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.

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

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

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November got off to a dramatic start, as I headed to Mourneview Park to see nine man Linfield come from 2-0 down to get a late draw against Glenavon.

I was back on the road a few days later to Ballymena to see Linfield record a 4-1 in win.

Up next was a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland record a 4-0 win over Azerbaijan, before continuing Linfield’s road trip with a 4-0 over Dungannon Swifts before a midweek date at Windsor Park for Northern Ireland’s last game of 2016, a 3-0 friendly defeat against Croatia.

I was back at Windsor Park for Linfield’s only home game of the month, a 2-1 defeat to Cliftonville.

The following weekend, I went to see my first and second games at Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho as United manager, doing a double header of games against Feyenoord and West Ham United, with a trip to Bury (via Broadhurst Park) sandwiched inbetween.

As a bonus, I even got pictures of stickers left around Manchester by Feyenoord fans.

Glenavon v Linfield

Ballymena United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Croatia

Northern Ireland v Croatia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Feyenoord

Manchester United v Feyenoord Photo Album

Feyenoord Stickers

Bury v Millwall

Bury v Millwall Photo Album

Broadhurst Park

Manchester United v West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United Photo Album

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

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 WEST HAM UNITED 27.11.2016

Having gone to my first game of the season at Old Trafford against Feyenoord, it wasn’t long to wait for my second game, just three days later, as West Ham visited in the League.

I’d waited until the UEFA Cup Group Stage draw was done and hoped for a double header, and got lucky with this one.

Too many dropped points, especially in drawn games at Old Trafford, meant this was a must-win game for United, especially with Spurs losing the day before, presenting United with an opportunity to close the gap on the side in 5th, especially as they visit Old Trafford in mid December.

It was West Ham who were straight on the attack, winning a soft free-kick in a wide position. It all looked so sluggish from United, and it continued when Diafra Sakho got to the ball from that free-kick in front of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to head home.

The was not the start United needed, especially against a side they had only beaten once in their last five meetings.

United responded eventually, their first shot on goal came from Juan Mata.

The pressure built up, and an equaliser came when Ibrahomovic made up for his shoddy defending by flicking hom a Paul Pogba through ball.

Pogba’s next involvement came when the referee booked him for deeming to have dived, which resulted in Jose Mourinho beiung sent to the stand for kicking a water bottle.

Mourinho’s departue didn’t affect United, as they had chances to go in front. Rashford having a shot saved while put through, and Jesse Lingard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic having shots blocked.

More chances came, with Rooney and Lingard having shots saved before Lingard had a goal disallowed for offside.

It looked like being one of those days for United, as West Ham seemed to get bodies in the road every time the ball was in their penalty area.

As much as I enjoyed being able to do a Thursday-Sunday double header, it’s not something i’m planning on doing next season. I’d rather United be playing their European matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Last season, I made my first trip of the season to Old Trafford in November and things were going fine, but an awful December saw their season in tatters by the time I visited again in late January.

This season, i’m due back at Old Trafford in late January for the League match against Hull. Hopefully, there’ll be a reversal in fortunes and the league table will have a better look to it.

Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 4-0 FEYENOORD 24.11.2016

Recently, I headed to Old Trafford for the first time this season, my first glimpse of Mourinho’s United in the flesh, for the UEFA Cup tie against Feyenoord.

This was a game that United needed to win just to stay in the competition. Although a draw still would have had United’s destiny in their own hands in the final game, defeat would have eliminated them from the competition, following Fenerbache’s win over Zorya at teatime. with a game to spare.

Their recent record against Dutch clubs wasn’t great, losing three and drawing one of their last four games against Dutch clubs. One of those defeats came in their open group game, away to Feyenoord in September.

It is the away form that left United in this situation, even a draw in either Rotterdam or Istanbul would have made life so much easier going into this game.

This Jeckyll and Hyde form in Europe isn’t a Mourinho problem, Moyes and Van Gaal also endured it.

United haven’t lost at home in Europe in 14 matches, dating back to 2013, but have only won 1 of their last 10 away matches, dating back to 2013.

This match meant I had seen United take on Holland’s “Big Three” at Old Trafford. I had seen Feyenoord before, at the end of the last century in 1999 taking on Liverpool in a Pre-Season Friendly.

My excuse is that I was there to watch Linfield v Glentoran which had taken place before, and then just decided to stay, like when you are a fan of the support act at a concert but just decide to stay for the headliner anyway.

United went straight on the attack, issuing a statement of intent, Paul Pogba heading over in United’s first attack.

It was very much attack v defence, most of United’s play coming through some Scottish lad making his debut called Henry McItarian.

You got the feeling that if United could get one early on, they could power through and win the game with something to spare. The problem was, just getting the one.

I had great view of it, in the front rows of the Stretford End. The downside was, I almost got hit by a wayward Paul Pogba shot.

Feyenoord looked like getting a goal on the counter against the run of play, but Sergio Romero was forced into a double save, the second with his legs.

The goal United fans craved wasn’t long in coming when Wayne Rooney burst down the left wing and played it to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who waited, and waited, before playing Rooney in, to dink it over the keeper.

It briefly looked offside (it all happened very quickly) from where I was, but TV replays showed that it wasn’t.

More United pressure followed and continued into the second-half, with Henryk Mkhitarian hitting the side netting, before Juan Mata eventually made it count by finishing from close range to make it 2-0, his last involvement in the game before being subbed for Marcus Rashford.

United then made it 3-0 with a Brad Jones own goal, even though Ibrahimovic will try to claim it.

At that point, United fans taunted their rivals with “You’re just a shit fucking Ajax”.

If you come to Old Trafford and sing You’ll Never Walk Alone, you’d better be good, Feyenoord were not good.

Jesse Lingard made it 4-0 in injury time, as United head to Zorya for their final game knowing that a draw will be enough to go through.

Hopefully, United can win that game and top the group (need Fenerbache to slip up in Rotterdam though) while Dundalk win their last game to finish second. You know what i;m thinking?

Thursday 6pm game, book a day off work and be in bed at a reasonable time.

First of all, just get the result in Ukraine.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2016 began the same way as 2015, by watching Linfield take on Crusaders. Like the previous year, it was a home win, but thankfully the game was at Windsor Park this year.

Over the next ten days, there were two more visits to Windsor Park, with Ballymena United the visitors both times, once in the Irish Cup and once in the County Antrim Shield.

David Bowie died during the month, and he got a tribute mural in Belfast, which I went down to see get painted, and then snap the final results.

Towards the end of the month, I headed to Manchester, to see United take on Southampton. While there, I took advantage of some Street Art, plus I also went to see The Kooks in concert.

The month ended by heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Carrick Rangers.

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ballymena United

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

David Bowie Mural

David Bowie Mural Photo Album

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Southampton

Manchester United v Southampton Photo Album

The Kooks live at Albert Hall Manchester

The Kooks live at Albert Hall Manchester Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – JANUARY

Like in the previous season, January began with a game between Linfield and Crusaders. Again, it was a home win, though this time, it was at Windsor Park instead of Seaview.

The following Saturday, it was the Irish Cup at Windsor Park, with Linfield edging out Ballymena United after extra-time.

Three days later, same venue, same two teams, but a different competition, the County Antrim Shield Final, with Ballymena winning 3-2.

A frozen pitch saw Linfield’s home match (YES! another match at Windsor Park) against Dungannon Swifts postponed, so my next football was the trip to Old Trafford to see United take on Southampton.

The football watching month ended with Linfield’s routine win over Carrick Rangers at, you’ve guessed it, Windsor Park.

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ballymena United

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Manchester United v Southampton

Manchester United v Southampton Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – NOVEMBER

The early weeks of November 2015 were spent at Windsor Park, taking in Linfield’s matches against Crusaders and Cliftonville, as well as Northern Ireland’s match against Latvia

The final two Saturdays of the month were on the road to Mid-Ulster, but no upturn in fortune for Linfield

Sandwiched inbetween those two trips to Mid-Ulster was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford to see United play out a drab and ultimately costly draw against PSV Eindhoven.

It’s a good job I went to that Northern Ireland match, otherwise it would have been a totally awful month of football watching.

Linfield v Crusaders

Northern Ireland v Latvia

Northern Ireland v Latvia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glenavon v Linfield

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield