Greetings from Northern Ireland as I celebrate doing a whole year’s worth of these monthly updates!
A wee bit later than the normal ‘first of the month’ routine I’ve tried to set for these over the last year, but that’s down to me being busier than I’d expected, thus not having a huge amount of time to sit down and write and most of the interesting stuff happening late in the month.
Where I’ve Been
July has been quite a productive month for travelling, even though I’ve spent most of it at home. Aside from getting out and about in Northern Ireland (and avoiding the golf where possible) I was able to fit in trips to Dublin and Edinburgh, both of which obviously involved football.
Over the course of both of those I experienced the extremes of summer weather that are common in the UK and Ireland. My day in Dublin was slightly spoiled by torrential rain, while only a few days later I was walking around Edinburgh in temperatures that were close to 30°. Still cooler than Madrid, but not exactly what I was expecting!
Game of the Month
With most of July’s action being meaningless friendlies, there are slim picking for this category. The Champions League qualifier was too one-sided to be a good game, while the Hearts game was an exercise in frustration.
That means my trip to the Dublin derby between Bohemians and St Patrick’s Athletic is a clear choice for game of the month. A close contest, one that was in the balance right up until that late flourish from Bohs which secured the win.
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With no real competitive football to talk about I expected July to be a bit of a low month for the site and while it didn’t come close to matching the figures I got in June, it was still one of the busiest months I’ve had this year.
Posting plenty of updates no doubt helped, with the first two instalments of my 2019/20 in Pictures series and the Retro Trip series about the 2012 Olympics and Paris Saint-Germain helping attract a few more readers.
That said, it was something first posted last month which topped the figures for July. Plenty of you kept coming back for my thoughts on the latest kit releases by Madrid teams. With most of the big teams having revealed theirs (still no news of third kits from Madrid and Atleti and nothing from Alcorcón, Fuenla and Rayo M) Leganés’ home shirt still reigns supreme as my favourite.
On the subject of kits…
Kit of the Month
Bohemians’ 2019 away shirt caught the eye when at Dalymount Park. Originally the shirt was due to have featured the face of Bob Marley, in tribute to the concert he played at Dalymount, but image rights scuppered the original plan forcing a redesign. It’s still a unique, eye-catching shirt though, something to be welcomed in these days of manufacturers producing the same template for multiple teams.
Then on my trip to Edinburgh, I was very taken with the Hearts third shirt. Black with subtle maroon trim and logos (including a tonal badge which I’m usually not a fan of, but it just works here) and unsponsored, it has already become the fastest-selling alternate kit in the club’s history. Plenty of people around me at Tynecastle were wearing theirs and I might have joined them if only they’d had my size in stock.
— RC Deportivo (@RCDeportivo) July 11, 2019
On the other hand, worst kit of the month, maybe even the whole season, goes to Depor for ditching over 100 years of stripes to launch a new hooped kit. It’s not an ugly kit or anything, it just doesn’t look like Depor, just as Barça’s new chequerboard design feels like a step too far from tradition on their part.
Soundtrack of the Month
As befits a ground with such a notable musical heritage, a trip to Dalymount Park is full of great sounds. Goal music is a bit divisive in the world of football fandom, but you have to love a goal being greeted with a burst of the chorus of Spandau Ballet’s Gold. And then as you leave the ground, you’re treated to this anthem.
And of course, a trip to Tynecastle means The Hearts Song, which I’ve become a huge fan of since last year. Admittedly I do prefer the various versions available online to the more traditional one that welcomes the players on to the pitch.
Food, Glorious Food!
What trip to Scotland would be complete without some Haggis? It might not be to everyone’s taste, but I’ve been a big fan for years. Oddly it took until I moved to Spain for me to actually try it for the first time (thanks to going to a Burns Night supper with some Scottish colleagues) but it’s a great and very underrated dish.
Last year I had some at Makars Gourmet Mash Bar and just had to return this year. I’m not ashamed to admit that I ate twice there in two days in Edinburgh, it was definitely worth it, especially considering Haggis isn’t an everyday dish.
Another Edinburgh treat was the fact that pies are readily available at the stadium. In the Irish League, the half-time Burger is still king while in Spain, you can’t look past el bocata se come en el descanso. The Tynecastle Park pie is just a basic steak pie, nothing wrong with that, and it went down very well as a little filler before the Hearts game.
Coleraine’s annual friendly at Portstewart always gives me that chance to get over early for the game and have a nice, pre-football ice cream on the Promenade. I’ve always liked going to Roughans for this, partly because of the range of flavours available, but also because of the view from the upstairs café. Alas this summer they have moved further down the Prom and no longer have the café but the ice cream is still as good as ever.
Book of the Month
Being back home and free from work means I’ve had a good amount of time to get some reading done. Aside from re-reading a couple of old favourites, I’ve really enjoyed going through the recently-released Zonal Marking by Michael Cox, which looks at the evolution of European football since 1992 through eras of dominance by the styles different countries.
It’s only just over 400 pages long so if you’re looking an in-depth analysis of a particular team or style of play, it’s best to look for a specialist book on the topic, but it’s extremely easy to read and hard to put down. I frequently found myself saying “Just one more chapter” when reading it. I guess part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was that this is the football I grew up with. Watching Champions League matches involving the great mid 90’s teams from Barcelona, Milan, Ajax and that Juventus team I loved to hate, but secretly admired because of Del Piero and Zidane.
A Trip to the Cinema
Not long after getting back home, I took a trip up to Belfast to see Diego Maradona, the documentary movie about his time playing for Napoli, at the Queen’s Film Theatre.
The film is absolutely brilliant, making use of lots of previously unseen footage to show another side to the historic triumphs of that era, when Napoli won the scudetto twice in four years, as well as Argentina’s 1986 World Cup win. And of course, it also delves into the darker side of Maradona’s life with personal scandals, his drug use and ties to organised crime also put in the spotlight.
It does a superb job of conveying how his life in Naples was a goldfish bowl through all the close-ups of him being mobbed by photographers, journalists, fans etc. Everyone wanted a piece of him and one can only wonder what effect that had on him.
I really enjoyed revisiting the QFT as well. At a guess, the last time I saw a film there was around 11 or 12 years ago when I was studying at Queen’s (why do I suddenly feel really old?) but it’s still a great wee place to watch a film.
What’s Up Next?
Well, the football season is about to get underway and I’ll be going to as many of Coleraine’s opening games as I possibly can. I’ll also be making the most of my remaining time in Northern Ireland, travelling around, catching up with friends and relaxing. Because the next time one of these updates comes out, I’ll be back in Spain. And preparing to get married!
So until next time,
All the best,