PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : OCTOBER

October began with a trip to The Oval, to see Linfield play awful but still grind out a 2-1 win.

The following weekend, was a double header. First up, was Northern Ireland v San Marino, the first game a fully redeveloped Windsor Park. After a few hours sleep, I was on an early boat to travel to Dumfries to see Linfield take on Queen of the South in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

It was then back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard United before a road trip to Coleraine.

The month ended with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield and Crusaders draw 0-0.

Glentoran v Linfield

Northern Ireland v San Marino

Northern Ireland v San Marino Photo Album

Queen of the South v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

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2016 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October began with a trip to The Oval, to see Linfield take on Glentoran, play awful but grind out a 2-1 win.

The following Saturday, I went to see Northern Ireland take on San Marino, the first game at a fully redeveloped Windsor Park.

I then went home, and got a bit of sleep, before an early morning boat to Dumfries to see Linfield take on Queen of the South in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

The following Saturday, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard United.

Two days later, I was Limelight bound to see Feeder in concert.

There were then two frustrating weekends as I was then Coleraine bound the following Saturday to see Linfield held to a frustrating draw, just as they were at home to Crusaders the following Saturday.

The month ended by going to see KT Tunstall in concert at Mandela Hall.

Glentoran v Linfield

Northern Ireland v San Marino

Northern Ireland v San Marino Photo Album

Queen of the South v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Feeder live at The Limelight

Feeder live at The Limelight Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall

KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

NORTHERN IRELAND 4-0 SAN MARINO 8.10.2016

Exactly a year to the day since a victory over Greece secured Northern Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2016, Northern Ireland were back in competitive action at Windsor Park, to face San Marino in a World Cup Qualifier.

This match was the first game to be held at Windsor Park since the redevelopment was completed.

The delay caused by the subsidence of The Kop meant that Northern Ireland’s opening home qualifier would be the first game at the redeveloped venue. The fact that Romania opened the Railway Stand last year having opened the North Stand in 1984 suggested that Germany would be this evening’s opponents having opened the original seated Kop, but FIFA’s fixture algorithm decided otherwise.

What this fixture lacked in glamour, it more than made up for in winnability. Though, we’re Northern Ireland, this is the sort of game we usually drop points in. Or so the cliche goes.

Something changed during Euro 2016 Qualifying, as Northern Ireland stepped up when expected to win against Finland (home), Greece (home) and Faroe Islands (home and away).

Despite that, the memories of two points from four games against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg in 2014 World Cup Qualifying still lingers.

Once you get the taste of something, you want more of it. Having seen their team reach a major finals for the first time in thirty years, Northern Ireland fans got a taste of tournament football, and want to recreate the memories of France in Russia.

The campaign got off to a reasonable start, a 0-0 draw away to Czech Republic being a solid foundation, no pun intended considering most of the pre-match build up focused on construction.

Unsurprisingly, Northern Ireland went straight on the attack. And finished it on the attack. And were on the attack in the moments inbetween.

For all of Northern Ireland’s attacking play, it mostly ended in frustration, the most frustrating when Stuart Dallas couldn’t finish from a Niall McGinn cross.

San Marino even ventured into Northern Ireland’s half, winning a corner and an attacking free-kick, the executions were too poor to trouble Michael McGovern.

The breakthrough came when Josh Magennis was hauled down in the penalty area, the penalty finished, rather appropriately, by Steven Davis, on the anniversary of his double strike against Greece.

There was a sense of frustration amongst the fans that Northern Ireland fans that it was only 1-0 at half-time. Perhaps they were saving all the goals for The Kop?

The task got a lot easier when Mirko Palazzi got sent-off for a foul on Michael McGovern. What was also helping Northern Ireland was the fact that San Marino’s keeper was punching every shot he faced, not always effectively.

Stuart Dallas fired wide from close range while Steven Davis fired over when played through. Conor Washington fired over from a goalkeeping parry.

Despite being dominant, Northern Ireland needed a second goal, just to sure of the points. They found out the hard way against Luxembourg in 2012 when a speculative shot and a lucky deflection turned a deserved win into a frustrating draw.

Josh Magennis thought he had scored the first goal in front of The Kop but it was disallowed for offside. Niall McGinn also had a goal disallowed after a fumble by the San Marino keeper, a decision pundits describe as “the sort of decision goalkeepers get”.

It was left to Kyle Lafferty to be the History Man, who started the game on the bench after not seeing any game time for Norwich this season.

Quite apt, as he scored Northern Ireland’s last goal in front of the old Kop, and flicked home a cross to make it 2-0.

Jamie Ward, for some reason wearing socks that were a different shade of green than the rest of the team, finished home from close range after a Kyle Lafferty flick on to make it 3-0.

In injury time, Steven Davis found enough time and space in the penalty area to flick the ball to Kyle Lafferty to put it into an empty net to make it 4-0. It was the last kick of the game.

It left Northern Ireland 3rd in the group with four points, two behind joint leaders Germany and Azerbaijan, the two sides Northern Ireland face next.

Up next is Germany, before Azerbaijan (November 2016) and Norway (March 2017) visit Windsor Park.

Even if we lose in Germany, those two home games are more than winnable. If we did, ten points from five games would be an excellent return at the halfway stage of the group.

Still a long way to go, so I wouldn’t be checking those Roubles.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 6th MAY 1995

This edition sees us visit the end of the 94/95 season with Matt Le Tissier the cover star, as a campaign for him to be included in the England team gets into full swing.

The headline “TAKE MATT” is a pun on the popular mid 90s beat combo, Take That, who were riding high in the hit parade.

Meanwhile, Southampton defender Jason Dodd is featured in a player profile, where he declares that his dream babe is Teri Hatcher, and that he tapes The New Adventures Of Superman just to see her in it.

In competitions, you could win a pair of Mitre boots endorsed by John ‘The Hart’ Hartson. No, that nickname never really caught on.

In rumours that look silly now : Sheffield Wednesday want Bryan Robson to be their manager, Bournemouth will appoint Harry Redknapp if he gets sacked by West Ham, Celtic want to sign Marc Degryse and Gary McAllister is set to join Rangers.

The results section includes reports on Euro 96 Qualifiers where Northern Ireland beat Latvia, Wales drew with Germany and Scotland beat San Marino.

Matt Le Tissier gets a double page spread where stars such as Gary Flitcroft, David Linighan, Ian Bishop and David Howells plead his case. For some reason, Terry Venables ignored their calls.

Greavsies letters page is it’s usual brilliance.

Imagine if Twitter existed back then and Jimmy Greaves had an account?

Nathan Amery of Colchester suggests QPR would struggle if they sold Les Ferdinand. He joined Newcasle United that summer, and QPR were relegated in 1996.

Jeremy Dwyer of Birmingham, possibly an Aston Villa supporter says that Birmingham City would never get back into the top flight. For seven years, he looked right.

James Franey of Worcester says that if Blackburn Rovers get into the Champions League, they would struggle. He was right.

David Spencer of High Wycombe suggests that Tim Flowers should be England’s first choice keeper ahead of David Seaman. Hmmm.

Rangers seventh successive league title gets a full page, with captain Richard gough putting it down to regular boozing sessions. Innocent times.

ONE WEEKEND IN 1994

At the end of last year, there wasn’t very much to do in Belfast, mainly due to “The Water Crisis”, and being unable to get washed enough to leave the house.

So, I sat in front of the TV, channelhopping. Something that caught my was ESPN Classic’s series “30 For 30”, of 30 original sports movies.

One of the movies I most enjoyed was one titled “17th June 1994

It was a simple concept, an edited looked at the chronological happenings of that date, a rather dramatic day in US sporting history, as OJ Simpson was chased by police looking to question him in relation to his wife’s murder, the opening match of the 1994 World Cup, as well as other dramatic happenings in the major US sports.

But it is another sporting weekend that year, which sticks in my mind, the 17th anniversary of it happens this weekend, even down to the days being the same.

On Saturday 30th April 1994, I was an 11 year old, looking forward to my last two months at primary school, going to a football match at Windsor Park, between Linfield and Glentoran.

Of course, being so young, going to a football match was a bit of a luxury not being able to drive, so I had to rely on older relatives to take me.

It all really dependent on what was happening and more often than not, there was always something else on, meaning I was unable to be taken.

But when Linfield play Glentoran, it is such a special fixture, that I would always get taken to it, no matter what else was on.

As well as bragging rights, the Gibson Cup was up for grabs in this game as Linfield started the day 3rd, level on points but behind on goal difference behind Portadown (1st) and Glenavon (2nd), who just happened to be playing each other that day.

In Lurgan, there was a winner takes all clash, but with a twist. A lot of games at the end of the season often get billed as “winner takes all”, but realistically, a draw will suit one of the two teams.

Not on this occasion, as a draw could allow Linfield to sneak in and claim the title.

I remember Richard Keys speaking on Sky’s “Football Years” series bemoaning the fact that Sky Sports have never had a last day title showdown like Anfield 1989 to broadcast. In truth, he wishes Sky had a last day title showdown like Mourneview/Windsor 1994.

My and my older brother arrived at Windsor Park, with not a cloud in the sky, a beautiful sunny day, perfect for a game of football.

Bizarrely, one of the things I can remember vividly, is that there was an ice mint company having a promotional push outside Windsor Park prior to kick-off, giving out free samples.

For whatever reason, the product they were handing out never went into public distribution.

There was a danger, we might not get in due to overcrowding, as the RUC told us when we were queuing up to get in. The female colleague of the officer relaying the information to us did helpfully point out that there was plenty of room in the North Stand.

She have have been incredibly stupid, but at least she was polite, which is what neighbourhood policing is all about.

Eventually, we got in, and headed for the terracing in The Kop.

The first-half, was non eventful, and the score from Lurgan didn’t help the atmosphere as Glenavon raced into an almost surely uncatchable 2-0 lead.

Eventually, Linfield went into a 2-0 lead, but it didn’t matter, as Glenavon still led 2-0. Suddenly, Portadown pulled it back to 2-2.

This was the magic score, the result that would give Linfield the title. A goal for Portadown or Glenavon would give them the title. What we needed was for nothing to happen for the rest of the game.

1994 was primitive in terms of communication technology. If this scenario happened today, supporters could keep up to date with the other game on their mobile internet, possibly on Twitter, following Glenavon or Portadown’s accounts, and hitting refresh every 5 seconds, in the hope that there would be a tweet saying “Full-Time, Glenavon 2-2 Portadown”

Against an awful Glentoran team, 2-0 was going to be enough, the game was over. The only match that mattered now was the one in Lurgan.

Anyone who had a radio, was now surrounded by people, eager for news of no news from Lurgan.

People who had a portable radio with speakers were the most popular, but even people listening through their headphones had people around them shouting “What’s happening” at various inter4vals.

The thing with words is, they can only tell part of a story, but you need to see the story to believe it.

As anyone who has listened to a football match can testify, when the commentator says a player crosses the half-way line, you start to fear the worst that a goal is seconds away. That’s just the way football fans are.

Eventually, the final whistle blew at Mourneview Park, it finished 2-2, and Linfield were Champions.

A week later, they beat Bangor 2-0 to win the Irish Cup.

In their infinite wisdom, the IFA decided to take the Gibson Cup to Mourneview Park. It was the only trophy they had, so Linfield fans had to wait for the trophy to arrive at Windsor Park.

The wait was too long for my brother, as I had to back home before my mum and dad started to worry. No mobile phones in them days that my brother could have just called them to say we were being late.

To give an impression of what it was like in The Kop that day, this picture, by Stuart Roy Clarke should give you just an inkling.

The following day, me and a friend went to a local park to play football, with his dad standing on the touchline, keeping us to date with the happenings at Portman Road, as Ipswich Town faced Manchester United in a Premier League game.

But suddenly, he came towards us, not with football news, but news that Ayrton Senna was dead. He’d been killed in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix.

We’d refused to believe it at first, for two reasons. The first, was that Senna felt immortal to us.

The second, was that on the Friday, i’d come home from school and saw on Teletext news that Roland Ratzenberger had been killed in practice. Surely two drivers couldn’t be killed in the same race weekend.

But it was true. The game was abandoned there and then, and we headed back to his house to wait for the BBC News (Neither of us had Sky News)

For the record, United won 2-1 at Portman Road, meaning Blackburn had to beat Coventry in the Monday night game to keep the title race alive.

On the Bank Holiday Monday, i’d went to Newcastle with my parents, and I remember listening to the car radio, urging Coventry to win.

They did, 2-1, and United were champions for a second successive season.

Two title wins, one of them the most dramatic in British football history, and the death of a World Champion.

The Bank Holiday Weekend of April/May 1994 turned out to be one of the most dramatic series of sporting events from my youth.