THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 1 Spurs thrash Villa 5-1 to move into a UEFA Cup spot. “Spurs have pushed on because they’ve made a big investment,” says David O’Leary, loud enough for Doug Ellis to hear. Man Utd’s 4‑0 win at Charlton (“For the last six weeks our defending has been chronic,” sighs Alan Curbishley) puts them a point behind Arsenal. Rangers are two points behind Celtic after a 3‑1 win at Aberdeen.

Monday 2 West Brom’s 2-0 defeat by Arsenal keeps them in the bottom three, while the visitors are favourites to finish second and avoid Champions League qualifiers. Bryan Robson is only thinking of the next match: “I’m not saying we’ll win at Old Trafford, but we should get a result.” David Hay is sacked by Dunfermline, still dallying with relegation from the SPL. At last Charlton win something – the women’s FA Cup, beating Everton 1-0.

Tuesday 3 Wrexham are relegated to League Two after a 2-1 defeat by Brentford, who guarantee themselves a play‑off spot. A Luis García shot that may have crossed the line takes Liverpoool into the Champions League final. “Sure it was not a classic but we fought very hard,” says Rafa, while José is as magnanimous as you’d expect: “You could say that a linesman scored.”

Wednesday 4 Neale Cooper resigns as manager of Hartlepool, who may qualify for the play-offs at the weekend. Ramón Diaz leaves Oxford; Brian Talbot, who quit Oldham in February, is expected to succeed him. With Alan Shearer rested, Newcastle end a run of seven matches without a win by beating Fulham 3‑1.

Saturday 7 Norwich move out of the bottom three after winning their fourth successive home game, 1‑0 against Birmingham: a first away win of the season at Fulham next weekend will keep them up. “We had it in our hands but for 90 seconds,” says Iain Dowie as Southampton score another late goal for a 2‑2 draw at Palace. West Brom stay bottom but can still escape after a Rob Earnshaw penalty earns a 1‑1 draw at Old Trafford. Sir Alex fumes at seeing second slipping away: “Not beating teams in the bottom half has cost us. It’s an embarrassment for the players.” The final play‑off place in League One goes to Hartlepool rather than Bournemouth, after they 2‑2 draw at Dean Court. Evil triumphs in Bucks as MK Dons stay up thanks to an 84th-minute winner at home to Tranmere; Torquay, beaten 2‑1 at Colchester, are relegated. Yeovil are League Two champions after beating play-off-bound Lincoln 3‑0; wins for Swansea and Scunthorpe take them up, too, as a 1‑1 draw at Grimsby means Southend have to settle for the play-offs, along with Northampton and Macclesfield.

Sunday 8 Liverpool’s 2‑1 defeat at Arsenal means Everton finish fourth. “We were always clinging on but then there wasn’t another club able to be consistent,” says David Moyes, taking TV interviews at home in a beige cardigan. Arsène, meanwhile, is distracted by the FA’s failure to rule on the Ashley Cole tapping-up saga: “The situation happened in February. It looks like an international war is quicker sorted out.” Wigan are promoted after a 3‑0 win over Reading, who miss out on the play-offs. “We have given hope to every club in the Football League and Conference,” says chairman Dave Whelan, while Paul Jewell doesn’t want to dwell on Whelan’s wealth: “By telling everyone how much money we have, the price for our transfer targets will go up.” West Ham secure sixth place by winning 1‑0 at Watford. Brighton avoid the drop through a 1‑1 draw with Ipswich. Despite losing only one of their last 12 matches, Gillingham’s 2‑2 draw at Forest, who equalise in the 85th minute, sends them down; Crewe stay up after a first win in 19 games, 2‑1 against Coventry. Dennis Wise resigns as Millwall manager but may fetch up at Leeds. Celtic’s 2‑0 defeat of Aberdeen means they regain their two-point lead from Rangers, who won yesterday, with two games left.

Tuesday 10 Chelsea break Man Utd’s Premiership points record by beating them 3‑1 at Old Trafford, which is half-empty for the home team’s end-of-season lap of honour. José is the soul of magnanimity: “United had a very bad start to the season and a very bad end and in the middle they put pressure on us.” John Robertson is sacked by Hearts, whose Lithuanian owner wants to bring in “a big name” but will probably settle for a Lithuanian one.

Wednesday 11 Everton go for a light training session at Highbury and duly lose 7‑0, equalling their worst ever League defeat, against Portsmouth in 1949. It’s also Arsenal’s biggest win under Arsène Wenger. “I have no criticism of the players but tonight, as a manager, I am embarrassed,” says David Moyes. Swansea beat Wrexham  2‑1 in the FAW Premier Cup final, in the last match at their Vetch Field ground.

Thursday 12 Grasping leprechaun Malcolm Glazer launches a takeover bid for Man Utd after acquiring the shares owned by JP McManus and John Magnier, which give him a 59 per cent stake. “It’s the darkest day in the club’s 127-year history,” says a spokesman for fans group Shareholders United as supporters stage protests outside Old Trafford. Meanwhile, United are to report Chelsea to the Premier League for allegedly trying to poach their latest signing, Norway-based Nigerian “teenager” Jon Obi Mikel. Stuart Pearce is confirmed as the new manager of Manchester City. England’s squad for the United States trip includes the uncapped Scott Carson and Peter Crouch, of whom Sven says: “He’s different. Very different.” Sheffield Wednesday beat Brentford 1‑0 in the first leg of their League One play-off.

Friday 13 With Malcolm Glazer close to the 75 per cent stake he needs to take Man Utd into private ownership, plans are announced for a breakaway club, FC United, which will enter the non-League pyramid nine levels below the Premiership. Hartlepool win their first play-off match at the ninth attempt, 2‑0 against Tranmere.

Saturday 14 Carlisle return to the Football League by beating Stevenage 1‑0 in the Conference play-off final. In the Championship semis, West Ham give up a two-goal lead to draw 2‑2 with Ipswich; two levels down, Lincoln beat Macclesfield 1‑0. Newcastle claim to have offered £18 million for Michael Owen. A 4‑1 win over Motherwell takes Rangers a point clear in the SPL again.

Sunday 15 West Brom stay up after an afternoon in which all four relegation candidates spend time in the fourth bottom spot. Norwich are sunk first – two down to Fulham at half-time, though denied two plausible penalties, and finally beaten 6‑0. “I think the occasion maybe got to one or two,” says Nigel Worthington. A John O’Shea own goal puts Southampton ahead against Man Utd, but goals from Darren Fletcher and Ruud van Nistelrooy secure an away win. Harry Redknapp suggests that he arrived too late: “I did a bit of quick surgery in the January window but it was too tough a job.” Palace trail Charlton 1‑0 at half-time, but equalise through Dougie Freedman’s first goal of the season then go in front from an Andy Johnson penalty. West Brom score twice against Portsmouth, but they are still 18th until the 82nd minute at The Valley, when Jon Fortune levels for Charlton. Iain Dowie is unbowed: “Going down with a whimper would be a different matter, but this was a performance of heart and courage.” Bryan Robson, soaked in champagne at The Hawthorns, thinks it’s the highlight of his career: “This is the best because there was no expectation whatsoever here apart from expecting us to go down.” Middlesbrough clinch the final UEFA Cup spot after getting the draw they needed, 1‑1 at Man City, but only after Robbie Fowler misses a last‑minute penalty. Stuart Pearce lives up to his nickname by sending on reserve keeper Nicky Weaver to replace an outfielder with David James used as a striker for the last ten minutes, where he resembles a 12-year-old muscling in on some eight-year-olds’ kickabout. Celtic restore their two-point lead with a 2‑1 win at Hearts. Dunfermline move off the bottom after a 1‑0 win at Dundee United; both clubs plus Livingston and Dundee FC could still go down. In the play-offs, it’s Derby 2 Preston 0 and Northampton 0 Southend 0. Stan Ternent leaves Gillingham.

Monday 16 Malcolm Glazer acquires the 75 per cent stake needed to delist Manchester United shares from the Stock Exchange. Premier League chief Richard Scudamore claims that Glazer FC would be unable to break out of the collective TV deal: “The Premier League is blessed with a very conservative constitution – 14 clubs out of 20 need to vote to do anything.” Play-off debutants Sheffield Wednesday reach the League One final after a 2‑1 win at Brentford.

Tuesday 17 Middlesbrough, who can never have enough forwards, sign Portsmouth’s Yakubu Aiyegbeni for £4m. Laurent Robert wants to be released from the final year of his Newcastle contract because, and this is a shock, he can’t get on with Graeme Souness. The latter fails again to be named manager of the year, the title going instead to David Moyes. Glenn Hoddle agrees one of them 12-month deals with Wolves. Defeated in their past five penalty shoot-outs, Hartlepool win the most important one yet, beating Tranmere 6‑5 after a 2‑2 aggregate draw.

Wednesday 18 With Man Utd fans said to be planning demonstrations at the FA Cup final, Sir Alex urges them to get behind the team: “Of course the fans are emotional. But supporters and players should be together in their attempts to win this match.” Aston Villa sign Patrik Berger from Portsmouth and have a bid accepted for Newcastle’s Aaron Hughes. They’re also after Hughes’s erstwhile team-mate Craig Bellamy, but will face competition from Birmingham and Everton among others. As in 2004, West Ham reach the play-off finals by beating Ipswich, Bobby Zamora scoring both goals in a 2‑0 win at Portman Road. Sporting Lisbon suffer a “home” defeat in the UEFA Cup final, going down 3‑1 to CSKA Moscow, who come from behind to become the first Russian club to win a European trophy.

Thursday 19 Preston’s goalless draw at Derby takes them to the Championship play-off final. West Brom try a cheeky bid for Andy Johnson, with Rob Earnshaw offered in part exchange; Palace owner Simon Jordan is not keen to sell, though he offers an alluring image: “Johnson will have to be prised from my dead hand before he leaves here.” Everton are to spend £3.5m on Spurs’ Simon Davies. Forgotten man Jason Koumas is to be released by West Brom, but Bryan Robson isn’t doing much to tempt buyers: “Jason has a disappointing attitude and as far as I know there has not been any interest shown in him.”

Saturday 21
Arsenal win the first goalless FA Cup final since 1912 and the first to be decided on penalties, Patrick Vieira’s spot-kick settling it after Paul Scholes had been the only player to miss. “We won it with our mental strength and resilience rather than with our usual style,” says Arsène whose team, badly missing Thierry Henry, managed one corner and no direct shots on goal. José Antonio Reyes becomes the second player to be sent off in a final for a second yellow card moments before the end. Man Utd fans wear black for the day and a “Die Glazer” banner is removed by stewards during the shoot-out, but there are no disruptions to the match. Southend’s 1‑0 win over Northampton takes them into the League Two play-off final, where they will meet Lincoln, who knock out Macclesfield 2‑1 on aggregate. Neale Cooper, late of Hartlepool, is the new manager of Gillingham. Villa fans are demanding an EGM after chief executive Bruce Langham resigns, apparently because of a falling-out with 82-year-old chairman Doug Ellis. “Again the wrong man has left Villa Park,” says a supporters’ spokesman.

Sunday 22 Rangers are SPL champions by a point after Celtic concede two goals in the last five minutes for a 2‑1 defeat at Motherwell while their rivals win 1‑0 at Hibs. “It was probably the biggest spine-tingle I have ever had in my life,” says Alex McLeish of the crowd’s roar when the score came through from Fir Park. Martin O’Neill talks of “devastation” in the Celtic dressing room, but declines to comment on rumours that he is about to resign. Dundee are relegated after a 1‑1 draw at Livingston. New Conference full-timers Grays Athletic win the FA Trophy on penalties after a 1‑1 draw against Hucknall Town, whose player-manager is hospitalised with a broken leg. Chelsea parade the Premiership trophy and the Carling Cup down the Kings Road after a quick trip to Korea to please new sponsors Samsung.

Monday 23 After the requisite amount of umming and aahing, Harry Redknapp decides to stay with Southampton. Jim Smith, however, is being released and senses dark work afoot: “They’re talking about cost cutting but they’re bringing in Clive Woodward, who I’m sure will be paid four times as much as I was on.” The Saints, however, deny that Woodward is set to join them after the British and Irish Lions’ tour to New Zealand. Rupert Lowe is seen at the Lions’ send-off match, against Argentina in Cardiff. Graeme Souness faces disrepute charges for his volcanic reaction to the officiating in his side’s 2‑0 defeat at Everton. Lennie Lawrence is sacked by Cardiff and will be replaced by Dave Jones.

Tuesday 24 George Burley’s position as Derby manager is said to be in doubt after press claims that he turned up drunk for training. Crystal Palace deny reports that Wayne Routledge has agreed a £2m move to Spurs.

Wednesday 25 In one of the most dramatic cup finals ever, Liverpool win the European Cup 3‑2 on penalties after a 3‑3 draw. Three down at half-time to Milan, for whom Paolo Maldini opens the scoring in the first minute before a Hernán Crespo double, they draw level through three goals in six minutes early in the second half. Steven Gerrard and Vladimir Smicer score before Xabi Alonso converts his own penalty rebound for the third. In extra time Jerzy Dudek recovers from one save to pull off a point-blank stop from Andriy Shevchenko, then makes the decisive penalty save from the same player in the shoot-out. Rafael Benítez, whose initial gamble on Harry Kewell backfired, reveals his half-time secrets: “I was not thinking about winning. I was only thinking about scoring one goal.” Celtic press conferences will be chockful of aggressive sarcasm next season after Gordon Strachan signs up to replace Martin O’Neill, who will leave after Saturday’s Scottish FA Cup final, for family reasons. Rio Ferdinand is banned from driving for the fourth time after being caught overtaking a police car at 105mph.

Thursday 26 With Liverpool enjoying an open-top bus parade on Merseyside but still unsure whether they will be allowed to defend their title, Mike Harris, chairman of Welsh champions TNS, suggests a play-off (“with a bit of luck we might beat them”), the winners entering the Champions League qualifiers. Man Utd chairman Sir Roy Gardner, who is to resign, warns that Malcolm Glazer has offered no assurances over the future of Old Trafford or the possibility that the club will acquire even more debt than the £570m already taken on under their new owner.

Friday 27 Birmingham’s co-owner David Sullivan threatens to sue Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan over a verbal attack on the club after they bid for Andy Johnson. “It strikes me he has a serious problem and needs to see an anger-management expert,” says David. “Why, you... ” says Simon. Liverpool’s CL hopes receive a boost from UEFA president Lennart Johansson, who says of the meeting on June 17 where a decision will be made: “If there is a rule that harms the tournament, we have to discuss changing the rule.” The Scottish League introduce a rule seemingly aimed at habitual wooden spoonists East Stirlingshire, that a team finishing bottom of the league for two seasons in a row will be kicked out. Dietmar Hamann is set to stay at Anfield after failing to show up for a medical arranged by his potential new employers, Bolton. Rio Ferdinand laughs off an incident in a Stockholm nightclub in which he’s punched in the face by a gangster.

Saturday 28 Debutant Kieran Richardson scores both England’s goals in their 2‑1 win over the USA. “All the young players involved showed that they wanted to play football,” says Sven, of what was a second‑string team barring the Coles, Joe and Ashley, and perhaps Sol Campbell. Peter Crouch doesn’t play after a training injury and is replaced by Alan Smith, who had had a public row with the coaches after being left out. “If last Sunday had been the final day I would have hanged myself,” says Martin O’Neill, who bows out with a trophy as Celtic take the Scottish Cup for the 33rd time by beating Dundee Utd 1‑0. Two extra-time goals give Southend victory over Lincoln in the League Two play-off final.

Sunday 29 Paul Sturrock is heading back to Southampton as Sheffield Wednesday win the League One play-off final 4‑2 in extra time. Hartlepool, leading 2‑1 with eight minutes left of normal time, concede a penalty for which Chris Westwood is sent off and from which Steve MacLean equalises. Gérard Houllier, who turned up in Liverpool’s dressing room on Thursday in the manner of an estranged father at a wedding, is to be the new coach of French champions Lyon. Thierry Henry will share the Golden Boot award for Europe’s top scorer with Diego Forlán, whose two goals in a 4-1 win over Levante help Villarreal clinch third place in Spain and Champions League qualification. Sounds like the sort of proven goalscorer Man Utd could have done with this season.

Monday 30 A Bobby Zamora goal is enough to defeat Preston and take West Ham back into the Premiership. “It’s fucking unbelievable,” says Anton Ferdinand in a live interview on Radio Five. Meanwhile, Anton’s brother Rio makes a rare appearance in the news, as one of a group of footballers facing charges for criminal damage after releasing a fire extinguisher in a hotel during Jody Morris’s stag do. Must be mistaken identity.

From WSC 221 July 2005. What was happening this month

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