2017 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February 2017 began for me in Manchester, heading over to see United take on Hull City, while also getting some Street Art photos.

Back in Northern Ireland, I was on the road to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute in the Irish Cup.

The next day, I was out on my bike for my biannual (usually February and August) visit to Belfast Peace Wall to get some photos of the Wall Art on the walls.

The following Saturday, another road trip, to Carrickfergus to see Linfield at Taylor’s Avenue

The following weekend, it was back to Windsor Park for Linfield, and a disappointing draw against Portadown.

The morning after, I was out on my bike to get photos of a Jamie Dornan mural in Belfast City Centre.

Later that day, it was another cup final, the NIFL Cup Final between Ballymena and Carrick.

The following weekend, I was Oval bound to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Belfast Peace Wall Art

Belfast Peace Wall Art Photo Album

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

Be My Valentine

Be My Valentine Photo Album

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

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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 : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me at Old Trafford on the first day of the month, to see Manchester United held to a 0-0 draw by Hull City.

Three days later came the first in a trilogy of road trips, first to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute, then to Ballymena to see Linfield win the County Antrim Shield, and then to Carrick to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a visit to Windsor Park to see Linfield held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Portadown.

The following day, I was Seaview bound to see Ballymena United take on Carrick Rangers in the NIFL Cup Final.

The football watching for the month ended with a trip to The Oval to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-0 HULL CITY 1.2.2017

On Wednesday night, it was a third trip of the season for me to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Hull City, having done a double header in November against Feyenoord and West Ham United.

When writing about the West Ham game, I observed that in November 2015, things were looking great for United when I went to my first game of the season, then it all went wrong by the time I returned in late January. I was hoping for the opposite effect this season, and that United’s form would have an upturn between Old Trafford visits.

Well, that’s what happened, as December and January saw a nine match winning run, though that was followed by three games without a win.

Despite that, United came up smelling of roses in that three match run, gaining a point on Liverpool and Manchester City and reaching the League Cup Final.

Curiously, this wasn’t the first time i’d seen United play on 1st February. It was exactly eleven years, also a Wednesday, that I saw United lose 4-3 to Blackburn Rovers in the freezing cold at Ewood Park, though I did get to meet Statto after the match.

That night, United faced a team they had just beaten in the League Cup Semi-Final, just as they did with Hull City.

When I booked this game last June, it was either Tuesday or Wednesday, so I booked Tuesday to Thursday to cover all bases.

With the game on the Wednesday, I was hoping to get a game on the Tuesday. Unfortunately, none of the teams on the Metrolink were at home. Agonisingly, Rochdale have a home match against Charlton which needs to be rearranged due to their FA Cup run. They didn’t arrange it for the night I was in Greater Manchester.

Burnley were at home and were tempting. The problem was, there was too little margin for error in terms of getting back to Manchester and getting across Manchester back to my hotel. I looked at getting a ticket on Tuesday afternoon and there were still some available.

Incredible that you could get a ticket to see the Champions Of England at an away ground on the day of the match.

I was there to see United, anything else was a bonus.

Other results on Tuesday night went in United’s favour with Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool all failing to win. Having been 6th for so long, now is the time for United to go for the kill and start climbing the table.

United went straight on the attack in the opening minutes, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked to set himself up for a certain goal, only to be denied by a last gasp tackle.

However, it was Hull who had the best chance of the opening minutes when Harry Maguie headed wide from a free-kick. He really should have scored.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic got space to shoot at goal, but his shot was turned around for a corner, which was overhit but retrieved by Marcus Rashford, whose fancy flick set up Marcos Rojo, who headed over.

Daley Blind was next to try to score, but his volley went over the bar, as United were having as many attempts on goal as an already booked Oumar Niasse was committing fouls without a second yellow.

It looked like a goal was inevitible for United.

United’s last chance of the half came from when Marcus Rashford went on a run, stayed on his feet when a Hull player went in with a late tackle in the box but didn’t get rewarded for his honesty, instead seeing his attack end with the half-time whistle.

The game was similar to the first leg of the League Cup Semi-Final. United were hoping it would have a similar result in the second-half.

Having already needed an injury time when the sides met at the KCom Stadium in August, United were finding out for the third time this season that Hull were stubborn opponents.

Jose Mourinho brought on Wayne Rooney for Michael Carrick at half-time as United sought the breakthrough. Juan Mata and Anthony Martial being kept for later in the game.

That plan would bite the dust early in the second-half when Phil Jones suffered an injury in a race for possession. The game continued with Jones struggling, but Hull weren’t able to take advantage as Chris Smalling came on for him during the next break in play.

It meant that one of Mata and Martial would be sitting on the bench when United needed them both on the pitch.

Marcus Rashford got in behind Hull’s defence but could only scuff his shot wide.

Juan Mata got the nod from the bench in place of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, meaning that Anthony Martial was the man who would be watching from the sidelines.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired just wide, before a Chris Smalling header to Juan Mata for what looked like a certain goal.

Unfortunately, Hull’s goalkeeper had prepared for this match by watching the 1973 FA Cup Final, and picked the perfect moment to recreate Jim Montgomery’s saved.

Hull began to grow in confidence and started to believe they could win the game. It looked like they did when Lazar Markovic’s shot left David De Gea stranded, only for it to hit the post. I was behind that goal and thought it was going in. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was trying the spectacular in a crowded penalty area, that was only going the result in a free-kick to Hull.

In the first-half, it looked a goal for United was inevitable. As each minute passed, it was looking more and more like another frustrating evening.

Marcos Rojo and Paul Pogba forced Hull’s keeper into a save, while Abel Hernandez was unable to take advantage of being behind United’s defence by only firing weakly at David De Gea. This came during five minutes of injury time, Hull’s reward for persistent timewasting.

Hull held on for a point, as United were left to rue more missed opportunities, both metaphorically and literally.

This result wasn’t fatal, no real ground was lost, but United need to start taking advantage of teams above them playing each other, of teams above them slipping up. A top four finish is still a realistic target. Beating Hull at home is a minimum to achieve this.

A disappointing start to February, a month that could see United finish with a trophy, a place in the last 8 of the FA Cup and the last 16 of the UEFA Cup. There is still a lot to play for.

However, a nine match winning run has become one win in six. On the plus side, it might give Hull a confidence boost before facing Liverpool at the weekend, and then Arsenal next weekend.

Sadly, we’re relying on a lot of favours at the moment.

I’m next due back at Old Trafford for the Crystal Palace game on the last day of the season. Three points to secure a top four finish ahead of two Cup Finals. That’s what i’m hoping for.

Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City November 2004

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November’s football began for me on the first day of the month, with a road trip to Lurgan to see Linfield take on Glenavon, hoping to end a run of three successive defeats, which they did, on a very wet day.

The following weekend, I was at Windsor Park to see Linfield get a routine win over Dungannon Swifts.

The Saturday after, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield throw away two points in a 2-2 draw against Glentoran.

Back on the road the following weekend, to Warrenpoint, to see Linfield pull off a late escape to record a dramatic 2-1 win.

November ended with a trip to the North-West of England, primarily to go to Old Trafford to see United take on Hull, but I also managed to squeeze in a trip to Accrington Stanley for their match against Exeter City.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Linfield v Glentoran

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

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 – NOVEMBER

November began for me with a road trip to Lurgan, to Mourneview Park, to see Linfield take on Glenavon in what could be described as an eventful game.

The following week, it was back to Windsor Park, for the home game against Dungannon Swifts.

The week after that, it was Windsor Park again, for the visit or Glentoran.

Back on the road the week after, to Warrenpoint, to see Linfield do their standard go behind but win it late thing they do up there.

It wasn’t all Linfield though, on the final weekend of the month, I headed to Manchester for a short break, where I got loads of Street Art photos, went to two football matches and two concerts.

That, was my November.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Linfield v Glentoran

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Manchester

Manchester Photo Album

Accrington Stanley v Exeter Stanley

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City Photo Album

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album 1

Manchester Street Art Photo Album 2

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Ting Tings Live At The Deaf Institute

Ting Tings Live At The Deaf Institute Photo Album

Erasure – Live At Manchester Apollo

Erasure – Live At Manchester Apollo Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 3-0 HULL CITY 29.11.2014

Last weekend, I ventured to Old Trafford for my first visit of the season, my first time seeing Louis Van Gaal’s United in the flesh.

With two successive wins, including a 2-1 win at Arsenal the previous weekend, there was an air of positivity around United for the first time in a while.

However, it’s not all positivity, as United’s injuries reach farcical levels, to the point where Ashley Young is playing at left-back.

United had some early attacks, but nothing much came of them.

As the quarter hour approached, another injury for United, as Angel Di Maria left the action early. As soon as he signaled to the bench, you could he the sound of 76,000 people groaning as one.

I must bring bad luck to Di Maria. Last match I was at he was involved in, he was an unused sub. Ander Herrera came on for him, and was instantly involved, starting the attacked which resulted in the corner which resulted in United taking the lead, when a goalmouth scramble fell to Chris Smalling, who fired home. Or did he?

Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor caught the ball, and there was a bit of a delay before the referee decided it was over the line. TV replays proved the decision to be correct.

Talking of TV replays, I was in the back row, next to the corporate boxes, so when there was an incident of note, I could just turn around and sneak a view of a replay from their TVs.

United were in control, but were frustrated at not being able to get a second goal, just to be sure. That came just before half-time when Robin Van Persie set up Wayne Rooney to fire home from outside the box. It was game over.

Hull had a relatively strong start to the second-half, but couldn’t get a goal they hoped would kickstart a fightback.

United regained control, with Robin Van Persie coming alive when the ball came near him, having a diving header (not quite as spectacular as his World Cup effort against Spain) saved, albeit he was offside.

On 66 minutes, Van Persie got the goal he craved when he fired home from the edge of the box. You could see what the goal meant to him.

Game over, it was time to bring on the subs, most notably, Radamel Falcao, returning after a month long lay-off. Falcao was desperate for a goal, getting into goalscoring positions from set pieces, but the ball wouldn’t fall to him.

Ironically, the ball came to him when he least expected it, after Juan Mata, clean through decided to pass to him when it looked like he would score. Falcao followed it up when blocked by a Hull defender, perhaps a bit too aggressively.

So, a goal for Van Persie, Falcao back in action, a win and a clean sheet, definite signs of positivity. Not sure when i’ll next be back at Old Trafford, definitely at some point in 2015. I’m looking at either Arsenal or Tottenham. I might even head over for a Champions League game next season. Or is it too early to suggest such a thing?

Photo Album

MANCHESTER

Last weekend, I headed to Manchester for a short break. I’d been to the city many times, to go to Old Trafford, but rarely explored it. The only previous time I got the chance was four and a half years ago, in April 2010.

I usually travel to Old Trafford by bus the day before, and only get a brief visit to the City Centre on the day of the game before heading back home the next day.

In June, I decided I would pick a match and make a weekend of it. The problem was, with no European football this season, there was always the risk that I could choose a game, only for it to be moved to a Monday night. So, I chose a Saturday game leading into a midweek fixture list (Hull) and booked a trip from Friday to Monday.

Upon arrival, I got the tram at the new station at the airport. I had to stop off and get a connecting tram to get to my hotel. I would have had to do the same if I was staying in the City Centre. One of the stops on the route, Trafford Bar, is handy for Old Trafford if you’re flying in and out on the same day. In future, i’d probably get the train to Picadilly and travel from there.

My hotel, was at Salford Quays and easy to get to, served by two tram stops. I know the area reasonably well, and it is close to Old Trafford, my main destination of the weekend. Walking past the stadium en route to the Old Trafford tram station (I’d purposely chose to do so, just to have a look at the ground), there was still a lot of activity, with tourists visiting the ground, and unofficial stalls looking to capitalise on their visit.

Getting the tram into the City Centre, the first thing I did was the first thing I do everytime I visit the City Centre – visit Empire Exchange.

It’s a “Retro Junk Store”, but as the saying goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and there’ll always be something in there you want to buy.

From there, I headed to Affleck’s, an independent indoor market space i’d previously visited in 2012. I got sidetracked while there of the mosaics outside, of various landmarks such as both of the city’s football teams, Coronation Street and Factory Records.

I also spotted some Street Art, and then found some more, then found myself getting lost and photographing more Street Art. I love Street Art, but i’d never really got anything photoworthy in Manchester. That was soon rectified.

The Northern Quarter was a part of the city i’d never really ventured to, much to my loss. Lot’s of fantastic independent stores and Street Art, which I enjoyed visiting, and hope to do so the next time i’m in Manchester.

After a walk to check out the Christmas Market at Arndale, I was soon on a bus, to Accrington, to take in some football, Accrington Stanley v Exeter City, before heading back to Salford Quays, with two more busy days to come.

I got up relatively early on the Saturday morning, so I could have a stroll around the City Centre before the match, which kicked-off at 3pm.

Again, I decided to walk to the Old Trafford tram stop, deliberately, just to walk past the stadium. It was quire eerie and surreal to see Sir Matt Busby Way so quiet and peaceful (bar a few street cleaners and stalls) on a matchday.

When I booked the trip in June, Hull City were still in European competition, and i’d hoped they’d get to the group stages of the UEFA Cup so the match would be a Sunday, freeing me up to spend more time in the City Centre and/or going to another game in the Greater Manchester/Lancashire area. However, it was not to be.

I got a tram to the City Centre, having a look around Arndale and Arndale Market, as well as seeing some of the street performers and catching up on some of the Street Art I missed on the Friday (It was coming up to 4pm when I was taking photos, and there’s wasn’t a lot of natural daylight to work with)

It wasn’t just Arndale I went to, I also had a venture around Printworks, the Christmas Markets around there, as well as a visit to the National Football Museum. As I only visit Manchester every 6-7 months (my last visit was 8 months ago, and I didn’t get a chance to visit the National Football Museum), visiting there doesn’t become stale due to the turnover of exhibitions. I took the opportunity to purchase a retro Red/White/Black bar scarf i’d been trying to get for a while.

At around Noon, I got the tram back to Old Trafford to have a look at Red Star Sports and the unofficial stalls, before dropping off my City Centre purchases in the hotel room, before a bite to eat, then into the ground.

The match itself, my first seeing Van Gaal’s United in the flesh, was a routine win, though it wasn’t perfect, due to injuries to Di Maria and Rooney.

Back to the hotel room for a quick change, then out for a quick bite to eat, I headed to the University Area, got hopelessly lost, before finding The Deaf Institute, a bar on the site of an abandoned Deaf Institute (hence the name) to see The Ting Tings.

It was a rather good gig, when you ignore them walking off three songs in due to technical difficulties.

(They did come back on once the problems were fixed)

I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in on Sunday morning, before heading for a stroll along Salfrod Quays, photographing some Street Art i’d spotted from afar over the previous two days from the tram.

The end of that trail, saw me at Cornbrook tram stop, so I got a tram from there to Market Street, having a browse at the Christmas Markets, somehow getting lost in these markets (especially the German market) and ending up in Deansgate.

With a bit of time to spare, I headed to Moston to have a look at FC United’s proposed new stadium, Broadhurst Park, which is at a very advanced stage.

I’ve always been meaning to go to an FC United game, but whenever i’ve actually been in Manchester for a whole weekend, they’ve been away. Even this weekend, with “Big United” playing at 3pm on a Saturday, FC were away.

Hopefully, when the stadium is up and running, i’ll get a chance to visit for a match.

From there, it was back to the hotel, then out for a bite to eat, before heading to Manchester Apollo for Erasure. I’d tried to get tickets for their Belfast gig earlier in the month, but they were sold out. I couldn’t believe my luck when I checked the concert listings and they were playing when I was there, so it more than made up for missing out on the Belfast gig.

In fact, it was a brilliant weekend for gigs in the city, with Erasure, Human League, Ting tings, Imelda May, The Beat and Paloma Faith all playing between Friday and Sunday.

Erasure, were fantastic. The bus back to Picadilly turned into a party bus with revellers singing from Erasure’s back catalogue.

Unfortunately, trams to Eccles (which was the route to my hotel) finish early on a Friday night. If the gig venue was in a more central location, I could have made it. Unfortunately, I had to walk from Trafford Bar to Salford Quays back to the hotel, when I couldn’t have been bothered walking any more.

I had a bit of a lie-in on the Monday morning, before a bit of breakfast, then checking out. The 3pm flight home didn’t allow me much of an opportunity to see the city on the Monday.

With that, my Manchester break was over, I found myself wishing i’d stayed over a few more days for the Stoke game.

Photo Album

Broadhurst Park Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 17.5.1997

Juninho and Gianfranco Zola are the covers of this edition of Shoot, previewing the 1997 FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Middlesbrough, with the headline ‘Battle Of The Mighty Midgets’

Italians Gianfranco Zola and Fabrizio Ravenelli get double page spreads previewing the game, as do Juninho and Mark Hughes, as well as player profiles of the two line-ups.

Shoot’s pull-out results magazine rounds up the 1996-1997 league season. It was a season when the top five titles were all won by clubs from the North West of England. Manchester United won their 4th title in 5 years, Bolton Wanderers marked their last season at Burnden Park with an instant return to the Premier League, Bury pipped League Cup Semi-finalists Stockport County to win Division Two, Wigan won Division Three on Goal difference from Fulham, while Macclesfield Town won promotion to the Football League, where they remained before relegation in 2012.

For Fulham, it took four years, and Wigan, it took eight years for them to get promoted to the Premier League, where they have been ever since. Swansea City, now in the Premier League, lost the Play-Off Final to Northampton Town. Hull City finished 17th in Division Three, before getting promoted to the Premier League in 2008.

There was an advert for a magazine called Babe Hound, with a tagline of ‘More Big Girls Than Juventus v Dortmund’ (Those two sides were to contest that season’s European Cup Final)

The cover star for the current edition was Jo Guest, which featured posters of Dannii Minogue, Gina G, Victoria Adams (you may know her now under her married name of Beckham), Jennifer Aniston and Gillian Anderson.

You couldn’t have a more 1997 lad mag if you tried.