ROYAL ASCOT 2015 WINNERS INDEX

Royal Ascot racing view. Image credit @Channel4Racing
Royal Ascot racing view. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Day One

Queen Anne: 1. Solow 11-8 F, 2. Esoterique 16-1, 3. Cougar Mountain 16-1. Margins 1 L, Nk, and 2 L.

Coventry: 1. Buratino 6-1, 2. Air Force Blue 7-2 2F, 3. Eltezam 12-1, 4. Beaverbrook 33-1. Margins 2 L, 2L, ¾ L

King’s Stand: 1. Goldream 20-1, 2. Medicean Man 50-1, 3. Muthmir 3-1 2F, 4. Pearl Secret 14-1. Margins ShHd, Nk and ½ L. PHOTO-FINISH

St James’s Palace: 1. Gleneagles 8-1 JF, 2. Latharnagh 25-1. Margins 2 ½ L, ½ L and 2 ¾ L.

Ascot: 1. Clondaw Warrior 5-1 F, 2. Fun Mac 8-1, 3. Elishpour 25-1, 4. Noble Silk 20-1. Margins ½ L,   1 ½ L, and 2L.

Windsor Castle: 1. Washington DC 5-1 J2F, 2. Areen 14-1, 3. Steady Pace 4-1F, 4. Soap Aitken 5-1 J2F. Margins Hd, ¾ L and 1 ½ L

Day Two

Free Eagle defeated The Grey Gatsby in a photo-finish. Image credit @Channel4Racing
Free Eagle defeated The Grey Gatsby in a photo-finish. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Jersey: 1. Dutch Connection 14-1, 2. Fadhayyil 9-1, 3. Bossy Guest 8-1 J2F, 4. TVP1 14-1. Margins ½ L, ¾ L, Hd.

Queen Mary: 1. Acapulco 5-2F, 2. Easton Angel 13-2, 3. Besharah 6-1 2F, 4. Kurland 14-1. Margins    1 ½ L, 2 ½ L and 2 ½ L

Prince of Wales Stakes: 1. Amazing Maria 25-1, 2. Rizeena 7-1 J2F. Margins 2L, 2L, 2 ½ L.

Duke of Cambridge: 1. Free Eagle 5-2F, 2. The Grey Gatsby 9-2 2F, 3. Western Hymn 8-1. Margins ShHd, 2 ¾ L, and ½ L. PHOTO-FINISH

A close call between Free Eagle and The Grey Gatsby. Image credit @Channel4Racing
A close call between Free Eagle and The Grey Gatsby. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Royal Hunt Cup: 1. Gm Hopkins 8-1 2F, 2. Temptress 9-1, 3. Chil The Kite 16-1, 4. Balty Boys 25-1. Margins Nk, 1 ½ L, ½ L.

Sandringham Handicap: 1. Osaila 13-2 2F, 2. Always Smile 2-1F, 3. Touchline 15-2, 4. Jellicle Ball 8-1. Margins Nose, 1 ½ L, ShHd. PHOTO-FINISH

Day Three

Norfolk: 1. Waterloo Bridge 12-1, 2. Log Out Island 13-8 2F, 3. King of Rooks 11-8F. Margins ½ L, ½ L and ½ L.

Tercentenary: 1. Time Test 15-8F, 2. Peacock 5-1 2F, 3. Mustadeem 20-1. Margins 3 ¾ L, ¾ L, 3 ½ L

Ribblesdale: 1. Curvy 9-2 2F, 2. Pleascach 1-1 F, 3. Pamona 8-1. Margins 1L, 4L and ¾ L

GOLD CUP: 1. Trip to Paris 12-1, 2. Kingfisher 5-1, 3. Forgotten Rules 5-2F. Margins 1 ¼ L, Nk, ½ L

Gold Cup winner Trip to Paris. Image credit @sport_oliver
Gold Cup winner Trip to Paris. Image credit @sport_oliver

Britannia: 1. War Envoy 10-1, 2. Udododontu 14-1, 3. Sacrificial 28-1, 4. Carry on Deryck 33-1, 5. Rotherwick 20-1. Margins Nk, 1L, ¾ L.

King George V: 1. Space Age 9-1, 2. Scottish 7-1, 3. Marma’s Boy 16-1, 4. King Bolete 9-2 2F. Margins 1 ¼ L, ¾ L and ½ L.

 Day Four

Albany Stakes: 1. Illuminate 4-1F, 2. Ashadihan 12-1, 3. Elegant Supermodel 20-1, 4. Fireglow 20-1. Margins 1 ½ L, ShHd, 3 ¼ L.

King Edward VII Stakes: 1. Balios 3-1 2F, 2. Mr Singh 8-1. Margins 1 ¼ L, ¾ L and 1 ½ L.

Commonwealth Cup: 1. Muhaarar 10-1, 2. Limato 9-2 2F, 3. Anthem Alexander 8-1, 4. Salt Island   33-1. Margins 3 ¾ L, ¾ L and ShHd.

Victorious Muhaarar. Image credit @Channel4Racing
Victorious Muhaarar. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Coronation Stakes: 1. Ervedya 3-1 J2F, 2. Found 13-8F, 3. Lucida 3-1 J2F. Margins Nk, ½ L and 1 ¼ L

Duke of Edinburgh Stakes: 1. Arab Dawn 6-1 JF, 2. Ajman Bridge 8-1, 3. Astronereus 8-1, 4. Libran 20-1. Margins ½ L, 1 ¾ L, ShHd

Queens Vase: 1. Aloft 5-2F, 2. Tommy Docc 33-1, 3. Future Empire 12-1. Margins ½ L, ½ L and ½ L.

Day Five

Chesham: 1. Suits You 14-1, 2. Ballydoyle 7-4F, 3. Sixth Sense 12-1. Margins ShHd, 1 ¼ L and 2 ¾ L PHOTO-FINISH

Wolferton: 1. Mahsoob 7-4F, 2. Sennockian Star 12-1, 3. Fire Fighting 16-1. Margins ½ L, Hd, Hd.

Hardwicke: 1. Snow Sky 12-1, 2. Eagle Top 2-1 2F, 3. Postponed 7-2. Margins 3 ¾ L, Nose and 3 ¼ L.

DIAMOND JUBILEE: 1.Undrafted 14-1, 2. Brazen Beau 7-2 JF, 3. Astaire 25-1. Margins ½ L, 1 ¾ L, 1 ¼ L

Wokingham: 1. Interception 10-1, 2. .Robert Le Diable 12-1, 3. Lancelot Du Lac 25-1, 4. Related 50-1. Margins 1 ¼ L, 1 L and ¾ L

Queen Alexandra: 1. Oriental Fox 4-1, 2. Taws 25-1, 3. Teak 10-1. Margins 7L, ½ L and 2 ½ L.

 

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ROYAL ASCOT 2015 DIGEST

Beautiful weather greeted the throngs of race goers attending the festival this week, with rain only clouding the final races on the last day. The official course going was Good to Firm (Firm in places) and regular watering of the ground (5mm on three consecutive nights) was required to keep the course in pristine condition.

9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2 to 1

Nine

When Snow Sky romped home to win the Hardwicke on the final day it gave trainer Sir Michael Stoute his ninth victory for the race.

Ryan Moore broke the post-war record of number of wins at Royal Ascot when he secured his ninth and final victory of the week aboard Aloft in the Queen’s Vase on day four. Not surprisingly this amazing achievement seen Ryan named most successful jockey of the meet.

Ryan Moore Royal Ascot top jockey. Image credit @Channel4Racing
Ryan Moore Royal Ascot top jockey. Image credit @Channel4Racing

There were nine unbeaten fillies from a field of 18 in the Albany on day four.

Eight

Ryan Moore secured his eighth win at Royal Ascot (on only the third day) aboard War Envoy in the Britannia Stakes. He has become the only jockey to reach this number since 1989 when Pat Eddery achieved the same feat. The only other post-war jockey to get eight wins in a Royal Ascot week was Lester Piggott in 1965 and 1975.

War Envoy. Image credit @Channel4Racing
War Envoy. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Seven

Trainer Aidan O’Brian watched his horse Gleneagles win the St James’s Palace Stakes giving him a record seventh victory in the race. At the end of the week O’Brian received his seventh award as most successful trainer for the festival.

Champion trainer Aidan O'Brian. Image credit @Channel4Racing
Champion trainer Aidan O’Brian. Image credit @Channel4Racing

The biggest winning margin of the week was seven lengths when Oriental Fox and jockey Joe Fanning romped home ahead of Taws in the very last race of the meeting. The win gave trainer Mark Johnston his first victory in the Queen Alexandra.

The Chesham at seven furlongs is the longest race of the week for two-year-olds.

Six

Six different jockeys’ tasted success on the last day of racing and Ryan Moore surprisingly wasn’t one of them.

Five

Royal Ascot is an incredible five day festival consisting of thirty races showcasing the best in British flat horse-racing.

The smallest field for the week seems to have been in the St James’ Palace where victorious Gleneagles only had four other competitors.

Gleneagles winner of the St James' Palace. Image credit @Channel4Racing
Gleneagles winner of the St James’ Palace. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Four

With the last race on day two of the meeting jockey Frankie Dettori secured a 50th Royal Ascot victory on board Osaila. He now forms an illustrious quartet with Lester Piggott, Willie Carson and Pat Eddery who have achieved this milestone in their racing careers.

Frankie Dettori hits 50 (but not out). Image credit @sport_oliver
Frankie Dettori hits 50 (but not out). Image credit @sport_oliver

Free Eagle had only run four previous races before securing victory in a photo-finish with The Grey Gatsby in the Duke of Cambridge.

It was four wins from four when Mahsoob was first past the post in the Wolferton.

There were four photo-finishes over the five days of racing: King’s Stand, Duke of Cambridge, Sandringham and the Chesham. Not surprisingly the shortest winning margin came from one of these races, and the accolade went to Osaila winning the Sandringham by a nose.

Three

On day one jockey Ryan Moore began his Royal Ascot Week with a terrific 54-1 treble, riding Gleneagles, Clondaw Warrior and Washington DC to victory in the final three races. He got another treble with Waterloo Bridge, Curvy and War Envoy on day three at 786-1 odds.

The GOLD CUP is only one of three races where the victor keeps the winning trophy, a Gold Cup being made especially each year.

The Queen presents trainer Ed Dunlop with the Gold Cup. Image credit @Channel4Racing
The Queen presents trainer Ed Dunlop with the Gold Cup. Image credit @Channel4Racing

It was a good week for Frankie Dettori with three wins: Osaila, Time Test and Undrafted.

Two

Father and son trainers Barry and Charlie Hills watched their horses take first and second place in the Jersey Stakes. Son Charlie’s horse Dutch Connection secured victory over Barry’s horse Fadhayyil.

Ryan Moore only managed a double on day two with Acapulco and Gm Hopkins.

In the Queen Anne Stakes it was a French double with Solow and Esoterique.

Jockey Christophe Soumillon got his second ever win of the meeting when he rode Ervedya to victory in the Coronation Stakes on day four. Ironically Christophe’s 2015 win was the only time he had success at Ascot, as his previous success in 2005 was in York as Ascot was being re-developed.

Ervedya & Soumillon a Royal Ascot winning combination. Image credit @Channel4Racing
Ervedya & Soumillon a Royal Ascot winning combination. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Jockey Richard Hughes got a 34-1 double (Illuminate 4-1, Arab Dawn 6-1) in his last Royal Ascot taking his career tally for the meeting to 30 victories. He is retiring from the saddle to take up the reins of training.

One

The final furlong can be a dangerous place and Spark Plug had an awful fall when his legs were clipped in the Royal Hunt Cup? Thankfully both horse and jockey Jimmy Fortune seemed ok afterwards.

Trip to Paris gave trainer Ed Dunlop his first win of the GOLD CUP. Jockey Graham Lee possibly became the only rider to win the GOLD CUP and the Grand National having ridden Amberleigh House to victory at Aintree in 2004. It was Graham’s first ever win at Royal Ascot too.

 Graham Lee makes his own jockey history. Image credit @Channel4Racing
Graham Lee makes his own jockey history. Image credit @Channel4Racing

War Envoy in the Britannia on day three secured a first career victory since debuting in April 2014.

Jockey Cristian Demuro achieved his first ever Royal Ascot win with Suits You in the Chesham. The horse also gave trainer Eoghan O’Neill his first ever Royal Ascot victory too.

Day four seen the FIRST EVER Grade One race for Three year-olds taking place and the race was called the Commonwealth Cup.

Bits and Pieces

Many great horses raced this week but I was personally disappointed that American horse California Chrome and Michael Owen’s horse Brown Panther couldn’t take part through injury.

The Queen Alex is a stamina sapping course and the longest race in the British flat calendar with a distance of 2m 5 ½ f.

As well as the fantastic racing over the festival a highlight on day one was the unveiling of a statue of Frankel.

Frankel statue unveiled at Royal Ascot. Image credit @tdthurgood
Frankel statue unveiled at Royal Ascot. Image credit @tdthurgood

Royalty Goes Full Circle

Ever since I was a toddler I have been a huge fan and follower of the British Royal Family. I respectfully studied the family and their history, and with the arrival of the “Princess Diana” years my task was made so much easier. Suddenly there was a glut of photos and stories, but by the early 1990s I realised the “feeding frenzy” the media had become, and returned to my old style of royal watching. In recent weeks the birth of a new princess and my viewing of a play and film about royalty, have made me realise just how little the “Royal Firm” has really changed.

The King’s Speech (play)

This was a terrific play that helped flesh out the probable reasons why King George VI as a boy developed a stutter in his cut-glass voice. His natural left handed tendencies were forcefully discouraged, his bandy legs put into painful splints, a negligent nanny who barely fed him left lingering gastric problems, and he lived in the shadow of his “dashing golden” brother David. Little wonder “Bertie” developed a stutter, and in later years his wife sought the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue. The bluff Australian therapist was effectively self -taught having had great success with shell shocked World War 1 veterans, and his reputation went by word of mouth. This didn’t go down well with the establishment when they checked into Lionel’s background, the same establishment that encouraged King George’s smoking to “relax his vocal chords”. That habit effectively put the King into an early grave! Thankfully King George VI stood by his therapist and with his help managed his speech impediment. At the end of the play when the King was giving a speech in Britain’s darkest hour, I could feel the King “grow into his sovereign role”. My emotions stirred I wanted to punch the air and shout Bravo when the broadcast light went off. I recalled watching the film in the cinema and everyone there spontaneously standing and applauding as the credits rolled.

The remoteness and aloofness of the Royal Family was evident throughout the play. The first scene had the King dressed head to foot by valets for a ceremonial function, whilst tea was provided by footmen. Lionel Logue failed to recognise the wife seeking help for her husband as a member of the Royal family, the press being much less intrusive and more reverential in those days. On meeting “Bertie” for the first time Lionel burst the “pomp & circumstance bubble” in treating his client the way he treated others. Bertie was horrified at the offer of a handshake (no touching) and aghast at the over familiarity of “first name terms” and disregard for rank and status. But gradually the two men came to mutually understand each other and even became friends.

One thing in the play, and not in the film, was that the demise of King George V had to occur at a time suitable to make the morning headlines in the RIGHT newspapers. He could not be allowed to linger in case the less illustrious afternoon papers scooped the news. This shocked me and yet it showed how the Royal’s in the 1930s were beginning to be held hostage by the power of the media.

A Royal Night Out (film)

It is a known fact that the Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister the Princess Margaret enjoyed the celebrations of VE Day. What is NOT known is exactly how the two princesses celebrated, and this film is a fictional conjecture of the event with a streak of comedy. I can well believe that Princess Margaret given the chance would have “lived it up” in the fullest sense, and that Princess Elizabeth would have followed behind picking up the pieces. It is also feasible that the Queen may have arranged a suitable gathering in a respectable establishment with chaperones. In the film both scenarios occur and the familiar themes of cut-glass accents, lack of recognition, reluctance to touch and the air of remoteness are evident. There is the whiff of the total lack of understanding for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the back story of the lead male character, who reluctantly accompanies Princess Elizabeth for most of the film. A particular scene that really struck me was when he took Elizabeth to his Mum’s house, and the princess was looking around the small living room, probably the size of a coal bunker in the palace. Above the mantelpiece was a framed picture of the King and on it a small photo of the son and a Coronation postcard. I could well imagine the thoughts of someone more used to classic works of art adorning palace walls, as the air of naivety and dislocation from the realities of everyday life was palpable.

Prince Charles was born just three-and-a-half years after VE Day to a home schooled mother destined to be Queen, and a grandmother born in Victorian times used to Edwardian grandeur.

Charles, William & George

Charles and William thankfully have been allowed to keep their left-handedness and have been sent to school and university. George VI was terrified of his father and that terror went back generations, but “Bertie” broke that tradition to ensure his daughter enjoyed a loving parental relationship, and as a result Charles and William directly benefitted. The arrival of Diana, Princess of Wales, certainly brought about a much more open and “hands on approach” to many aspects of royal life. It also brought an influx of press intrusion that got completely out of hand. Prince William’s belief that the media effectively killed his mother has given him an intense dislike of the spotlight, and has resulted in a far more traditional approach to Prince George’s interaction with the media.

Until the release of baby Princess Charlotte’s photo with her brother  no one knew what George (almost two years old) looked like. From a security point of view that’s no bad thing, and nobody wants the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to give their children a Facebook upbringing. But we all knew what William and Harry looked like as toddlers, so it’s obvious a radical turnaround has occurred in the House of Windsor. The way photos and press releases are staged today is becoming ever more reminiscent of the 1940s era. The young royals are also dressed in a “timeless/ageless” style that could easily sit alongside 1900s pictures. Certainly you want a traditional quality in royal photos and nothing ages a snapshot more than a gimmicky slogan. But the royal dress sense does mark the children out from the rest of us. Young George wore a blue outfit at the 2015 Trooping of the Colour, an identical one to Prince William at the same event in 1984. And having studied enough royal pictures in my time, I know Prince Charles wore the same style outfit (different colour) in a 1951 family photo. All I will say is look out for the frock coats next!

The morning after Prince George was born in July 2013 the BBC News Channel aired a report, “How to Dress Your Nursery in Royal Style” for at least twenty minutes (I switched off then). I was absolutely appalled as the first thing mentioned was a £3000 crib and we were in a recession! The “news report” was more suited to a household reading “Horse and Hound” and “The Lady” rather than “The Sun” and “Woman’s Weekly”. To say I was incensed is an understatement and I was reminded of the same feeling when Lady Diana, the daughter of an Earl was described as “common” upon her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981. At the time I was 11 years old and I thought “if Diana is common, what does that make me, muck”. I know in the realms of the British class system Lady Diana was considered common, but it is also a telling tale of how the rich elite view the rest of us poorer folk. The British class system is well and truly alive and kicking in the twenty-first century.

The other day I watched Prince Charles talk about getting portraits commissioned for 12 D-Day Landing veterans, and I thought that only someone in his position could have pulled that off. To my surprise though I also thought “dinosaur of a bygone era”, he sounded just like the old Pathe news bulletins with the BBC clipped voices. I was genuinely shocked to have this reaction and bless him Charles cannot help being a product of his upbringing. But at that moment, to me, our future King did not seem like a man of the people, but a relic of previous generations of royals more distant from the common man. Alas, I can see the same thing happening with Prince George already. The remoteness has returned and the aloofness will probably come, meaning a 21st century born prince will have the social compass of his Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian forefathers. I can’t see how much good that will do the British people.

QATAR v NORTHERN IRELAND International Friendly

On 31st May 2015 just before 5pm the senior men’s football teams of Qatar and Northern Ireland took to the pitch of the Alexandra Stadium in Crewe. It was an out-of-season friendly match with no real significant meaning, other than giving both teams a run out before bigger games in June. Northern Ireland face Romania in a European Championship qualifier on June 13th and Qatar begin their 2018 World Cup qualifying attempt against Maldives on June 11th. It was an interesting experience being part of the 3,022 fans who gathered to witness the occasion which ended as a 1-1 draw.

Qatar v Northern Ireland. Image credit abmj
                Qatar v Northern Ireland. Image credit abmj

Before a ball was kicked I was pleasantly surprised by two things. Northern Ireland (called the Green & White Army) being officially the away side, came out wearing their royal blue away kit whilst Qatar had their usual white strip with maroon flash. Not being aware of the Northern Irish away colours I was a little taken aback and my surprise heightened as the national anthems’ struck up. All the fans rose to their feet (so I scrambled to mine) and sang with pride and gusto God Save the Queen. They politely stood for the Qatar anthem as well and respectfully applauded after. I’ve NEVER been or seen a game where that has happened before, I can usually discern the odd heckle somewhere. Well done Northern Ireland fans who undoubtedly made up the crowd, although I did make out about half a dozen Qatar jacketed people in a small cohort near to where I was sitting.

First Half Action: Northern Ireland seemingly using a 4-1-3-2 formation had virtually all of the possession, with Qatar being completely unable to get any quality balls into the final third. As a result the Northern Ireland keeper Roy Carroll had NOTHING to do at all whilst Qatari keeper Armine Lecomte earned his keep, dealing with at least four efforts to encroach his goal. Both Northern Ireland front men Grigg and McGinn were involved and McGinn had by far the best chance. Qatar lined up with a 4-3-3 formation which morphed seamlessly into other permutations including 4-1-3-2 during the game. Although the changes appeared to develop naturally through game planning, the Qatari’s just couldn’t get the ball to any player pushing forward. I wondered if it was a lack of communication between the defence and midfield and yet when left back Yasser surged forward, midfielder Elsayed fell back instantly to defence and Ismail and Mohamad slotted into the midfield wing positions. Qatar had goal scoring potential throughout their squad but there was no evidence of this at all, as they could barely get the ball out of their own half. Was the less than ideal playing surface a factor, or the Northern Ireland pace, momentum and zeal the real problem?

Midfield action Qatar v Northern Ireland. Image credit abmj
Midfield action Qatar v Northern Ireland. Image credit abmj

Second Half Action: Northern Ireland made one substitution at the break bringing on Michael McGovern in goal. They were on the pitch a good four minutes before the Qatar team appeared to recommence the match. Instantly Northern Ireland began the attack surging down the right wing. At the far corner flag McGinn brought the ball inside to be nearer the edge of the box, chipped the ball over the heads of the hapless Qatari defence, thus enabling Stuart Dallas from four yards out to head the ball home on 46 minutes. Northern Ireland now in the lead continued to show their dominance, but multiple substitutions by Qatar near the midpoint of the half ruffled Irish feathers a bit. At least four new players for Qatar came on virtually all at once and within minutes the game was equalised. Boudiaf from around the 23 yard mark launched a screamer into the top corner of McGovern’s net, having been supplied by a beautiful cross from Asadalla in midfield. In my opinion the game was equalised on 70 minutes and not 75 minutes as I’ve seen reported elsewhere. There is no official time clock at the Alexandra Stadium but I had just completed my commentary of the third quarter of the game, and handed over to my colleague for the last twenty minutes. Qatar were a different team after the changes and created a couple more chances to score, Muntari’s effort glancing over the crossbar and McGovern scrambling for a ball delivered from a low powerful free kick by Al Haidos. These two chances were the only time Qatar actually got the ball into the Irish 18 yard box with other efforts coming from distance. Although the Northern Ireland team made major changes before and after the equaliser, they were not quite the same force against a resurgent Qatar side. Near the end Jonny Evans could have won it for Northern Ireland but his effort went wide. Worryingly Evans had gone down earlier with an apparent leg injury but had run off the effects by full time. And Magennis seemed none the worse for having landed head first over the advertising hoardings in the last four minutes of time.

My Thoughts: The game was a pleasantly sedate affair with only a couple of meaty tackles during the whole match. Qatar played with a quality and naivety that was devoid of cynicism and many would describe this as not having the technical ability to close the game down. But I quite like the innocence in play, and I was reminded of the same trait being shown by the oriental teams in the 2010 World Cup (Japan, South Korea, and North Korea). And to give Qatar credit, having scored in this game means they have failed to score in only one of fifteen games over the past ten months. That is a track record I imagine Northern Ireland and many other teams might like! The predominance of advertisements for Qatar around the pitch told the tale that the game was being shown in the Gulf state. This was offset by the Northern Irish flags on the terraces making a weird visual combination!

Northern Ireland flags & Qatar adverts. Image credit abmj
Northern Ireland flags & Qatar adverts. Image credit abmj

The match was less frantic than the fight for survival league games the Alexandra Stadium normally host, so I was able to think for a change. I enjoyed the bustle of the Northern Ireland team, their good possession of the ball and seeing some familiar names. The crowd were in terrific voice, although I wasn’t aware of what they were actually singing or chanting and the sound of a steady drum throughout was like a heartbeat for the game. It was a lovely atmosphere to experience and I know that the St John’s Ambulance volunteers and stewards share my viewpoint, how we wish that every week could be like that in the home of Crewe Alexandra FC.

My only gripe about the match concerns matters away from the pitch. Whoever decided that a souvenir program was NOT NEEDED is an idiot. Many of us would have happily paid for a memento of the match, and a combined issue covering the Scotland friendly on June 5th would have been greatly appreciated. It was surreal watching a team that we knew nothing about and a program fleshing out some of the Qatari players would have helped (and been a good PR move).

Northern Ireland: GK Carroll (McGovern 46), RB McLaughlin, Cathcart, Hughes (J Evans 61), LB Lafferty, McNair (Magennis 82), Norwood, C Evans, Dallas (Boyce 73), F Grigg (McCourt 73), F McGinn (Ward 61).

Qatar: GK Lecomte, RB Musa, Kasola, Traore (Hassan 56), LB Yasser, Siddiq (Asadalla 65)), Elsayed, Hatem (Boudiaf 56), F Ismail, F Muntari (Jeddo 81), F Mohamad (Al Haidos 56)

My Men of the Match: Northern Ireland’s McNair for his tireless work linking the defence and midfield and Qatar’s Asadalla for his immediate impact on the game and changing his team’s fortune.