glenavon, Glentoran, Heart of Midlothian, Linfield, Lisburn Distillery, Manchester United, Newry City, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portadown, Serbia, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, Utrecht, VVV Venlo

Competitions Watched : 8

Eredivise, Euro 2012, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish Premier League, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Cup

Stadiums Visited : 14

Amsterdam Arena, Ballymena Showgrounds, Ballyskeagh, Coleraine Showgrounds, Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Seycon Park, Shamrock Park, Solitude, The Oval, Tynecastle, Windsor Park, Woudestein

NB: Stats do not include last night’s Manchester United v Irish League XI game. My visit to Amsterdam for the Holland v Northern Ireland game will be counted towards 2012-2013 statistics.