Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dungannon Swifts 1 Linfield 1

Billy Joe's Wonder Goal (courtesy of Crooksy). He'll not be with us much longer.

JJB Sports Premiership, Stangmore PArk, Tuesday 26th August 2008

Team : Mannus, Burns, O'Kane, Murphy, Bailie, Curran, Mulgrew, McAreavey (Martin 60), Downey, Ferguson, Carvill
Subs not used : Douglas, Lindsay, Addis, Miskimmin

Scorer: Burns (92)

Attendance: ca. 1000 (750 Bluemen?)

Right, I've just got in, and I'm pissed off after watching that.

First, as objective a summary as I can give. Both sides had chances in the first half, the Swifts looking dangerous every time they attacked, having a goal disallowed for offside/a foul on Mannus/goodness knows as we were at the other end and it didn't look like a foul. Linfield managed to break through on occasion, Mulgrew forcing a couple of saves from long-range shots, Carvill shooting straight at Nelson after breaking through, and Billy Joe heading wide when he should have done better. The Swifts took the lead in controversial fashion. They got a free-kick after Bailie was harshly adjudged to have pushed their forward (McAllister?), Carvill got booked for not retreating enough, the ball came in, looked to have hit Carvill on the knee, a penalty was given, McAree converted.

The second half saw Linfield with the bulk of possession but not a great deal of chances, Dungannon hitting us on the break. McAree cleared off the line, Carvill's follow-up from a Downey shot was ruled offside, Linfield had a number of ineffective long-range shots, and Billy Joe volleyed home spectatularly in injury time into the top-right corner to gain us an ill-deserved point.

Where do I start with that abject effort? The good:
-Billy Joe Burns. MOTM again. Confidence personified.
-Carvill worked hard
-Curran was better, always does look for the ball and played the simple passes well
-Aidy was ok

The bad:

- Our central midfield. Maccers was unfit. Again. A passenger. Again. Too slow. Again. Downey is not a striker, nor a in-the-hole player. He's too slow, can't shoot, too greedy.
-Our central defence. Leaky, rushed, panicked, like they've never played together. A season too far?
-Our passing was fu cking shocking. Atrocious.
-Our tactics, given the lack of width which we've been bemoaning for 2 years, was the same old predictable hoofball bollocks AGAIN AND AGAIN. We play a couple of pretty passes in the middle third, get nowhere with them, then hoof it up to Spike. Except a) Spike is getting too slow and laboured, and outbattled in the air, and b) half the time tonight, the hoofball was put up to Carvill, the smallest player on the pitch. We have no pace in our team save Carvill and he's not getting the through balls or the service. We're too slow, and static. The lack of movement in our team is scary, especially when Gault is missing.
-Our substitutions. Martin comes on for Maccers, with 30 minutes to go, we seem to shift to 4-4-2. Then... nothing. If Martin is the only Plan B we have until Christmas, we're fucked, quite frankly. Jeffrey clearly doesn't trust Miskimmon at all, if he's not prepared to throw him on in a game we're losing, where our main striker is knackered. I've said it before and I'll say it again, our (sorry, DJ's) over-reliance on Spike is going to cost us dearly. It's already foreced potentially able replacements out of the club, cemented our reliance on the panic hoofball and the precentages game, and it's going to take a lot of adjustment once Ferguson can continue no more. Jeffrey's incompetence in contract negotiations and dealings these past 8 months have meant we have to rely on him now until New Year AT LEAST. He cannot last 90 minutes anymore. The pace, the presence, has deserted him. We cannot rely on him anymore.
- Fearless Leader. Displaying his remarkable leadership qualities once more when the chips are down. Barking orders to his troops, motivating them, railing them, driving them on to get the equaliser? Was he fuck. Hiding in the dugout, hardly a peep out of him. I've rarely seen a Linfield support so quiet, subdued and resigned as tonight. We weren't clapping you, Jeffrey. We were criticising.

Billy Joe got you out of jail. Simply not good enough, Jeffrey.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Linfield 1 Newry City 0

JJB Sports Premiership, Windsor Park, Saturday 23rd August 2008.

Team: Addis, Burns, Bailie, Murphy, O’Kane, Mulgrew, Gault (Martin 60), Downey, Curran, Carvill (Lindsay 90), Ferguson
Subs not used : White, Miskimmin, Douglas

Scorer: Martin (1st goal for Linfield on debut)

Attendance: ca. 3000 (approx. 40 Newry fans)

ZZZZZZ was the text Bluenose sent just before half-time, and it pretty much summed up the game. We were apparently playing a 4-3-3 in the absence of Maccers, Hagan, Kearney, Harkness, Dougie etc, but to most of us, we had no shape in midfield at all, players looked confused and swapped about, and we couldn't get going.

The second half was slightly better, we played quite a bit of neat one-touch football, but it was mostly all fart and no shite, no end product. It took Martin's substitution and almost immediate goal to spark some life into us, and Newry rarely theatened, apart from a brilliant save Addis made from a close-range header in the first half, and a brief revival near the end when Garrett (should never have been let go) perked up the Newry attack, on for the ineffectual Lee Feeney.

Other incidents: Gaulty clattering the post trying to get on the end of a Fergie cross (just bruising thankfully)
Collins looking a shadow of his former self, trying to intimidate and keep up with Gault and Mulgrew
Loughrey (going against the grain here) had a good game imo, let it flow where possible, always talking and explaining things to the players

On our players:

- Billy Joe Burns: made his full legaue debut at right-back, and was a revelation, pace, confidence, passing, touch, he's got the lot. Forced a great save in the first half, put Monkey Head on his back. Why it's taken this long, and the loss of THREE RBs to give him his chance, I don't know. He's a natural successor to Noel, if a) we give him a new contract NOW and b) if bigger clubs don't snap him up first
- Michael Carvill: impressed again, pace to burn, keeps going, gets up and gets on with it when busted, would be nice to see him at CF for a bit
- Curran: opinions divided among fans I spoke to. I just don't see the point. He brings nothing. Too slow, cumbersome, his passes unremarkable, his set-pieces poor.
- Downey: All fart and no shite. Nice turns, but he is one gurny wee fu cker, his attitude stinks.
- Spike: ever slowing and tiring. Still got the touches and the brain, alas not the body anymore.
- Addis: had a solid game, including that great save.
- John Martin: looks like he could do a job for us this season as an impact sub. Bit of pace.

The other depressing thing, despite the weather, was the fact that only around 3000 were there, despite it being free in. We really are down to the hardcore, people won't even come if it's free. Some kids tried to get an atmosphere going, but 30, in a 22k stadium, with only 40 opposing fans, were always fighting a losing battle.

Rumours during the game were that Waterworth is Derry bound. Another striker escapes us, and 1 week of the transfer window left. DJ in the NOTW today:

"We may have to go down the road of getting someone on-loan - perhaps from across the water. Time is running out... in the end we may have to go along with what we've got"

Not good enough. Fergie and Downey are not going to beat St. Pat's, or Derry, or the Glens. Sort it out Jeffrey.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Waterworth Update

A striker we should have captured either last summer before Hamilton Accies snapped him up in the winter transfer window, Andrew Waterworth, has been made available for transfer after only half a season in Scotland. No reason has been given, homesickness, failure to settle, indiscipline or whatever, but he's definitely a player we should be signing. In a way, he'd be the ideal eventual successor to Spike: tall, good in the air, holds it up well, a bit of pace, comfortable on the ball, knows the way to goal.

He was at Windsor last Saturday for talks. However, he has been talking to Glentoran, St. Pat's, and Derry City too. We can afford the fee, rumoured to be in the region of 25k and apparently agreed terms, but:

1. The LoI sides have more money to offer for wages
2. The boy is said to be a big Glenmen (he was released by them when younger) and to prefer a move there
3. Apparently a signing-on fee and unwillingness to deal with his agent after an earlier 'to-do' with our manager could scupper things.

This would be a great signing imo, and after seeing Carvill last night, I feel the two of them could link up nicely, but I'm not confident.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Linfield 7 H&W Welders 1

New boy Carvill (10)

Where the missing seats from the Railway Stand have gone

CAS 1st round, Tuesday 19th August 2008, Windsor Park

Team: Addis, Douglas, Bailie, Murphy (Lindsay), Hagan, O’Kane (Curran), Gault, McAreavey, Mulgrew (Carvill), Downey, Ferguson
Subs not used : Miskimmon, Burns

Scorers, OG, Ferguson 3, Carvill 2, Downey

Attendance: ca. 500

An entertaining game. We could have had double figures, but the Welders really should have scored about 5, a few shocking misses, especially from their number 10, wasteful crosses and trying to be too fancy. Defence looked really shaky (apart from Winkie's usual aerial dominance), some poor missed tackles.

Hagan really looks the part, I take it all back. Still not tested too much defensively. But great going forward.
Addis didn't have a great deal to do, came out well when needed.
The Dougster looks comfortable at LB, a few good deep crosses and surges and almost curled one in first half.
Jamie started well, was busy, but came off early.
O'Kane was ok.
Maccers is done. Seriously. He's a passenger. He looks permanently unfit, fat and too slow.
Gault was everywhere, as usual. Some of the tackles he throws himself into, even in such a game, are unbelievable.
Downey was his usual frustrating self. He was at the heart of most of our moves, but he's not mobile or fast enough to play the AM C role. Still a bit too greedy, still moans too much.
Ferguson posed the eternal dilemma. Scored a great hat-trick; still has the skills; still drops back far too much into midfield and gets in the way and breaks up attacks.

Carvill was a revelation when he came on, it was no coincidence that our performance suddenly picked up. Pacey, able to beat a man, not scared to mix it, great finishing, super at crosses, his cross for Spike's header was a peach. However, Bluenose reckons he is too small and should be played at RM, and EBB reckons that's his best position. You heard it here first.
Curran continues to be pointless. He just doesn't look like a footballer.

Crowd sparse, maybe 500 there. The only things I was annoyed with was the unwillingness of DJ to experiment with BJB and Misky. And We play pretty build-up play with Downey in the hole, but really lack pace and penetration through the middle, Carvill excepted, not much pace in the team.

A good workout.

Only In Northern Ireland Part 94

The new-fangled JJB Sports Premiership was supposed to signal the dawn of a new era for Irish League football. Finally, we got a decent sponsorship package, backing from the IFA, a marketing strategy (which apparently features star players from each team in the IL on billboards not far from the grounds, and adverts on national radio, respect) and a bumper television deal with Sky Sports.

What a pity the same old clowns pervade the IL on the ground. We're now supposedly two matchdays into the new season, and the league table looks like this:

1 Crusaders 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1

2 Institute 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
3 Ballymena 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

4 Bangor 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5 Cliftonville 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
6 Coleraine 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
7 Dungannon Swifts 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
8 Glenavon 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
9 Glentoran 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
10 Linfield 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
11 Lisburn Distillery 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
12 Newry 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The reasons?

Matchday 1: the referees, in line with their Scottish counterparts, threaten to withdraw their services over pay, the absence of linesmen in the Championship, and recognition. Bear in mind this row has been rumbling on for years. Unlike Scotland, the IFA can't solve the dispute satisfactorily before the deadline, and as such, no IL games take place on the first weekend of the new-spangled Premiership season. JJB must be delighted with entering into partnership with such an organised, professional outfit.

Matchday 2: A torrential downpour (a month's rainfall in half a day) strikes Northern Ireland. The streets are already swimming before the match. The pitch is already covered in huge puddles BEFORE the match:

Now while I sympathise with IL referees wanting more money (they were getting paid 60 pounds per match, had to pay for their own uniforms despite them being sponsored, and when you consider the travelling they have to do, it's peanuts) but, when they make decisions like this, they really do themselves no favours whatsoever.

Alan Black is a particularly dislikeable individual. I have no idea whatsoever why he let this match go ahead, the pictures above show the pitch was unplayable and the game should never have started; maybe he wanted to get the ball rolling after he and his colleagues halted proceedings the week before; maybe he's just incredibly incompetent.

In either case, the losers are the prestige of the new league as a whole, and the common fan. Linfield FC compounded the problem on Saturday for not having any provision in place for refunding or recompensing fans after the game was abandoned. So there is a big dilemma about what to do for fans for the replay: charge the same again, thus pissing off hundreds who already paid 10 quid into a game only to see a mere half hour of a joke game, or let everyone in for free, thus creating the potential for hundreds of hangers-on and dickheads to cause problems and let the club down. Maybe a compromise is the best: free in for kids, half-price for adults.

In any case, the club are going to have to have a plan in place for any such future occurrences: a huge pile of Linfield-branded vouchers, with no specific date or opponent, should suffice.

All in all, billboards aside, it's not been a great couple of weeks for a would-be new professional era of Irish League football. A lot of work to be done.

UPDATE: Finally the MC have shown some common sense, and rewarded true fans by allowing free entry for all to Saturday's home game with Newry, getting the issue out of the way immediately as well.

It has been a long time since a game has been abandoned at Windsor Park and who could have predicted such an outcome in August, of all months.

The last game we can remember being abandoned was a famous game against Glentoran in the snow.

After Saturday's game and on the phone today, Windsor Park officials and staff have received several requests enquiring what the club proposed to do to reimburse supporters who through the "unprecedented acts of nature" did not get to enjoy a full 90 minutes of football on Saturday.

The issue has been debated fully at tonight's scheduled meeting of the Management Committee and the following has been agreed to reimburse supporters who may have been inconvenienced by Saturday's unfortunate weather and subsequent postponing of the opening JJB Sports Premiership game.

Linfield Football Club will grant free admission to ALL spectators to this Saturday's home game against Newry City.

Members and season ticket holders will have an extra match added centrally to their ticket allocation to ensure they are not disadvantaged in any way.

This offer will apply to ALL supporters home or away, whether they were inconvenienced on Saturday or not.

Linfield FC would point out that it would be virtually impossible to ascertain who was and who was not in attendance at Saturday's game and the club hopes that supporters understand and accept this gesture as a suitable way of reimbursing those supporters who were ( through no fault of this club ) inconvenienced by the unforseen postponement of this fixture.

Due to a heavy fixture load, it could be some time before the Cliftonville game could be rearranged and Linfield FC wants the issue of refunds cleared up as soon as possible, hence the decision to grant free admission to this week's game.

Linfield are working closely with Cliftonville regarding their supporters who were inconvenienced and when a decision has been reached, they will announce it to their supporters.

Well done MC (words you don't read on here very often!)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Linfield FINALLY sign a STRIKER!

Michael Carvill

A NI under-21 international who was recently released by Wrexham. By all accounts, he's very nippy, but very small; no goals for Wrexham last season, but few appearances, and he has scored quite a few for the under-21s.

Here's a few views from Wrexham fans:

decent player only scored 1 goal for us although to be fair he didnt make too many appearances for us and most of those were off the bench.likes to take on players and has good pace.never really given a chance here so we never saw him at his best but with a bit of a run in the first team he could prove a good signing

yes, he's got alot of pace. he didn't really get much of a chance while he was here and only scored one goal but to be honest i'd liked to have seen more of him. i really hope he does well over there because he always looked like he was working really hard

he never really impressed for me when i saw him continually bustled off the ball by the defenders due to his lack of size.on saying that he was played out of position alot of the times he came off the bench.nippy player though and certainly seen worse play.

The more promising rumour is that Derry City have apparently offered us Sammy Morrow (injury-prone, coming back from injury now, but highly-rated) if we cease our pursuit for compensation over Tommy Stewart's 'professional development'. Now THAT would be a piece of good news.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dinamo Zagreb 1 Linfield 1

Champions’ League 1st Round qualifier, Wednesday 23rd July 2008

Team: Mannus, Douglas, O'Kane, Murphy, Bailie, Lindsay ( Ferguson ), Hagan, McAreavey, Gault, Mulgrew, Downey
Subs not used : Addis, Miskimmin, Gary Thompson, Burns, Kearney

Scorer: Michael Gault

Attendance: 3000 max (70 Bluemen)

What a result and what a performance. We rode our luck a little at times, thanks to poor finishing and a yet again inspired Tino, but we had chances of our own, and with a little luck, could have even won late on. This is what Jeffrey’s Linfield excel at: a gritty, backs-to-the-wall performance, featuring 100% commitment and application against a superior opponent, making our own luck and getting the result: see numerous previous Setanta ties (Drogheda, Cork, Shelbourne, Derry City).

The ground was a dump, we got rained on for 90 minutes, and I’ve a cracking photo from a Croatian newspaper I’ll scan soon showing the contrast in our fans, half huddled up together in raincoats and umbrellas, the other half, bellies exposed, waving their tops like scarves. But we all loved it, and could have sung on for another 90 minutes.

To the match itself. Zagreb scored early on after a flowing move and I feared a trouncing. Then the BBB must have lit at least 30 flares and proceeded to fire them onto the pitch, some landing dangerously close to Tino, the ref stopped the game for 3 minutes, he had a case for abandoning it.

But the Blues gradually found their way into the game, despite having a less-than-mobile overweight midfielder as our lone striker, and indeed created chances of our own in our brief forays into the Zagreb half, Aidy should have at least hit the target after a cross from the right was missed in the centre by a Zagreb defender, O’Kane wrecking the ball over the bar.

We all sheltered near the burger stand under cover at half time, and indeed some stayed there so long (ahem, MB, Rog and Carsie) that they missed our goal… we got a free kick over on the right touchline, (I just had a feeling we’d score from it), Maccers whipped it in, and there was that man Michael Gault (if only we’d a team of him) to head home from close range. We all went ballistic. Zagreb forced but Linfield were equal to everything. Late on, a cross from the right cleared their defence, if Downey’s first touch had been in any way good he’d surely have scored, but he overhit it and the keeper could save. Apparently from the resulting corner, Spike was brought down and we should have had a stonewall penalty, but I don’t even remember that. We clung on at the end to secure a great result. There were inspired performances all over the pitch: Tino once more, Dougie again inspired at LB, Hagan more than capable at RB, Jamie running his socks off, Maccers and Downey showing their skill (some of our short one-touch passing was a joy) but Gault was the undoubted star of the show. He was everywhere. What a player.

The celebrations went on long into the night, many of the fans joining the players for a few drinks and a chat, incurring the wrath of the local constabulary.

It was my first European trip, and I had an absolute ball, despite us being more or less confined to the hotel and needing police escorts EVERYWHERE (including round the corner to the Chinese for a meal one evening) because of the hooligan threat from the ‘Bad Blue Boys’, whose HQ was located round the corner from our hotel. I can’t wait for a ‘normal’ Euro away trip. Some of the many memories:

- Bluenose’s first text: “Zagreb is shite. Hotel OK though” High praise indeed for the hotel!
- Getting a police escort round the corner to a Chinese, told to wear no colours
- Torrens falling over in the Chinese, breaking a vase. Torrens would continue this permadrunk state for the duration of the trip
- No singing demanded by police
- “9 fellas and one girl”
- “Wednesday flight”
- “Shut the fu ck up, you’re a boring fucking borebag Torrens”
- Torrens’ topless headstands. What a mess.
- MARIIIIIAAAAAA – didn’t get bundled after the boys being warned, but had her feet tickled instead. Froots.
- Drive through Zagreb – near run into trams, dead ends, slum areas, BBB graffiti everywhere, stumbled upon the Laguna – shit outside, ok in, had a pint and a natter with the exiles 

mural outside our hotel

Luxurious Laguna

- Back to our hotel, boys already tanked up
- Reinforcements arrive including the Laguna crew and Mid-Shankill, police finding it increasingly difficult to enforce ‘no singing’ rule
- “Getty is a wanker”
- Flags flown proudly for photos outside the hotel, as the rain continues to piss down
- Mid –Shankill go off in their bus, we get a full-on police escort to the tram stop, singing non-stop, a few BBB appear, ushered away by cops “Who are ya?!”

- On the tram, bouncing away, the driver loved it, but the police were having fits, meanwhile meatwagons accompanied us alongside on the street
- “We all dream of a team of Michael Gaults, a team of Michael Gaults, a team of Michael Gaults, we all dream of a team of Michael Gaults, a team of Michael Gaults, a team of Michael Gaults, Number 1 is Michael Gault, Number 2 is Michael Gault, Number 3 is Michael Gault, and number 4 is Michael Gault” ad nauseam. All night long.

- Police kindly lead us to a bar near the ground, flags hung, many beverages consumed, songs sung, too much flesh exposed…

- Taken to ground, pissing it down, club paid for fans’ tickets (only 20 kuna, but still a nice gesture) ground is a shithole, puddles everywhere, no cover
- Shite crowd, loads of them behind the opposite goal, not much else, 3k max.
- “Tops off for the Ulstermen!”

- “Our city our rules!”
- “Nanananananana Get her get her bucked, get her bucked, GET HER GET HER BUCKED!!!!”
- “We all dream of a team of Michael Gaults, a team of Michael Gaults, a team of Michael Gaults, We all dream of a team of Michael Gaults, a team of Michael Gaults, a team of Michael Gaults, Number 1 is Michael Gault, Number 2 is Michael Gault, Number 3 is Michael Gault, and Number 4 is Michael Gault…” ad nauseam
- Torrens 90-minute top-off to win a bet with me of 5 pints. Mug.
- Mad number of flares shortly after their goal thrown onto the pitch. Disgraceful.
- Ahem, ‘old-school’ singing…

- Soaked to the skin by a constant downpour. Soaked.
- Mad dancing, singing while waiting to be let out (song might sound familiar)

- “We’ve got our own tram”. Eejits.

- Banter with the police, who were brilliant btw, many of whom were Dinamo fans and said that the hostility towards us was in part due to newspaper reports saying we sang ‘Serbia’ in the home leg
- Off to players bar after a well-deserved shower.
- Torrens talking more shite, (‘Wednesday flight’ to Spike, who deservedly replied with ‘what the fuck?’), slagging Downey for not clapping the fans after being substituted (YEEEO! Downey had a great game btw, the best I’ve seen him play)
- Torrens lit, drinking beer/peanut mixtures
- Getty up to his usual mischief after the others had faded, nice IRA tattoo on MB, ‘Get her bucked’ on EBB etc
- 3 hours’ sleep
- MB losing his flag next day :sob:
- Jonesy flagrantly ignoring Slovenian police’s demand for 35 Euros to use the motorways by just driving on ignorantly lol
- Betamax Klagenfurt airport, fecking Austrian May McFetridge on the plane talking shite to her schoolkids
- Shemale air stewardess to Getty in emergency door seats : “How old are you?”
- Fucked for 3 days afterwards

What a trip. I’m sure there’s loads I’ve missed out on, even though I wasn’t that blocked. Cheers to all I was with, you helped make it a cracking away tour. All being well, I’ll definitely be back next year for a more ‘normal’ experience…

More photos here.

Match highlights here (turn the screwed-up sound off):