Col-ing Jamie McGovern
By Matthew Brown,
Monday, April 5, 2010

So far this season I look at the team we have and I think “How inconsistent have they really been?” There hasn’t been a player who has been consistently excellent all season and I think our inconsistency shows when you realise we haven’t managed to win more than 3 on the bounce this season. A ridiculous record when I think back to the days when The Oval was a fortress.
One of the players that has been consistent though and has shut many of his critics up is none other than Colin Nixon. From the start of the season “Nicky” has been impressive, putting in solid performances in the right back position. Fair enough, when we look at his partnership with Gillespie it has been somewhat questionable at times, as Gillespie has sometimes found himself tracking back to cover for Nixon who is certainly not a player who could run the length of the pitch all day. However I believe Colin Nixon has justified the two year contract he was handed, under much criticism from some angles, in the summer. He and Daryl Fordyce, who is another player who came under a lot of stick in time gone by, have been two players who have given their critics a lot to answer for this season.
Although Nixon has, in my opinion of course, been one of our better players this season, I notice he hasn’t received a single man of the match award in the TMEN player of the year poll. Not even for when he saved our skin away to Ballymena. Not that this matters too much, but it begs the question, are people actually not noticing the consistency of Colin Nixon this season?
Now I’ve got that out of the way, the part in which I highlighted that although some people may not recognise that Colin Nixon has played well this season, or may not want to recognise it, I think it’s time to move on to an area which people have definitely recognised. The dwindling performances of late from the said player. At this point you must think I am crazy,  ranting and raving about a players performances and then slipping this in, but bare with me, I am going somewhere with this!

Colin Nixon is a 31 year old right back who has been playing for Glentoran on a regular basis since his teenage years. No matter how well a player has performed throughout the course of a season, they need rests!  Some stats for you. Colin Nixon has played 3421 minutes so far this season. That is more than any other player in our team, including our captain and both our goal keepers. He has only not featured in two games. Both were County Antrim Shield fixtures. He has made 1 substitute appearance where he was only 7 minutes short of half a match. That is, by anyone’s standards never mind a part time 31 year old right back, a phenomenal amount of time to be playing football.

See where I am going with this now? Our management team are running Colin Nixon into the ground! Usually Nicky’s game picks up at this point of the season and he produces his best form when it is needed most. Instead he’s going backwards. Here is the solution – Jamie McGovern.

Ah yes, Jamie McGovern, remember him? The player many thought was too hot headed to be a right back and was apparently not a very good footballer who couldn’t cut it at Glentoran? Well, the young number 25 (who is only 20 years of age by the way) came into the starting 11 and proved his worth. McGovern, as it was well documented, was transfer listed in the summer; however he stayed put and earned himself a squad number. That, in my opinion, deserves praise on its own. He then started performing week after week consistently, putting in solid performances at right back. Opinions of the player automatically changed. Unlucky for Jamie Colin Nixon was brought in to right back after the 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Coleraine, when really none of the defence could complain about being dropped and Nixon just happened to score in that game, as well as putting in a good shift. So that was Jamie back out of the team and his 540 minutes he played earlier in the season were nothing more than a distant memory.

A shame, but after that Glenavon game Nixon couldn’t possibly have been dropped – up to the point we could see all of this football was catching up with him. So, why not bring McGovern back into the starting 11 this Saturday?

McGovern was dropped after a 6-0 hammering, an inexcusable hammering, at the hands of Coleraine. Last Saturday the entire team were rubbish against an intermediate side in the Irish Cup. Surely that is reason enough to change some of the starting 11?

Colin Nixon is a Glentoran legend, but he is not going to be around forever. Why kick ourselves in a few years time when we realise that a matured Jamie McGovern is going to be making a nuisance of himself in another team’s back four when we can give him the time he needs to flourish right now.

Bringing Jamie into the starting 11 will do good for Jamie McGovern, Colin Nixon and also our title hopes.

Referees - Good or Bad
By Matthew Brown,
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Referees are a topic of discussion which comes up every week without fail. Especially in Northern Ireland where the football is about a century behind the rest of the world. The incompetence of our local referee’s can be extremely baffling at times and the stop start attitude of many causes frustration throughout the terraces.

In February when Glentoran played Glenavon at Mourneview there was a continuous stream of referee related incidents which caused upset amongst Glentoran and Glenavon fans alike. This was one of the few games I was unable to make due to other commitments, so I tuned into Radio Ulster. I was being kept updated by text message, as the main commentary was the Portadown match. I was informed of the crimes committed by the referee at Mourneview that day, who was Adrian McCourt. McCourt was guilty of such crimes as awarding a free kick against Glentoran after the ball was handled off the line by Glenavon.

The refereeing performance at Mourneview did indeed sound woeful, but I was able to listen to the Portadown game on the radio, they played Cliftonville at home that day and the referee was Hugh Carvill. By listening to this game I was able to hear that Glentoran are not the only team who receive poor refereeing.
There was one point during the said game at Shamrock Park where Carvill awarded a free kick inside the 18 yard box for a back pass. The one problem was, the ball hit off a body part of the defender which was not his foot; my memory fails to serve me when I think what part of his body he hit it with, however the back pass rule did not count in this instance. The commentator at the time, who I believe was Lindsay McKeown, was kind enough to say what we were all thinking. It wasn’t a case of the referee mistaking that the ball hit the player’s foot; he just didn’t know the rule! A fully qualified referee in charge of a big game and he doesn’t even know the rules of the game, its farcical!

But what can we do about the inept performances week after week? Realistically we as supporters can’t do anything. The IFA can though. The IFA, or should I say Raymond Kennedy, have blown a reported £1.2 million on the rental of a national stadium not fit for purpose and the sacking of our former chief executive Howard Wells. That is £1.2 million which could have been pumped into training our referee’s up to a suitable standard so they actually know the rules of the game, such as the back pass rule. In fact, that £1.2 million could’ve been pumped into anywhere involving the local game and it would’ve been more useful than where it did go.
What worries me even more is the fact that Mark Courtney was qualified enough to referee AC Milan vs. Wolfsburg last season at the San Siro. If referees with the quality of Mark Courtney are refereeing European games then there isn’t much hope for the football world.

The TMEN have compiled a referee’s league which gives the statistics of how many cards each referee has shown and bases them on a points system. It is a fantastic source to have for seeing who the card happy referees in our league are, but the TMEN really aren’t helped when you have referee’s awarding free kicks against the side who were fouled.

So what can we expect to be done about the incompetence about our leagues referee’s? Well, the IFA obviously have a lot of confidence in them as they are the football association along with Wales who voted against goal line technology! It’s fine though, we have Raymond Kennedy at the Helm, he’ll simply give them another pay rise like September 2008 and everything will be grand.


It’s time to lower the price or pay the price!

By Matthew Brown,
Monday, April 5, 2010

Our commercial manager Peter Halpin stepped down earlier in the season. Peter was superb at his job and during his stint at the club there was a visible impact made on our club commercially. New advertising hoardings were appearing each week, a brochure of commercial opportunities was released at the beginning of the season and our website was made to look so attractive and professional that companies could be leaping at the opportunity to advertise their business on it as soon as its content is up to the standard expected (something I know a newly elected board member is seeing to).

Commercially our club has done well over the past year or so and I personally believe that when it comes to one particular area we succeed where the rest of the league and indeed the association itself falters, admission prices.

I was somewhat alarmed to see the prices of the CIS Cup Final. This game is usually the type which attracts a bumper crowd, with the once or twice a season fans coming out of the woodwork. However this game was on TV and the prices were ludicrous. £12 for a ticket to watch two part time teams is not going to have the stadium packed out. Those occasional fans could simply watch the game in the bar whilst spending that £12 on an extra few drinks, whereas for a few quid less they maybe would’ve went to the game and brought friends or kids. The club may not have got a say in the price for the CIS Cup final, but we also need to look at the prices of your average league game.

As far as I am aware the IFA set a minimum each club must charge and they then leave it up to the club to decide what price they charge from that minimum upwards. Glentoran admission prices are indeed one of the highest in the league, which could be looked at, however there are long term benefits to the prices Glentoran set. Our admission price for adults is £10, which is pretty standard throughout. The admission price for concessions is slightly higher than the rest of the league at £7. However our concessions go right up to 18, whereas the rest of the league, to my knowledge stops concessions at 16 and Crusaders at 15. This, in my opinion, is not right at all as a 16 year old cannot be considered an adult and a 15 year old certainly can’t. Do this 15, 16 or 17 year olds reap the benefits of things such as being able to consume alcohol in the clubs bar? No, so why charge them the price an adult is charged, but for less privileges? Glentoran also offer an admission of £1 for under 11’s as long as they are accompanied by an adult. This is an excellent scheme, but I do not think it is advertised enough.

The season ticket structure at Glentoran and the majority of the league is quite good, with reasonable prices and large savings, but my first Glentoran season ticket was a mere £1. Yes, £1 for the entire season. Although I had been attending matches with my dad prior to owning this season ticket, it was this which got me well and truly hooked on Glentoran. I had to miss matches prior to this season ticket, as my dad had 3 sons so couldn’t afford to take them all every week, especially since I was the youngest and didn’t appreciate it as much as my other two brothers. But once I got this season ticket I was able to go every single week with my friends. Away days became more regular too.

Instead of the IFA setting minimum prices (they may set a maximum, I am not certain on that), they need to be encouraging clubs to start schemes such as this £1 season ticket, it really does help! The year after that £1 season ticket I only paid £5, which is again a complete bargain. Linfield’s season ticket structure is excellent and something the rest of the league should look at. They offer free season tickets to under 16’s. A superb scheme, but again I do not believe it was advertised well enough.

So ultimately the IFA and the clubs of our league need to try and push more people through the gates, not push them away. Family sections are popping up throughout the league, but what is the use of a family section if there is no one to sit in them? More needs to be done to get bums on seats, which include reaching out to the younger audience and reducing the prices supporters of our league have to pay!

It’s time to lower the price or pay the price.

Thank you and goodbye
By Matthew Brown,
Monday, July 19, 2010

Yesterday Michael “Doc” Halliday played what will be his last game for the Glentoran first team. The game signalled the end of a well decorated and exciting Glentoran career for the boyhood Glenman from East Belfast who soon became the boyhood hero for many Glenmen during his 10 years at the club. Michael signed for Glentoran in 2000 and it didn’t take long for him to permanently cement his name in the Glentoran history books.
When players score a lot of goals against smaller clubs and fail to turn up against the bigger clubs it is often noted by the critics, but with Michael Halliday it was the exact opposite. Michael was and no doubt still is a big game player. When a goal is needed at the most crucial of moments, who better to grasp the opportunity with both hands than Michael Halliday? Chris Walker once dug Glentoran out of a deep hole by saving us from relegation in the mid 1990s. That was a goal which was seen as an iconic moment in the history of Glentoran. Well, Michael Halliday scored goals like that on a regular basis.
I’m sure you do not need me to highlight all of the momentous moments Halliday provided us with, they are well documented already and they are all very historical. But I want to tell you what they meant to me, a Glenman who is only now entering my adult years at the age of 18. I am someone who had never experienced the Jimmy Cleary’s of the world, not in a Glentoran shirt anyway. Instead, I have experienced the Michael Halliday’s of the world and if every Glentoran generation can experience one of those, well we won’t be in a bad position.

Michael is not only a big game player who scores crucial goals, but he is also the nicest guy you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. He will always stop for a chat without fail; he has a sense of humour and never forgot the fans. In the Ballymac GSC after winning the league title in 2009, I walked up to Michael and I said to him “You won us the title on the 10th April” but he refused to take any credit and he responded with “I can’t agree, it was a team effort.” Of course we need no reminding of the 10th April 2009, Good Friday. Heading into injury time we were 1-0 down, but Michael Halliday popped up at the Sydenham End to level the scores and keep Glentoran 1 point ahead of Linfield. That day our title hopes were in tatters one minute and the next we were champions elect. Michael made grown men cry that day, I remember looking around me and seeing everyone jumping in disbelief, as he had gave us belief. Belief that we could bring the Gibson too him for the first time in 3 long, painful years in which our bitter cross town rivals dominated the local front. That day, Michael Halliday ended Linfield’s total domination of local football and he won Glentoran the league title.

The famous picture of Michael Halliday wheeling away after scoring the extra time goal against Linfield in the 2001 Irish Cup final always sticks in my head. I remember Michael talking about the photo in an interview once, expressing his delight at how it was captured. The photo of him wheeling away, with smoke bombs surrounding him was the front of the season ticket for the following season. I still have that season ticket. It was iconic, but it wasn’t the only iconic photo of Michael in a Glentoran shirt. A photo taken in the summer of 2004 springs to mind. The photo was taken in Sweden, during the Elfsborg vs Glentoran match. Glentoran had progressed through to the next round after disposing of allianssi and were beaten 1-0 at home against Elfsborg. However, Michael Halliday gave the Glens the lead in Sweden and celebrated right in front of the Glentoran support. He had yet again given Glentoran supporters the belief that we could achieve something which we thought was unachievable. The moment was captured on camera; the delight on his face and the supporters he was looking up to was simply magic. We eventually lost 2-1, thus going out of the competition, but that didn’t stop the Glenmen waiting behind to applaud the players long after the game had finished. Michael Halliday amongst those players, who came back out to applaud the support.

As I previously mentioned, I am only 18, so by doing basic maths you can work out how many Boxing Day victories I have witnessed for Glentoran. One. The one was in 2007 and it was live on Sky Sports for the whole world to see. The lead was taken in the 65th minute and there were no questions asked about who the goal scorer was. In fact, I think that the thousands of Glenmen at this fixture were more surprised by the excellent right footed cross put into the box by Kyle Neill, as there could only ever be one man to score a goal on an occasion like this – Michael Halliday. That entire game I knew that something special was going to happen, as we were simply superb. We attacked for the entire 90 minutes and could have won by more than just the one goal. But the sense of, not only joy, but relief I felt when the ball crossed the line was second to none.  When I got home and watched the match back I remember the words of the commentator when Michael scored. “Glentoran get their break through and a lifelong fan has got their goal for them. Michael Halliday!” He put emphasis on the lifelong fan part. I don’t think there was a single player in our squad I would rather have seen get that goal.
Soon, Roy Francis releases his updated version of “A complete record.” This book will include the last decade in Glentoran’s history and all of the major moments throughout that decade. Looking back on it, the chapter or section of the book which includes 2000-20010 might as well be called “The life and times of Michael Halliday” as it is that man who has created many of the historic moments of the last decade.

No matter how many testimonials we could have held for Michael, no matter how many tributes we send him and no matter how many articles I write about this Glentoran legend, it is impossible for me to put it into words how thankful I am. During the darts event held by Glentoran TV (Now Glentoran TV) I remember personally thanking Michael for all of those vital goals, including those he scored against Linfield (more than any other club). It was impossible for me to thank him enough and I still struggle to. People often say that players shouldn’t get testimonials, as they earn enough anyway. But that was the greatest thing about Doc. He was never driven by money; he was driven by the love of our club. He, like every other person on earth, has a family to feed and a mortgage to pay, but he still didn’t put a hole in the pockets of our financially unstable club and that says a lot about his character, as after the 2001 Irish Cup Final or 2004 for that matter, he possibly could’ve held the club at ransom and we would’ve gave an arm and a leg to keep hold of him. It was well documented though that he didn’t. That’s just the Michael Halliday way.
So, Michael Halliday, 468 games and 141 goals. 3 league winners medals, 3 Irish Cup medals, 5 league cup medals, 5 County Antrim Shield medals and 2 gold cup medals (considering that he did get medals for the competitions won in 2000), you gained a lot more than that in your 10 years at the club. You gained the respect of thousands of Glenmen.

Michael “Doc” Halliday – Thank you and goodbye.

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