Friday, 25 March 2016

Manchester United v Liverpool (UEL)

UEFA Europa League : Last 16 :
Old Trafford, Manchester : March 17th 2016

The first leg proved to be a comfortable night for the home side as Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners and Manchester United were left wondering what exactly went wrong on their way back down the M62.

Being two goals down in a European tie will always mean a metaphorical mountain to climb in the second leg. Liverpool had a great lead to protect and of course always carry the threat of catching the opposition on the counter. Manchester United looked to score three goals without reply at home to secure their place in the last 8, meaning this threat was there from kick-off at Old Trafford.

These exact fears held by Manchester United fans turned to reality as a goal seconds before half time for the Merseyside men, (while only made it 1-1 on the evening after a United Penalty was converted earlier,) effectively killed the tie, and proved so as Liverpool advanced after 90 minutes.

Hours before, around the ground at Old Trafford The Big Number 9 roamed once more to capture the supporters and atmosphere. Despite the first leg advantage held by the visiting team on this evening, as expected for a game with this match up, the crowds turned out and along with a strong Spring sun, created an impressive visual backdrop to yet another highly anticipated meeting between these arch-rivals.


Liverpool v Manchester United (UEL)

UEFA Europa League : Last 16 : 
Anfield, Liverpool : March 10th 2016

When the draw was made for the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League at the end of February, one tie would not only stand out to English football fans, but to the footballing world.

That is the impact any game played between Liverpool and Manchester United carries with it as millions around the world stop to see who will come out on top in this legendary fixture. 

Yet when the teams' names were read out one after the other, it signalled even more significance as it would provide the first meeting between the two clubs in European competition. Despite it not being played out in the Champions League however (the competition which both these clubs are expected to target each season), the tie would unquestionably still draw in fans of the game and likely deliver the competition's most watched game in the run up to a final.

The Big Number 9 couldn't miss the opportunity to be a part of this almighty fixture in some way and so we sent cameras along to Anfield on the first leg match day to take in the sights around the ground as the atmosphere built up to this much anticipated game.

45 images provide the story ahead of the 'first half' of the tie at Anfield, which you can find below:


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

'Ninety' - New Edition

A new edition of Ninety has been produced and published, and you can see a full preview of the publication below.

This was a project aimed at revealing the unseen visual aesthetics of the football stadium when it's void of the usual match day activity.

Undergone at the Racecourse ground, home to Wrexham FC in North Wales, the idea can be applied to any stadium around the world. So the next time you're at any 'home of football', give it a go, you might be suprised at what you've missed before!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Back In The Game

2 days short of 200 days since I last blogged, I've jumped back into the deep end of things.

This has been mostly spurred by attending the Football Blogging Awards in Manchester on the 13th of this month. Being fortunate to win a ticket to the event, I attended as merely a spectator this year. 

However, in recent times I have taken to Twitter to harangue and bug the awards' creator to introduce some sort of football/photography category (or anything into which foot-ography could fit into). So I hope in the near future, I might be attending as a nominee... and even receive the comically over-sized bottle of beer which the winners received. My dad would enjoy it. I'm more of a cider kind of guy.

With this in mind, I really felt like it was time to get back into things. After all, starting a new job back at the start of September, meant that my weekends were free, yet the desire to get out there and shoot again was lacking, which those 198 days will evidence as being a bad thing. 

With one of these free weekends shouting out at me to do something, I knew the time was right. Initially, I thought it would be great to get to a game, thinking about re-visiting Flint Town United when I found out they would be home. Still, I felt a little unsatisfied and took to the football directories of the BBC and Sky Sports' Score Centre to see what else was going on locally, which is when I stumbled across Connah's Quay at home on the Friday night.

So with some quick planning, friendly officials, and a camera collecting cobwebs, I had two games within 24 hours targeted.

Though I was somewhat re-thinking my thirst to get back out there while checking and re-checking the weather reports from Thursday; up until a few hours before KO as rain, lots of it; was forecast for the evening. With my new lens only receiving a few hours of football-related air time, I was a bit nervous. But having picked up a few rain covers to make up the value for free delivery some time ago, I didn't really have much of an excuse.

So I took a drive down to the Deeside Stadium for the 7:30 KO against Cefn Druids in the Welsh Premier League. And as the weatherman said, there was rain. Yet I saw the positive side of things and snapped away, thinking the shots would give an interesting edge to the game, and I wasn't wrong.

The Deeside stadium, when football isn't being played; is used for athletics. A single stand houses a few hundred fans while the rest of the space is taken up by the racetrack, high-jump, discus cage and other athletic-y type stuff. This created a fantastic dark contrast in the background of the images that I can't help but like, the resulting visual effect is impressive and unique.

The game taking place on the precipitated pitch was a relatively tight affair, a reflection of the proximate placement of both teams in the league. The 1-1 draw after full time and the rest of the weekend's results leaving Connah's Quay and Cefn Druids 8th and 9th in the league respectively, with 18 points each.

But it was the latter that took the lead in the in the 62nd minute, though the former were quick to hit back scoring after 68. And that's where the scoreline stayed with neither the Druids or Connah's unable to find the Quay to unlock each other's defence.

Despite the rain easing for a good portion of the game, it's heaviest downpour was reserved until minutes from the end, meaning the signal for full time was likely a relief shared by both fans, players, officials, and especially photographers.

It felt good to return to action and a quick glance over the images produced after the game gave me a bit of needed confidence that I could still do this thing relatively well. Delaying the editing for the evening, my attention was soon focused on my second game of the weekend, but before I could clear my card and re-charge my battery, it was BBC Weather that caught my attention and the outlook for the Saturday I hear you ask? Sun, lots of it!

Extremely glad to see the back of the rain in Deeside. 
With hope, I left my rainsleeves drying at home and decided to really make the most of what was forecast by taking a walk down to see Flint Town United take on Denbigh Town.

A good amount of activity seemed to be taking place as I reached the stadium, only to find some egg-chasing taking place on the field outside the ground. After stopping to look relatively interested, I overheard a conversation as I continued towards the turnstiles: "Looking forward to the game after, at 5:30"... Just as I went to turn around and have share my two pennies worth on the highly anticipated Arsenal v United game that evening, I heard a reply of... "yeah, should be a good game against New Zealand." How dare they!? Rugby talk, within 50 yards of a football stadium?? Shame, shame! 

A quicker walking pace saw me thankfully arrive at the sanctuary of football again and with the sun shining down, there couldn't have been a finer contrast between this 2:30 KO and the one that took place 19 hours earlier. 

The entrance gates seem to display a certain swagger.

A healthy crowd, as commented on by many, filled the stadium and a handful of seats in the two new four-rowed stands. But it was a frustrating afternoon for the majority of them inside Cae-Y-Castell (Welsh; The Castle Field) as Flint were unable to get on the score sheet. Just as contrasting as the weather was Denbigh's ability to add their name to this sheet just after mid-way through the first half. 

Got to hurt!

A goal seconds before half time furthered their advantage while Flint struggled. This was only underlined once more with a goal just a minute after the restart and it was safe to say that the away team had comfortably conquered the castle.

Yet Flint continued to attack themselves and two goals between the 84th and 89th minute brought them back within one goal of a point, though like Arsenal that very evening, it was too little too late and their efforts accounted for nothing. Final score: 2-3.

Movember is clearly being undertaken with some.

Unfortunately for the team, but fortunately for me; I feel that I was able to take more out of the 90 minutes with some further confidence-boosting photographs that I was happy to take away and share with you.

These two ninety minute periods I hope to be the kick start to a few more in the very, very near future. In addition, if I can convince said organisers to include such a favourable category in a certain awards next year; then that would be something great to work towards. 

Despite it being a long time, a very long time in coming; I'm hopeful that whoever it is that might have been waiting to read something from me has found the wait worth it.

Writing this piece sparked something that I have missed since the closing days of last season and getting back into it is only the first step in the right direction, on a path that I somehow strayed from, so I see no reason to stop now.

All the best everybody and remember, please let me know your opinions and thoughts through commenting on this post, on Twitter @GJDPhotography or even e-mailing me:

Here's to more!


Friday, 9 May 2014

FAW Welsh Cup Final

My slow journey in the direction of immersing myself in photographing football once again took a positive turn last weekend as I gained accreditation to photograph the Football Association of Wales, Welsh Cup final. 

May is known throughout the footballing world as the month of finals and for Wales it's no different as fans of The New Saints and Aberystwyth Town descended on Wrexham as Welsh Premier League champions TNS were looking to add another trophy to this season's collection, while Aberystwyth were hoping to upset the odds and end their season on a high.

The spotlight was well and truly shining on Wrexham as fans and players made the journey to North Wales.

There was almost a carnival-type atmosphere outside of the ground ahead of kick-off with music, dance and activities to stir up spirits ahead of a highly anticipated cup final.

A healthy crowd soon began to pour into Wrexham's Racecourse Ground, with both sets of fans hopeful that their team could be the one lifting the trophy come the end of the day's event. I soon joined them, making my way through and picking up my photographer's pass and FAW bib along the way. 

Sgorio were once again in attendance, broadcasting the game live for those unable to make the trip.

Soon enough kick-off was upon us with the Aberystwyth fans in fine voice before the teams even had a chance to set foot onto the grass, and it was surely this instant support that saw their team make the far better start as just eleven minutes passed when a free-kick found Chris Venables at the back post whose fine strike in turn found the roof of the net and saw his team make the breakthrough in the game.   

Yet they continued as the team on top and all of a sudden, league positions accounted for nothing as the men from the coast continued to press and just minutes after taking the lead; earned a penalty that would see them take a dominant position early on in the game.

Chris Venables was again the man taking centre stage inside the Racecourse as he stepped up and calmly slotted away the penalty in the direction of his earlier strike, while this meant securing a two goal advantage; unfortunately for them, there was still a lot of the match to play. 

TNS pressure saw them register a few efforts on goal, but nothing to make their own breakthrough.

TNS of course knew that a mighty turn around was needed and this was evident in the increasing pressure they placed on the Aber penatly area, though with this two goal lead, they were in turn effective in their defending, though also remained threatening in their attacks when able to do so.

Though neither team were able to make any further changes to the scoreline and at the break Aberystwyth left the field deservedly leading TNS 2-0.

You can only imagine the half time team talks in each dressing room were at the opposite ends of the scale given the result and performances both teams had created during the first period. Yet the second half recommenced in a similar fashion with Aberystwyth continuing their professional defence; while TNS sought to slowly edge their way back into the match as best as they could.  

Though TNS' pressure didn't see them strike back from open play in the earlier stages of the second half, their attacks soon paid off as they won a penalty of their own with some fifteen minutes of the game remaining after a handball in the area. 

Peter Hoy's reaction after seeing the referee pointing to the spot following his actions in the box.
It was left to Greg Draper to this time take the pressure on his shoulders, and though 'keeper Mike Lewis made a fine effort to maintain his team's two goal lead, the strike narrowly avoided his gloves and suddenly TNS saw their deficit halved, and momentum on their side.

Pressure continued and took effect once again as; similarly to Aber's other goal, the game's opener, a free-kick was sent into the box from the right hand side, it went on to elude most of the men in the area, before finally connecting with the head of Draper who unchallenged; saw his header settle into the back of the net. 

Suddenly it wasn't only TNS that needed to pressure the opposite goal as the Town pushed to regain their winning position in the match. With just minutes remaining in the game, admittedly it didn't appear as though there would be no more goals, with both teams eager to find the winner, it felt there would be one within the 90.  

And it was just some three minutes from this number that the game was settled as another ball found its way from the right side into the box and with great technique, Mike Wilde saw his effort hit the back of the net and complete his team's comeback. 

With three goals in under fifteen minutes the turn around was cruel on Aberystwyth who for the remainder of that time had defended, attacked and generally played well in a game which many saw them as the underdogs. Though that remains the appeal of any cup competition as form counts for very little and a one off 90 minute period (or longer of course if needed) can produce what you might previously think as unexpected.

And although this was the story for the majority of this game, it was TNS whose almighty efforts to get back into the game and their professional attitude in doing so saw them leave the Racecourse's pitch with trophy in hand.

Family and friends were soon getting in on the celebrations.

The dreaded walk past the trophy did nothing to improve Aber spirits come the end of the game.

Wales manager Chris Coleman was on hand to present the medals and trophy.

Before long the champagne was popped and flowing freely, though this was fun for the players, others tried to avoid a soaking...

Though not everyone was quite so lucky.

Meanwhile, away from the celebrations, Aberystwyth's players show their appreciation to their fans.

The photographers needed to be careful too amongst the celebrations.

A moment to savour what was just accomplished.

Youngsters from my own local team; Flint Town United, took inspiration from the winning players.

The trophy enjoys a brief moment of rest from all the celebrations.

Once the Champaign was disposed of, the beers were soon opened.
No one was safe from a soaking.

The two TNS goalscorers face the cameras for their efforts. 

Despite the loss, Aberystwyth Town were I'm sure comfortable with taking away a few particular points from Wrexham with them. Not only had they produced a fine display that, combined with TNS' efforts served as a great advertisement for the Welsh game, but their excursion in the cup will now see them take a place on the European stage in the Europa League qualifiers which take place just a couple of months away in July. 

The New Saints will of course be even more content as their win on Saturday saw them add the trophy to their league victory, while that previous achievement will see them on their own European adventure, though for the Saints it will be qualification for the UEFA Champions League.

With all that hard work to come, I'm sure both teams will for now enjoy some rest, though without a doubt while looking forward to an early summer start and the chance to take part on their respective European tours.

- Geraint

I was fortunate enough to photograph TNS' taste of Europe last season as they took on Legia Warsaw, again in Wrexham. The post which I wrote and the images I produced can be see here while a little time later I also created a 'Half a Dozen of the Other' post with the best of the rest images which can be seen here.