THE UEFA 102 CLUB – 2018 UPDATE

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)

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

Bordeaux
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)

Ferencváros
Feyenoord (1999)
Fiorentina
Fortuna Düsseldorf
Fulham (2001)
Galatasaray
Górnik Zabrze
Hamburg
IFK Göteborg
Internazionale
Ipswich Town
Juventus
Köln
KV Mechelen
Lazio
Leeds United (1999)
Liverpool (1994)

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

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

Panathinaikos
Paris Saint-Germain
Parma
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
Saint-Étienne
Sampdoria (2017)
Schalke 04
Sevilla (2014)
Shakhtar Donetsk
Slovan Bratislava
Sporting CP
Stade de Reims
Standard Liège
Steaua București
Torino
Tottenham Hotspur (2010)
Twente
Újpest
Valencia (2015)
VfB Stuttgart
Videoton
Werder Bremen
West Ham United (1997)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (2010)

Zenit Saint Petersburg

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : GEORGE BEST’S WORLD CUP PREVIEW

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.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : 2017-2018

Club football is now over for another season and attention is now turning to the World Cup.

For me, the 2017-2018 season ended a few weeks ago, so I might as well post up my stats from my football watching.

Matches Seen : 51

Goals Seen : 150

Red Cards : 6

Hat-Tricks : 1

Penalties Missed/Saved : 2

Highest Scoring Match : 7 (Linfield 2-5 Crusaders)

Countries Seen Matches In : 4 (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Republic of Ireland)

Teams Seen : 30

AFC Bournemouth (1st time), Ards, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers, Celtic, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Czech Republic, Dundela, Dungannon Swifts, Edinburgh City (1st time), Germany, Glenavon, Glentoran, Heart of Midlothian, La Fiorita (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Millwall, Montrose (1st time), Northern Ireland, Rochdale (1st time), Sampdoria (1st time), South Korea (1st time), Spartans (1st time), Switzerland, Warrenpoint Town, Watford (1st time)

Competitions Watched : 8

European Cup, FA Cup (1st time), FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Scottish Challenge Cup, Scottish League Two (1st time), World Cup

Grounds Visited :
16

Ainslie Park (1st time), Ballymena Showgrounds, Clandeboye Park, Colraine Showgrounds, Ferney Park, Lansdowne Road, Milltown, Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue, The New Den (1st time), The Oval, Wilgar Park, Windsor Park

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : MATCH – 19.5.1984

It’s the FA Cup Final, as Everton and Watford take centre stage on this week’s copy of Match.

There is fighting talk from both teams. Peter Reid states that there is no way Watford will score against Neville Southall, while Mo Johnston is determined to win the cup for suspended captain Wilf Rostrun, and let him lead out the team at Wembley in the following season’s Charity Shield.

Chelsea get a double page feature, having just been promoted to the top flight of English football after an absence of five years.

In foreign news, Juventus have been rocked by the news that Claudio Gentile might be leaving the club in the summer.

Staying in Italy, Luther Blissett of AC Milan tells Match how delighted he is to have been recalled to the England squad.

In preparation of that summer’s European Championship, Match is previewing the teams, with Romania, written down as “Rumania” being this week’s subject.

Graeme Souness uses his column to preview the FA Cup Final, declaring that he can’t see Everton losing.

Andy Gray and George Reilly are profiled, with Gray revealing his favourite singer is Rod Stewart, and that his personal ambition is to have an uneventful private life.

George Reilly’s favourite pop star is Bryan Ferry.

Mark Hughes gets profiled, having broken into Manchester United’s first team this season, revealing that he thought he would have to leave United in order to advance his career.

A team-mate of Hughes in the future will be Gordon Strachan, who is set to join United from Aberdeen, with his last game for the club being the Scottish Cup Final against Celtic, a game Aberdeen will lose according to Hibs goalkeeper Alan Rough, previewing the game for Match.

It had been suggested that Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson has been mellowing, but he told Match that his wife had told him to behave himself.

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2017-2018

I hope you’ve enjoyed the month by month look back at the 2017-2018. The less said about what happened on the pitch, the better.

I took a lot of photos, so i’ve rounded up my favourites.

Feel free to vote for your favourite.

PLATT LANE

This was taken in June last year when The Oval was being used for filming a movie about Bert Trautmann, and was decorated to look like Maine Road. I went to get some photos.

I specifically wanted one with 1950s Maine Road and 2017 Oval both in the same shot, and this was my favourite from that day.

CLANDEBOYE

You have roadworks to thank for this photo.

I was held up heading to Ards v Linfield and missed the first couple of minutes.

This was the scene that greeted me as I entered, a crowd with their eyes fixated on the pitch on a warm summer evening.

GARRETT

I like the composition of this photo.

You may be surprised that Robert Garrett is attacking and not defending, he had just kept the ball in play and was now being surrounded by two Dungannon defenders.

PHOTOGRAPHER

I just like the composition of this shot. Taken during Spartans v Linfield in Scottish Challenge Cup.

RAINBOW

Me being arty farty. I love trying to get pictures of rainbows over football grounds. Taken at half-time during Ballinamallard v Linfield in November. A rare time that afternoon when it wasn’t raining.

HAUGHEY

Same match, everyone huddled in the stand to avoid the rain. I like the composition of this shot.

FLEGS

Taken during the Northern Ireland v Switzerland match in November, green and white flags were left out before the game for fans to wave. I decided to take a shot as they were being waved and got lucky.

CELEBRATION

Everything fell into place for this shot, the sky, a well worked goal, and the whole team coming together to celebrate.

GOAL

I like this shot because it captures the emotion of a last minute equaliser as part of a late comeback that never looked like coming.

TIPTON

I was heading to the exit for a quick getaway (in my defence, it was an away game on a weeknight) and stumbled upon this framing as Matthew Tipton looked on as Warrenpoint took on Linfield.

CAMPION

Taken during Cliftonville v Linfield in February, the guy in the red coat makes it makes it with his celebration as Linfield players celebrate in front of their fans.

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

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

Football watching in March got off to a delayed start, due to Linfield’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville being postponed due to snow.

I had to wait a week to get to a match, Linfield’s home game against Carrick Rangers.

The following midweek, was that postponed Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville, resulting in a defeat for Linfield.

It didn’t get better the rest of the month as Linfield had to come from behind to get draws against Glentoran and Ballinamallard United.

At least the month ended on a high note, beaming with parental pride (sort of) as Paul Smyth came off he bench to score the winner for Northern Ireland against South Korea on his debut.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Glentoran

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v South Korea

Northern Ireland v South Korea Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me with a midweek trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town.

That was followed four days later by Linfield’s 0-0 draw with Dungannon Swifts.

Two away games followed for Linfield on the following weekends, against Cliftonville and Ards, before finishing the month with a midweek home match against Glenavon.

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Cliftonville v Linfield

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January 2018’s football watching was supposed to start at Coleraine on the first day of the month, but the weather saw to that, so I had to wait a week to visit Taylor’s Avenue for my first game of the month, to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win over Carrick Rangers.

There was another postponement in the middle of the month, at Warrenpoint, which meant I had to wait a whole week for my next match. It wasn’t really worth the wait as Linfield lost 3-2 to Glenavon.

Towards the end of the month, I headed to London for a short weekend away. Naturally, I hoped to take in a game while I was there, and the game I chose was Millwall v Rochdale.

My final game of the month was a trip to Coleraine, which should have kicked off the month, to see Linfield score two late goals to secure a dramatic draw.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Millwall v Rochdale

Millwall v Rochdale Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

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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