Belfast Telegraph

Billy Weir: A week is a long time in politics... and in football too

Irish League
Irish League

By Billy Weir

Surely it can be no coincidence in the week that it is, the Blues have returned to power just when everyone thought they were a spent force.

Just as in politics, a week is a long time in football, and in the blink of an eye just when there were mumblings of discontent in Belfast South, keeping their heads while all around them lost theirs, means Linfield are top of the poll again.

Elsewhere, Warrenpoint Town are facing the toughest battle to remain in the top flight, a defeat to a Dungannon side that looked to have as much chance of people voting Leave in a referendum, meaning they could well be leaving us.

So, and in a blatant rip off of the topic on everyone's lips this week, here are those hopping with excited expectation on the hustings and those whose confidence is in short supply and may need an agreement to carry on.

By the way, the slogans are all genuine and from party campaigns or manifestos from throughout political history - to think they said I would never use that degree!

Linfield - Conservative

IN almost the words of another divisive leader of Blues, you turn if you want, the Healy is not for turning. Yes, despite moaning and groaning from the faithful, he has stuck to his guns, ground out a few results and is flavour of the month again - and he didn't even need to go to war with Argentina to make it happen. Loved by their own, jealously loathed by everyone else, they can only be Tories. Traditionally have found it difficult to retain power and we've never had it so good in terms of fights for the top, but would you back against the Blues?

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Party slogan: Are you thinking what we're thinking? (2005)

Glentoran - Greens (red and black)

The new Glentoran are a far cry from the one of old. For a start, they have some money, thanks to a millionaire from the east, Iran via Wales, and are maybe not just as far away from a return to power as some would think. They are now fervently behind immigration, it is a real League of Nations in Belfast East, we have Croatians, a flying Dutchman, a few Scots, an Israeli Lancastrian, some friends from across the border and Darren Murray from a different planet! However the big change may come when the players start wearing Adidas sandals and the chip van starts selling lentil burgers, there may just be too many changes, too soon.

Party slogan: If Not Now, When? (2019)

Crusaders - UUP

I know it won't go down well with Nigel Dodds, current head honcho in Belfast North, but he has enough to worry about in that neck of the woods with his own battles to fight, including keeping his feet dry if his main opponent is perhaps caught short. No such problems at Seaview, the grassy knoll that has been the enemy of so many leaders is no longer a problem for Stephen Baxter. They have shown signs of improvement, but like the UUP have found replacing the old with the new can create a few problems. Thankfully, their left wing tendencies remain strong with Paul Heatley still the poster boy, but persistent problems in defence may see them sink without trace. I'd give Steve Aiken a shout, he knows a thing or two about that, or failing that get David Cushley on more often, he can't be a sub all the time.

Party slogan: Don't Let Them Wreck It (2001)

Cliftonville - Labour

It had to be really, didn't it? I mean if they can't keep a red flag flying then there's not much point of them being here. Things are looking pretty rosy in Belfast North at the moment, but, as Paddy McLaughlin might have said, 'this is not a time for soundbites. I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders… ' But this is a new Labour, one where defence spending in not frowned upon, hence the permanent arrival of Conor McDermott from Foyle this week. Of course, they will always have the potential for the odd own goal, a bit of in-fighting and protests that everyone has it in for them, but this new way ahead seems to be working.

Party slogan: Forward, not back (2005)

Coleraine - Scottish National Party

Now that the right honourable member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North has returned home, things are altogether much more ticketyboo by the Bann. After several years of managers and coaches leaving these shores for a shot at a better life in more exotic and sultry climes, Oran Kearney's return has put plantation back on its axis and normal service is being resumed. However, he may have missed a trick in not adding Nicola Sturgeon to his backroom team after his spell at St Mirren. Fair enough, Winkie Murphy is pretty terrifying but compared to Nicola it's like being savaged by John Major. Like the opinion polls, Coleraine have been a bit up and down of late, and like the SNP they are likely to prevail close to home but be frustrated in the bigger picture.

Party slogan: (Oran's) Stronger for Scotland (2019)

Larne - UKIP

They all laughed, didn't they? They all said it would never happen. It was a pipe dream that would be dashed against the rocks, but never mind Leave, Larne are here to stay. Millionaire backer Kenny Bruce used some of his Purple Bricks money to start the revolution and if his programme goes according to plan, Larne will just be entering Europe as Britain is leaving it. Now, I appreciate that doesn't exactly nail it down to a specific date, but perhaps that dream of hearing the Champions League music at Inver Park isn't so daft after all. Mind you, we may be going to the game wearing hover shoes, but cast aside the doubters.

Party slogan: A Real (Madrid) Alternative (2005)

Ballymena United - Sinn Fein

A big call this one, I know. Traditionally North Antrim has been a DUP (David's Unusually Persuasive) stronghold but with recent poor showings there have have been real grumblings of a winter of discontent. Previously the alternative voice has been provided by the TUV, who could forget their slogan of 2017 of 'Drain the Swamp' which was a clear message to the Showgrounds groundsmen. However, that was done, several spent Talbot Sunbeams, a number of (failed) former managers, a suspiciously discarded sheep and a leg of lamb dredged up. So with a leader in this part of the world in Michael O'Neill who knows his stuff then it has to be time for Sinn Fein. What's that? Michelle O'Neill, oh...

Party slogan: Time for Unity (2019)

Glenavon - SDLP

Again perhaps an unusual choice for the good people of Mourneview and surrounding environs and picked, purely and simply, on a very pressing matter - beards. Gary Hamilton and Colum Eastwood have both taken a lifestyle choice and apart from their hairy harmony they have another thing in common - they depend on Foyle for success. Josh Daniels is so often the difference for Glenavon, although some say that Eastwood may need Paul Daniels if he is to succeed in a city where politics is so important.

Party slogan: Taking Our Seats, Taking a Stand (against shaving) 2017

Dungannon Swifts - Alliance

Sure who doesn't like Alliance and Dungannon Swifts? They're really nice, would bring your bin in for you of an evening, are no real danger to your offspring or pets and play some lovely football (that's Dungannon, not Alliance, they just like to play it Long). Ahem. Have threatened to challenge the established lights with their different approach but have often found the going tough, but now led by auburn-haired figureheads they hope to show that the future can be orange, but not in that way.

Party slogan: Demand Better (than 11th) 2019

Carrick Rangers: Liberal Democrats

An exciting new Amber force with a dynamic leader making everyone sit up and take notice. And the Liberal Democrats are doing quite well too. Unwanted and unloved in his native land, Niall Currie is now working miracles in East Antrim, and is doing it fully clothed unlike any other powerful person you might want to mention in this neck of the woods. Maybe a tad soon to tell fans to go back to your constituencies, and prepare for the Gibson Cup.

Party slogan: Build a brighter future (2019)

Institute - Independent

Hard to host a party when you're having to flit around like a bluebottle with a dodgy tummy, but having settled for the time-being at least on the other side of the Foyle, the good people of Institute deserve to catch a break. Floods and attacks of Japanese knotweed means they had to flee Drumahoe, making their return to the Premiership at the Brandywell via Wilton Park, home of Churchill United. As Winston said, 'A politician looks forward only to the next election. A statesman looks forward to the next generation.' Let's hope the hard-working Stute folk can get to that next generation.

Party slogan: Power to the Stute (Tooting Popular Front, 1977)

Warrenpoint Town - Fine Gael

Controversial this one, but, to be honest, I was running out of options so had to hop over the border to plump for Fine Gael, which you usually find howling across Milltown of a Saturday afternoon. Up until recently they were also ruled by a Dundalk native in Stephen McDonnell, who I am not 100 per cent sure is old enough to vote. They have gone back to basics with reappointing the man who brought them into the big time, Barry Gray, and if he can keep them up it could well be the biggest shock since the Brexit vote.

Party slogan: Keep the recovery going (2016)

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