Monday, January 28, 2008

Linfield 2 Armagh City 1

IPL, Windsor Park, Saturday 26th January 2007

Team: Mannus, Ervin, O’Kane, Mulgrew (Ferguson 76), Murphy, Lindsay, Curran, Downey, McAreavey (Kearney 60), Thompson, Stewart. Subs not used : Bailie, Douglas, Dickson

Scorers: Thompson (pen), Murphy

Attendance: 2000 tops?

By all accounts, we played poorly and were a bit lucky. Still, we got the three points against a side who quite frankly, bring NOTHING to the Premier league of Northern Ireland. Armagh had 7 fans. SEVEN.

No match reports for the time being from my trusty reporter EBB, who has decided to relaunch his football career and has starting playing for Bloomfield FC. So now I pass the mantle on to Atticus, who, despite his O'Kane bias, is still quite a worthy analyser(!):

Really poor.

Will I get called bad names again if I suggest our right side was our weak point once more?

Not to say that the rest of the team were much better.

Some of our crowd really need to calm down though.

"Not good enough for fuckin' Carrick" was just one piece of constructive criticism aimed at Tommy Stewart.

Curran seems to be taking a lot of stick. Consensus is that Jim Ervin played poorly, that our two RBs are not good enough, and that we need wingers. Oh, and that we rely far too heavily on Gault and Thompson.

The Glens scraped a last minute equaliser at home to the Whites, and for the second week in a row, Cliftonville scored a alast-minute winner at home to Ballymena. The title race will be a spicy one, and Setanta decreeing that only 3 group games will be played before the end of the season could help the Reds and their smaller squad. Here's how the table looks:

1 Linfield 18 14 2 2 44 14 44 30
2 Cliftonville 16 12 4 0 29 10 40 19
3 Glentoran 18 12 3 3 39 17 39 22

Still think we'll do it, but we need to step it up a level, find a settled midfield (Kearney (fit) - Downey - Gault - Mouncey (fit) would do the job for me) and stop conceding so many.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Portadown 2 Linfield 5

New away end (thanks to Thompo for the pics)

The men who are going to win us the title again (along with Gaulty)

Irish Premier League, Shamrock Park, Saturday 19th January 2008

Team: Mannus, Ervin, O’Kane, Murphy, Lindsay (Bailie 69), Gault, Downey, McAreavey, Curran (Kearney 75), Stewart, Thompson (Ferguson 75)

Scorers: Gault, Thompson 3 (again), Stewart

Attendance: approx 1000 Bluemen

An awesome result and apparent great performance, very reminiscent of the 5-1 win away at Dungannon last season that gave us the momentum to retain our title. I'm very confident now, not least that Stewart and Lindsay are starting, and Conor Downey is seemingly back to top form.

Anyway, 2 match reports, from EBB:

Awesome result

As has been stated, the first 20/25 mins we didn't bother to turn up and probably could have been further behind.

Once we scored though, we never looked in serious danger and always looked like we had plenty in the tank, if it was needed.

Close call for me, between Gaulty and Downey for MOM. I know Peter got a hat trick and generally his play was first class, but that's just a testimony to how well those two played, to outshine him. On that form, no team in the league would have answer for a central midfield pairing of Gault and Downey, both are awesome.

I also thought Ervin had a very good game as well, and if he can keep that sort of form up, will be the regular right back.

Stewart again, showed exactly why he should be partnering Peter. The understanding is there, each of them are willing to make runs to recieve the ball and also to go over the top/down the wings to make space for others. As for the goal C'est Magnifique

This win reminds me of the 5-1 win we had last season away at Stangmore and the confidence boost that, that gave the players to kick on and storm the title. Hopefully more of the same to come

and from my text updater, Bluenose:

1st 15/20 minutes we were shite. Full of mistakes but once gaulty scored with a super strike I knew we were going to hammer them.

Mannus - Nothing much to do but his kicking at times looks suspect.

Ervin - Super game from jim.
Winkie - Did his job
Lindsay - Did his job before I asume he went off injured.
O'Kane - A few dodgy moments in the 1st half but still motm.

Downey - Played really well though he was everywhere else bar right midfield.
Maccers - Stupid mistake for there 1st goal but as the game went on he done well.
Gault - Superb. The best midfield player in Ireland.
Curran - Did ok. Came in for some unfair stick from the crowd.

Thompson - Superb. The real MOTM.
Stewart - Again, 1st half people wanted us to release him but again showed his class with a super goal.

Thompo's excellent photos as always on SSS:

Portadown (a) match photos

Match highlights here:

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Setanta Cup Draw Joke

Our group for the 2008 Setanta Sports Cup:

Glentoran - 4th year in a row, out of 4
Derry City - 3rd year in a row, out of 3
St Pats Athletic - nearest Eircom League to us that we could have drawn

What a crock of shit. The dogs on the street could have told you we'd get the Glens and Dire City again. Whether it's for TV, security reasons or whatever, it's beyond a joke. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd be in my element. Why not just be honest, come out and say "And the Huns will draw their big rivals for TV and crowd reasons, Derry City, due to better potential for crowd control, and the nearest other available EL team, then those untrustworthy orange b*stards have less potential to cause trouble".

Thoroughly browned off.

Just for the record, they've extended the competition to both team's late seasons, therefore 2 periods of 3 group matches either side of the summer, which will be even more of a disadvantage for the outperformed N. Irish teams (Linfield excepted) and which IMO makes the competition far too protracted and uninteresting. Here's Linfield's fixtures:

Monday 10th March - Derry H

Monday 7th April - Glens A

Tuesday 15th April - St Pats A

Tuesday 2nd September - St Pats H

Monday 15th September - Glens H

Tuesday 23rd September - Derry A

Monday, January 14, 2008

Loughgall 0 Linfield 3

JJB Sports Irish Cup 5th Round, Lakeview Park, Saturday 12th January 2008

Team: Mannus, Ervin, O’Kane, Lindsay, Murphy, Gault (Kearney 77), McAreavey (Dickson 83), Downey, Curran, Thompson (Ferguson 79), Stewart. Subs not used : Douglas, McCann

Scorers: Thompson 48,72, Stewart 84

EBB's report:

Tommy Stewart partners Peter Thompson upfront, end result? We play the ball into feet and look a much better (and dangerous) team. To say it's about time, is an understatement


I thought we played well for the majority of the game and certainly never looked to be in any danger of not winning.


Stewart (obviously ) He brings that extra pace and movement, that we've been crying out for, for weeks. His goal was brillaint, much like his all round game.

Conor Downey. Depsite not being a right midfielder, he put in an outstanding display. Simple passing and moving is what he is all about. Good to have him back.

Thompson, who much like Stewart worked tirelessly and didn't do an awful lot wrong. 2 more goals and a 15 minute rest

Gaulty... One word to describe him today (and the last few weeks) Awesome. Didn't put a foot wrong and was at the heart of almost everything. If only he could score

Can't actually find any negatives, although it wasn't a totally faultless performance.

Loughgall's bullying tactics certainly didn't work too well when Gault got into his stride :D

Friday, January 4, 2008

Tommy Dickson, Duke of Windsor - RIP

One of Linfield's greatest ever players, possibly the greatest of all, captain of the 1961/62 7-trophy winning team, passed away on New Year's Eve 2007. Tommy Dickson, "Duke of Windsor" passes away Malcolm Brodie provided a fitting epitaph in the Belfast Telegraph:

One of the immortals of Linfield Tommy Dickson, given the appellation The Duke of Windsor, has died in Belfast after a short illness. He was 77.

Over the decades since the club's formation in a Belfast mill in 1885, many players have been heroes - the list is endless - but few have had the lasting impact of the bantamweight-built Dickson.

He epitomised Linfield, its tradition, its heritage, was the ultimate as a player and idolised by fans.

That idolatry never really waned though shockwaves hit Bluemen after his contract had not been renewed by the club and he signed for archrivals Glentoran in August 1965. That was tantamount to Field Marshall Montgomery defecting to Rommell's Afrika Korps.

It was Gibby Mackenzie, then in charge at The Oval, who enticed him to change his allegiance but he played only five games for them - one against Linfield for whom he had been a player during 17 years.

How strange it was to see him wearing the red, green and black instead of the familiar royal blue jersey.

"I had no regrets - I knew what I was doing," he once said. "They treated me exceptionally well and I wouldn't have taken the step for anyone other than Gibby - the best manager and coach with whom I worked."

Yet, deep down one could detect there had been that little niggling doubt, an uncertainty at the enormity of what he had done.

And this was underlined one night before a European Cup match against Aris in Luxembourg where the late Walter Davidson, accompanied by the Windsor Park hierarchy, presented him with his life membership. "Thank you. I know I am now back home," he said in an emotional acceptance speech.

There was no bitterness, no anger remaining. It was water under the bridge. Linfield blood ran through his veins, Windsor Park was his home.

The Tommy Dickson story goes back to his boyhood days in Sandy Row where, as a 16-year-old, he played for Roosevelt Street Boys Club; had the odd matches with Old Lodge in the Minor League and All Souls in the Churches League.

His main ambition, however, was to play for Linfield "to pull on that blue jersey in the dressing room", as he once told me. He won junior medals with Larne and Brantwood and a plethora with the Swifts after signing for Linfield manager Jock Hutton. Elisha Scott, legendary manager of Belfast Celtic, offered him a huge fee but he declined.

When the Blues transferred George Hannah and Alfie McMichael to Newcastle United Dickson - TD to his team-mates - became a permanent fixture at inside-forward. For many of the old timers it was their twilight, for Dickson the dawn. The rest is history.

Although he never sampled cross-channel football, Preston, Everton, Manchester City and Rangers were interested while Hull manager Raich Carter offered £8,500. Linfield, though, wanted much more than that and the deal never materialised.

He was capped by Northern Ireland against Scotland at Hampden Park in 1954 on a night to forget. " I simply froze - I was out of my depth," he admitted. His consistent club performances merited another international chance but it didn't come.

One of his finest displays was in the Irish League's 5-2 defeat of a star-packed Football League side which included Albert Quixall (Sheffield Wednesday), Tommy Taylor (Manchester United), Johnny Haynes (Fulham) and Jimmy Armfield (Blackpool) at Windsor Park in 1956.

Dickson captained Linfield's seven-trophy winning team in 1962 - Irish, Ulster, City, Gold and North-South Cups, Irish League and County Antrim Shield. He played in 53 matches and scored more than 20 goals in what he called a family team.

He recalled: "Actually we never thought about the seven trophies until it came near the end of the season. Then we realised we could repeat the 1922 achievement."

It was at Cliftonville on May 17, 1962 that Linfield, led by Dickson who had tremendous battles with Wilbur Cush, clinched the Irish League championship with a 3-1 win over Portadown, Jim Reid scoring twice and Bobby Braithwaite, now in South Africa, getting the other. History had been repeated.

Dickson possessed all the attributes - skill, heading power, astonishing stamina for one so slightly built, and an impish cheek which frequently irritated referees. Before a match he rested for 15 minutes, putting everything out of his mind, simply concentrating on the game.

After his departure from football he turned his attention to coaching, was for a period a member of the Linfield management committee and had many jobs - an industrial company's sports officer, he ran a fish and chip shop, taxi business and news agency and, in his later years, found his niche in charity and cross-community work at which he excelled.

Tommy Dickson, the Duke of Windsor, was a man apart and a football genius whose name will forever be synonymous with Linfield and one of its golden eras.

My Granda was forever going on about him. I only ever met the man once, when I was a ballboy and his grandson was doing it for the day, but the reverence in which even kids treated his entering the room spoke volumes.

Rest In Peace.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Update: 1 Month On

Obviously, as I'm back in Exile, there are no match reports from me. Rather, I turn to my trusty roving reporter, East Belfast Blues, for his take on things:

08/12/07: CIS Cup Final, vs Crusaders - POSTPONED

I was gutted, we have BBC NI in our bar, texted my mates to express my excitement, and they told me: rained off. Raging. Match due to be replayed 2nd February.

15/12/07: Newry 0 Linfield 3

First half was crap, Gault was on the war path kicking everyone

Other than Mulgrew, we were poor.

Second half was much better and once we actually got the ball down, we looked like the half decent team that we are.

Big Oran got a wonderful reception and was his usual self when he got on, with his trademark run bringing about the penalty... which he should have been allowed to hit, rather than greedy bollicks chasing his record

Third goal was a perfect example of what we can do, with free flowing football.

Again though, why bring Tommy Stewart on for Spike, with 3 mins to go?

22/12/07: Linfield 3 Glenavon 2

We were shit!
Pat is done!
Gault is awesome!
Mulgrew isn't too far behind!

All in all a welcome 3 points and a boost for Boxing Day, but we need to improve big time, if we wish to pick up 3 points on Wednesday.

Succinct, to the point, and sadly true, as our Boxing Day 18-year unbeaten record came to an end with an abject performance. I actually watched this match on Sky, bedecked in full gear, much to the amusement of indifferent and bemused Frenchmen and Englishmen, so I'll give EBB's and my viewpoints from live and TV perspectives:

26/12/07: Glentoran 1 Linfield 0

Absolutely, f*****g pathetic!

No balls, no hunger, no fight, no f*** all.

Credit to the Glens, who could easily have won by 2 or 3 more and fully deserved the win.

****e, of the highest f*****g order.

Linfield Exile:
Pat has been shit since he came back. Noel's legs have done. I actually thought the Dougster was ok, but everything's relative.

Oran should never have started, shows how much faith DJ has in Aidan. It was clear that Roy Castle was going to take every free going, apart from the first, they were all shite.

Thatnk fuck I'm not in Belfast now. Time to get pissed.

Oran's place in the starting 11 shows that DJ has his favourites, pretty much the Clean Sweep 11. In this respect he's very much like Clive Woodward, clinging on to former glories.

Pat is done.
Noel is done.
Dougie's not good enough.
I'll get hammered, but Spike needs rested.
Dicko is not a RW.
Oran's not fit.

HOWEVER, if we FINALLY beat Chickenville on the 7th, I'll be happy.

That Glens team is so fucking shite, I'm embarrassed.

In all seriousness, we were damn lucky tonight. If the Glens had taken their really good chances we'd have lost 3 or 4. That's fucking embarrassing. And even me, who's been away for almost a month, knows that that result was coming. That offside trap is an embarrassment. Aidan and Billy Joe in to fuck.

It called for a good reaction, and we got it, albeit against shite pub teams. First up, the Crues:

29/12/07: Linfield 5 Crusaders 0

What a difference Spike not being on makes. We actually decide to play the ball on the deck... coincidence? I think not.

Get Stewart on to f*** and give him a chance to show how good a player he is.

Apart from the decision not to play Tommy, I felt FDJ got it spot on.

And then it came to a rubbish New Year's Day fixture at a shithole of a ground, a long trip, and I really missed it, the piss-up would have been great and apparently they have a decent social:

01/01/08: Limavady 0 United Linfield 4 (Thompson 4)

Bluenose's summary this time:
Well played Thompson and it turned out to be an easy day at the office with the only downside being Spike. He was shite and i dont think he should have played today. The same with Bailie ( had a good game today). These boys are getting old and need rest. Lindsay/Stewart are more than capable to play against limavady.

Thompo's fourth here, thanks to MB:

Cliftonville next up, on Monday 7th January, and I've waggled the night off to watch it on Sky. I'm not confident, especially with DJ's insistence on playing the Clean Sweep xi/ persistence in playing the record chasers, Spike and Noel. Both are done, imo, and are harming our league chances and more importantly deterring future potential stars. Andy Ferguson is the first to leave, but I fear that Billy Joe, Stewart and others might not be too far behind...