THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 2 Madness at St James’ Park, where Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer are sent off for fighting each other. Newcastle also have Steve Taylor dismissed for handball during a 3‑0 defeat by Villa. Chelsea need three more wins for the title after a 3‑1 stroll at Southampton (yet José is supposedly ready to quit over the club not having contested the UEFA charge against him). Arsenal return to second place with Thierry Henry now only four goals short of Ian Wright’s club record after a hat-trick in a 4‑1 win over Norwich; Man Utd are held to a goalless draw by Blackburn. A late Igor Biscan goal beats Bolton and takes Liverpool to within a point of That All Important™ fourth place. Sunderland’s 3‑1 win at QPR takes them five points clear as Championship leaders. Ipswich go joint second by beating Derby 3‑2 while Wigan lose 2‑1 at home to West Ham. Victory over Brighton takes Coventry out of the bottom three at the expense of Gillingham. Stockport are the first team to be relegated this season after a 2‑1 League One defeat by Brentford. Southend, unbeaten in 14 games, lead League Two after Yeovil continue to falter with a defeat at Rushden. Martin O’Neill blames Celtic’s shock 2‑0 home defeat by Hearts on players being fagged out from international call-ups.

Sunday 3 Rangers move back to the top of the SPL with a 3‑2 win at Motherwell. Everton’s European hopes takes another clobbering with a 1‑0 defeat at West Brom, who move to within two points of safety. Portsmouth’s eighth defeat in ten matches, 3‑1 at Fulham, leaves them four points above the relegation area,  Joe Jordan seems calm yet fatalistic: “You are in danger of being relegated from the first day of the season.”

Tuesday 5 “This shows we can beat anyone in Europe,” says Rafa as Liverpool race to a two-goal lead against Juventus in their Champions League quarter-final first leg, the second a spectacular volley from Luis García, though the visitors get a goal back in the second half. The pre-match ceremony commemorating the Heysel dead is jeered by some of the Juventus fans. Championship leaders Sunderland have a five-point lead over Wigan after winning 1‑0 at the JJB. Rotherham are finally relegated after a 4‑3 defeat at Ipswich. Brighton take their turn in the bottom three after losing 3‑0 at Preston. The other clubs making a late bid for relegation both lose: Watford fall to a sixth defeat in seven games, 1‑0 at Plymouth, while Crewe, beaten 2‑1 by Derby, haven’t won since New Year’s Day.

Wednesday 6 With José allegedly in touch via an earpiece hidden under the fitness coach’s woolly hat, Chelsea beat Bayern 4‑2 in their quarter-final first leg. John Terry is touchingly annoyed about Michael Ballack diving to win a last-minute penalty that could still prove important: “There’s taking the piss and there’s taking the piss.” In the Championship, Coventry move three points clear of the relegation area after a 2‑0 win over Forest, who are now five points from fourth bottom. Ian Rush resigns as Chester manager in protest at the club dismissing his assistant, Mark Aizlewood.

Thursday 7 Portsmouth appoint former Marseille coach Alain Perrin as their new manager. He will be “advised” by David Pleat (“I’ll always be on the end of a phone for Alain”) while Velimir Zajec stays on as director of football. An Alan Shearer goal gives Newcastle a 1‑0 lead over Sporting Lisbon in the first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final. Mick Harford is the new manager of Rotherham.

Saturday 9 Leading through Walter Pandiani, Birmingham are eight minutes from inflicting Chelsea’s first home defeat when Didier Drogba levels. Arsenal reach 100 goals with a 1‑0 win at Middlesbrough. Sir Alex refuses to talk even to MUTV after Man Utd’s 2‑0 defeat at Norwich, still bottom but now only four points adrift of 17th-placed Southampton, who crash 3‑0 at Blackburn. Liverpool’s ninth away defeat, 1‑0 at Man City, stops them going fourth. Bolton stay on target for Europe with a 3‑1 win over Fulham, who have Claus Jensen contentiously sent off after ten minutes. Reggie Perrin jokes abound after Portsmouth’s new manager has a flying start with a 4‑2 win over Charlton. In the Championship, Forest’s first home defeat by Plymouth since 1937, 3‑0, leaves them five points adrift. Brighton stay third bottom but only two points separate the next five clubs. At the top, Wigan’s 2‑0 win at Cardiff takes them to within five points of Sunderland, who lost to Reading on Friday. At the bottom of League One, MK Dons’ first defeat in 11 games, 1‑0 at Torquay, halves the gap between them to three points. Yeovil regain the lead in League Two with a 5‑2 win over Mansfield; feeling the gravitational pull of the Conference, Kidderminster concede a last-minute equaliser at home to Bury – Rushden stay four points ahead in 22nd place. Dundee Utd reach the Scottish Cup final, beating Hibernian 2‑1. Falkirk are Scottish Division One champions; Barnet clinch promotion from the Conference.

Sunday 10 Everton regain their four-point fourth‑place lead, beating Palace 4‑0 with the last from 16‑year‑old James Vaughan, who becomes the Premiership’s youngest scorer. West Brom move out of the bottom three after a last-minute equaliser in a 1‑1 draw at Villa. Jonathan Greening and Liam Ridgewell will appeal over their joint sending-off, but the Villa player doesn’t get sympathy from his manager: “You can’t afford to stick your head in people’s faces and try to be the big hard man.” Spurs’ 1‑0 defeat of Newcastle takes them up to seventh. Celtic reach the Scottish Cup final with a 2‑1 win over Hearts, some of whose supporters boo the minute’s silence for the Pope. Wrexham land their first trophy since 1978, two extra‑time goals beating Southend in the LDV Vans final.

Monday 11 Ipswich stay third in the Championship after a 2‑0 defeat at Wolves, who have lost only once in 20 games under Glenn Hoddle. Steven Gerrard will miss Liverpool’s Champions League tie at Juventus; chief executive Rick Parry has cautioned fans travelling to Turin: “Draping the city centre in red may be taken as a lack of respect.” “The situation is very tense between UEFA and Mourinho,” says a UEFA spokesman through clenched teeth after the Chelsea manager doesn’t appear for a Champions League press conference.

Tuesday 12 A comfortable night in Munich for Chelsea, though Bayern score twice in injury time to win 3‑2. UEFA officials ask the fitness coach to remove his woolly hat at half-time, but find only ears. The Milan quarter-final is abandoned after Inter fans throw flares on the pitch following a disallowed goal, though their team are already three down on aggregate. A 1‑1 draw at the City Ground is no use to Forest, who are five points adrift of safety, nor to Sheffield Utd, who stay outside the top six. As usual, arch enemies Gary Megson and Neil Warnock avoid shaking hands at the end. Luton secure promotion from League One after Tranmere lose 1‑0 at Brentford. There’s a potentially decisive result in Scotland as Rangers lose 1‑0 at home to Dundee United, who move off the bottom.

Wednesday 13 Liverpool set up an all-English Champions League semi-final with a goalless draw at Juventus. Rafa accentuates the positive: “We have lost three times to Chelsea this season, but we have also almost won three times.” UEFA are likely to fine both clubs for fans’ missile throwing, but there is no significant trouble. Celtic win 4‑0 at Livingston to go two points clear.

Thursday 14 Newcastle take the lead in Lisbon, but go down 4‑1. Graeme Souness thinks injuries were key: “We had some boys on there tonight and asked them to do a man’s job.” One person not doing a job is Laurent Robert, dropped for describing the team’s form as “very, very bad”. Rejected suitor Malcolm Glazer is back on Man Utd’s doorstep with a bunch of flowers and a restructured £800 million offer, which will be studied by the board. “He risks plunging United into a financial meltdown which would make Leeds look like the equivalent of missing an HP payment on the telly,” says a spokesman for fans group Supporters United. David O’Leary claim that he will have “substantial funds” to spend in the summer has annoyed Doug Ellis: “You don’t announce what you’ll be spending on players. The likes
of Freddy Shepherd and Bill Kenwright are laughing.”

Friday 15 Inter are fined £132,000 and must play their next four European games behind closed doors. Sir Alex accuses Chelsea chief Peter Kenyon of “thumbing his nose” at his old club after meeting Rio Ferdinand, supposedly by chance, in a restaurant last week. Derby move up to fifth in the Championship after a club-record 12th away win of the season, 1‑0 at Sheffield Utd.

Saturday 16 Arsenal cruise to the Cup final with a 3‑0 win over Blackburn, who are again criticised for their rough approach, notably when Andy Todd’s elbow catches Robin van Persie as he’s scoring the third goal. Arsène scowls: “Our only chance was to get them so tired they couldn’t kick us anymore.” Southampton are two up inside 15 minutes at home to Villa but lose 3‑2 – “I don’t know what I was watching in the second half,” says Harry Redknapp – so are third bottom; Norwich take a two-goal lead at Palace but draw 3‑3 after Andy Johnson’s tenth penalty of the season – Iain Dowie thinks his side should have had another five in the match. Bolton’s 2‑1 win at Charlton (Alan Curbishley: “I don’t blame the keeper or the back four, I blame them all”) takes them up to fifth, a point ahead of Liverpool, whose 2‑2 draw with Spurs includes a missed penalty from Steven Gerrard and a 40-yard goal-of-the-season contender from Erik Edman. In the Championship, Watford are the only team in the bottom eight to win, 1‑0 at Rotherham; Brighton still occupy the final relegation place after a 1‑1 draw at Burnley. Hull are promoted from League One – “My long-term plan is to become the Deportivo La Coruña of the east coast,” says chairman Adam Pearson; Cambridge are as good as down from League Two, a 4‑0 defeat at Scunthorpe leaving them nine points adrift with three games to play.

Sunday 17 “We’ve reminded everybody who Manchester United are today,” says Sir Alex, as Newcastle submit to a second 4‑1 defeat in four days. Championship leaders Sunderland stay on course for automatic promotion after 2‑2 draw at Ipswich, who are five points behind in third place. Celtic take a five-point lead in the SPL after coming back from two down to beat Aberdeen 3‑2, Craig Bellamy volleying the winner – Graeme Souness will be pleased for him.

Tuesday 19 The Football Association charge Andy Todd with violent conduct for his Van Persie buffeting; Mark Hughes blames Match of the Day: “The BBC is supposed to be impartial but their highlights showed every one of our bookings and none of Arsenal’s.” Bolton stay fifth after a Kevin Phillips goal secures a fortunate 1‑1 draw for Southampton, who move out of the bottom three on goal difference. “I could talk about the officials all night, but I won’t,” says an incandescent Chris Coleman after Fulham’s 1‑1 draw at Middlesbrough, FA Cup final referee Rob Styles having awarded a last-minute penalty to the home side for a foul clearly outside the area. Southend’s 2‑1 win at Macclesfield takes them top of League Two. Nicky Butt apologises for failing to acknowledge Newcastle fans at the end of Sunday’s match: “I was deep in thought as I desperately wanted to make a big impression, especially against Manchester United.”

Wednesday 20 Arsène concedes the title to Chelsea after their goalless draw at Highbury. “They will be worthy champions because they have been remarkably consistent.” Everton get their first league win over Man Utd for ten years courtesy of a Duncan Ferguson header. Gary Neville is dismissed for kicking the ball at a fan; Paul Scholes is ordered off, too, in the last minute, after which the two managers exchange what David Moyes describes as “Scottish words”. Liverpool move back up to fifth with a 2‑1 win at Portsmouth. West Brom regain fourth bottom spot through a 1‑1 draw at Spurs. Norwich stay 20th but are only two points from safety after a Dean Ashton goal secures a 2‑1 win over Newcastle, who had equalised in the 90th minute; Palace fall to their fourth defeat in five, 1‑0 at Blackburn, where Robbie Savage appears to instigate a half-time tunnel fracas, which Iain Dowie intends to remember: “It will stay in-house until we have a chance to lock horns again.”

Thursday 21 El-Hadji Diouf faces a magistrates’ hearing on Teesside for a spitting incident last November. Sam Allardyce sniffs a conspiracy: “Someone is trying to disrupt our season for one reason or another.” Andy Todd is cleared of a violent conduct charge. Wayne Rooney is to sue the Sun for alleging that he hit his fiancée in a nightclub. Nottingham Forest will investigate reports that a group of players were drunk and disorderly in the city centre earlier in the week. “In the long term, people will see my reaction to this,” says Gary Megson.

Saturday 23 Chelsea are 14 points clear after their 26th win, 3‑1 over Fulham, but José is mithered by the 12.45 kick-off after Wednesday’s exertions: “It’s too much. There are certain rules of biology and physiology.” Everton need a late goal from Duncan Ferguson for a 1‑1 draw with Birmingham in an early kick-off, but Liverpool can’t cut the gap, losing 1‑0 at Palace, who move out of the relegation zone – Rafa is vexed by the home side’s physical approach: “I have not seen many games like this in other countries.” Bolton’s 1‑1 draw at Villa is not much good to either in their pursuit of European qualification. Norwich clamber up to 18th after a third straight home win, Matt Svensson’s 88th-minute goal beating Charlton – Nigel Worthington surveys the scene: “We’ve opened the door and got one foot in it.” West Brom’s revival shudders to a halt at Middlesbrough, where they lose 4‑0. “I’d rather be favourites for Premiership relegation than favourites to win the play-offs,” says Mick McCarthy, after Sunderland win promotion by beating Leicester while Ipswich and Wigan both draw. A 90th-minute equaliser against West Ham means third-bottom Brighton draw level on points with Crewe, whose 2‑0 defeat by Stoke is their 18th match without a win. Forest put off relegation for a week at least by beating Burnley. Luton clinch League One after a 2‑1 win at Wrexham. Peterborough are down despite beating Bournemouth; Torquay’s 2‑1 win at Oldham takes them three points clear of MK Dons, who lose by the same score to Bristol City. Yeovil head League Two again after Southend’s defeat at Oxford. Cambridge United drop back into non-League after drawing with Rochdale; Kidderminster are set to join them after a 3‑0 defeat at Boston.
 
Sunday 24 A calamitous afternoon for bottom-placed Southampton, beaten 4‑1 at Portsmouth, where all the goals come in the first half hour, keeping the home fans too busy to bother with booing their returning ex-manager. Harry Redknapp still hopes to rouse his team: “It is no good me going in and slating people. Their confidence is shot anyway.” Celtic’s 2‑1 win at Ibrox extends their SPL lead to five points with four games to go. John Terry is PFA player of the year, with Wayne Rooney the young player.

Monday 25 Chelsea aren’t quite champions, denied tonight by Arsenal’s 1‑0 win over Spurs. The latter’s defeat means that Everton have qualified for Europe. Should they or Bolton finish fourth with Liverpool winning the Champions League, the choice of England’s final representative will lay with the FA, UEFA having refused to consider allowing in a fifth Premiership club.

Tuesday 26 Bryan Robson growls about “nailed-on penalties” ignored by the referee as West Brom stay in the bottom three on goal difference after a 1‑1 draw with Blackburn. Wrexham’s 2‑0 win at Port Vale gives them an outside chance of escaping relegation from League Two – if they win all three remaining games. Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd is delighted to confirm reports that Craig Bellamy sent rude text messages to Alan Shearer after the club’s FA Cup elimination: “He got more than he bargained for. Alan told Bellamy he would knock his block off if he ever set foot back in Newcastle.”

Wednesday 27 “I think 99.9 per cent of Liverpool people and fans think they are in the final – but they’re not,” says José, who stops just short of saying they’ve fallen into his trap after a largely uneventful goalless draw at Stamford Bridge. No goals either at St James’ Park, the draw taking Middlesbrough two points clear in seventh place. Police are investigating claims, strongly denied, that Rio Ferdinand and debonair gadfly Jody Morris assaulted a photographer outside a London nightclub.

Friday 29 Sunderland clinch the Championship championship with a 2‑1 win at West Ham, who drop out of the play-off places. Cambridge Utd are to go into administration as the first stage in a supporters’ trust takeover. Keith Curle is to be the new manager of Chester.

Saturday 30 “This is a very special group and my heart belongs to them,” says José as Chelsea’s title is confirmed by a 2‑0 win at Bolton. The latter can still finish fourth after Everton lose at Fulham, while Liverpool are held 1‑1 by Middlesbrough. Norwich are bottom again, a late Henri Camara goal giving Southampton a 4‑3 win that takes them up to 17th; Palace are below them on goal difference after a draw at Newcastle. The second Championship promotion place will be decided on the last day following Wigan’s draw at Preston and Ipswich’s 5‑1 win over Crewe, who drop to third‑bottom. Brighton and Gillingham can also still go down. Coventry’s last match at Highfield Road is a 6‑2 thrashing of Derby, who are competing with West Ham and Reading, beaten 2‑1 at home by Wolves, for play-off spots. A 2‑1 defeat at QPR sends Forest down to the third level for the first time since 1951. Sheffield Wednesday join Tranmere in the League One play-offs with a 2‑1 win at Hull, the only victory achieved by any of the contenders. Torquay’s fourth successive win, 2‑0 over Blackpool, keeps them three points clear of MK Dons with one game left. Wrexham can still escape, after another Juan Ugarte hat-trick in a 4‑1 win at Stockport. No one has been promoted yet in League Two: Southend fall three points behind leaders Yeovil after losing to them, 1‑0; Scunthorpe’s win by the same score against Bristol Rovers takes them up to second; Swansea’s last match at the Vetch Field, a 1‑0 defeat of Shrewsbury, puts them level with Southend. There’s another twist in the SPL with Celtic beaten 3‑1 at home by Hibs.

From WSC 220 June 2005. What was happening this month

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