THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 1 “We have something to hold on to now,” says Sir Alex as Man Utd go top, two Solskjaer goals beating Newcastle. Blackburn’s sub keeper Jason Brown saves a penalty and a rebound in his side 2‑1 win over Wigan. Mido is left on the bench as Spurs beat Portsmouth 2‑1; referee Chris Foy apparently apologises to Harry Redknapp for the dubious penalty that gives Spurs the lead: “The ref has gone home knowing people will be saying what a giant ricket he has made.” West Ham lose again, 1‑0 at home to Reading. Nigel Worthington is sacked by Norwich after a third successive defeat, 4‑1 at home to Burnley.

Monday 2 Lord Stevens’ bung inquiry is to investigate 39 deals involving eight Premiership clubs, with findings to be announced in two months. “There will be forensic investigation of entities both offshore and onshore,” he says, ignoring suppressed chuckles at the press conference. Watford need an 89th-minute equaliser from Ashley Young to draw with Fulham, despite leading 2‑0.

Tuesday 3
Agent Charles Collymore, featured in the Panorama bungs probe, is charged by the FA for trying to move a player from Luton without the club’s consent.

Wednesday 4 Darlington sack David Hodgson after an investigation into alleged illegal payments to agents. David Dein is elected chairman of the G‑14 trough-snufflers. “I want to bring about change harmoniously and constructively,” he says, as a celestial choir swells up.

Friday 6 England Under‑21s beat Germany 1‑0 at the Ricoh Arena in the first leg of their European Championship play-off. “I’m sure when I turn my phone on there will be some nice texts saying ‘well done’,” predicts a slightly sad-sounding Peter Taylor.

Saturday 7 England draw 0‑0 with Macedonia. Steven Gerrard hits the bar and gets a booking that rules him out of the Croatia game. “I knew before the game that they would lack ideas,” says Macedonia coach Srecko Katanec, shaking himself awake. Scotland get their best result in a decade, beating France 1‑0 at Hampden.“It feels as if we’ve won the European Championships,” says scorer Gary Caldwell. Wales, under new captain Craig Bellamy, are thrashed 5‑1 at home by Slovakia. “We’ll all be having some punches on the jaw over the next few days,” promises John Toshack. The Republic of Ireland take the lead but end up losing 5‑2 to Cyprus, their worst competitive defeat since 1971. Northern Ireland draw 0‑0 with Denmark in Copenhagen. League One leaders Nottingham Forest lose 4‑0 at home to third‑placed Scunthorpe, but manager Colin Calderwood sees a positive: “At least we didn’t give any future opposition watching on TV a hint of the things we’re good at.” Second‑placed Bristol City are held 1‑1 at Brentford.

Sunday 8
In League One bottom club Rotherham win 3‑1 at Port Vale and Blackpool climb out of the drop zone with a 3‑0 win at Brighton. The News of the World publishes a story about Roman Abramovich’s “close friendship” with a 23‑year‑old Russian model called Daria Zhukova. The pair have apparently been seen together “in locations around the world”.

Tuesday 10 England Under‑21s qualify for the European Championship finals with a 2‑0 win in Germany, Theo Walcott getting both goals. The FA will make a complaint about racist abuse aimed at Anton Ferdinand and Micah Richards by some of their opponents. Stan Collymore, who is hoping to resume his playing career, turns down an offer from Stafford Rangers, his hometown club. Joey Barton is fined £2,000 for his shorts-dropping at Goodison Park, but will not be suspended.

Wednesday 11
A dire England lose 2‑0 in Croatia, the second goal from a Gary Neville backpass that bounces over Paul Robinson’s foot. “It was my decision to change and we lost the game, so it’s my responsibility,” says Steve McClaren of his switch to 3‑5‑2. Scotland lose to two late goals in Ukraine. The Republic of Ireland draw 1‑1 with the Czech Republic. “I’m going to be here next month, in February, in March, the next year and the year after,” says Steve Staunton, as Irish fans weep silently. Wales beat Cyprus 3‑1. Northern Ireland are third in their group after a David Healy goal beats Latvia. Suddenly a must-have item, West Ham receive a takeover bid from a consortium headed by the Icelandic FA president, Eggert Magnusson, who says: “This is about football and nothing else.”

Thursday 12 Wayne Rooney admits to having an altercation with an England fan after the Croatia game. “It was quite heated as the players left the stadium to board the bus,” says an FA spokesman. Kevin Bond, recently sacked by Newcastle over strongly denied bung allegations, is the new manager of Bournemouth.

Friday 13 Max Clifford resigns as PR adviser to Steve McClaren, saying: “It’s a waste of time.” Clifford is known to have angered the FA with suggestions that David Beckham might get an England recall. Tony Mowbray leaves Hibs to take over at West Brom; West Ham coach Peter Grant is to be the new Norwich manager.

Saturday 14 Man Utd stay top after beating Wigan 3‑1, Wayne Rooney setting up two goals. Paul Jewell is a fan: “He doesn’t care what I say, he doesn’t care what you say, he doesn’t give a toss.” Chelsea win 1‑0 at Reading in a game that sees Petr Cech and his replacement Carlo Cudicini both taken to hospital with head injuries. Cech has a depressed fracture of the skull suffered in a collision with Stephen Hunt. “It was unbelievable,” says an angry José. Portsmouth stay third with a 2‑0 defeat of West Ham, who have now lost six in a row. “You have to be big and strong enough to take it – and I am,” says Alan Pardew. Villa draw 1‑1 at home to Spurs, despite the best efforts of Juan Pablo Angel, who misses his fifth penalty in six and then scores an own goal two minutes later. Everton lose their first game since mid‑April, 2‑1 at Boro. Sheffield United are out of the bottom three for the first time after a 0‑0 draw with Man City. Cardiff go six points clear in the Championship, playing what Sam Hammam describes as “a kind of orgy football” to win 2‑1 at Palace. West Brom continue to mourn the passing of Bryan Robson with their biggest away win since 1977, 5‑1 at Ipswich. “We’ve lost 4‑0 at home – that’s not a good result,” explains caretaker-manager John Carver as defeat by Stoke leaves Leeds third from bottom. In League One Forest and Bristol City both win to stay first and second. Rotherham beat Brentford 2‑0 to move off the bottom. Lincoln’s 5‑0 win at Barnet keep them second in League Two behind Walsall who beat Wycombe 2‑0. In Scotland, Rangers lose 1‑0 at home to Inverness thanks to a bad fumble by recalled keeper Lionel Letizi. “A draw here is a disaster and a defeat is worse than that,” says Barry Ferguson. Celtic win 4‑1 at Dundee United. A Conference North match at Workington is abandoned when the manager of visitors Redditch goes on to the pitch to complain about racist abuse of his players from the home crowd.

Sunday 15 Bolton go third after a 2‑1 win at Newcastle, El Hadji Diouf scoring twice in two minutes and throwing in some rude gestures to the home fans. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot and it’s got to stop,” says Glenn Roeder, after having another one of his “long talks” with his players. Newcastle’s 48,145 crowd is their lowest for six years. Plymouth are fifth in the Championship after a 3‑1 win at home to Derby. The News of the World claims Roman Abramovich is facing the “most costly” divorce ever. No word yet on who gets to keep Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Monday 16 “We are in a dark time at the moment and we have to swing hard towards the light,” says Iain Dowie after Charlton’s seventh defeat in eight games, 2‑1 at Fulham. Petr Cech has two metal plates inserted in his head and may be out for a year.

Tuesday 17 Three wins out of three in the Champions League for Man Utd, who beat Copenhagen 3‑0. “Our players have proved themselves. They don’t want any more embarrassments,” says Sir Alex, referring to last year’s early exit. Celtic win by the same score against Benfica. Arsenal lose 1‑0 to CSKA Moscow, with Thierry Henry having a goal wrongly disallowed for handball. Preston go second in the Championship after recovering from 2-0 down to beat Ipswich 3‑2. “It was abject, a horror show,” says Steve Bruce, whose Birmingham side are booed off after slipping to ninth with a 1‑0 home defeat by Norwich. Bradford will report Scunthorpe for ignoring the League’s instructions to field at least six first-teamers in their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie. “I find that disgusting, a lack of respect,” says Colin Todd, whose side lost 2‑1. Man Utd directors Andy Anson and Nick Humby resign, leaving chief executive David Gill as the only survivor from the pre-Glazer days. A spokesman for fans group MUST says the pair should “do the honourable thing and let the supporters know what is going on behind the scenes”.

Wednesday 18 “This is a moment to enjoy but not a reason to be jumping,” says a cautious Didier Drogba after scoring the Chelsea goal that beats Barcelona. Liverpool also win 1‑0, Peter Crouch scoring in Bordeaux. The FA won’t be taking action against Reading’s Stephen Hunt over his challenge on Petr Cech. Everton and Liverpool are charged over a brawl in a reserve match.

Thursday 19 All four British sides win in the UEFA Cup. Rangers set aside ropey league form to win 3‑2 at Livorno; Dimitar Berbatov scores a spectacular goal in Spurs’ 2‑0 victory at Besiktas; Newcastle beat Fenerbahce 1‑0 at home; Blackburn’s Benni McCarthy is said to have been racially abused by Wisla Krakow players during his side’s 2‑1 win in Poland. Sheffield Wednesday sack Paul Sturrock a day after a 4‑0 defeat at Colchester left them one point off the bottom of the Championship. Kevin Bond’s lawyers ask to see unbroadcast segments of the Panorama bungs investigation.

Friday 20 Sports Minister Richard Caborn claims that West Ham are discussing a move to the 2012 Olympic stadium in East London. Cesc Fábregas agrees an eight-year contract with Arsenal, the longest deal in Premiership history.

Saturday 21 Andriy Shevchenko scores his first goal at Stamford Bridge – and is duly booked for rushing into the crowd – as Chelsea leapfrog Man Utd with a 2‑1 win against Portsmouth. Bottom two Charlton and Watford share a 0‑0. “If there are brickbats to be thrown you have to take them,” says Iain Dowie, who is booed by some home fans. Neil Warnock pours scorn on Dermot Gallagher after Curtis Davies is sent off while conceding a penalty as Sheffield Utd lose 2‑0 at Everton: “Maybe Dermot should have retired last season. It is a reflection on the young lads coming through that they asked him to stay on a year.” Wigan record their biggest Premiership win, 4‑0 at home to Man City, whose travelling fans sing “You’re not fit to wear the shirt”. Championship leaders Cardiff lose 1‑0 at Norwich. Danny Dichio scores twice as Preston cut the gap in second place with a 2‑1 defeat of bottom club Hull. Leeds are thrashed 5‑1 at Luton. League One leaders Forest go five points clear with a 1‑0 win at home to second‑placed Bristol City. Walsall keep the League Two lead with a 2‑1 win at Accrington; second‑placed Lincoln are gripped by goal fever again, with Jamie Forrester scoring another hat‑trick in a 7‑1 thrashing of Rochdale. Celtic are eight points clear in the SPL as they beat Motherwell 2‑1 and Hearts lose at home to Kilmarnock. Exciting times, possibly, for Everton as director Paul Gregg sells his 23 per cent stake to a company owned by the founder of Planet Hollywood.

Sunday 22 Man Utd go top again with a 2‑0 home win against Liverpool. Paul Scholes scores the first on his 500th appearance for the club. Arsenal stroll to a 4‑0 win at Reading. “They are not in our league even though we are in the Premiership,” sighs Steve Coppell. Middlesbrough beat Newcastle 1‑0. “Too often we have shot ourselves in the foot and now we have to pick ourselves up off the canvas,” says Glenn Roeder of his side’s sixth defeat of the season. Bolton stay third with a 1‑0 win at Blackburn, Jussi Jaaskelainen saving two penalties in the last five minutes, after which Kevin Nolan is sent off for a volley of abuse at the referee. A 1‑0 defeat at Spurs makes it seven goalless defeats in a row for West Ham. TV pictures show Jermain Defoe biting Javier Mascherano on the arm after a foul. “He wanted to show his frustration in a nice, comical way,” explains Martin Jol. West Brom go clear in third place in the Championship with a 3‑0 win at home to Wolves. Sam Hammam sells his 81.5 per cent stake in Cardiff City to a consortium of hedge-fund companies, who have presumably always been huge fans of the club. Peter Ridsdale is appointed chairman.

Monday 23
After a day of haggling with Swindon, Leeds appoint Dennis Wise manager. “I wouldn’t say it’s a gamble – it’s a challenge,” says Paul Ince on taking over at the League’s bottom club, Macclesfield.

Tuesday 24 “I’m looking at individual players and wondering why they’re putting in these kind of performances,” says Alan Pardew as West Ham, without Tévez and Mascherano, lose 2‑1 at Chesterfield in the Carling Cup – it’s their worst run of defeats since 1932; chairman Terence Brown denies calling the players “a pub team” in a post‑match rant. A Sheffield Utd second-string lose 4‑2 at home to Birmingham. Dennis Wise sees Southend win 3‑1 at Elland Road. Villa miss a penalty at Leicester but just avoid a shootout, Gabriel Agbonlahor’s 119th-minute goal securing a 3‑2 win. Notts County beat Southampton 2‑0 and Port Vale reach the last 16 of the competition for the first time, knocking out Norwich on penalties. Barnsley refuse Sheffield Wed permission to speak to their manager Andy Ritchie.

Wednesday 25
“We showed a careless attitude,” says Sir Alex as Man Utd are taken to extra time by Crewe but finally win 2‑1 through a late goal by teenager Kieran Lee. Another Man Utd reserve, on‑loan Giuseppe Rossi, scores on his first start for Newcastle in their 3‑0 defeat of Portsmouth. Charlton beat Bolton 1‑0 at The Valley for the second time this season. Spurs win 5‑0 at MK Dons where Jermain Defoe’s two goals give Martin Allen a chance to say: “He certainly got his teeth into us tonight.” The FA will contest a UEFA charge over crowd disturbances before the match in Croatia. Sven’s agent denies that he will get the West Ham job if Kia Joorabchian succeeds with his interminable takeover bid. Hearts are fined £10,000 by the SFA for owner Vladimir Romanov’s criticisms of match officials, which included saying that the club won the 2006 Scottish Cup “despite all the referees’ intrigues”.

Friday 27 Preston stay four points adrift of Championship leaders Cardiff after losing 3‑2 at Burnley. Wisla Krakow’s Nikola Mijailovic is banned for five UEFA Cup matches for racially abusing Benni McCarthy. Newcastle announce a loss of £12 million for 2005‑06 – “a year of transition” says Freddy Shepherd. Vladimir Romanov claims that Hearts players will be sold “to Kilmarnock or whoever” if they fail to beat Dunfermline tomorrow. Captain Steven Pressley responds by saying there is “considerable unrest” among the players over the way the club is run.

Saturday 28 “There has been a lot of talk saying I couldn’t do it any more,” says Wayne Rooney after his first league hat‑trick, in Man Utd’s 4‑0 win at Bolton. Chelsea’s 2‑0 win at Sheffield Utd to stay second on goal difference. Neil Warnock admires the visitors’ pragmatism: “Their players sometimes go down where we stumble on – we’re too easy to referee.” Portsmouth go third with a 3‑1 defeat of Reading. Kanu’s goal makes him the Premiership’s top scorer with seven, to the surprise of his manager: “Before I brought him here I didn’t think he could head the ball at all.” Villa lose for the first time, 3‑1 at forever changing Liverpool. Everton avoid defeat at Arsenal for the first time in 11 years, with Arsène in a snippy mood after the 1‑1 draw: “It’s very frustrating when you don’t win against a side who do not have a single shot on target apart from their goal.” “The crowd’s response was lovely,” says Dennis as Leeds move out of the bottom three in the Championship with a 2‑0 win over Southend. Cardiff concede a last-minute equaliser to draw 2‑2 with Derby but keep their lead as third-placed West Brom lose 2‑0 at Birmingham. Rotherham charge up to 20th in League One with a 5‑1 thumping of Crewe – without the ten-point deduction they’d be fifth; Forest hold their five-point lead with a 2‑0 win at Cheltenham. Blackpool wear Latvia kit, at the request of chairman Valery Belokon, for their 4‑1 win over Bradford. Paul Ince’s Macclesfield stay eight points adrift in League Two, conceding a 90th-minute penalty to lose 3‑2 to Mansfield. Hearts prepare for a big sale after a 1‑1 draw with Dunfermline.

Sunday 29 Luton’s Sol Davies is hospitalised with a stroke on the way to his team’s match at Ipswich which they lose 5‑0. West Ham win at last, 2‑1 against Blackburn. Alan Pardew admits to be “a little bit choked” by the positive reception he received from the fans. Celtic hold a ten-point lead in the SPL after a 2‑1 win at Kilmarnock. And like the man himself, the Sheffield Wednesday board forget Bryan Robson’s last spell in Yorkshire, at Bradford, and fly him in for interview.X

From WSC 238 December 2006. What was happening this month

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