Big club, dream on son

Ballymena United v Crusaders (CIS QF) 14-12-2010

Is there anything more satisfying than beating these Big time Charlies?

Ballymena United supporters have delusions of Grandeur . They actually believe they are a bigger club than us. I’ve got news for you boys , the stats don’t add up.

It’s 21 years since their last Senior trophy win. They have never won the Gibson Cup, the last time they came close was in 1980. I know full well, as my father and his family are lifelong United supporters and I spent my school years following the men from the Braid.

The way we eulogise Dunlop.the Hunters, Baxter, Murray and Coates et al , my childhood heroes were John Sloan, Gerry Mullan, Brian Crockard, Rab McCreery, Stephen Penney , Johnny Speak and Roy Smyth.

It’s a favourite tale of mine , the day I told Roy Coyle , as an eleven year old, to stick his Linfield trophy room up his Arse! It was during a Monkstown summer scheme trip to Windsor Park in 1981. As we stood at the bottom of the stairs that led to the boardroom and trophy room, Coyler asked were we all Bluemen. I told him I supported Ballymena. He joked that I couldn’t see the trophy room , I told him to bangle it as most of the trophies were at Ballymena anyway (they had won the Irish and Ulster Cups). I never did see that Linfield trophy room.

Since that day , Ballymena have only two Irish Cups to show for their efforts, the last in 1989. Small return for the massive investment from this so-called ‘bigger club’.

In my lifetime (40 years):-

Crusaders have won 4 Irish Leagues to Ballymena’s 0

Crusaders 1 Irish Cup to Ballymena’s 3

Crusaders 2 Gold Cup to Ballymena’s 1

Crusaders 1 League Cup to Ballymena’s 0

Ballymena 1 City Cup to Crusaders 0

1 Ulster Cup apiece

Crusaders 3 Co Antrim Shield’s to Ballymena’s 2

Since that last Ballymena trophy success in 1989, Crusaders have won 2 Irish Leagues, 1 Irish Cup, 1 Gold Cup, 1 League Cup , 1 Ulster Cup and 2 Co. Antrim Shields.

Yet , they still think they are a bigger club than us.

Dream on boys!

Prediction: Crusaders win!


Highly Motivated

Crusaders 3 Portadown 1 11-12-2010

The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals Rensis Likert

The past week has seen a number of players reportedly sign contract extensions with Crusaders. Players like Colin Coates, Jordan Owens , Davy Magowan and Stephen McBride have shown a loyalty to the Red and Black shirts and put pen to paper. The terms and conditions of the contracts are unimportant, that all four would have attracted covetous advances from our rivals is. Kudos to Stephen Baxter for tying them up.

We have to thank our lucky stars that we have a Manager as good at motivating players as Stephen obviously is. Players like Coates could easily command higher wages elsewhere. Jim Gracey , likened him to Col. Tim Collins after hearing his motivational talk to the Crusaders faithful at the Managers lunch yesterday. I was that motivated, I almost felt like going Full Metal Jacket,  storming the top table and taking Nelson the Reid and his IFA cohorts hostage until Belfast City Council signed the agreement to develop Giants Park. Of course, this would have been futile as negotiations would soon have broken down , especially as they’d have demanded I hold Jim Rodgers hostage too!

Seriously  though, Stephen was very impressive. You can imagine how pumped up he gets our players in the changing room. Then again, it’s all about balance. Overcook them and well think back to last Boxing Day.

The football we are witnessing now is excellent. We are creating chances by the bucket load , though the conversion rate needs to be worked on. It’s testament to his attacking policy that we haven’t drawn a blank in any game this season.



Compare that To Ronnie McFall. His team is  in serious decline. Portadown are a one trick pony. If Braniff doesn’t shine neither do they. In Managerial terms , Ronnie has went that stale that Alexander Fleming would be over scraping at the mould.

He’s old school, with old ideas. Humping the ball up to 6 foot plus giants all the time  is tired. Yes it can reap rewards if you’re one down with minutes to go , but in a 90 minute situation , it is both predictable and easy to counteract.

Having gifted Portadown an early goal with an uncharacteristic Davy Magowan mistake, this game could have easily escaped us. Full credit to Baxter and the boys in the way they responded to this early setback .

Rainey and Halliday’s movement was excellent, the inter passing of Morrow and Donnelly sublime, the endeavour of Watson and Dallas energetic. The real stars on the day though were the defence. The early mistake excluded, they were immense. The protective barrier they formed in front of Hogg never looked like being breached.

Going in at half-time one down was disappointing , though not disheartening . Rainey was denied on three occasions , one a blatant penalty from my viewpoint and Halliday spooned a gilt-edged chance harmlessly over the bar. McStay for Portadown was excellent first half, throwing himself in front of danger with great gusto. Miskelly in goal was having an inspired afternoon , similar to the Irish Cup game down at Shamrock last season. Miskelly, just like Matthews of Lisburn Distillery, is one of those goalkeepers who seems to keep his best performances for games against Crusaders.

Just when you think it’s not going to be your day, a bit of route one, punt up the field, flick on from Halliday and David Rainey smashes home. We mightn’t have seen it as often as we’d have liked this season , but there is no more a joyous sight in Irish league football than when Rainey hits the back of the net. Five minutes later and rarities are coming thick and fast as Marty Donnelly steers a header over the onrushing Miskelly.

Crusaders were in complete control by this stage . You wonder if the exam sitting Shane McCabe would have made a difference in their midfield, for his team mates were definitely failing their test. Chris Morrow was running the show and he was duly rewarded for his hard work and tireless running when his perseverance paid off and he slotted home the insurance third goal.

very little tonic, but plenty of whine

Seeing Big Darren Kelly coming off the bench and not Leckey , summed up Portadown and Big Ronnie’s day . They were out-thought and out-fought by a superior team .

As I made my way out past the Buckfast strewn away terracing , there was a sobering thought . Both collective sets of supporters would have talked about rebuilding . Portadown a new team and Crusaders the foundations to a very successful future.

Whether those foundations are at Giants Park or Seaview, remains to be seen.

Keep the faith

Here's to plastic fantastic

Crusaders v Portadown preview 11-12-2010

So we’re finally back at El Stadio Plastico after what seems an eternity. The Snow and Ice might have abated , but we can guarantee Ronnie McFall’s Portadown a frosty welcome in fortress North Belfast.

A warmer welcome will be given to the latest Managers Fund Lunch and Norman Coleman’s cast of thousands falling over themselves to be guests/speakers.

High Profile Reidsman , Nelson McCausland tops the bill , the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure (aka the Minister for everything that divides our two communities)will surely be getting the hard sell and encouragement to get those departmental purse strings of his lubricated and loosened.

He’s bringing back up with him in the shape of party colleague Cllr Ian Crozier.

Sunday Life scribe , Jim Gracey will give us an insight into supporting an over-spending, under-achieving football club and being a journalist for an overpriced , under-achieving local newspaper. I’m sure he will take back tales of woe to Lurgan , as we remind him of the carnage that awaits his beloved Glenavon , live on Sky, in the New Year!

IFA Chief-Executive  Patrick Nelson and Chairman , DR. Leslie Caul , do what IFA men do best and accept a free meal down Seaview way. That’s a little unfair , as I know Patrick Nelson has been a great friend to Crusaders FC already in his short tenure.

To the match…….

Irish League Legend, Ronnie McFall, brings his squad to face the music on his favourite 4G surface. 24 years at the helm of Portadown FC this Month , his first game in charge was at this very ground in a 2-1 win over Jackie Hutton’s Crusaders.

Kirk Hunter leaves Mickey Keenan in his wake as he scores for the Hatchetmen way back on 20-12-1986

In that time , he has brought major success to Shamrock Park with 4 Irish Leagues and 3 Irish Cups and a plethora of other trophy successes.

In reality though, his team have been in decline for some time and are reliant on the brilliant Kevin Braniff. That’s a far cry from the 90’s-2002 were Portadown had a multitude of superstar strikers from Fraser and Cowan to Haylock to Arkins and Hamilton. They are not finding it so easy in front of goal this year and Ronnie has already strengthened for January , with the arrival of Matthew Tipton.

For Crusaders, Keenan , McBride, Caddell and McCann stay on the treatment table. It will be a toss-up between Hogg and Murphy in goal. Bell will reclaim left back . Suspension denies us Gibson and Owens , so Halliday and Rainey up top.

Not an easy one to call, especially without Owens . Both teams seem to do better in each others back yards.

Of course, we also have the Hugh Carvill factor to weigh in to the equation.
The fastest card in the West , mosey’s into town , meeting out summary justice like the infamous Judge Roy Bean. Hope for the best with him in charge, but fear for the worst.

Hope our players have as good an appetite for this one, as I will have at the lunch.

Pass me my scra!!

I want to go home!

Audio Infectious at the Monkstown SC

MIchael Smyth and The Mighty Frog

There’s something heart warming about coming home.

It’s not just the place where your parents raised you.

It’s where you first learned to smile, to laugh, to crawl , to walk, to run, to ride a bike, kick a ball, climb a fence , make friends, make enemies. It was where you first went to school, played your first sport, cringed in the playground at the boys who played catch-a-kissy.

Playing football was a 365 day a year event, unless Wimbledon or the Test Match was on.

It’s where you experienced all sorts of taboos , cadged a fag , supped Concord, mitched school, Strained your eyes on the hunt for magic mushrooms , but hadn’t the swingers to take them or the knowledge to know what they really looked like. To fit in you hated people from the other community, though in reality you’d never met one.

Social Networking wasn’t sites like Facebook and Bebo. It was being a Mod or Skinhead. A Blueman, Glenman or Crusaders man. The game  we cringed at in our primary years was now a test of manhood , as we tried to catch-a-kiss from any girl who would let us. No lynx effect in those days. It was a shot of your Da’s ‘Old Spice’ or the splash it all over Brut as worn by our ‘enry.

MC Ribs in full flow

Secondary education comes along and you move on, you broaden your horizons. You leave behind old alliances and forge new ones.

It’s twenty-two years since I was last a  Monkstown man in its truest form. Yes I’ve lived there in the intertwining  years, but socially I’d moved on. The old haunts, Jacks Lane, The Green Hut , The Ivy Inn and the cosmopolitan (to us anyway) Jordie and the Fern are no longer.

Grammar School, College , playing cricket and football has taken me further away from my roots . To places I’d never envisaged I’d ever be seen. Love takes you even further. Drinks in , wits out my Ma always says. Yet there is no stronger drug than Love. Testosterone and Pheromones are far stronger than your Methadrones of this world. When it kicks in, rhyme and reason are no longer your bedfellows. It had me in its grips and I’ve been to places that in retrospect were a betrayal to all I’d grown up believing.

Then you want to live the dream, settle down and start a family. Another betrayal of your working class roots. No housing executive estate is good enough . You go all Middle Class and suburban. But it’s not living. It’s existing. Your neighbours in the cul-de-sac aren’t friends , they’re rivals. Keeping up with the Joneses is now out-doing the stuck up cow opposite. It’s pathetic !

Following Crusaders, the working mens team . It keeps you grounded . You stand shoulder to shoulder with like-minded people as a collective.

J.B. Priestly once wrote about football ‘ It turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half, for not only had you escaped the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, from wages, rent, dole , sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives , ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your mates and your neighbours, with half the town , cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swapping judgements like Lords of the Earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid life’.

This sums up following Crusaders to me. It’s a release. A Weekly parole from life’s complexities. It’s where we flock of a weekend, like a junkie needing a fix. For that ninety minutes of high . Sometimes the trips good , sometimes it’s bad, but you still keep coming.

Crusaders has been a constant in my ever-changing World. Not all the faces remain the same, but the ethos does. No airs , no graces, everyone mucks in. Much like a microcosm of my growing up environment. Maybe that’s why I feel so needy towards it. I thrive on information about it. Much like the busybody that scandalizes over their neighbours affairs outside the local shops. I Tweet, Post , Status, Surf the Web and harass the Chairman for wee titbits of Info to feed an insatiable appetite for anything Red and Black.

Happy Clappers on the dance floor

Yet the thing that grounds me , has also brought me full circle.

The formation of the Monkstown Crusaders Supporters Club has given me a reason to come home.

A sense of purpose, of duty, of community.

I’m back among true friends. I have no need to explain my actions to these people. They know as much about me as I do. Together we are that Band of Brothers, we walk together as Lords of the Earth.

We enjoy our football, we really enjoy our socializing!

Last night we had a fundraiser in the Monkstown Social Club, DJ Geddis and his mates from Stiff Kitten played to a well attended throng.

The place was bouncing, as I’m sure are the sore heads today. I’m sure everyone attending had a great night. I know I did. We raised a sizeable amount of money which will be ploughed back into supporting Crusaders, whether that be buses or sponsorship. Thanks to everyone who attended , especially John Linton and Brian Moore. A big shout out to Ballymena United’s Right back , who due to the fact that he is a Monkstown man, wasn’t reminded that Marty Donnelly makes him look shite! Thanks too, to Jackie and John of the Monkstown Social Club for their continued support throughout the season. It’s greatly appreciated.

Home isn’t just about the four walls that surround you. It’s more importantly about the people you live among.

It’s good to be home!

For mine is a more splendid life!

Monkstown weathers the storm

Just a quick reminder that the Monkstown Crusaders Supporters Club are holding a function at the Monkstown Social club tonight at 8pm.

Signed shirt up for grabs

Why not beat those winter blues and come join us at the Monkstown club where a warm welcome is always guaranteed . As well as our normal resident DJ Geddis , we have two guest DJs from Stiff Kitten to get the place rockin’.

Entrance is £5 , there are a number of drinks promotions including offers on Alcopops, bottled beers and the Monkstown Barmy Army’s  favourite Jagerbombs.

There are a number of  ballot prizes on offer , including a Current Crusaders Home shirt signed by the First team squad.

Monkstown functions are always well supported , so why not come along and help us raise some much-needed funds for Crusaders FC