THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Thursday 1 “Toshack hates me, I can handle that,” says Robbie Savage, soberly conceding that his international career is over after being left out of the Wales squad and not called up when others pulled out. Northern Ireland drop Jeff Whitley and Phil Mulryne for going on an all‑day drinking session.

Saturday 3 “We suffered a bit but suffering is OK,” says Sven the Lutheran as Joe Cole scores the only goal by which a laboured England beat Wales, with Paul Robinson having earlier done well to stop John Hartson giving the home side a lead. John Toshack is unimpressed by the visitors: “They have still got to prove they can be one of the top six.” Scotland lead Italy for an hour through Kenny Miller, but finally draw 1‑1. Walter Smith is still hopeful of making the play-offs: “We’ve got our confidence back.” Northern Ireland record their first win of the campaign, 2‑0 at home to Azerbaijan. In League One, Brentford’s 2‑1 win at Forest returns them to the top, ahead of Scunthorpe and Port Vale. Rochdale go second in League Two, two points behind Notts County, after a 4‑1 defeat of bottom‑placed Torquay.

Monday 5 Scotland Under-21s have their 2‑2 draw with Italy turned into a 3‑0 defeat because Steven Whittaker was ineligible, having been booked in the two previous matches. Quite a cock-up at the English FA, too, who discover that they have been paying Glenn Hoddle’s mobile phone bills for the past six years. Nobby Solano says he may still jet off to play internationally for Peru, which was the principal cause of his departure from Newcastle 20 months ago. Millwall win their appeal against being fined for racist chanting at the Carling Cup match with Liverpool last season.

Tuesday 6 The FA will again investigate Liverpool’s signing of Harry Kewell in 2003, which allegedly involved an unlicensed agent, after FIFA handed the case back to them. The Asian World Cup play-off first leg between Uzbekistan and Bahrain will be restaged after the referee failed to order a penalty for the home side to be retaken after player encroachment, giving a free-kick the other way instead. Bobby Williamson is sacked by Plymouth, who have lost four in a row. Glen Johnson is sent home from the England Under-21 trip to Germany allegedly because of an “arrogant attitude” (though officially it’s a thigh strain).

Wednesday 7 Whoops. England lose in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1927, David Healy scoring the only goal late in the second half. “We shouldn’t lose here. We should not even draw,” says Sven, who is the target of verbal abuse from travelling fans. The victorious Lawrie Sanchez offers consolation: “I think they will look back on this defeat as a minor hiccup, a bad memory.” Poland take a five-point lead in the group with a 1‑0 defeat of Wales. Scotland have a distinct chance of making the play-offs, Kenny Miller scoring twice for a 2‑1 win in Norway, as Berti Vogts’s reputation shrivels further. The Republic of Ireland may have blown hopes of direct qualification with a 1‑0 home defeat by France.

Thursday 8 Chelsea are charged with breaching FA rules by independently drug-testing a player (ie Adrian Mutu) in 2004; the regulation exists to prevent cover-ups. Noel Cantwell, former captain of Ireland and Man Utd and manager of Coventry among others, dies at 72.

Saturday 10 Sunderland don’t rest players but still lose at Chelsea, 2‑0. José thinks international week drained his players: “They have had 15 days to prepare and we had just one day together.” Charlton are second, continuing their 100 per cent start with a 1‑0 win at Birmingham. Alan Curbishley’s pulse is not racing: “I always look at the first six games, and then the next six.” A Joey Barton goal earns Man City a 1‑1 draw at Old Trafford – “a ridiculous scoreline” according to Sir Alex, though Andy Cole nearly wins it for the visitors in the last minute. “This is very early to have lost two games,” says Arsène, whose side are nine points behind Chelsea after a 2‑1 defeat at Middlesbrough. “The players were kidding me in the first two games,” says a disillusioned Bryan Robson after West Brom’s third successive defeat, 2‑1 at home to Wigan. Newcastle score at last, but only an equaliser for a 1‑1 home draw with Fulham. Graeme Souness reflects that Owenmania may have a downside: “The occasion got to us a bit, all the hype.” Everton drop into the bottom three after a Duncan Ferguson own goal brings Portsmouth their first win at Goodison in 48 years. “This is probably the best team I have ever had,” says Neil Warnock as Sheffield Utd take a four-point lead in the Championship with a 2‑0 win over Ipswich. Brentford and Scunthorpe jointly hold the lead in League One, where Gary Megson offers to stand down after Forest’s 2‑0 defeat at Barnsley drops them into the bottom four. Despite a home draw with Mansfield, Notts County continue to lead League Two, on goal difference from Grimsby.

Sunday 11 Bolton grind out what their manager describes as an “incredibly average” goalless draw with Blackburn. Brian Tinnion resigns as manager of Bristol City, who lost 7‑1 at Swansea yesterday. Hearts retain their five‑point lead in the SPL with a sixth successive victory, 4‑1 at Livingston.

Monday 12 Marlon Harewood scores a hat-trick in West Ham’s 4‑0 thrashing of Aston Villa. UEFA are to introduce out-of-competition drug tests up to a week before Champions League matches, which means players could be tested at home, on the patio or in the conservatory. “The element is surprise,” says a spokesman interviewed in silhouette.

Tuesday 13 In the first Champions League fixtures, Liverpool rest Steven Gerrard, tired out from ball-watching in Belfast, but win 2‑1 at Real Betis; Rangers beat Porto 3‑2 at home. Chelsea’s 1‑0 win over Anderlecht is watched by just 29,000, smaller than the crowd for Sheffield Wednesday’s 1‑0 home victory against Leeds in the Championship. Sheffield Utd maintain their divisional lead with a 1‑0 win at Brighton; Reading and Watford are next after home victories over Palace and Norwich respectively. Millwall finally win a match, 2‑1 at Wolves, but remain bottom. Swansea’s 3‑1 win at MK Dons puts them top of League One.

Wednesday 14 Wayne Rooney’s combustible temper costs him a red card in Man Utd’s 0‑0 draw at Villarreal where he’s sent off for applauding Kim Milton Nielsen for awarding his first booking. Sir Alex doesn’t offer a defence: “We hope with maturity these things will evaporate.” The similarly card-prone Robin van Persie is also dismissed for a stray boot (“an unpleasant decision and never a red card,” says Arsène) but visitors Thun are beaten 2‑1 with a late goal from Dennis Bergkamp.

Thursday 15 For the second month in a row a Scottish manager talks of “the lowest point of my career” after a thrashing in eastern Europe. This time it’s David Moyes, whose Everton side concede four second-half goals to crash 5‑1 to Dinamo Bucharest. Bolton scrape a 2‑1 home win over Lokomotiv Plovdiv through Javier Borghetti’s injury-time winner. Middlesbrough have a more comfortable evening, beating Xanthi 2‑0, though only 14,000 show up to watch. Hibs are held 0‑0 at home by Dnipro. Macclesfield face a possible points deduction after being charged with breaching FA rules over grants received for building work.

Friday 16 Prince William is to succeed Prince Andrew as president of the FA next May. “His appointment will be enthusiastically supported by everybody connected with football in this country,” says a Soho Square spokesman from a kneeling position. The prince, who was recently in New Zealand helping out on the triumphal British Lions rugby tour, is believed to support Aston Villa or Arsenal.

Saturday 17 Chelsea are six points clear after a 2‑0 win at Charlton. Alan Curbishley is wowed: “When you walk off the pitch after a game against them you are walking behind athletes.” West Ham’s 2‑1 win at Fulham takes them into the top six. Alan Pardew credits the geezer factor: “A couple of the guys are London wide‑boys and they’ve taken that on to the pitch.” Nicky Butt is to be charged with being abusive to an official after his red card in Birmingham’s 1‑1 draw with Portsmouth, in which both goals come early. It’s the same score at Sunderland, but the home team should have had all three points, Zoltan Gera getting an injury-time equaliser for West Brom: “I am very bitter and twisted and sore and narked,” says Mick McCarthy. Still, it’s his first top-flight game without defeat as a manager and Sunderland’s first in 21 matches. Robbie Keane ends Spurs’s four-match run without a goal in another 1‑1 draw, at Villa, where Jermain Defoe had earlier missed a penalty. Sheffield Utd charge on in the Championship with a sixth successive win, 3‑2 at Watford who had been two up. Wednesday, however, slip to the bottom after losing 2‑1 at home to Millwall. Norwich get their first away win since May 2004, 1‑0 at Ipswich, who have defender Luis Sito controversially sent off inside 20 minutes. Huddersfield join Swansea at the top of League One after scoring twice in injury time for a 3‑2 win over Brentford; Forest’s 2‑0 defeat of Rotherham takes them out of the bottom four. “I have had a good career and don’t need to take the abuse from the crowd,” says Carlton Palmer on resigning as Mansfield manager after a 2‑0 defeat at Rochdale that leaves them 22nd in League Two; Grimsby are two points clear at the other end after a 3‑0 win over Torquay.

Sunday 18 “I’ve done it all my life, so I am not relieved to get off the mark at all,” says nonchalant Michael Owen on scoring the second of Newcastle’s goals in their 3‑0 win at Blackburn. Roy Keane will be out for two months after breaking a bone in his foot in an otherwise uneventful goalless draw at Anfield, the first between Liverpool and Man Utd since 1991. Bolton scramble a fortunate 1‑0 win at Man City with a 90th‑minute penalty, leaving Stuart Pearce mightily frustrated: “Someone will pick up the tab for us getting beaten, I am sure of that.” Many City fans complain about the club’s use of loudspeakers featuring pre‑recorded chants of “Stuart Pearce’s blue-and-white army”. Henri Camara’s first goal for Wigan earns a point against Middlesbrough. There are more than 60,000 empty seats at the nine Premiership matches over the weekend.

Monday 19 “Winning is a habit and so is losing,” says David Moyes as Everton’s woeful run continues, with Sol Campbell heading both Arsenal goals in a 2‑0 win at Highbury. Aston Villa confirm that they have received a “preliminary approach” about a takeover. The interested parties are believed to be Russian, for a change. Wayne Rooney is voted the best young player in the world by the international players’ union, FIFPro, at their inaugural awards. John Terry and Frank Lampard are included in the World XI and the Legend award goes to Bobby Gould. Actually, no, it’s Pelé. Sheffield Wednesday sack striker Adam Proudlock for unspecified misdemeanours, though manager Paul Sturrock hints at one: “He has qualities and I’m sure he’s going to come back and bite me on the bum.” Graham Barrow is sacked by Bury, who are one off the bottom of League Two.

Tuesday 20 “I’m a bit angry,” says Martin Jol, understating nicely as Spurs are knocked out of the Carling Cup by an 89th-minute goal from Grimsby’s Jean-Paul Kalala. Villa are 3‑1 down at half-time to Wycombe but go on to win 8‑3, their biggest victory in 43 years. Some of their supporters had left at half-time, to David O’Leary’s annoyance: “There is a genuine bunch of fans and then there is a fickle mob who get on your back very quickly.” Portsmouth lose 3‑2 in extra time at Gillingham and Sunderland need the extra 30 minutes to defeat Cheltenham 1‑0. Sheffield Wednesday lose a cup tie to West Ham for the first time ever, 4‑2 at Hillsborough. Among the various low crowds, 3,346 turn up at Wigan for a 1‑0 win over Bournemouth. Rangers twice trail to Clyde in the CIS Insurance Cup but win 5‑2 in extra time. Scottish match officials are considering industrial action after Neil Lennon gets only a three-match ban from the SFA for confronting the referee after being sent off against Rangers in August; Wayne Rooney will miss two CL matches for his sarky clap in Spain, after swearing at the ref having already been dismissed. Michael Essien’s agent may have his licence revoked after a French court finds that money from the player’s move between Bastia and Lyon in 2003 reached a Corsican separatist allegedly involved in terrorism.

Wednesday 21 Wigan owner Dave Whelan calls for a salary cap in the Premiership, which he says would be supported by several other club chairmen: “If Chelsea continue winning the title for another three or four years, then the entire Premier League runs the risk of being ruined.” More late drama in the Carling Cup. Fulham edge past Lincoln 5‑4 with a goal in the final minute of extra time and Man City lose on penalties at Doncaster, whose penalty equaliser in their 1‑1 draw came in the 118th minute. Earlier City striker Nedum Onuoha had been harshly sent off for fouling Rovers keeper Andy Warrington, a decision reversed soon after the match. Warrington’s debutant replacement Jan Budtz saves two kicks in the shootout. In the CIS Insurance Cup, Celtic are taken to extra time by Falkirk but win 2‑1; Hearts lose for the first time this season, 1‑0 at Livingston.
Thursday 22 Jonathan Woodgate, after a year in Spain, makes a startling debut for Real Madrid against Athletic Bilbao, heading a majestic own goal then getting sent off, though his side go on to win 3‑1. Tony Pulis is the new manager of Plymouth.

Friday 23 Arsène wants international friendlies to be abolished: “Nowadays you get a player back on a stretcher 24 hours before a must-win match.” There’s another managerial departure in League Two, with Ian Atkins asked to pack up his paperweights by Bristol Rovers. Meanwhile neighbours City are set to appoint Gary Johnson, currently with Yeovil.

Saturday 24 A major setback for Chelsea: they concede a goal at home to Villa, though still win 2‑1. John Terry knocks the knockers: “We’re loving our football and we’re not boring like some people are saying.” The leaders are now 11 points ahead of Arsenal, held 0‑0 at West Ham, and ten ahead of Man Utd, who lose at home to Blackburn for the first time since 1962. Morten Gamst Pedersen scores both goals in a 2‑1 win, about which Sir Alex has no complaint, unlike some fans. Second-placed Charlton win again, 2‑1 at West Brom, to continue their best start in the Premiership. Alan Curbishley is looking ahead cautiously: “We tend to have a good middle period but then the lights go out in March.” A Michael Owen goal defeats Man City for Newcastle’s first home win since March. Everton continue to experience last season in reverse with another 1‑0 defeat, this time at home to Wigan. When David Unsworth scores direct from a corner you know things are going your way and so it proves for Sheffield United, for whom that is the opener in a 2‑1 victory over Derby. Reading stay in touch with a 1‑0 win at Norwich, where Dean Ashton misses a late penalty. Ashton’s former club Crewe have small cause for celebration after a 0‑0 draw with third‑placed Watford, which is their first clean sheet in 30 games since New Year’s Day. Southend’s 4‑2 win at Rotherham gives them a share of the lead in League One alongside Huddersfield and Swansea. At the foot, the nation’s favourites, MK Dons, are still winless after going down 3‑2 at Blackpool. Grimsby continue to lead League Two despite conceding an injury-time equaliser for a 1‑1 draw at Boston. Torquay move off the bottom with a 2‑1 win over Lincoln, who have three sent off including goalkeeper Alan Marriott, who runs 20 yards to boot the ball at a prone opponent. Hearts’ 1‑0 defeat of Rangers keeps them five points ahead of second-placed Celtic, who beat Inverness 2‑1. George Burley is still handing out bromide: “If we finish third this season, it will be tremendous.”

Sunday 25 Sunderland’s 2‑0 win at Middlesbrough lifts them off the bottom. Mick McCarthy is naturally thrilled by the club’s first top-flight win in 27 attempts: “It feels a lot better than trying to explain that we have played well and been slapped again.” Steve McClaren declines to say what was discussed in a long post-match talk in the Boro dressing room, but it involved some shouting.

Tuesday 27 “Freddie is a real fighter,” says Arsène after an early goal from Ljungberg, playing as a striker, sets up Arsenal’s 2‑1 win at Ajax, their first away victory in the Champions League in six games. Man Utd beat Benfica by the same score at Old Trafford thanks to Ruud’s late winner. Sheffield Utd’s Championship lead is up to seven points with a 2‑0 win over Plymouth. Neil Warnock is delighted with his men: “I had to stop training last Friday because they were kicking chunks out of each other.” Swindon go bottom of League One a day after sacking Andy King with a 1‑0 defeat at Doncaster.

Wednesday 28 “I’m not crazy with happiness nor am I sick either,” says José after Chelsea draw 0‑0 at Anfield in the Champions League. Rafa thinks Liverpool should have had a penalty for a William Gallas handball: “We are playing to beat a big team and a detail like that is critical.” Rangers lose 1‑0 to Inter at an empty San Siro – punishment for last season’s flare‑throwing.

Thursday 29 Bolton come from 1‑0 down in their UEFA Cup tie again to beat Lokomotiv Plovdiv 2‑1. Middlesbrough draw 0‑0 at Xanthi to advance, but Steve McClaren is barred from the bench as his name was not submitted beforehand. Everton’s adventure ends, a 1‑0 home win barely denting Dinamo Bucharest’s four-goal lead. Hibs are out, too, losing 5‑1 to Dnipro. Clive Woodward and Harry Redknapp, the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of modern times, hold a press conference to deny rumours of a rift.

Friday 30 Roy Keane says he expects to leave Man Utd next summer – “I think it will be good to experience a different dressing room” – but he won’t join another English club. Brentford’s supporters’ trust agrees a deal to take control from Ron Noades in January. Arsenal reserve keeper Graham Stack is cleared of a rape charge.

From WSC 225 November 2005. What was happening this month

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