Joined by Juan Mata, Fernando Torres is the cover star of this month’s When Saturday Comes, looking back in a horrendous season for him that saw him become a European champion for club and country, top scorer in Euro 2012 and an FA Cup winner.

Euro 2012 dominates this edition, with a day by day diary of the competition, looking back at every game, including a photographic look at how fans watched the tournament in the UK, while there was a feature on those who did travel to Poland and Ukraine, where the welcome for travelling fans wasn’t as bad as feared.

There is a look bad at some of the tournament’s failures, with group stage exiters Holland and Russia getting full page features on their failure.

Underdogs get profiles, with Republic of Ireland and Greece getting a full page looking back at their respective fortunes, as did both finalists Spain and Italy.

There is a look forward to Euro 2016, with sceptical analysis on the decision to increase the tournament from 16 teams to 24 teams.

In club football, there is a look at Harry Redknapp’s sacking as Tottenham Hotspur manager, and the polarising nature of the reaction to his departure from fans and media.



It had been a long three months since Linfield ended 2017-2018 in embarrassment and failure. A glorious World Cup might have distracted us but that is now a distant memory, not even Glenavon having the same kit as France can keep the memory of events in Russia alive.

If Linfield wanted an easy start to ease them into the season, the Fixture Computer didn’t deliver. You have to face your rivals at some point, might as well issue a statement of intent in the opening month of the season.

What will have given Linfield fans cause for optimism was their side’s recent record at Mourneview Park. They won twice there last season (Glenavon responded with two wins at Windsor Park, a draw in one of those games would have secured European football for Linfield), which made it three successive League wins there, with an Irish Cup Semi-Final win against Dungannon Swifts sandwiched in that run.

The last time they failed to win at Mourneview Park was the 2-2 draw in November 2016, coming from 2-0 down after playing with nine men for 80 minutes with an outfield player in nets. It felt like, and was celebrated like a win. There would be no Mark Haughey heroics in nets today though. More of that later.

Before that game, was a dead rubber last game of the season win in April 2016. Overall, it’s a run of five wins and one draw in the last six visits to Mourneview Park.

The last time Linfield lost in Lurgan was a 3-2 defeat in November 2015. The two goalscorers for Glenavon that day, Joel Cooper and Daniel Kearns were lining up for Linfield this afternoon.

One of the problems Linfield had last season was the unavailability of key players through injury and suspension. 2018-2019 didn’t get off to a much better start, with Jamie Mulgrew, Mark Stafford, Ryan McGivern, Mark Haughey, and Robert Garrett all unavailable for selection. The team picked itself, because there was nobody else available in defence or midfield.

That was further evident in those taking their place on the bench, a bench which will now include seven players, with only one of the six outfield players, Benny Moller Nielsen, not being an attacking player.

Seven players on the bench now means there is no excuse for not having a goalkeeper amongst the subs, with Gareth Deane taking his place on the bench today, meaning it is unlikely that Mark Haughey will be repeating his goalkeeping heroics any time soon. Unless a goalkeeper gets injured or sent-off and all three subs have been used. Haughey’s own injury means it could be a while before he is on the pitch himself, in whatever position.

It was a surprise to see Benny Moller Nielsen on the bench, even though he signed in the week leading up to the match, as he had been with the club in pre-season and was already part of the squad. That meant that it was Niall Quinn and Andrew Mitchell lining up in centre midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

In the run-in last season, Linfield were decimated with suspensions. It’s easy to say the players need to watch themselves, but Linfield had six yellow cards today in a game where there was barely a bad tackle, as the referee seemed to be booking Linfield players for the first foul.

I was held up getting into the ground and missed the first minute. As I arrived, there was a corner kick being prepared for with Linfield’s attackers in the box and a flamboyantly dressed goalkeeper on the line.

Linfield on the attack, good to see, I thought to myself.

It turned out that Jonathan Tuffey was at the other end of the pitch dressed relatively coservatively in a colour best described as orange highlighter, while it was Roy Carroll who was dressed head to to in what can be best described as yellow highlighter.

As is unwritten tradition at Mourneview Park, Glenavon attack the end where Linfield fans are situated. It was a sizeable away crowd of Linfield fans. To give you an idea of how much, all the seats that could be filled (The end of the stand has no access in order to create a buffer zone between opposing fans) in the stand were filled, while the overspill covered the whole way across, and was a couple of rows deep.

Those that were stood behind the goal were watching Glenavon on the attack, with a penalty being awarded for a handball by Chris Casement. Not for me.

Last season, Linfield’s Andrew Mitchell was prolific from the penalty spot. Thankfully, Glenavon’s one was not, blasting his shot over the bar, meaning any debate as to wether it was a penalty didn’t matter.

On Friday, NIFL posted an article on their website advising clubs how to minimise the risk of spectators being hit by footballs. Mitchell’s penalty was so high, no Linfield supporters were in danger of being hit by the ball. Shoppers in Lurgan Town Centre may have had to duck for cover when the ball eventually landed.

If the award of the penalty felt like a return to the bad vibes of 2017-2018 for Linfield, the miss and the manner of it might have felt like luck was returning in their favour.

It certainly felt that way a few minutes later when Chris Casement, booked for his involvement in the penalty incident, was lucky to avoid a second yellow for a foul as Glenavon fans screamed for a second yellow.

Linfield rode out the early pressure and came into the game. Their first attacking moment of note saw Jimmy Callacher head home from a free-kick, only for celebrations to be cut short by an offside flag.

If that was a wearning to Glenavon, they didn’t heed it, as a free-kick from a similar position on the opposite side of the pitch fell to Daniel Kearns who was able to stick his foot on it and finish under pressure.

Mark Sykes, on his 21st birthday, got into space and was played in, but his shot was saved by Roy Carroll, who made himself big.

Linfield finished the half strongly, but couldn’t get the second goal they needed, the best moment coming when Joel Cooper fired a long range shot just over.

In the opening minute of the second-half, it looked like that much needed second was going to come in bizarre fashion when Jonathan Tuffey tried to head clear, but it hit Andrew Waterworth, who shot towards the empty net from a wide position, but a Glenavon defender was able to get back onto the line and clear the ball.

Mark Sykes was not enjoying his birthday, as he was played through, lobbed the ball over Carroll into the side netting when he really should have scored.

Jordan Jenkins, off the bench, had two shots saved by Carroll. The second of which was parried into the six yard box straight to Chris Casement, who cleared.

You get the feeling that if that happened last season, it would have fallen straight to a Glenavon player to equalise, and they would have won it in injury time.

Linfield were able to see the game out in a sizeable amount of injury time and get three points on the board at the first attempt. It was the forth successive opening game win for Linfield. I can remember when we used to always drop points on the opening day.

The four other games all produced winners, with no shock results. Two of today’s winners, Coleraine and Cliftonville meet next Saturday, meaning that Linfield will have an opportunity next weekend to go into a lead over one or two teams expected to be in the Top Six.

Linfield’s game next weekend at home to Institute has been brought forward to Friday night, which is inconvenient for me as i’ll be at George Ezra. Hopefully, it goes a bit better than the last time I missed a Linfield match to go to a concert, in May this year.

Unless George Ezra gets a sore throat next Friday, I won’t be at Windsor Park until September.

The game against Institute being brought forward does mean that Linfield have the opportunity to lay down an early gauntlet to their title rivals by getting six points on the board and then putting their feet up on the Saturday afternoon while they are trying to keep up. It must be taken.

My Saturday plans will now be a trip to Bangor Vintage Market as part of Open House Festival and to see the mural of John Lydon.

The Fixture Computer for Clandeboye Park next Saturday will see Glentoran travel to Ards. I’ll give that a miss.

It has been a busy week of comings and goings at Windsor Park, with Benny Moller Nielsen, who played in pre-season, joining permanently. I was only at one of the matches he played in and he did ok, mopping up in front of the defence.

In case you’re wondering, he’s Richard’s grandson, whose record at Windsor Park was one win, one defeat and one draw. Hopefully, Benny’s win percentage will be a lot better.

Joe Crowe left the club by mutual consent, which was a bit surprising with Mark Haughey injured. I rated him and he was decent defensive cover. It was clear though from pre-season games that Chris Casement was going to start the season at right-back.

Despite his departure and the injury to Haughey, we have Andrew Mitchell as cover for that position.

Alex Moore went out on loan to Dungannon Swifts, which is a brilliant move for both parties, with a good young goalkeeper getting the opportunity for regular top flight football.

Eamon Scannell has went out to Warrenpoint. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan Strain went out on loan before September, with Cameron Stewart going out on loan in January when he recovers from injury in January.

The morning of this match was spent getting a ticket for the game at Seaview in two weeks.

I know the date was only confirmed on Thursday due to Crusaders elimination from the UEFA Cup.

Could those responsible not have begun ticket sales a week or two weeks ago with the disclaimer that the game could be postponed, instead of inconveniencing fans with short notice sales.

There is also a game at Solitude that will need ticket sales in the coming weeks. There is no reason why these couldn’t be on sale now, to allow fans to purchase tickets on a Saturday morning.

Especially so with only one home match before these two games.

Not everyone is able to get to Windsor Park during the week.

Next Friday night could be fun with Institute tickets, Season Tickets, Crusaders Tickets and Cliftonville tickets all on sale at the same time.

With a bit of planning, those in charge could have had Crusaders and Cliftonville tickets on sale last week or the week before, making it more convenient for supporters to purchase on a staggered basis rather than in one swoop on a matchday.

That game away to Crusaders will be my next Linfield match. Later that night, i’ll be going to see The League Of Gentelemen. I’ll let you insert your own joke.

My next football will be at Ainslie Park when i’m at the Edinburgh Festival to see Edinburgh City take on Albion Rovers in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

The two sides met today in League Two, with Edinburgh City winning 4-0.

This weekend last year, I was at Ainslie Park to see Edinburgh City lose 3-1 to Montrose. Today, Montrose unfurled a flag for winning League Two. At least one team in blue I saw last season had something to celebrate.

Hibs and Rangers will both be in UEFA Cup action on the weekend i’m there, but away from home. Useless showers.

So Linfield are looking to improve on last season’s 4th place finish and get 2018-2019 off to a winning start.

Then you check the League table, and they sit 5th. Oh for crying out loud.

Photo Album


It’s the summer of 1986, and Diego Maradona, holding aloft the World Cup is the cover star of World Soccer, with Mexico 86 still a recent memory.

As you open the magazine, there is a tribute to former FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous, described as “The Father Of Football”, who was taken ill in Mexico, and died a few weeks later on his return to London.

World Soccer views Mexico 86 as a success, but the tournament was not without flaws. Having 24 teams in the finals and allowing some 3rd placed teams to qualify, in their view, encouraged Bulgaria to employ negative tactics against Argentina, as a narrow defeat would put them through.

Azeglio Vicini is the favourite for the Italy job, should Enzo Bearzot leave his job as manager of the recently dethroned champions.

There is a double page profile of Argentina’s winning squad.

France get a post-mortem, having reached the Semi-Finals for the second successive tournament, where it is declared that their glorious midfield is a thing of the past.

Denmark get previewed, but are looking forward, not back, to an upcoming friendly against West Germany as they aim for revenge against a team they beat in Mexico. Why revenge? West Germany manager Franz Beckenbauer described their style of play as primitive.

England’s post-mortem focuses om the future of Bobby Robson, with writer Eric Batty saying he must stay in the job.

Bayern Munich get a double page feature as they aim to win the European Cup. They came close, losing to Porto in he final that season.

There is a feature on two young Scottish managers in big jobs, Kenny Dalglish who won the League and FA Cup in his first season as Liverpool manager, and Graeme Souness, given his first job at Rangers, and caused a stir by calling them the biggest club in Britain.

In Yugoslavia, Partizan Belgrade have been stripped of the league title as a result of alleged match fixing.

The draws for the 1st Round of the three European trophies are reviewed, with the tie of the round being the meeting of PSV Eindhoven and Bayern Munich in the European Cup.

There is a feature about club football in Canada, or rather, the lack of, something which World Soccer says is vital is they want to capitalise on reaching their first World Cup.

PSNI 1-1 LINFIELD 24.7.2018

It had been a while since I had seen Linfield take on the PSNI. So long in fact, that they were known as the RUC.

That was back in the Summer of 1995, but it had similarities with the Summer 2018, as Linfield added a host of new names to their squad to regain the title after a poor defence of it the previous season.

We all now how the next few years went after 1995, hopefully there won’t be a repeat this time around.

This was a game I was looking forward to as soon as it was announced. Not too far to travel, easy to get to, and a ground I hadn’t seen Linfield play at, though I did visit the ground in 2015.

No floodlights at Newforge, which made the 7.30pm kick-off a bit of a surprise, though a lovely summer evening negated the need for lights.

There were nor Trialists for Linfield, but some new signings getting an opportunity in the case of starts for Joel Cooper and Michael O’Connor, and a debut for Ryan McGivern, who had signed earlier that day.

A central midfielder is a priority, but when a player of McGivern’s ability becomes available, it would be rude not to take advantage.

Cooper and O’Connor were in the thick of the action when Linfield went forward, both of whom hitting the bar, while Cooper had a low shot saved after cutting in from the right.

There was a moment of worry for Linfield in the first-half when Kirk Millar went down in agony after a tackle. Thankfully, a bit of magic sponge and he was better. The pitch wasn’t in the best condition, so it was always going to cause concern when a player went down.

As well as a new centre midfielder, a right foot for Jordan Stewart wouldn’t be a bad purchase.

On Saturday, he wasted a great opportunity to shoot by wanting to get the ball onto his left foot, and missed a great opportunity to cross in this game.

When games are decided on small margins, Linfield can’t afford to pass up on attacking opportunities.

Though pre-season is all about fitness and players settling in, it is nice to win. Linfield had the chances in the first-half but couldn’t really say they were dominant.

Only ten minutes for half-time, due to wanting to make the most of the sunlight, Linfield were straight on the attack in the early minutes. There looked to be only one team going to win this game.

Of course, that could only mean one thing, a PSNI goal, and the Peelers issued some rough justice with a lobbed finish to go 1-0 up.

From where I was, at the opposite end of the pitch, it looked like Gareth Deane could have done better with his positioning.

If he was at fault for the goal, he more than redeemed himself throughout the rest of the game with a series of saves to keep Linfield in the game.

Linfield responded to the goal by bringing on Andrew Waterworth and Jamie Mulgrew.

It was a game similar to a League Cup tie at Ballyclare in 2014. Only one team winning it at 0-0, then conceded a goal which gave them something to hold on to, which they did.

As the game wore on, Linfield put more pressure on the PSNI goal, hitting the bar for a third time as they searched for a get out of jail card.

Eventually, the pressure was rewarded in injury time when the ball fell to Andrew Waterworth in the box, and he made no mistake.

It felt like last season all over again. Hopefully, we’re just getting it out of our system before the seasons starts.

Hopefully, it will have been a distant memory by the time the sides meet next, in the County Antrim Shield in late September, the draw taking place on Tuesday teatime.

Another draw that took place this week was the UEFA Cup draw, meaning that both Hibs and Rangers are away on the week i’m in Scotland, so i’ll have to make do with Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers when i’m there.

In other news, the away match against Glentoran in October will be live on Sky Sports. Hopefully, there’ll be a repeat of the time we beat Cliftonville 2-0 rather than when we lost 5-2 to Crusaders. Set your recorders.

Up next is a friendly against Ballyclare, where it is expected that players not involved in this game will take part, as Linfield look to make the most of their squad.

It is a squad that if it had one more centre midfielder, is more than capable of a title challenge.

Where do you get that player? There’s no point signing somebody for the sake of it.

If we get him, there is cause to be optimistic for 2018-2019.

We’ll have to do better than this game though.

Photo Album


It was a new ground for me to visit as Linfield continued their pre-season preparation with a trip to Knockbreda, based on the Upper Braniel Road. It’s as close as you’ll probably get to High Altitude Training for an Irish League team.

Unsurprisingly, it was Linfield who dominated the early minutes, Chris Casement was played in behind the defence but played it across when he should have been selfish and shot, a Knockbreda defender getting in a last ditch tackle.

Last ditch tackles and sliced clearances were a theme throughout the first-half, and Knockbreda almost scored an own goal on a couple of occasions.

Eventually, Linfield’s pressure was rewarded when quick thinking from a corner saw a cross come in which was dropped by Knockbreda’s goalkeeper straight to Andrew Waterworth, who made no mistake

Knockbreda’s keeper would make up for that mistake later in the half with a superb one handed save from a Josh Robinson header.

A bit of pinball in the penalty area saw Chris Casement finish to make it 2-0. That was the game won for Linfield.

I presume it would have been planned anyway, but the commanding lead allowed Linfield to make changes at half-time. Caomihan McGuiness, Jordan Stewart, Michael O’Connor and youngster Lewis Houston entering the action.

O’Connor was the mystery man who scored twice to win the friendly against Waterford on Wednesday as a Trialist. When I heard his name, I thought we had signed the former Crewe player.

There was a Trialist on the field for Linfield today, wearing number 6 and playing in midfield. He was neat and tidy and did the simple things well, though we didn’t really see much of him as an attacking force.

Even though Knockbreda forced Gareth Deane into a few saves, Linfield’s win was never in doubt. The second-half was a non event.

The most exciting thing about the second-half was that there was a dog fetching the ball every time it went behind the goal.

Glenavon’s defeat to Molde confirmed that Linfield’s trip to Mourneview Park will definitely take place on Saturday 4th August. It was perhaps apt that a European match involving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be decided by two goals in injury time. Sorry, any excuse to sneak in a reference to the 1999 European Cup Final.

Meanwhile, Cliftonville manager Barry Gray was complaining in the Belfast Telegraph about the IFA not doing enough to help Irish League teams in Europe.

He has some cheek, as his side shouldn’t even have been in this season’s UEFA Cup, but the Irish League believes in Play-Offs rather than merit. The whole League being dragged down because Ballymena fans moaned about their 7th place side having nothing to play for in April every year.

And in ten year’s time, we’ll be sitting about wondering why our co-efficient is so low.

Talking of Ballymena, their pitch has suffered some damage due to stock cars being more wayward than a Tony Kane pass.

Due to work on the pitch, you won’t be seeing any football at Ballymena until October. Or indeed after October when Ballymena start playing home matches again.

They should write a letter to their local MP to get the issue resolved, but I hear he’s busy.

Meanwhile, does any one know any good blogs that cover Sri Lankan club football? I’m going there for a free trip soon and would like to take in a game while i’m there. This blog post is brought to you in association with the Sri Lankan Tourist Office and is perfectly above board.

Back in the real world, up next for Linfield is a trip to the PSNI. They’ll be ready for this game and will have gathered intelligence on, I mean, scouted Linfield.

It is one of two games next week for Linfield, their last before the League season starts.

It’s been a busy schedule for Linfield this week and last week, it’s all about getting ready for Glenavon. One more midfielder and we should be ready to go.

Photo Album


The last time I visited Tolka Park, I met the incmubent England manager Sven Goran Eriksson. I did keep an eye out for Gareth Southgate, but I couldn’t see him. He must have had other things on his mind.

As it was a Bank Holiday period on a Thursday and Friday, I decided to head to Dublin for an overnight stay on the Friday. Naturally, i’d be doing all the touristy stuff and spotting Street Art, the trip would also include a football match.

I had a choice of two games on the Friday night : Bohs v Sligo Rovers or Shelbourne v Drogheda United.

I plumped for Shelbourne v Drogheda, as it presented me with an opportunity for a potential last visit to Tolka Park, the future of the ground looking uncertain, with Shelbourne planning to move to a redeveloped Dalymount Park.

This would be my only game while I was in Dublin. Shamrock Rovers v AIK wasn’t postponed and needed to be played on the Friday, while there were no friendlies in Dublin on the Saturday, with Oxford United (v UCD) and Newcastle United (v St Patrick’s Athletic) playing in Dublin a few days either side of my visit.

Shelbourne and Drogheda kicked-off a couple of points of the top of the table. During the 00s, both of these teams were challenging at the top of the table, but in the top flight.

They kicked-off in a sandwich, a few points behind UCD who are in the automatic promotion place, while themselves occupying a place in the Play-Offs, with the teams below them looking to take advantage of any points dropped and leap above them.

Getting to the ground was very easy. It did help that I had been there before. Certainly a lot easier than last year trying to get to UCD.

This was my fifth game seeing Drogheda United. The previous four (Linfield in 2006 and 2007, St Patrick’s Athletic in 2013, Bray Wanderers in 2014) had brought two wins and two draws. They were hoping I would continue to bring them good luck.

In the opening minutes of the game, Shelbourne had a glorious chance to score when Drogheda’s keeper was caught in possession, but the Shelbourne attacker dragged his shot wide. Drogheda responded immediately with a low shot that was easily saved.

It was a game where neither side really looked like scoring. There were very few clear goalscoring chances in the game.

With each passing minute, it was looking likely the game was going to finish 0-0. If there was to be a goal, it would more than likely be the only goal of the game.

On 89 minutes, Drogheda had a free-kick in a shooting position just outside the penalty area.

You know when somebody lines up a dead ball, you have a hunch that the ball is going in? This was one of those moments.

And so it proved, Sean Brennan fired home to give Drogheda the lead. Shelbourne still had time to equalise.

They had the ball in Drogheda’s half but never in their penalty area. Drogheda were able to hold out and get the three points.

Someone at Linfield must have been reading this blog, as they’ve just announced an away friendly against Knockbreda on Saturday. A new ground for me to visit. Looking forward to it.

This week, saw Easyjet announce new routes to Salzburg and Prague. That is very tempting. Prague especially. There’s a weekend in March 2019 where Sparta Prague, Dukla Prague and Bohemians Prague are all at home.

Might as well get a football trip to Mainland Europe before Brexit.

Photo Album


Teddy Sheringham dressed as a 1970s Medallion Man is the cover star of Manchester United’s official magazine, as he shows off the medals he won during United’s historic treble season.

In news, there is a report on United’s friendly against Omagh Town which United won 9-0. The game was arranged to raise funds for victims of the bomb in the town the previous year, while Andy Cole has launched a music career with the release of a single called Outstanding.

Cover star Sheringham gets a five page interview as he looks back on a change in fortune after a difficult first year at United which failed to bring a trophy and he got criticism from fans and press.

Mark Bosnich has rejoined United from Aston Villa, and there is a look back at his first spell at the club, and the formative years of his career.

United have just brought out a dark blue away kit, and there is a behind the scenes feature of the promotional campaign and photo shoot for the kit.

An advert for the kit appears a few pages later.

The recently knighted Sir Alex Ferguson uses his monthly column to declare himself an honourary Mancunian.

There is a review of United’s pre-season games, which includes a match against Australia.


Liam Brady of Sampdoria is the cover star of this editon of Match as he reveals that he wants to sign for Manchester United, but not until the summer of 1984 when his contract with Sampdoria expires. Ron Atkinson didn’t take him up on the offer.

Spanish football wasn’t all Tiki Taka in 1982 with players who have faced Spanish sides recently and even players playing in Spain complaining that the quality of play is poor due to the volume of fouls.

Meanwhile, Gordon Cowans of Aston Villa says he is back in form and ready to battle for a place in the England team.

One man who isn’t getting in the England team is Glenn Hoddle, who uses his column to bemoan his bad luck with injuries recently.

It’s the Scottish League Cup Final this weekend, and Match interviews Danny McGrain and John McClelland ahead of the game.

Arnold Muhren’s recent winner for Manchester United against Tottenham Hotspur gets the Steve McGarry treatment with a full page sketch.

Gordon Strachan of Aberdeen previews the Scottish League Cup Final in his column, predicting that Charlie Nicholas of Celtic will have a big say in the outcome.

Paul Mariner uses his column to plead with Alan Brazil to stay at Ipswich Town after the striker handed a transfer request.

The magazine ends with a profile of Mike Hazard of Tottenham, who reveals his biggest TV turn-off is the news.


We might be in the middle of the World Cup, but European club football is almost up and running, and it’s time for me to update you as I pursue a pointless list.

What is The 102 Club? Simple. 102 clubs have played in the Final of either the European Cup, European Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Cup, and some people want to go and see them all play live in the flesh.

The membership remained at 102 as no sides reached a first European Final in 2017-2018. Any possibility was extinguished once Red Bull Liepzig went out of the UEFA Cup in the Quarter-Final. Any hope of a new member from the European Cup ended once Basel and Besiktas exited in the Last 16.

I wouldn’t say i’m actively pursuing completion of the list, but i’m going to see how many I can tick off.

During the 2017-2018 season, I added Sampdoria to my list, bringing me up to 36.

You may think that living in Northern Ireland, I wouldn’t get many opportunities to add to the list. You’d be surprised. The early rounds in July offer potential for me to add to my list.

In the European Cup, Crusaders (and Cork City) will be unseeded and could potentially face Celtic, Malmo, Red Star Belgrade (Yes please!! Showing my age by getting giddy at the mention of Red Star Belgrade) and Videoton.

If Crusaders were to draw Celtic, we’ll get to hear about Joe Miller telling the Daily Record about how he was probably attacked by a laser beam when playing at Seaview in the 1990s.

If either of them get through to the Second Round, they could face Dinamo Zagreb.

If either of them were to get to the 3rd or 4th Round, Red Bull Salzburg or PSV Eindhoven could await.

Any team that goes out of the European Cup will automatically enter the UEFA Cup, but can only face fellow European Cup exitees, so the same rules will apply.

When the Group Stages arrive, I may be tempted by a trip to Old Trafford for a game. Possible opponents for United who I haven’t seen include Dynamo Kiev, Standard Liege, Bayern Munich, Juventus, PSG, Schalke, Monaco, CSKA Moscow, Club Brugge and Inter Milan.

Meanwhile in the UEFA Cup, Linfield won’t be playing in it because the Irish League doesn’t believe in European places being decided on merit, and instead prefers Play-Offs which reward mediocrity.

Coleraine, Glenavon and Cliftonville will all be unseeded, as will Shamrock Rovers and Derry City. They could be drawn to face Partizan Belgrade, Slovan Bratislava, Dinamo Tblisi, Gornik Zabre or Rangers.

Having reached the Group Stage of the competition in 2016, it is unsurprising that Dundalk will be seeded. They need not worry about being left out, as they could face Ferencvaros or Ujpest.

Some biggies lie in wait in the 2nd Round, such as Sevilla, AZ Aalkmar, Steau Bucharest, Bordeaux and Aberdeen.

If any of them were to get to the 3rd Round, possible opponents include Zenit St Petersberg, Braga, Feyenoord and Rapid Vienna.

If any of them were to get to the Group Stage, possible opponents include Arsenal, Chelsea, Bayer Leverkusen, Anderlecht, Lazio, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille, Eintracht Frankfurt and AC Milan.

It isn’t just that, as Coleraine, Crusaders, Bray Wanderers and Bohemians will be participating in the Scottish Challenge Cup, with Dundee United being the one you want if you want to add to your list.

And no, Celtic, Rangers or Aberdeen’s Reserve Teams won’t count.

For those based in the Republic of Ireland (or if you fancy a road trip from Northern Ireland), Aberdeen (Cobh Ramblers) and Newcastle United (St Patrick’s Athletic) will be visiting soon for friendlies.

Meanwhile, Lansdowne Road will be hosting friendlies between Arsenal and Chelsea, and Liverpool and Napoli.

So, I shall sign off by providing you with the list to check off who you have. The teams I have are in bold with the year first seen in brackets.

Hope to add some more in 2018-2019

1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig
1. FC Magdeburg
1860 Munich
Aberdeen (2011)
Ajax (2012)

Arsenal (2003)
AS Monaco
Aston Villa (1993)
Athletic Bilbao
Atlético Madrid (2011)
Austria Wien
AZ Alkmar
Barcelona (2011)
Bayer Leverkusen
Bayern Munich
Benfica (2000)
Birmingham City (2010)

Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Mönchengladbach
Braga (2011)
Carl Zeiss Jena
Casino Salzburg
Celtic (2009)
Chelsea (1997)

Club Brugge
CSKA Moscow
Deportivo Alavés
Dinamo Tbilisi
Dinamo Zagreb (2008)
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
Dundee United (2013)
Dynamo Kyiv
Dynamo Moscow
Eintracht Frankfurt
Espanyol (2015)
Everton (2014)

Feyenoord (1999)
Fortuna Düsseldorf
Fulham (2001)
Górnik Zabrze
IFK Göteborg
Ipswich Town
KV Mechelen
Leeds United (1999)
Liverpool (1994)

Malmö FF
Manchester City (2000)
Manchester United (1993)
Marseille (1992)

Middlesbrough (1995)
AC Milan
MTK Hungária
Newcastle United (1993)
Nottingham Forest (1996)

Paris Saint-Germain
Partizan Belgrade
Porto (2011)
PSV Eindhoven (2015)
Rangers (2002)

Rapid Wien
Real Madrid (2003)
Real Mallorca
Real Zaragoza
Red Star Belgrade
Roma (2007)
Royal Antwerp
Sampdoria (2017)
Schalke 04
Sevilla (2014)
Shakhtar Donetsk
Slovan Bratislava
Sporting CP
Stade de Reims
Standard Liège
Steaua București
Tottenham Hotspur (2010)
Valencia (2015)
VfB Stuttgart
Werder Bremen
West Ham United (1997)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (2010)

Zenit Saint Petersburg


Later today, Russia will face Saudi Arabia in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup.

In a special edition of the Magazine Archive, we go back to 1970 when George Best brings out a World Cup preview magazine. You know it’s 1970 because there’s a sombrero on the cover, which means it’s the year that Mexico hosted the World Cup.

As you open the magazine, George Best comments on his jealously of listening to England players talk about looking forward to the World Cup when travelling to away matches with Manchester United. The reason why George Best is jealous, if you don’t know, is because Northern Ireland failed to qualify.

Best doesn’t believe England will retain the trophy, but says they will deserve applause if they do, predicting that Brazil and Italy, the two eventual finalists, were the most likely teams to win it.

Before even starting, the tournament has provided some diplomatic headaches, as El Salvador and Honduras were at war with each other during qualifying matches between the two countries, while Morocco requested not to be drawn against Israel, and Czechoslovakia asked not to play the Soviet Union.

All sixteen teams are profiled, with player biographies, player photos and a list of results of how they qualified.

The magazine ends with a look back at the 1966 World Cup, held in England, and an aerial shot of the Aztec Stadum in Mexico City, the ground that will host the final.