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 – FEBRUARY

The start of February usually sees me head away somewhere, and this year saw me head to Barcelona for a short break.

While there, I toured the city, did a tour of the Nou Camp, got lots of Street Art pictures and went to two football matches

Upon my return from Barcelona, it was straight into Irish League action, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville at Windsor Park.

Four days later, I was headed to Stangmore Park, on my birthday, to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts, with Linfield giving me some birthday cheer by winning 3-0.

Three days later I was headed to Mandela Hall for the first time since 2011, for my first gig of 2015 – Echo and the Bunnymen.

A further three days after that, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Portadown.

The final day of the month saw me see Linfield take on Portadown again, this time in the Irish Cup, and at Shamrock Park. It was the same result though.

Barcelona

Barcelona Photo Album

Nou Camp Photo Album

Barcelona Street Art

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 1

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 2

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 3

CE Europa v Masnau

CE Europa v Masnau Photo Album

Espanyol v Valencia

Espanyol v Valencia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Echo and the Bunnymen Live At Mandela Hall

Echo and the Bunnymen Live At Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Portadown

Portadown v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began in Barcelona, where I went for a weekend break, going on the Nou Camp tour, going to a lower league game (CE Europa v Masnoua in the 4th tier) then the La Liga match between Espanyol and Valencia.

Upon my return from Barcelona, it was straight into Irish League action, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

The following Saturday, I was at Stangmore Park to see Linfield get a 3-0 win on my birthday, which was nice.

The next two weekends were all about seeing Linfield take on Portadown, first at Windsor Park, then at Shamrock Park, with two damaging defeats for Linfield.

CE Europa v Masnoua

CE Europa v Masnou Photo Album

Espanyol v Valencia

Espanyol v Valencia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

Portadown v Linfield

ESPANYOL 1-2 VALENCIA 8.2.2014

After taking in a Tercera Division game at lunchtime, by the evening, it was time for some La Liga action, as Espanyol took on Valencia.

The last time I went to Barcelona, I went to a match at the Nou Camp and a tour of Espanyol’s ground. I promised myself if I ever went to Barcelona again, I would do it the other way around. So, when I went to Barcelona recently, I kept my promise, taking in Espanyol’s match against Valencia.

This was a good choice of match for me, as both clubs are on the UEFA 101 Club list.

Getting a ticket for this match was easy, purchasing from a tourist office in the city on the Thursday beforehand. The number of empty seats in the stadium suggests I could have just turned up on the day with no problems.

For those who have watched a match at the Power8 stadium, I was along the side of the pitch, where the TV cameras were situated.

One new addition to the stadium since I last visit was a statue of Dani Jarque, an Espanyol player who died during the summer of 2009, soon after captaining the club in their opening game at the ground.

The quality of attacking was poor, both teams looked short of ideas going forward. Both team’s defending wasn’t that impressive either, gifting chances which weren’t taken.

Espanyol’s best moment came when Felipe Caicedo burst through but fired straight at the keeper.

It was a game that had the look of a 0-0 draw about it, until Pablo Piatti got a touch onto a cross to put Valencia 1-0 up. The Valencia fans in the corner of that goal celebrated, as did pockets of fans sat in the home end.

It looked as though Valencia were going to smother the game and hold on for a 1-0 win. Espanyol had one big attacking moment when Christian Stuani looked certain to score, until a Valencia defender managed to get a block on the line.

Dani Parejo’s free-kick gave Valencia a 2-0 lead, which sparked an exodus of home fans.

Those that left missed an immediate response, when Sergio Garcia took advantage of some poor defending to fire home.

Espanyol now had hope, and the game became end to end, with both teams immediately counter-attacking every time they won the ball. As injury time approached, the game got niggly with players squaring up to each other.

Valencia were able to hang on, and climb into 4th, as they aim to qualify for the Champions League.

Espanyol can’t qualify through the league, but they can still reach Europe, as they have a Copa Del Rey Semi-Final against Athletic Bilbao to look forward to.

Photo Album

BARCELONA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valencia won the game 2-1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.