PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JUNE

The previous two seasons for me began in Bray. Not this time, it was the Stade De France to begin 2016-2017 with the opening match of Euro 2016 between France and Romania.

It was one of three Euro 2016 matches I attended, taking in Northern Ireland v Poland and Republic of Ireland v Sweden during my time in France.

Back home, it was the earliest start ever to a Linfield season, June 30th, and a UEFA Cup tie against Cork City, where I attended the home leg at Windsor Park.

France v Romania

France v Romania Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Poland

Northern Ireland v Poland Photo Album

Republic of Ireland v Sweden

Republic of Ireland v Sweden Photo Album

Linfield v Cork City

2016 IN PICTURES – JUNE

June 2016 was a month that was dominated by Euro 2016.

The early days of the month were spent chronicling a mural in East Belfast to commemorate Northern Ireland’s qualification, getting pictures of the final piece upon my return from France.

Oh yes, I was in France. Wasn’t that fussed about France as a country, but loved the three matches (France v Romania, Northern Ireland v Poland, Republic of Ireland v Sweden) I was at.

I also got some Street Art photos in Paris, and London, as I flew back from Gatwick due to there being no Paris-Belfast flights on a Tuesday.

Not a lot else happened in the rest of the month. That was, until, the final, when I attended two Belsonic concerts.

Belsonic? Yes, this year, it moved to June (though there were later concerts in August) and I went to see Elli Goulding and Stereophonics.

And it was at a new venue, Titanic Belfast.

There was even some domestic club football this month, as the last day of the month saw Linfield lose 1-0 at home to Cork City in the UEFA Cup.

Pride, Passion Belief

Pride, Passion, Belief Photo Album

Paris Street Art

Paris Street Art Photo Album

France v Romania

France v Romania Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Poland

Northern Ireland v Poland Photo Album

Republic of Ireland v Sweden

Republic of Ireland v Sweden Photo Album

London Street Art

London Street Art Photo Album

Ellie Goulding live at Titanic Belfast

Ellie Goulding live at Titanic Belfast Photo Album

Stereophonics live at Titanic Belfast

Stereophonics live at Titanic Belfast Photo Album

Linfield v Cork City

FRANCE 2-1 ROMANIA 10.6.2016

The record books might say that Dimitri Payet scored the first winner of Euro 2016, but i’d like to think it was me, getting a €180 ticket to the opening game for €80.

I was over for Northern Ireland’s match but was hoping to take in as many matches as possible. This was one of the games I was planning to turn up to and try and get a ticket for. I decided to leave it as late as possible, eventually being rewarded with a discount ticket half an hour before kick-off.

I’m not sure if it was a good thing or not, but I was in the ground in time for the opening ceremony, getting to see David Guetta telling the crowd to wave their hands and make some noise.

Romania were no strangers to Stade De France, having visited three times but not winning. They drew 1-1 with Tunisia in a group game in France 98, before qualifying games against France for the 2010 World Cup (2009, a 1-1 draw) and Euro 2012 (2010, a 2-0 win for France)

The French were up for it, but it was Hugo Lloris who had to make the first save of the game, saving point blank from Bogdan Stancu.

It was all France after that, with both Giroud and Griezmann both missing headed chances.

The French pressure then died down, with the crowd entertaining themselves by doing Mexican waves.

Olivier Giroud then headed over again.

Romania started the second-half as the team in control, and looked like they were going to make France pay for not taking any of their first-half chances.

It looked perfectly set up for a 1-0 Romania win.

Ironically, it was France who went 1-0 up, Olivier Giroud heading home from a cross. The crowd celebrated, their team would surely now storm home to victory.

They got a shock when Romania got a penalty for a foul by Patrice Evra. They didn’t see it coming. Bogdan Stancu put the ball into the back of the net.

It terms of execution and technique, it was a poor penalty. The keeper went the wrong way and the ball went in, so I guess it was a great penalty.

France were stunned and needed inspiration. They turned to Coman and Martial off the bench. The second goal wouldn’t come. It looked like they would be fluffing their lines on their big night.

On 89 minutes, Dimitri Payet swung his left foot on the ball which flew into the back of the net. The fans went wild and everyone went home happy.

Everyone that is, except the Romania fans, who went home as devastated as the Touts outside the ground who were practically giving tickets away as kick-off neared.

Photo Album

PARIS/NICE/LONDRES

This was a trip i’d been waiting a long time for. In fact, probably since 2010, when it was announced that France would be hosting Euro 2016. I’d be going regardless even if Northern Ireland didn’t qualify.

I’d never been to France before. In fact, i’d barely been to Mainland Europe. Subconsciously perhaps, i’d been saving my first French trip for this.

To get to France from Northern Ireland, there were only really three options, with direct flights to Bordeaux, Nice and Paris, though a route to Lyon was added earlier this year.

When the schedule of the tournament was announced, Paris was a no-brainer. The first four days of the tournament would see two games in Paris, one in Lens and one in Lille. Lille and Lens are both one hour away from Paris.

Last summer, there was an open draw for neutral tickets. I applied for a game in Lens on 11th June, a game in Lille on 12th June and a game in Paris on 13th June.

I sat eating my lunch one day last summer, when an e-mail came through from UEFA. The Subject Box said my application was Partially Successful. I sat staring at it, trying to make sense of it. Partially Successful?, that means i’ve got a ticket for at least one match. I opened the e-mail to check that was the case.

Monday 13th June 2016, 1800 hours, Stade De France, E3 v E4. I had a ticket for this match. I didn’t know who I would be seeing, but I would be going to a match at Euro 2016.

On the day the flights went on sale, I jumped in and got a bargain. I’d be going out on Thursday 8th and returning back on Tuesday 14th. With no flights from Paris to Belfast on a Tuesday, I booked to return back by London. An evening flight, spend the day in London. Might as well make the most of it.

The day of the draw came, and I had written down what every game would be, and where. I knew where C1 would be playing, I knew where F4 would be playing. My eyes were on E3 and E4.

There were two games I didn’t want. A Saturday night game in Marseille or a Sunday teatime game in Nice.

I had taken a gamble. If Northern Ireland were in Group F, i’d be flying back on the day they play their first game.

Northern Ireland came out in Group C. If it was C2, it was a Sunday night in Lille, and a 50,000 capacity stadium. C3 or C4, and it was the game in Nice, a 6 hour train journey away from Paris.

I couldn’t believe, the one game I didn’t want, and Northern Ireland got it.

My group came out, Group E, and it was Republic Of Ireland, and they were E3, the game I would be going to.

This was like an episode of Give My Head Peace.

It would turn out that Republic Of Ireland would be playing Sweden. I consoled myself with the fact i’d be getting to see Zlatan in the flesh.

I had resigned myself that i’d have to settle for watching Northern Ireland v Poland in a pub in Paris. Only briefly, I decided that I was going to Nice. This was too big to miss. I booked the last hotel room, and began to look at trains.

Nine months after booking the trip, the big day arrived. It felt like it would never come. I was even tempted to do that Facebook cliche of tagging myself as being in The Lagan Bar.

During that nine month period, a Francophile friend had been giving my advice and some key phrases. The one word i’d be hearing and saying most over the weekend would be billet, which means ticket.

My first billet, would be from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Gare Du Nord. Even though it was peak commuter time, we were squashed in on the train, with barely any room to put my luggage. It just seemed logical to me that a train serving the airport should have luggage storage facilities. The French must travel light.

As I got off at Gare Du Nord, I began to follow the directions to my accommodation, to find the Rue it was on. That’s French for street by the way. I had taxi drivers shouting at me to give them my custom, giving me sob stories about how they need work in these tough times, before quoting me €45 for a journey that is no more than ten minutes. They didn’t really grasp the correlation. I decided to walk it.

I found my accommodation, after navigating streets filled with binbags piling up and having to dodge smokers at a rate which is worse than Belfast, an impressive feat considering that Belfast City Centre is a smoke riddled shithole.

I have to say, this wasn’t the best first impression of Paris.

I then decided to have a walk around Paris and my impression got better. I checked out some Street Art on shutters. It was late enough for shops to be closed, but still daylight, a perfect combination.

I had planned to do a Street Art Tour but I wasn’t able to commit to the time (it only left on a Saturday morning, and I wasn’t sure if my Saturday morning would be in Paris or Lens), preferring to stumble upon pieces.

Friday was spent wandering around Paris. I bought myself an all day Metro ticket. I had a brief visit to Parc Des Princes to see what it was like, but it was heavily cordoned off. From there, I headed to the Saint Germain region, having a look around the shops.

A lot of the shops were very high end clothes stores that would attract the likes of France’s suavest men such as Francois Mitchele and Jacques Fullerton.

Friday night was the opening game of Euro 2016, France v Romania. The cheapest ticket for this was three figures. I decided to head to Stade De France to take in the atmosphere and try to pick up a cheap ticket.

The fact that tickets were still on general sale on the day of the game suggested this could be a Buyer’s Market the closer you got to kick-off.

I was planning to wait until 8.45pm (kick-off was at 9pm) before trying and would go no higher than €60. This wasn’t the game I headed out for, it would be no loss to me. I could find a pub and watch it there.

At around 8.30pm, I got approached by a tout (the fact I was milling about was probably a giveaway) who offered me a €195 ticket for €150. I said €60 and we settled on €80. For the extra €20, I was getting in the ground earlier and ensuring I would see all of the game.

Not only did I get to see all of the game, I was even in the ground in time for the opening ceremony. I’m not sure if that was a good or a bad thing, getting to witness David Guetta telling people to make some noise and wave their hands. What a showman.

France won the match 2-1, and everyone went home happy. Especially me, who discovered a shortcut to my accommodation from Gare Du Nord, and some Street Art within the station.

Saturday’s original plan was to go to Lens to try and get a ticket for Albania v Switzerland. Upon seeing that it would cost €70 for a one hour journey, I decided against it. Especially disappointing as SNCF had promised special discount prices for fans travelling to and from Paris.

I then walked around Paris some more, finding myself in an area called Le Republique, as well as stumbling upon some Street Art around the back of Gare Du Nord.

I had planned to watch Slovakia v Wales in the Fanzone at the Eiffel Tower, but I took a wrong turn on the RER and missed it totally. Saturday night was spent watching the first-half of England v Russia and having a bite to eat before heading for an early night.

The reason why I was having a early night, is because I needed to be up early to get a 0720 train to Nice. I thought i’d be the only one on the train, but it was packed, mostly Northern Ireland fans.

I found my hotel in Nice and checked in, relaxing for a bit before heading to the stadium.

The only way to get to the stadium was via a free shuttle bus from the City Centre, which dropped fans off a thirty minute walk from the ground.

The match I was in Nice for, was Northern Ireland v Poland. The stadium was fantastic, as was the scenery around it. The problem was, there was nothing else around the ground.

The match itself was a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Northern Ireland. Afterwards, I headed to get my bus back to the City Centre. What I saw, was utter chaos.

There was a line of people, but no queue. Basically, the bus parked wherever it liked, meaning it was pure luck if you were able to get onto a bus, a bus which was usually filled over capacity.

The match finished just before 8pm, and I didn’t get onto a City Centre bound bus until 9.30pm. There were still a lot of people waiting for a bus when I got mine.

It really ruined my plans for the evening. I’d planned on being in the City Centre by 9pm and watching a bit of the Germany v Ukraine match.

When I booked a hotel room in Nice, the plan was to head back to Paris the next morning. Due to the extortionate prices, I got on an earlier train just after midnight.

Even though I wouldn’t be sleeping in Nice, I still got value out of the room as it allowed me to drop my stuff off, relax, and get showered ahead of my train journey.

From what I saw of Nice, it looks like a city I would love to visit in full one day. There is the potential of some decent sport watching, with OGC Nice in France’s top flight, with Monaco nearby, as well as Toulon in Top 14 Rugby.

I had a look out of curiousity, and unfortunately the flights are seasonal (April to October. I’d prefer to go in February)

Back in Paris, and a wee lie-in on the Monday, it was to the Stade De France to see Republic Of Ireland v Sweden, before getting something to eat, and then beginning to pack up, ahead of an early morning Eurostar to London.

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with France. I found Paris to be filthy, the public transport to be incompetent (The time of my train out of Nice was put back by twenty minutes without being told), police and stewards to be power crazed, and taxis to be a rip-off.

I won’t be rushing back, but don’t rule it out maybe one day.

It’s a pity, as there is the potential for a decent Football Weekend in Paris to be had, with PSG and Red Star, as well as Lille, Lens, Amiens, Reims nearby.

So Tuesday, was spent in London, as I flew back from there.

I’ve been to London before, so I knew where I wanted to go to, especially with only a day on my hands.

I headed to Camden, taking in Camden Market and getting some Street Art photos, before heading to Soho, to visit a shop called Vintage Magazine Shop, which is as it says.

I had a look around but found it too expensive for my liking, for someone who considers themselves a hobbyist rather than a collector.

On that note, I can exclusively reveal that there will be a new series of The Magazine Archive in January 2017. Keep an eye out for that.

It’s still a shop worth visiting, but I wouldn’t consider buying anything there. I’ll stick to rummaging for bargains in Empire Exchange whenever i’m in Manchester.

I’d planned to go to Shoreditch, but a monsoon stopped that plan.

With my flight at 8.10pm, I decided to go the the airport early to check-in so I could watch Austria v Hungary (kick-off at 5pm) while getting something to eat.

A strike in France meant that Easyjet wouldn’t allow me to check-in until 6.10pm.

Even though I was no longer in France, they were still managing to ruin my plans. I’ve never seen a more incompetent country.

To add to that, the hotel in Nice that cancelled my booking last December as they had no rooms, meaning I had to book another hotel, charged me for staying there. I’m currently getting that sorted by Booking.com.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer says “If you don’t like you’re job, you don’t go on strike, you just do it half-assed. That’s the American way”

The French way, seems to be going on strike and doing things half-assed.

I loved going to the matches, but didn’t really enjoy being in France.

I would have loved to have stayed a few extra days though, if only to see Northern Ireland v Ukraine, and James in concert in Paris.

The only concerts on in Paris when I was there were Iron Maiden and Adele, neither who i’m fussy about.

Despite that, i’m looking forward to going to Euro 2020. Hopefully. That tournament will be played all over Europe.

The games that interest me are the ones at Hampden Park and Lansdowne Road.

Hopefully, the Scots and/or Irish will be slightly more organised than the French.

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 – JUNE

June 2015 began in Crewe, but only briefly, as I was on an 8.35am train bound for Liverpool, to spend a day in the city having been at Northern Ireland’s match at Gresty Road the day before.

While in Liverpool, I managed to spot some Street Art and get some photos.

In the middle of the month, my last football match of 2014-2015, as Northern Ireland took on Romania in a European Championship Qualifier, my first game in the newly rebuilt Railway Stand at Windsor Park, which was fast tracked to be open for that game due to problems with The Kop

The month ended with a day trip to Dublin. Naturally, there were Street Art photos.

While there, I also took in Bray Wanderers match against Sligo Rovers, my first match of 2015-2016, just two weeks after my last game of 2014-2015.

That, was my photo adventures for June.

Liverpool Street Art

Liverpool Street Art Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Romania

Northern Ireland v Romania Photo Album

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Bray Wanderers v Sligo Rovers

Bray Wanderers v Sligo Rovers Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MAY/JUNE

As the season was winding down, the matches were less frequent, now a fortnightly thing.

I began May with the Irish Cup Final in the Portadown end, getting drenched, having to park at The Odyssey and the barrier eating my ticket, and to compound the misery – Glentoran won the cup.

Two weeks later was my second trip of the season to Old Trafford, with Arsenal being the visitors in a game that finished 1-1.

Two weeks later, I was back in the North-West of England, to see Northern Ireland take on Qatar in Crewe. Most of the appeal of the game was the opportunity to visit another ground for the first time.

Near to a train station and with a programme shop, Crewe gets a thumbs up from me.

The next day was spent in Liverpool. I had some spare time on my hands, and headed to Goodison Park, in search of a mural of Dixie Dean i’d read about, but doesn’t appear to be there anymore.

Undeterred by this, I decided to get some photos of the exterior of the ground.

Two weeks later, one last game, Northern Ireland’s European Championship Qualifier against Romania, and an opportunity to experience the new Railway Stand at Windsor Park for he first time.

It was the only 0-0 draw I saw all season.

Glentoran v Portadown

Glentoran v Portadown Photo Album

Manchester United v Arsenal

Manchester United v Arsenal Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Qatar

Northern Ireland v Qatar Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Romania

Northern Ireland v Romania Photo album

NORTHERN IRELAND 0-0 ROMANIA 13.6.2015

As supporters entered the Railway Stand, they were greeted with a sign with an image of a construction worker with the caption “All set and ready to go”

It might have been referring to the Railway Stand, but Northern Ireland fans were hoping if would apply to the footballers on the pitch, who like the builders off it, have battled against the odds during this qualifying campaign.

Fans got used to their new surroundings, on an evening that the weather resembled that of Fr …..

I can’t say it, it’s almost taboo to mention the name of that country that Northern Ireland are hoping to play in next summer.

Hope for Northern Ireland came from that the fact that Romania had lost on both their previous visits to Windsor Park. Their last competitive visit, in 1984, was the night the North Stand was opened.

Fate would bring Romania to Windsor Park on the night the Railway Stand and South Stand would be used it first time. It certainly wasn’t planned that way in the construction schedule.

More recent inspiration, came in the form of Wales win over Belgium the previous night, with Northern Ireland hoping their side would get a similar result against higher ranked opponents.

The night didn’t get off to a good start, as news filtered through of the result from the 5pm kick-off, with Hungary winning 1-0 in Finland to cut the gap behind Northern Ireland to 1 point.

Northern Ireland would be finishing the night in a qualifying position regardless, but it could be a lot less comfortable than it was on Saturday morning.

The big team news for Northern Ireland, came with the inclusions of Michael McGovern and Stuart Dallas. McGovern was playing in place of the injured Roy Carroll, while Dallas was rewarded with a start after impressive performances against Finland and Qatar.

A regular performer for his club, and having played in a Scottish Cup Final, there was no fear of McGovern having a “Scott Carson type of night”

McGovern didn’t have a lot to do, but what he did do, he did well. Romania had some speculative shots on goal early on, but McGovern was in the right position to save if the shot was on target.

There was one moment of worry when Romania attempted to shoot directly from a corner, but McGovern was able to get back to his post to stop the ball going in.

You could see that the Romanians had the technical ability to punish Northern Ireland if they got a clear sight at goal. Northern Ireland didn’t help themselves with a couple of stray passes. Anytime Romania got in or around the penalty area, there was usually enough bodies to get rid of the danger.

Northern Ireland were holding their own. It was clear they were trying to get Kyle Lafferty as much of the ball as possible. They weren’t hoofing it to him, they were playing it to him.

As well as Lafferty played, he had the ball in the wrong areas. Northern Ireland needed him to be in the box to be on the end of the attacks he was starting. If only he could be cloned.

Northern Ireland’s best moments came when Chris Brunt caused a bit of a scramble by attempting a Paul Scholes v Bradford, and Jonny Evans having a header spectacularly saved by Romania’s keeper.

As the second-half kicked off, Northern Ireland attacked the new Railway Stand, where their fans who had previously occupied The Kop were based.

Romania’s keeper had a few dodgy goal kicks which gave away possession. Northern Ireland fans behind the goal were less than sympathetic.

Northern Ireland had a late rally, with fans hopeful of a dramatic late winner. When the ball fell to Kyle Lafferty after a corner, it looked like being it, but his snapshot was saved by Romania’s keeper.

It was a game either side could have won, so a draw was a fair result. The real winners were Hungary.

The only sour note of the night was a photographer being hit with a banger thrown from the Romanian section of the crowd. A steward also required treatment during the incident. I couldn’t see if he was hit as well or if it was from shock at being close to the bang that went off.

3rd place Hungary are now just two points behind Northern Ireland. It’s the same position after the game in Romania, but now two games further on.

Romania and Hungary face each other in the next matchday. The ideal result is a Romania win. Not only would it make the dream of qualification closer, but it would kill Hungary’s momentum before they arrive at Windsor Park later that week.

There’s nothing Northern Ireland can do about Budapest, so it’s not worth worrying about. Northern Ireland must worry about themselves, and their game against the Faroe Islands.

Whatever Hungary do against Romania, Northern Ireland must ensure Hungary arrive at Windsor Park to face a Northern Ireland team three points better off than now.

Faroe Islands beat Greece last night to do the double over them. A great result for Northern Ireland as it will kill the idea of any complacency towards the Faroe Islands.

Greece are effectively out. They’ll be officially eliminated in one of the two matchdays. It’s an incredible decline in such a short space of time, to reach the Quarter-Finals in 2012 and be out of contention a year before Euro 2016.

Hopefully, by the time Greece arrive at Windsor Park, they’ll be gone and fulfilling fixtures. They play Romania, Northern Ireland and Hungary in their final three games of the group.

They might get anywhere near France, but Greece could be the team who decides who does.

Applications for Euro 2016 tickets are now open, and are open for the next month. I’m going to fill out my application in the next week.

I didn’t want to do it in the build-up to this game for fear of putting a scud on things.

348 days after it started, the 2014-2015 season is now over for me. It’s possibly only two weeks before the 2015-2016 season begins for me.

Last night was my 55th match of the season, and it was my first 0-0 draw. It had to be. I should have out money on it.

By the way, that sign that met Northern Ireland fans as they entered the North Stand, the caption in full read “All set and ready to go!! Next match expect even more”

Let’s hope so.

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.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 28th APRIL 1990

This edition of the Magazine Archive sees us look at Shoot from 28th April 1990.

This week, was focusing on the Rumbelows Cup (That’s Carling Cup in modern currency) Final between Nottingham Forest and Oldham.

Then, Forest were a top flight club while Oldham were riding high (Getting promoted in 1991, and being Premier League founding members in 1992) in the Second Division (That’s The Championship in modern currency)

With the two clubs not meeting in the league that season, the cover image is of an Oldham player in a challenge with Manchester United’s Bryan Robson during the recent FA Cup Semi-Final between the two sides.

Personally, I would have went with a split image of a player from each team.

Each team gets a double page spread preview

A further double page spread is given to “Shoot Star Writer” Tony Cottee’s pre-match preview.

He rates each player in the starting 11 and 2 subs out of 10, with Nottingham Forest scoring 103 and Oldham scoring 104 with Cottee declaring that Oldham would win.

Nottingham Forest won the final 1-0 with a goal from Nigel Jemson, who 14 years later would be playing for Ballymena United.

Meanwhile, there is a competition to win flights and tickets to see England’s World Cup games against Republic Of Ireland or Holland.

Keir Radnedge’s column (He was the editor of World Soccer, owned by IPC who also owned Shoot)focusing on the rest of the world, sees FIFA President Joao Havelange stating that he wants to see China host the 2002 World Cup finals, while Japan have stated they wish to bid to host this event.

Japan did eventually host the 2002 World Cup, but in a co-hosting arrangement with South Korea.

That week, it was also announced that Portugal are wishing to bid to host the 1998 World Cup, in a candidate list which also includes Switzerland, Morocco, France and Brazil.

France were awarded hosting rights to the competition, which they won, beating Brazil 3-0 in the final.

Portugal (Euro 2004) and Switzerland (co-hosting of Euro 2008) have since gone on to host further tournaments, while Brazil (2014 World Cup) and Morocco (2015 African Nations Cup) are scheduled to host tournaments withing the next five years.

Morocco would also have a failed bid to host the 2010 World Cup, losing out to South Africa.

The build-up to that summer’s World Cup continues with team previews of Italy, Romania, Holland, England and Scotland.

There is also a double page spread of Stuart Pearce proving how hard he is by driving a tank.

He admitted that he almost joined the army after leaving school, and blames not getting in on telling them that he had an application pending with his local police force.

In rumours, Chris Woods is going to sign for QPR and Pat Nevin is going to sign for Celtic. Neither transfer happened.

Jimmy Greaves letters page is an eye-opener as Richard Barlow from Heaton suggests that England should bring Ray Wilkins to the World Cup in Italy.

Julie Glover from Kent dishes it out to Greavsie over his prediction that Crystal Palace wouldn’t stand a chance against Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi-Final at Villa Park.

Paul Knauer from Avon writes in to complain about the Third and Fourth Division (That’s League One and League Two in modern currency) Play-Off Finals at Wembley as it devalues the prestige of the venue.

Jimmy Jones from Wallasey in Merseyside writes in to congratulate Kenny Dalglish on unearthing a world beater in Ronny Rosenthal.

Oh hindsight, what a wonderful thing.

In the latest league standings, Liverpool lead Aston Villa by two points with a game in hand, while Leeds, Sheffield United and Newcastle United are locked in a tight battle for promotion to Division One (That’s Premier League in modern currency)

In Scotland, Rangers are facing competition from Hearts and Aberdeen for the title, with Celtic 15 points behind in 4th.

The ad for the following week’s edition has the headline “STEWART HITS OUT”, referring to Tottenham Hotspur’s Paul Stewart.

Meanwhile, a double page spread is dedicated to an explosive interview with Charlie Nicholas, then of Aberdeen, declaring that he is leaving Pittodrie and that he is “Finished” with Scottish football.

He signed for the very much Scottish Celtic that summer.

The back page has an advert for a collection of figurines called “Sportstars”

Think of it as Corinthan figurines, but a bit bigger.

I had Bryan Robson, Neville Southall, Diego Maradona, Marco Van Basten, Peter Beardsley, Thomas Von Heeson, Mo Johnston, Ruud Gullit and Paul McStay.