PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2018-2019

2018-2019 is now over and consigned to history. I hope you’ve enjoyed my month by month look back. I thought i’ll end with a look through some of my favourites. Feel free to vote for yours.

NEWFORGE

Taken during a Pre-Season Friendly, I like arty farty shots in the style of Stuart Roy Clarke, so I unashamedly try to copy him.

MOURNEVIEW

I like this shot because of the way everybody is lined up, and how everybody has their eyes fixed on Kirk Millar, being the man in possession

COLERAINE

This shot came about by fluke, I was hoping to capture a Linfield goal, but again, it’s the fans who make the picture for me, all heads in the one direction.

DUNGANNON

Got some good photos this day due to generous Winter Sun. Dungannon is always good for photos. I like the framing, getting the terraces in alongside the pitch.

JORDAN

Jordan Stewart makes it 4-0 against Crusaders in December. I like being able to capture the celebrations on the pitch and in the stand. Even a Steward joined in.

CLANDEBOYE

That spot at Clandeboye Park is handy for getting photos, as long as something interesting happens at that end during the game. Thankfully, Linfield scored while I was at this end. Not just in terms of phototaking, but the match, as it was looking like a frustrating afternoon against opponents who had already proved tricky earlier in the season.

SNOW TRAFFORD

Having got snow photos of Windsor Park in 2010, I couldn’t believe my luck when Manchester was hit with snow the day after United’s match against Burnley. Staying close to the ground, I was straight out with my camera to get photos.

McCLEAN

An explosion of emotion. 2-0 down and looking to be pegged back in the title race, to 2-2 and being frustrated, then a last minute winner, I managed to capture the reactions, of fans and players both going wild in unison.

RAIN

A weather based photo that just works. Bleurgh, an awful night for weather and football.

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JULY

2018-2019 began for me in the middle of the World Cup, giving England v Sweden a miss to head to Wilgar Park to see Linfield start their pre-season against Dundela.

The following weekend, I headed to Dublin for a short weekend, taking in a match, Shelbourne v Drogheda United.

After that, was a ground being visited for the first time, Breda Park, to see Linfield take on Knockbreda.

That was then followed by a trip to Newforge as Linfield continued their pre-season preparation with a friendly against PSNI.

Dundela v Linfield

Shelbourne v Drogheda United

Shelbourne v Drogheda United Photo Album

Knockbreda v Linfield

PSNI v Linfield

2018 IN PICTURES – JULY

My first photo adventure of July came on the weekend of the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in Russia, it was closer to home, at Wilgar Park as Linfield began their pre-season preparations.

The following weekend, I headed to Dublin over the July Holiday, got some Street Art Photos, and went to see Shelbourne take on Drogheda United.

The month ended with two more pre-season friendlies for Linfield, away to Knockbreda and PSNI.

Dundela v Linfield

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Shelbourne v Drogheda United

Shelbourne v Drogheda United Photo Album

Knockbreda v Linfield

PSNI v Linfield

PSNI 1-1 LINFIELD 24.7.2018

It had been a while since I had seen Linfield take on the PSNI. So long in fact, that they were known as the RUC.

That was back in the Summer of 1995, but it had similarities with the Summer 2018, as Linfield added a host of new names to their squad to regain the title after a poor defence of it the previous season.

We all now how the next few years went after 1995, hopefully there won’t be a repeat this time around.

This was a game I was looking forward to as soon as it was announced. Not too far to travel, easy to get to, and a ground I hadn’t seen Linfield play at, though I did visit the ground in 2015.

No floodlights at Newforge, which made the 7.30pm kick-off a bit of a surprise, though a lovely summer evening negated the need for lights.

There were nor Trialists for Linfield, but some new signings getting an opportunity in the case of starts for Joel Cooper and Michael O’Connor, and a debut for Ryan McGivern, who had signed earlier that day.

A central midfielder is a priority, but when a player of McGivern’s ability becomes available, it would be rude not to take advantage.

Cooper and O’Connor were in the thick of the action when Linfield went forward, both of whom hitting the bar, while Cooper had a low shot saved after cutting in from the right.

There was a moment of worry for Linfield in the first-half when Kirk Millar went down in agony after a tackle. Thankfully, a bit of magic sponge and he was better. The pitch wasn’t in the best condition, so it was always going to cause concern when a player went down.

As well as a new centre midfielder, a right foot for Jordan Stewart wouldn’t be a bad purchase.

On Saturday, he wasted a great opportunity to shoot by wanting to get the ball onto his left foot, and missed a great opportunity to cross in this game.

When games are decided on small margins, Linfield can’t afford to pass up on attacking opportunities.

Though pre-season is all about fitness and players settling in, it is nice to win. Linfield had the chances in the first-half but couldn’t really say they were dominant.

Only ten minutes for half-time, due to wanting to make the most of the sunlight, Linfield were straight on the attack in the early minutes. There looked to be only one team going to win this game.

Of course, that could only mean one thing, a PSNI goal, and the Peelers issued some rough justice with a lobbed finish to go 1-0 up.

From where I was, at the opposite end of the pitch, it looked like Gareth Deane could have done better with his positioning.

If he was at fault for the goal, he more than redeemed himself throughout the rest of the game with a series of saves to keep Linfield in the game.

Linfield responded to the goal by bringing on Andrew Waterworth and Jamie Mulgrew.

It was a game similar to a League Cup tie at Ballyclare in 2014. Only one team winning it at 0-0, then conceded a goal which gave them something to hold on to, which they did.

As the game wore on, Linfield put more pressure on the PSNI goal, hitting the bar for a third time as they searched for a get out of jail card.

Eventually, the pressure was rewarded in injury time when the ball fell to Andrew Waterworth in the box, and he made no mistake.

It felt like last season all over again. Hopefully, we’re just getting it out of our system before the seasons starts.

Hopefully, it will have been a distant memory by the time the sides meet next, in the County Antrim Shield in late September, the draw taking place on Tuesday teatime.

Another draw that took place this week was the UEFA Cup draw, meaning that both Hibs and Rangers are away on the week i’m in Scotland, so i’ll have to make do with Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers when i’m there.

In other news, the away match against Glentoran in October will be live on Sky Sports. Hopefully, there’ll be a repeat of the time we beat Cliftonville 2-0 rather than when we lost 5-2 to Crusaders. Set your recorders.

Up next is a friendly against Ballyclare, where it is expected that players not involved in this game will take part, as Linfield look to make the most of their squad.

It is a squad that if it had one more centre midfielder, is more than capable of a title challenge.

Where do you get that player? There’s no point signing somebody for the sake of it.

If we get him, there is cause to be optimistic for 2018-2019.

We’ll have to do better than this game though.

Photo Album

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)

2015 IN PICTURES – APRIL

Damage to The Kop at Windsor Park meant that my photo adventures were delayed in April.

The first shots I got were of Street Art in Belfast City Centre, outside Red Barn Gallery.

On Easter Tuesday, finally some football action, as Linfield beat Glentoran at The Oval. Four days later it was a home game against Ballymena, and a defeat that finally ended Linfield’s title challenge.

With Linfield’s fate now decided, I went to see Carrick Rangers travel to PSNI in their attempt to get promoted the following midweek.

I had a change of heart the following weekend, travelling to Shamrock Park to see Linfield take on Portadown, mainly as it was Peter Thompson’s last game for the club.

Red Barn Street Art

Red Barn Street Art Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PSNI v Carrick Rangers

PSNI v Carrick Rangers Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

April was supposed to start at Windsor Park on Easter Saturday, but damage to The Kop stand meant my footballing month would begin at The Oval instead. I wouldn’t get to visit Windsor Park at all this month.

After Linfield’s win over Glentoran at The Oval gave some life to the title race, defeat at “home” to Glenavon at Ballymena put an end to that four days later

With the title gone and European football secured for Linfield, my attention turned to the Championship promotion race, where I headed to Newforge (a first time visit) to see PSNI take on Carrick Rangers.

The month ended with a trip to Shamrock Park for Linfield’s last game of the season. It was a late decision to go, influenced by the fact it would be Peter Thompson’s last game for Linfield.

We didn’t get the goal we all wanted, but we did get a chance to applaud and thank him for his service.

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PSNI v Carrick Rangers

PSNI v Carrick Rangers Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

PSNI 1-3 CARRICK RANGERS 21.4.2015

With Linfield’s fate already decided, it was Championship action for me on Tuesday as I headed to Newforge (First time visit too) to see PSNI take on Carrick Rangers, both sides whose destiny this season is anything but decided.

Both sides were desperate for a win but for different reasons – Carrick to go into their final game top, and PSNI to avoid relegation.

A lack of floodlights at Newforge meant this game was a 6.45pm kick-off. Unfortunately, I missed the opening minutes, and a goal for Carrick from Ciaran Donaghy, which will have settled their nerves

From when I arrived, Carrick were dominant, but just couldn’t get that killer pass.

The game threatened to boil over after a wild challenge from PSNI’s right-back, who got a yellow when it should have been a red. Carrick’s bench were annoyed, responding with language that couldn’t be repeated on this blog, but it was along the lines of Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo Oscar Foxtrot Foxtrot.

More robust tackling came from the peelers, with inevitble “POLICE BRUTALITY!!!!!” cries from the Carrick support.

Eventually, Carrick turned their domination into goals, with a double blast just before the break – a header from McCloskey and a finish from Cherry.

If Carrick were planning on taking it easy at 3-0, their bench wasn’t going to let them, as players were lambasted if standards dropped.

PSNI made a good start to the second-half, with a shot going wide.

The nervous Carrick fans wanted a 4th goal, just to be sure. They thought they had it, but a Miguel Chines effort was ruled out for offside.

PSNI got a goal back when a saved shot hit a Carrick player, Smyth, and went in. Carrick’s fns got nervous, but became less nervous with each passing minute with the score at 3-1.

Carrick were able to see the game out, and their fan’s attentions turned to events at Tillysburn, when a Bangor defeat away to Harland and Wolff Welders would have sent them up with a game to go.

It wasn’t to be, as Bangor won 1-0.

This result meant that Carrick secured a play-off place at least. Both Carrick and PSNI go into Saturday’s games knowing that a win will help them secure their aim of promotion (Carrick) or safety (PSNI)

With Carrick being at home to already relegated Dundela, you would expect them to get the three points.

If they do, it will mean a first ever visit to Taylor’s Avenue for me at some point next season.

Photo Album

FOOTBALL IN 2015

Another year of football watching is over, and it’s all about looking forward to 2015. But what, realistically, are my hopes for 2015?

Well, these are my football watching hopes for 2015.

LINFIELD

Well, stating the obvious, I obviously want Linfield to win the Irish League and the Irish Cup.

This season’s Irish Cup draw has already given a treat in the form of an away game against Tobermore United – another new ground to visit.

In terms of pre-season, it’s the usual wishlist of Dundela, PSNI or Stranraer away. Seeing as we invited Cowdenbeath over for a friendly in the summer of 2014, would it be too much to ask for them to return the favour in the summer of 2015?

In terms of promotion, i’m hoping Carrick Rangers go up as i’ve never been there. So again, a new ground to visit. If there is to be another team promoted, hopefully it will be Ards or Bangor, with an away game early in the season on a sunny day.

Of course, there is also the ongoing redevelopment work at Windsor Park. It is expected for this to be completed by November.

Obviously, i’d be getting use of the South Stand, but hopefully, i’ll get an opportunity to sit in the Railway Stand just to see what it’s like. I’m guessing it might have to be used for a Linfield match before it is passed for a Northern Ireland match, in the same way Wembley had to stage an underage international with a restricted attendance before being allowed to host full events.

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Obviously, i’m hoping for Linfield to be in the European Cup, but i’m hoping that the other Irish League sides get fallen giants who are part of the 101 Club, that I can tick off my list.

The closest an Irish League side got in 2014 was when Crusaders got duffed by a Swedish team who went on to play Torino.

Seeing as Glenavon are best mates with PSV Eindhoven, if they want to invite them over for a friendly, that would be great.

MANCHESTER UNITED

I’m hoping to get to Old Trafford before the end of the season. I’ve nothing booked yet, but i’m eyeing either Tottenham in March or Arsenal in May.

Hopefully, there’s be European Cup football returning in September 2015. I might be tempted to a there and back group game. Just have to wait until the 2015-2016 fixture list comes out.

NORTHERN IRELAND

I’m planning to be at four Northern Ireland games in 2015 – the home games against Finland, Romania, Hungary and Greece. I bought a Block Booking for the first time ever for this campaign. The downside is, i’m going to go to hell for attending the Finland game, which is on a Sunday night.

Tempted by the Scotland friendly in March. Haven’t booked anything yet, but a quick there and back for an away friendly is very tempting.

EURO 2016

Whatever the fate of Northern Ireland’s qualification campaign, i’m planning to be in France in the summer of 2016. The reason i’m posting it with reference to 2015 is, the flights will probably go on sale in August/September 2015, and i’m planning to be straight in with my booking. The plan is to go out for the first four days of the tournament and be based in Paris, with two games there, one in Lille (one hour away) and Lens (one hour away)

BIRMINGHAM

Toying with the idea of heading to Birmingham in September for the Rugby World Cup, as Australia and South Africa play on successive days at Villa Park. If I was to do this, i’d be planning to try and take in a football match taking place in the city (if feasible) at either Birmingham City or Walsall. Nothing definite in this idea though.

BARCELONA

Going to Barcelona for a weekend in February. Espanyol are at home to Valencia that weekend, so i’m hoping to take in that match. I’m also looking at lower league sides in the area to try and catch more than one game. The most likely bet is CE Europa, who play in Spain’s 4th tier. Frustratingly, Barcelona B (in Spain’s second tier) are away that weekend, to Real Zaragoza, a 101 Club member.

LEAGUE OF IRELAND

I don’t plan to go to a League Of Ireland game every year, but there’s usually something that takes me to Dublin, so I end up taking in a game. If I do end up taking in a game in Dublin, hopefully, it will be UCD, as the Bellefield Bowl is the only football ground in Dublin I haven’t been to.

SCOTLAND

As well as the previously mentioned international i’m tempted by, i’m planning to head to Edinburgh in August for the festival. Obviously, there’ll be Hibs and Hearts, but i’m hoping they’ll be at home on a Sunday, leaving the Saturday free to see Spartans or Edinburgh City, hopefully by now promoted to League Two (4th tier)

Of the two, Edinburgh City look the most likely. The downside is, they play at an athletics stadium.

MOROCCO

One place i’m definitely not visiting in 2015 is Morocco. I was tempted as they were the host of the 2015 African Cup Of Nations. It turned out I made the right decision by not making plans, as they were stripped of hosting rights, which were given to Equatorial Guinea, which is a bit harder to get to.