In this week’s column, I’m taking a new tack by inviting you to a one-on-one Q&A session with none other than my good mate and Sunday Life columnist Carl Frampton. Our former two-time world champion boxer is the greatest representative of the sport to ever come from our little country and it was interesting to hear that from Carl, who is also no mean footballer. In fact, having played in a few charity games with our champion, I’d argue that he could have made it to the Irish League if he hadn’t chosen boxing instead!
how did your love for the crusaders come about?
Being a local lad from Tigers Bay on the Shore Road, I was always with the Crues that my heart lay in, and still am.
I played for Lawside Boys as a youth when I was nine and we always got a Crusaders season ticket for a fiver, so that’s when I started going to games and getting the bug.
What I find difficult to understand is how others at Shore Road choose to support other clubs over their local team. It is very difficult for me to understand this.
Who is your favorite League of Ireland player of all time?
Must be Kirk Hunter. As a kid, when I went to Crues games, I loved big Kirk.
I got to know the great man well over the years and I am very much indebted to Kirk for giving me his 1987 winners jersey as well as his Irish Cup winners medal. I cherish both and always will.
Kirk was a tough guy and I just loved the sheer honesty he showed every time he put on a Crusaders jersey.
What is your favorite cross-channel club?
I have never supported an English club. I may have really liked Liverpool as a kid, but to be honest I don’t follow any of them.
Who is your favorite Northern Irish player of all time?
No doubt it should be David Healy.
Ever since I started going to Northern Ireland games as a teenager, David Healy has been my hero, he just did the job when we needed him most and now I’m proud to have him as a good friend.
What is your favorite League of Ireland ground?
My favorite is Seaview Stadium. — always a great atmosphere in a compact but well-designed stadium.
My second favorite would probably be The Oval. It hasn’t changed much since I first went there as a kid, and I still feel like I’m stepping back in time every time I go there, I love it.
Who is your tip for the Premier League title this season?
It’s hard to look past Linfield again.
David Healy has done a great job at Windsor Park and they will be favorites again. They just got a big win in the Champions League qualifiers in midweek and that tells me they will be the team to beat again this season.
Who do you see as Linfield’s main threat this season or a dark horse to watch out for?
It’s tough, but for me the main threat will come from the likes of Glentoran Larne or Cliftonville – and I just feel the Crusaders are in for a good season, they could well be the dark horses as they had a very commendable result in Europe during the week.
Now that you’ve retired from boxing, are you hoping to get to more League of Ireland games this season?
Believe it or not, even though I’m retired, I’m probably busier now than I’ve ever been.
With so much media and corporate work, I don’t have enough hours in the day, but I’m really determined to get to more games this season. I love my football.
Aside from boxing and football, do you have any other sports that you really enjoy?
I enjoy most sports but rugby would probably be my next favourite, particularly the Six Nations or Test matches between teams like Ireland and New Zealand, they really get me hooked on TV – so much honesty and commitment from the players. I like this quality in all true athletes.
I used to play a bit when I was at school, but because I was so small, it wasn’t just the ball that was thrown at me.
If you were hosting a fancy dinner and could invite four guests from any walk of life, living or dead, who would they be?
It’s tough, but George Best has to be him. He was our greatest ever footballer and I would love to spend some time in his company, I would love to hear some of his stories over dinner.
Obviously Muhammad Ali should be there too. Again, he was the greatest and he would have been such attractive dinner company.
Billy Connolly would be a shoo-in too. I like to laugh and he is the funniest person I have ever heard. Finally, I would like Gordon Ramsay there. I’m not a Michelin chef so he can cook.
Two great results in Europe this week from our two remaining League of Ireland clubs, Linfield and Crusaders.
First up were the Blues, who faced Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt and beat them 1-0 at Windsor Park.
Not only was it a great performance and result for Linfield, but Kirk Millar’s winning goal was already goal of the season. It was a goal of incredible skill, executed to absolute perfection – and I firmly believe that had Kirk been English, his sublime finish would have been on our TV screens for weeks and months. Yes, it really was that good.
The Blues have certainly done their homework and manager David Healy has nailed his tactics and squad selection.
Next, it was the Crusaders’ turn to do us proud with an equally excellent away game against FC Basel in the Europa Conference League.
Yes, the Crues may have lost 2-0, but they were in no way outclassed by their far more experienced opponents, who are seasoned European performers. Indeed, with a little more composure in front of the Swiss goal late in the game, Stephen Baxter’s men may have reduced that winning margin.
However, both League of Ireland clubs have realistically saved their second leg fixtures and that is vital if both are to progress. Fingers crossed and I wish them both the best of luck.