STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2015

My football watching for 2015 is now over, so, it’s time for a statistical look back at the football I watched.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 143

Red Cards : 10 (Doesn’t include Caoimhin Bonner being sent-off in the tunnel after the game)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 6

Hat-Tricks : 2 (Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Dungannon Swifts. Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Warrenpoint Town)

Teams Seen : 40

Arsenal, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Bray Wanderers, Carrick Rangers, CE Europa (1st time), Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Dundee (1st time), Dunfermline Athletic (1st time), Dungannon Swifts, Espanyol (1st time), Finland, Glenavon, Glentoran, Greece (1st time), Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hungary, Institute, Latvia (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Masnau, Northern Ireland, NSI Runavik (1st time), Partick Thistle (1st time), Portadown, PSNI, PSV Eindhoven (1st time), Qatar (1st time), Rangers, Romania (1st time) Scotland, Sligo Rovers, Spartak Trnava (1st time), Tobermore United, Valencia (1st time), Warrenpoint Town

Stadiums Visited : 23

Ballymena Showgrounds, Carlisle Grounds, Drumahoe, East End Park (1st time), Estadi Cornella y Prat (1st time), Ferney Park, Fortwilliam Park (1st time), Gresty Road (1st time), Hampden Park, Ibrox, Milltown, Mourneview Park, Newforge (1st time), Nou Sardenya (1st time), Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue (1st time), The Oval, Tynecastle, Windsor Park

Competitions : 13

European Championship, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, La Liga, League of Ireland, Scottish Championship, Scottish League Cup (1st time), Scottish Premier League, Tercera Division (1st time), UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiousities, other than a match with kick-off delayed for an hour due to the weather

UEFA 102 Club : Espanyol, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia (now at 35 clubs)

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CE EUROPA 1-0 MASNAU 8.2.2015

While in Barcelona, I decided to take in some lower league football. I didn’t do it the last time I was in Barcelona, simply because I didn’t know much about Spain’s lower league structure. Before this trip, I did some research, and decided to go to CE Europa, as they were in contention for promotion from Tercera Division.

Anyone with a basic grasp of Spanish would think I went to a third tier game, but it was in fact a 4th tier game. Spain’s divisional structure is : Primera Division (commonly known as La Liga), Segunda Division, Segunda Division B, Tercera Division.

The leagues are all regionalised and winning it doesn’t guarantee promotion – it’s just endless play-offs, but it is still worth winning your league going into these games.

I’d done a bit of research with regards to the location of the stadium, but even when I arrived there, it seemed a bit curious that I had to do a double take. The stadium just blended into the background, with children’s playpark and a gym meeting you when you arrive, with the stadium backing onto them.

The match took place on a Sunday lunchtime. CE Europa like to have a “Day of football” where underage teams, senior mens teams and womens team all playing on the same day. The pitch is synthetic, so can accommodate all these games. When I arrived at the ground, there was an underage game taking place.

The stadium itself has a main stand similar to the one at Seaview, and three smaller terraces, mainly due to the fact that there are apartments on those sides.

There wasn’t a programme culture in Spain, but CE Europa had a free newspaper available for fans. The club even handed out teamsheets. Refreshingly, both teams lined-up 1 to 11.

Within a minute, CE Europa had a penalty turned down, and a gentleman beside me screamed “PUTA!!!! HABRON!!!”. You’re probably advised not to translate that.

Europa had a lot of early pressure but no clear chances. Masnau also had their moments. I was secretly hoping they would score just to see if they had any fans in the ground. The game did look like being a 0-0 sort of game.

Towards the end of the first-half, a nice piece of skill in the box saw Europa get a penalty. After a delay waiting for it to be taken, it was missed.

There was a brief flurry from Europa immediately after that, with a header from the resulting corner going just wide.

The game had the same pattern in the second-half. Europa had a good chance saved, while Masnau had a half-chance fired just wide.

It looked like being a 0-0 sort of game, but a moment of quality saw a defence splitting pass fired home to give Europa a 1-0 lead. They were on top for the rest of the game and never looked like losing the lead, despite having a player sent-off in injury time.

Photo Album

BARCELONA

As February begins, I usually go away for a weekend somewhere. This year, I chose Barcelona.

Why? Well, I hadn’t been to Mainland Europe for two and a half years, and I just had an inkling for Barcelona. I had been before, four years ago, so I felt the time was right for a return visit.

So set was I on Barcelona, that I travelled from Dublin, with flights from Belfast not available at this time of year. It wasn’t an ideal option, but needs must. I flew out on Wednesday and flew back on Monday. Realistically, the trip was Thursday to Sunday, with the late flight on Wednesday and early flight on Monday making those days a write-off.

Wednesday wasn’t a complete write-off, as I headed for a short walk to the Arc De Triomf, before heading to bed, ahead of a busy day on the Thursday.

I woke up on Thursday morning and headed for a walk around Placa Catalunya, spotted some Street Art to photo, and had a walk around the shops. I had planned to go on the Street Art tour properly, rather than just spotting stuff.

At lunchtime, I headed to Arc De Triomf, the meeting point for the Street Art tour, but I was to be disappointed as it wasn’t on that day.

With a change of plan, I headed for a walk around Barcelona, before heading to the Nou Camp. It was too late to do the tour, so I had a look around the shop, before heading back into the City Centre to get a bite to eat.

After that, I had a walk around Las Ramblas, one of the main squares in Barcelona.

Friday morning began with me heading to the Nou Camp to do the tour. Last time I was in Barcelona, I went to a Barcelona match and did a tour of Espanyol’s ground. I always promised myself I would do a tour of the Nou Camp and go to an Espanyol match.

On Thursday morning, i’d sorted myself out for a ticket for Espanyol’s match against Valencia from the tourist office, one of many outlets in the City Centre selling them.

At the Nou Camp, I did the tour, beginning in the museum giving a chronological timeline of the club’s history, containing memorabilia and trophies from throughout the club’s history.

From there, it was a case of following the arrows which led you into the stands, then into the dressing room, the tunnel, to the side of the pitch (but not on the pitch)

The only downside was the pitch being covered. Not sure what the technical term was, but it was the things that are used to heat a pitch from above. Apologies for my lack of pitch management knowledge. IT ruined any chance of getting decent photos of the stadium.

As you followed the tour, the tour ended on the top floor of the club shop. Barcelona certainly aren’t slow in trying to make money.

As I exited the Nou Camp, I walked past Mini Estadi, which translates as The Mini Stadium, which is used by Barcelona’s reserve team, and sometimes by Andorra’s national team. Disappointingly, there was no match on that weekend, as Barcelona B (who play in Spain’s version of The Championship) were away to Real Zaragoza.

That afternoon, I was back at the Arc De Triomf to try my luck with the Street Art Tour. I soon discovered the reason why there was not tour on the Thursday – The Tour Guide had suffered a broken ankle a few weeks ago and was still recovering. Obviously such an injury is inconvenient when yo do something that involves a lot of walking

The tour is split into two – a tour of the El Borne beginning at 2pm, and a tour of Raval beginning at 4.45pm. I planned to do both on the same day but was advised to do them seperately. It was wise advice, due to the amount of walking.

The tour was very enjoyable, with the guide very knowledgeable. It also exposed me to the El Borne area in Barcelona, which I was previously unaware of. A very nice area of the city indeed. At the end of that tour, I had the later tour, earmarked for Saturday. My poor feet were worn out from all the walking.

From there, I headed to Las Rambles, onto the Marina for a walkaround. I wanted to do the cable car over the city, but I missed out …… by minutes.

I had hoped to take in a concert but the listings weren’t kind to me. The week after I visited, George Ezra was performing, which would have been nice to go to, even though I saw him at The Limelight in October.

On Saturday, I headed to Las Ramblas, the marina, the beach and El Borne.

Late afternoon, I headed to the Raval to do the Street art tour. I met my guide outside Macba (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art). The area around MACBA is a beautiful area with lots of activity, it was a pity I only stumbled onto it to go somewhere else.

The Street Art tour of Raval was enjoyable as the one yesterday. The only complaint was that it wasn’t earlier in the day, as it began to get dark, meaning the quality of some photos wasn’t what I hoped it would be.

Sunday would be my “Day Of Football” with not one, but two matches in my plans. I went to Nou Sardenya for the lunchtime kick-off in Tercera Division (Spain’s version of League Two) between CE Europa and Masnau, which the home side won 1-0.

I then headed to Cornella, on the outskirts of the city for Espanyol v Valencia. I’d planned on going to the shopping centre beside the ground, but I ended up with too much time on my hands. I probably should have went to the City Centre for a while before heading on.

The match itself wasn’t very good in terms of quality, but was a brilliant atmosphere despite the stadium being nowhere near full.

Valencia won the game 2-1.

As I headed back into the City Centre for a bite to eat, my Barcelona adventure was almost over, as an early morning flight on the Monday would mean I wouldn’t be doing much in the city that day.

If you go to Barcelona, brace yourself for a lot of walking. Or you could be lazy and buy a pass for the Metro. I got a 10 journeys for €10, which was money well spent as I made 11 journeys (I bought the 11th as a single for €2.35)

You never had to wait a long time for a train as well, and all the stations I visited were very clean.

One thing about the Metro is that you are guaranteed to get a musical performance wether you want it or not. In Barcelona, buskers travel on the trains and give performances in packed carriages.

One down side of Barcelona is the volume of smokers, it was almost like an obstacle course at times. A blight on an otherwise beautiful city.

Despite that, I enjoyed my visit. I saw so much, and there was still so much I wanted to see.