MAINE OVAL

There have been strange goings on in East Belfast lately, most recently in Parkgate Avenue, where the entrances of The Oval have been painted …….. of all colours, blue.

Signage has gone up to indicate that it is the home of Manchester City.

Before you get excited at the thought of Pep Guardiola sipping lattes in Ballyhackamore, or consider setting up a shop in Connswater that sells inflatable bananas, it’s not what it seems.

The reason for this, is that The Oval is being used to film scenes for a forthcoming movie about Bert Trautmann and has been set up to replicate Maine Road in the 1950s and 1960s.

A sign has been left to explain this for any confused locals.

It’s not the first time The Oval has been used for filming. In the 00s, DoubleBand Films, a Belfast based film company used the venue for link shots when producing documentaries as part of the Football Stories series on Channel 4.

Glentoran and Manchester City fans have some things in common. Not only do they support teams living in the shadow of more famous and successful city rivals, they also have nightmares of when Alan Kernaghan was at their club.

Cliftonville are also in on the act, with their ground also being used to replicate Stoke City’s Victoria Ground.

Photo Album

THE UEFA 102 CLUB – 2017 UPDATE

It’s that time of year again folks when the draws for both European competitions are made, and I keep you up to date on a pointless list I am trying to complete.

What is The UEFA 102 Club? Simple really, it was inspired by an article in When Saturday Comes of a man trying to see every team that has played in a European club competition (European Cup, European Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Cup) final in the flesh.

So, I made my own list, and began updating it every year.

2016-2017 was a disappointing season though, with no new additions.

If a team reaches a European club final for the first time, it will then be renamed The 103 Club ….. and so forth.

In last season’s European Cup, Leicester City were the only non-member in the Quarter-Finals, and were eliminated in that round.

The UEFA Cup Semi-final draw gave us the possibility that it could be The 103 Club or even The 104 Club.

With ten minutes to go, Celta Vigo and Lyon were both two goals away from being new members. Celta got one, but couldn’t get a second due to John Guidetti thankfully being useless in front of goal, meaning that instead of two new members, the UEFA Cup Final was between two clubs with a combined fifteen previous European finals between them.

This is the stage when Irish League and League of Ireland teams join in, meaning there is the possibility of me adding to the list without having to venture too far.

In the European Cup, Irish League champions (and it still feels good typing that) Linfield will be in the 1st Round, and won’t be facing any club on the list.

However, should they advance to the 2nd Round, that’s where the fun begins. Linfield would be unseeded, as would Dundalk, who enter at that round.

Possible member club opponents for both clubs include : Celtic (already ticked off), Red Bull Salzburg, Malmo and Partizan Belgrade.

Should Linfield and/or Dundalk advance to the 3rd Round, there will be no member clubs entering at that stage, meaning they can’t play a member club other than the four mentioned until the Group Stage.

Turning attention to the UEFA Cup, Irish League and League Of Ireland clubs enter in the 1st Round. Crusaders will be seeded, while Ballymena United, Coleraine, Derry City, Shamrock Rovers and Cork City will all be unseeded.

There are no possible member clubs that Crusaders could face in the 1st Round.

For the unseeded teams, possible member club opponents include : Videoton, Slovan Bratislava, Red Star Belgrade (yes please!!!), Ferencvaros and Rangers (already ticked off)

Should any of the Irish League or League Of Ireland teams reach the 2nd Round, that’s where the fun begins.

Possible 2nd Round opponents include : 2000 winners Galatasaray or Aberdeen (already ticked off).

The 3rd Round is where some big hitters join in, including : 2008 winners Zenit St Petersburg, 2012 runners-up Athletic Bilbao, AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven (already ticked off), 2011 runners-up Braga (already ticked off), 1996 runners-up Bordeaux, Everton (already ticked off), Marseille (already ticked off), Dinamo Zagreb (already ticked off), Austria Vienna and Panathiniakos.

If you’re dreaming of a trip to The Emirates, you’ll have to reach the Group Stage, where Arsenal (already ticked off) are one of three member clubs entering at that stage, the others being Koln and Lazio.

When the draw for the Group Stages of the European Cup is done, i’m going to look at going to one of Manchester United’s home matches, so hoping that would be against a member club i’ve never seen.

My first United match of 2017-2018 will be a pre-season friendly at Lansdowne Road against Sampdoria, so i’ll be adding them to my collection.

Dubliners are in for a treat that week, if you can call it that, as Liverpool play Athletic Bilbao at Lansdowne Road a few days later in a doubler. A Dublin Doubler, if you will. Or, if you prefer, a Double Dublin Doubler.

Not far from Dublin, Drogheda United will be playing Ipswich Town in a friendly at United Park on July 8th. If you’re wanting to add to your list.

As yet, there are no Irish League clubs with friendlies against a member club.

As well as playing in European competition, Linfield and Crusaders fans will have the chance to see their side face Dundee United (already ticked off) in the Scottish Challenge Cup, should the draw be so kind to them.

Bray Wanderers and Sligo Rovers fans will have the same opportunity.

So, my total? I’m currently on 35, hopefully 36 come early August.

I know, i’ve got a bit to go. I’d need a huge lottery win to complete it. What sort of loser would spend a lottery win travelling around Europe to watch fallen East German giants? Erm, me.

Here’s the full list of member clubs. Teams i’ve seen are in bold with the year first seen in brackets.

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
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

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : TOTAL FOOTBALL – SUMMER 2004

Three models in the kits of England, Northern Ireland and Wales is the cover image of Total Football, with all three home nations in the same World Cup Qualifying Group starting in a few months.

In news, the Northern Ireland team have announced a kit supplier deal with Umbro, and a sponsorship deal with Nationwide.

There is a profile of new Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez and the impact he has already had in his first three games in charge.

There is a profile of Irish League referee Andi Regan, as she gets ready to head to Greece to officiate at the Olympic Games football tournament.

Having just made his debut for Southampton, Alan Blayney gets profiled where he reveals he had spent a period of time training with Glentoran the previous year after suffering from homesickness.

Another player leaving Glentoran for full-time football in England was Andy Smith, who had just signed for Preston North End, and he gets a full page profile.

The models in the cover make a reappearance as they review the new kits of both local and national sides.

Getting ready for a second season of top flight football, Ballymena United manager Kenny Shiels gets interviewed.

Over the page is an interview with Loughgall manager Jim Gardiner, as the club gets ready for their first season of top flight football.

In news, Linfield have announced a shirt sponsorship deal with Umbro to run alongside their kit supplier deal.

Linfield are one of three clubs, the others being Glentoran and Portadown, whose upcoming European ties get previewed in a double page feature.

There is a double page feature with new Cliftonville manager Liam Beckett as he gets to grips with the job at Solitude.

The magazine ends with a preview of the Milk Cup.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SCORE – MAY 1999

This week, we go back to the turn of the century, and the short lived Irish League magazine Score, with Kevin Horlock being the cover star, in action for Northern Ireland against Germany in a recent European Championship Qualifier.

As you open the magazine, there is a full page profile of Dundela.

David Larmour of Linfield gets a profile, across the page of a profile of Davy O’Hare. It is expected that O’Hare will spend the summer of 1999 choosing between signing for Linfield (Neil Inglis getting binned after an error in the Irish Cup Semi-Final) or Glentoran (Wayne Russell possibly signing for Bohemians).

Paul Leeman takes a quiz on Irish League football, only managing a score of 8 out of 10, getting a question wrong on when Glentoran last won the league.

Lee Feeney writes a diary on his time in Glasgow, having just signed for Rangers. One of team-mates is Scott Young’s brother, with whom he has Irish League banter.

Another ex Linfield player profiled is Billy Murray, who had come out of retirement in his 40s to play in John Easton’s Testimonial, and looks back on his career, mostly spent with Linfield.

The magazine is Belfast centric, and all the clubs in the city have a news update, from the four top flight clubs to those in the lower leagues.

Joining the four Belfast clubs in the top flight for 1999-2000 will be Distillery, soon to be renamed Lisburn Distillery, and Jim McCloskey gives the lowdown on his team-mates.

Glentoran won the league title in 1999, and the celebrations get a full page profile.

The back page focuses on the national side with fans being urged to get behind manager Lawrie McMenemy, at the halfway point of Euro 2000 Qualifiers.

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.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MAY

There wasn’t a lot of football for me in the last month of the season.

May began for me with the Irish Cup Final between Linfield and Coleraine, which Linfield won 3-0.

My final match of the season, was a trip to Old Trafford to see a much changed Manchester United side beat Crystal Palace 2-0.

And that, was the end of 2016-2017 season for me.

2017-2018 is not too far away.

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Coleraine Photo Album

Manchester United v Crystal Palace

Manchester United v Crystal Palace Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

April’s football watching began in Lurgan on the first day of the month, heading to Mourneview Park to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 in a Irish Cup Semi-Final.

The following week, was another 1-0 win for Linfield, this time at Windsor Park in a key title decider against Crusaders.

Easter arrived in the middle of the month, and a double header of wins for Linfield, against Ballymena United and Glenavon.

The following Saturday, I headed Coleraine to see Linfield win 5-1 and go top of the League for the first time all season, with just one game to go.

That game was at Solitude, which Linfield won, and I captured the post match celebrations, as well as the celebrations later that day at Windsor Park.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 CRYSTAL PALACE 21.5.2017

The race for European Cup places went down to the last game. United weren’t involved but not in a good way, as they were locked in 6th, unable to go up or down.

Crystal Palace weren’t too unhappy about this game being a dead rubber, having been battling against relegation for most of the season, securing their safety with a win over Hull City last weekend.

It’s an occupational hazard of being a football fan that you can book a trip to a football match well in advance, anticipating it to be a big decider, only for it to be a dead rubber.

It was still better than when I went to United’s last League game of last season, at least I got a game this time.

Despite being locked in their position, this was a game United still had to win, purely for form and morale ahead of the UEFA Cup Final against Ajax. United went into this game on a run of one win in seven games. Not ideal going into a game of this magnitude. One win in eight, isn’t exactly great preparation either.

I’m disappointed that United surrendered a top four place in to concentrate on Europe, when both were achievable. A strong finish to the League season would have been perfect preparation for Stockholm.

A downturn in form going into a European final brought back memories of 1991 for United fans. That season saw a 3-0 defeat against Crystal Palace on the last weekend. Hopefully, that would not be repeated.

Jose Mourinho had stated in the build-up that there would be a much changed United team for this game. The only certainty was that Eric Bailly would be starting, due to his suspension for the UEFA Cup Final.

In the end, there were debuts for Demi Mitchell, Scott McTominay, Josh Harrop, and a first start for Joel Pereira.

In years to come, I might be able to say “I was there”, though my record of Untied debuts isn’t great – Marouane Fellaini and Victor Valdes. At least I can say I was there for Sam Allardyce’s last game as a manager.

For a lot of people, there would be quick Google searches to find out more information on these players. I know, minus Top Red points for not having an MUTV subscription and watching Reserve and Underage match. I should never be allowed in Old Trafford again.

The first chance of the game came when Wayne Rooney got in behind Palace’s defence, but his lob went just over the bar.

It was two of United’s debutants who were involved in most of their early attacks, Josh Harrop and Demetri Mitchell combining to good effect down the left.

It was down the left that United’s first goal came, Harrop being played in by Paul Pogba, getting into the penalty area, cutting back and then smashing it into the net with his right foot.

He wasn’t the first United young player to score on his debut. Hopefully, he’ll be more of a Paul Scholes or Marcus Rashford rather than a Federico Macheda or James Wilson.

A few minutes later, it was 2-0 when a pass came to Paul Pogba when it looked like it was going to be intercepted by a Palace defender, and Pogba made no mistake.

Pogba was playing to give him game time ahead of Stockholm, after missing recent matches due to a recent family bereavement.

It wasn’t a long appearance by Pogba, as he was subbed for Michael Carrick towards the end of the first-half, followed soon after by Jesse Lingard making way for Anthony Martial. The substitution denied Lingard the opportunity to score against Palace on 21st May for the second successive year, as this match fell on the first anniversary of the 2016 FA Cup Final.

Jose Mourinho wasn’t taking any chances. United certainly were. If they were this efficient in the previous 37 matches, a top four finish could have been secured a long time ago.

Palace’s attacks were easily nullified by United. The best they could offer was a Christian Benteke header which hit the post, denying him the opportunity to equal Darren Bent’s record of scoring at Old Trafford in three successive seasons for three different clubs.

Unsurprisingly, the second-half was typical end of season stuff as United won comfortably. The main talking point was the introduction from the bench of Angel Gomes, United’s youngest player since Duncan Edwards.

He was also United’s first player born in the 21st century.

It’s sad now that I can now remember the closest game to when a United player was born. In Gomes case, he was born during an international break. The closest match was a 2-2 draw against West Ham at Upton Park. I watched the game in a bar while on holiday in Spain. United threw away a 2-0 lead.

The final table saw United finish 6th. A win in the UEFA Cup Final will certainly retrieve the season.

It frustrates me that United surrendered 4th. Even though winning the UEFA Cup will bring the same result for United next season, they would be one of five English teams in the European Cup. Being one of four would have been much better. We could have really damaged a rival.

Ultimately, it was points dropped in drawn games at Old Trafford which cost United a top four finish. If United hadn’t thrown away leads against Stoke, Swansea, Arsenal and Bournemouth, they would have finished 4th.

Add in an extra two points from the numerous 0-0 draws to that, they would have finished 3rd. It could have made the final weeks of the season very relaxing and made it easier to balance Europe and League commitments.

This was my last match of the 2016-2017 season. The day after this match, United announced a friendly against Sampdoria in Dublin for August 2nd.

Frustratingly, it’s a midweek, so I’ll have to take a half day on the Wednesday and try and get some sleep before work on Thursday.

In terms of trips to Old Trafford, I’ll have to wait until the fixture list is confirmed on 14th June.

As much as I enjoyed doing a Thursday-Sunday double header last November, it’s not something I’d want to make an annual event.

I’m hoping there’s a midweek fixture list in December, like in 2016-2017, with United at home, and then possibly a European group match. Midweek games are handy due to lower hotel costs.

Elsewhere, the Irish League hasn’t stood still since I attended the Irish Cup Final just over two weeks ago.

Lots of ins and outs at Linfield. The signings of Robert Garrett, Jordan Stewart and Andrew Mitchell are all welcome additions to the squad. It was Linfield’s squad which won them the title last season, when you consider the impact of players such as Cameron Stewart and Alex Moore/Gareth Deane when covering for injured team-mates.

It was a squad which needed trimmed. The departures of Sammy Clingan,Michael McLellan and Kris Bright are of no surprise to anyone.

I would have kept Josh Carson, Roas Gaynor and Sean Ward, but I can understand if the players wanted to leave in order to get first-team football.

Jonny Frazer leaving was a bit of a shock. No disrespect to Ards, but I’m glad he hasn’t joined a top half team.

Linfield’s first pre-season friendly has been announced, a mid June trip to North Wales to take on Bala Town, only 90 minutes from Holyhead.

I’m holding out for Stena or Ulsterbus to do a bus/boat package. It’s the day after The 1975 concert at Ormeau Park, so I would be functioning on little sleep if I went.

The ridiculous notion of UEFA Cup Play-Offs produced a lot of goals, which means they are probably here to stay. I’m glad natural justice prevailed when Ballymena won it.

Having spoken about possibly going to see United in Dublin, I’m going to Dublin for two days in July, hoping to do the usual touristy stuff and catch some football. Shelbourne have a home match on one of the days I’m there. St Pat’s and Bray have home matches schedule, but they are dependent on their opponents being out of Europe by then.

It hasn’t been booked yet, but I’m hoping to go to Edinburgh in August. Hopefully, it’ll be on a weekend when Edinburgh City are at home. It’ll be a pleasant change from Hibs and Hearts.

Hopefully if I go to a European group match at Old Trafford next season, it’ll be in the European Cup instead of the UEFA Cup.

Photo Album

Manchester United v Crystal Palace September 2013

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : 2016-2017

So that’s it, another season of football watching is over, and 2016-2017 is consigned to history.

As is tradition when a season of football watching is over, it’s time to look back in the best way possible …. in numbers.

Matches Seen : 59

Goals Seen : 169

Red Cards : 16

Hat-Tricks : 2

Penalties Missed/Saved : 4

Highest Scoring Match :
6 (Harland and Wolff Welders 1-5 Linfield, Linfield 5-1 Ards, Coleraine 1-5 Linfield)

Countries Seen Matches In :
4 (England, France, Northern Ireland)

Teams Seen : 34

Ards, Azerbaijan, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Bury, Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Cork City (1st time), Croatia (1st time), Crystal Palace, Crusaders, Dundela, Dungannon Swifts, Feyenoord, France, Glenavon, Glentoran, Harland and Wolff Welders, Hull City, Institute, Linfield, Manchester United, Millwall (1st time), Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portadown, Republic of Ireland (1st time), Romania, San Marino (1st time), Sweden (1st time), West Ham United.

Competitions Watched : 11

County Antrim Shield, European Championship Finals (1st time), FA Premier League, Football League One, Irish Cup, Irish League, NIFL Cup, Scottish Challenge Cup (1st time), Steel and Sons Cup, UEFA Cup, World Cup.

Grounds Visited : 19

Allianz Riviera (1st time), Ballymena Showgrounds, Clandeboye Park, Coleraine Showgrounds, Drumahoe, Ferney Park, Gigg Lane (1st time), Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Palmerston Park (1st time), Seaview, Solitude, Stade De France (1st time), Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue, The Oval, Tillysburn Park, Wilar Park, Windsor Park

Curiousities :

Outfield player playing in goals for 80 minutes (Glenavon 2-2 Linfield, November 2016)

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

March’s football watching began for me at Seaview, watching Linfield put Crusaders out of the Irish Cup.

There was a bit of a wait until my next match of the month as Linfield’s home match against Cliftonville was put back to the Monday night for live TV coverage.

I was back at Windsor Park the following Saturday, as Ards were the visitors.

The month ended with two games in the one weekend – Linfield’s long trip to Ballinamallard, and Norway’s even longer trip to Northern Ireland for a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album