THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 1 Arsenal are back on top after a stormy 2-1 win over Man City. Nicolas Anelka scores the latter’s goal in the 90th minute but is sent off before the re­start for a bundle in the goalmouth. Surprisingly, his sparring partner Ashley Cole is only booked. Chelsea just about stay in touch, needing a late winner from Glen Johnson to beat Blackburn 3-2. Sir Alex, mean­while, faces a decision: to climb down in his court case or finally file papers with the judge in Dublin...

Monday 2 “It’s useless to hold a player against his wishes,” says Alan Pardew as Jermain Defoe finally gets his move, to Spurs for £7 million, with Bobby Zamora going to West Ham in part exchange. The Premier League block Spurs’ attempt to sign Paul Robinson then lease him back to Leeds – he may instead move in the summer. Other deadline-day moves: Portsmouth take Newcastle’s Lomano LuaLua on loan and sign Leicester’s John Curtis; Liverpool full-back Jon Otsemobor goes to Bolton on loan; Birmingham sign Matt Taylor from Blackburn.

Tuesday 3 José Antonio Reyes scores from 15 yards on his full debut but it’s for Middlesbrough, their second in a 2-1 Carling Cup win over Arsenal that takes them through to the final, 3-1. “I certainly don’t know if the better team won,” says Arsène, miffed over a penalty claim, though he doesn’t argue with a first-half red card for Martin Keown. Livingston go into administration then beat Dundee 1-0 in a CIS Cup semi. UEFA reject Wales’ request to replace Russia at Euro 2004 after Yegor Titov’s failed drugs test.

Wednesday 4 Man City stage one of the great comebacks in FA Cup history. Three down to Spurs at half-time and with Joey Barton sent off, they score four with Jon Macken’s winner coming in the 89th minute. Kev is ecstatic: “At half-time I asked where the nearest Job Centre was. They’ll talk about this long after we’re all gone.” “I hope the players will be self-critical because if they are not they are the wrong type,” says David Pleat.

Thursday 5 Hibs complete an Old Firm double: having knocked Celtic out, they now beat Rangers on penalties in the CIS semi. Fulham formally complain to the FA about Duncan Ferguson’s alleged racial abuse of Luis Boa Morte.

Saturday 7 Everton lose 4-3 at home to Man Utd despite levelling from a 3-0 half-time deficit, Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring an 89th-minute winner. “My message was delivered very calmly at half-time,” lies David Moyes. Everton later allege that United players swore at home fans while celebrating the winner. Arsenal beat Wolves 3-1 at Molineux to stay two points clear and set a club record of 24 unbeaten games since the start of the season. Six straight defeats for Leeds, however, after a 2-0 loss at Villa. “It’s becoming critical to win matches,” observes Eddie Gray. Newcastle head the race for fourth, beating Leicester 3-1 at St James’ Park, Michael Bridges making his home debut and Les Ferdinand scoring against his former club. Jermain Defoe scores after 13 minutes of his debut against Portsmouth as Spurs come out on top in the second 4-3 at the Lane in three days. Jon Stead, whose last game was against Boston in Division Three, scores the only goal for Blackburn at Boro. In the First, Forest sack Paul Hart after a 1-0 home defeat by Coventry makes it three wins in 25 games. Bobby Zamora scores on his West Ham debut as they beat Bradford 2-1, Bryan Robson’s tenth defeat in 13 games. QPR close the gap at the top of the Second by beating Notts County, as leaders Plymouth are held at home by Bournemouth. In the Third the bottom three all win, while Hull go three points clear of Doncaster at the top with a 2-1 home win against York. Keith Alexander returns to the Lincoln dugout for the 1-1 draw with Boston after recovering from brain surgery. In the Scottish Cup, Rangers and Celtic set up an Old Firm quarter-final by beating Kilmarnock and Hearts, while non-League Spartans lose 4-0 to Livingston.

Sunday 8 Scott Parker watches from the plush seats as Chelsea beat Charlton 1-0 with a disputed penalty. “No, in May,” corrects Claudio Ranieri, responding to a chant of “you’re being sacked in the summer”. Thirteen games without a league win for Man City as they draw 0-0 at home to Birmingham, new singing Daniel van Buyten making his debut for the home side. “Daniel doesn’t speak English, but he was terrific,” says Kevin Keegan. Millwall’s 16-year-old striker Moses Ashikodi has been transfer-listed after threatening team-mate Mark McCammon with a kitchen knife in the canteen.

Tuesday 10
Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Southampton takes them six points clear. Gordon claims Thierry Henry was offside for the first but it was not spotted due to a “history” between himself and linesman Mr Tingey, going back to an incident five years ago in which he was sent off. Leeds’ run of defeats ends with a 4-1 thumping of Wolves, who drop below them to bottom. “We just didn’t turn up,” sighs Dave Jones. Leicester are a point above the bottom two after a 1-1 draw with Bolton, but that’s 11 matches without a win. Micky Adams seems to doubt whether they can stay up: “You need imagination and a bit of craft and you are not going to get that with 11 free transfers.”

Wednesday 11 Middlesbrough cause a major upset with a 3-2 victory at Old Trafford, Joseph-Désiré Job getting the winner after United had come back from two down. “We can’t keep conceding soft goals,” fumes Sir Alex, whose Rio-less defence has let in eight in three games. Chelsea are a point behind United after Scott Parker scores his first goal in a 2-0 win at Portsmouth. Charlton are sixth after a third straight defeat, 4-2 to Spurs. Man City’s 2-1 defeat at Anfield is their 14th league game without a win, though Little Kev is not downhearted: “If you try to tell me there are 15 places between us and Liverpool after this performance, I just do not see it.” Actually, it’s only 12. Jon Stead makes it two in two, getting a late equaliser for Blackburn at home to Newcastle. Carlos Bocanegra is sent off during Fulham’s 2-1 defeat by Villa for what David O’Leary identifies as “the worst tackle I have ever seen”, one which may put Mark Delaney out for the season. Edgy times for Everton, four points above the drop zone, whose 3-0 defeat at Birmingham is their sixth league match without a win. Telford’s FA Cup run ends in a 2-0 home defeat by Millwall.

Friday 13 Gordon Strachan leaves Southampton three months ahead of schedule. Glenn Hoddle admits he is interested in the job, despite fans chanting “We hate Hoddle” at the last home match. Port Vale coach Martin Foyle takes over from Brian Horton, who did a “mutual consent” yesterday. Boston’s new owner Jon Sotnick, in charge for two days, sacks first-team boss Neil Thompson.

Saturday 14 There’s a fractious FA Cup derby at Old Trafford where, with United 1-0 up, Gary Neville is sent off for butting Steve McManaman (“He was silly,” concedes Sir Alex; “Handbags, really,” suggests Steve). Ten-man United win 4-2. Daniele Dichio’s sixth goal in five takes Millwall past Burnley. Swansea’s hopes of a first quarter-final in 40 years are dashed by a 2-1 defeat at Tranmere. Chris Coleman thinks Fulham are “inept and complacent” in their goalless home draw with West Ham. Sunderland and Birmingham will meet again after a 1-1 draw. First Division leaders Norwich stay five points clear after a 2-0 win at Coventry, where old boy Darren Huckerby is jeered (“I can’t understand it. They chose to sell me.”). Palace’s fifth successive win, a 6-3 thrashing of Stoke, takes them to within a point of the play-offs. Joe Kinnear’s Forest recover from two down to draw 3-3 with Walsall, but their new manager isn’t thrilled by the atmosphere around the club: “You can’t fart without Birtles’ or Cloughie’s name being mentioned.” In the Second, Bristol City’s ninth successive win, 1-0 at Peterborough, brings them level with QPR, who draw 1-1 amid some belligerence at Brentford (“The way they threw things at us at the end wasn’t right,” says Ian Holloway). Darlington leap out of the bottom two in the Third with a 3-0 win at Bristol Rovers, to be replaced by Macclesfield.

Sunday 15 For a fourth straight year, Arsenal beat Chelsea in the Cup, with newbie José Antonio Reyes scoring twice in a 2-1 win. Arsène stay calm about a player he is said to have had watched more than 50 times: “There’s a lot of work to be done but you can see there’s talent.” Claudio, frankly, seems a bit weary: “I don’t know how to beat Arsenal but we will keep on trying.” A goal from Mr Karren Brady takes Sheffield Utd past Colchester – Paul is hoping to avoid a particular draw next: “I don’t want Birmingham because I know the media will want silly quotes from me about the missus.” Liverpool are booed off at Anfield again after Portsmouth get a 1-1 draw with a late goal from Matt Taylor. Tunisia win the African Nations Cup for the first time, beating Morocco 2-1.

Monday 16
Before “conciliatory” talks with Mark Palios after the Rio row, David Beckham criticises the FA’s decision to offer Sven a contract extension: “We’d all be devastated if he left. They should have waited until the summer.” Seemingly concerned that Arsenal don’t take the Cup seriously enough, the FA may let them keep it if they win three in a row. Meanwhile, there will be at least one League club in the semis as Millwall host Tranmere, while the Bradys get set for a media blitz: Birmingham (or Sunderland) v Sheffield Utd. American Malcolm Glazer, who owns 16.3 per cent of Man Utd’s plc, informs the Stock Exchange that he may soon make a takeover bid – the horsey men from Ireland are believed to be keen.

Tuesday 17 Sheffield Wed’s torrid season takes a turn for the worse as officials admit to asking Ken Bates for “advice”. Bristol City are top of the Second after winning 2-1 at Grimsby, as previous leaders Plymouth lose 3-0 at Tranmere. Southend reach the LDV Vans final after a 4-3 aggregate win over Colchester.

Wednesday 18 Ledley King is the unlikely scorer of the goal that puts England ahead in Portugal, who come back to draw through a Pauleta free-kick. Sven uses nine substitutes and has only one more match, in Sweden, before announcing his Euro 2004 squad. Robert Earnshaw hits a hat-trick as Scotland are demolished 4-0 by a Wales side lacking several regulars. Berti intends toughing it out: “I’m not going to go home yet.” “That’s one monkey off our back,” says Lawrie Sanchez as Northern Ireland finally get a goal, courtesy of David Healy in a 4-1 home defeat by Norway, but still break the international world record for the number of minutes without scoring. Brazil draw 0-0 in Dublin.

Thursday 19 The Australian federation invoke FIFA’s five-day rule to block Mark Viduka from playing at Old Trafford this Saturday after he pulled out of their squad for a match in Venezuela. Leeds are to take legal advice: “This is an outrage,” says chief executive Trevor Birch.

Saturday 21
Arsenal extend their lead to seven points by winning 2-1 at Chelsea while Man Utd are held to a 1-1 home draw by Leeds – “It is as big a mountain as we have ever had to climb,” says Sir Alex, peering upwards at a beaming Arsène. Wolves draw level with fourth-bottom Portsmouth after a 2-1 win over Fulham. Little Kev expects complimentary headlines after Man City’s first win in 14 games, 3-1 at Bolton: “It will make a change from stories about me getting the sack. There will be some blank pages this week.” In their first match under caretaker Stuart Ripley, widely believed to be keeping the seat warm for Glenn, Southampton get a last-minute equaliser in a 3-3 draw with Everton. “I find it hard to speak,” says Graeme Souness as Blackburn also falter at the death, conceding an injury-time goal for Charlton’s 3-2 win moments after Brad Friedel had equalised from a corner. West Brom are the only team in the top six in the First Division to win, closing the gap on leaders Norwich to three points with a 2-1 victory in the Warnock-Megson grudge match (as usual they exchanged glares rather than handshakes) at Bramall Lane. Division Two leaders Bristol City are three games from equalling a League record for consecutive wins after beating Wrexham 1-0. Doncaster top the Third after winning 2-1 at Mansfield, while Hull lose 1-0 at home to Torquay.

Sunday 22 Portsmouth beat Liverpool 1-0 in their Cup replay. Gérard is adamant he won’t be stepping down: “I know I am going to get slaughtered but I don’t feel under any more pressure.” Another riotous day at White Hart Lane, where Leicester are 3-1 down at half-time, then score three more despite having James Scowcoft sent off, before Jermain Defoe grabs a late point for Spurs. David Pleat is all woozy: “I feel like a drunken man who doesn’t drink.” Aston Villa blow a two-goal lead in the Birmingham derby, Stern John getting the visitors’ equaliser in a 2-2 draw deep in injury time. Robbie Savage, apparently unbeaten in 16 games against Villa, reveals City’s secret: “We will keep going until seven o’clock if we have to.” Celtic set a Scottish record 24th successive win, 4-1 at Partick.

Tuesday 24 “Before we can think about winning the Champions League we have to defend better,” says Arsène as Arsenal win 3-2 away to Celta, Robert Pires scoring an 80th-minute winner after Edu had twice put them ahead. Fulham win 3-0 at West Ham in their FA Cup fifth-round replay. Coming on as an 84th minute substitute, Bournemouth’s James Hayter scores the fastest hat-trick in League history, two minutes and 20 seconds, in his side’s 6-0 victory over Wrexham. Boston Utd announce that Steve Evans will return as their manager from March 2 when he will have completed a ban for financial irregularities dating back to the club’s promotion in 2002.

Wednesday 25 Roy Keane is sent off late on in Man Utd’s 2-1 Champions League defeat in Porto, whose coach Jose Mourinho risks taunting Sir Alex after a post-match row over the dismissal: “I understand why he is a bit emotional. He has some top players in the world and they should be doing a lot better than that.” “Our season is not finished yet,” says Claudio, as Chelsea win 1-0 in Stuttgart. There’ll be no Cup showdown for the Brady family, with Sunderland to face Sheffield Utd after winning 2-0 at Birmingham.

Thursday 26 Scorer Steven Gerrard dedicates the first of Liverpool’s goals in their 2-0 UEFA Cup win over Levski Sofia to his beleaguered manager, who says: “Gérard Houllier is not important in all this, whoever is leading the team the fans must be behind the side.” “I am very disappointed, angry and, yes, surprised,” says a lip-biting Alan Shearer on being dropped for Newcastle’s 1-1 draw away to Valerenga. Celtic stride towards the last 16 with a 3-0 win over Czech side Teplice.

Friday 27 Trading in Leeds shares is suspended after the main creditors refuse to extend the “standstill agreement” begun in December. Meanwhile Bradford, whose former chairman Geoffrey Richmond is part of a group bidding to buy Leeds, slip back into administration. Still, help may be at hand from the most powerful organisation on earth: the Football League is to be sponsored by Coca-Cola for three years starting from next season. Contradicting the belief that ten men often play better than 11, Dagenham & Redbridge have a player sent off 14 minutes into their Conference match at home to Hereford then lose 9-0.

Saturday 28 Arsenal are 2-0 up in five minutes against Charlton, who come close to salvaging a point but lose 2-1. Man Utd are now nine points behind after a 1-1 draw at Fulham, with Louis Saha, greeted by “Judas” banners, putting his team in front before Luis Boa Morte equalises. Sir Alex rages after the match over a seemingly cast-iron penalty not given for a foul on Saha: “It’s time that match officials earned their money. If they’re not doing their jobs they shouldn’t be here.” “That’s football and I’m very happy!” beams Claudio Ranieri after Chelsea poach a fortunate win at Man City thanks to Eidur Gudjohnsen’s late goal. Wolves move out of the bottom three after a hot-tempered goalless draw with Leicester. In the First, leaders Norwich stay three points clear despite having their match postponed after West Brom lose 1-0 at home to Rotherham. A goal in stoppage time gives Forest a 2-1 win over Bradford and takes them out of the bottom three at the expense of Derby, beaten 2-0 at Coventry. Plymouth return to the top of the Second by winning 1-0 at Blackpool while Bristol City lose to a last-minute goal at Sheffield Wed. In the Third, second-bottom Macclesfield are three points adrift of safety after losing 1-0 to relegation rivals Southend. FIFA’s International Board decide to scrap the golden and silver goal rules after Euro 2004 and to restrict the number of substitutes used in friendlies to six.

Sunday 29
Middlesbrough win the Carling Cup, going two up in seven minutes through Joseph-Désiré Job and a Boudewijn Zenden penalty before Kevin Davies gets one back for Bolton. “Winning this may not be important to Arsenal, Chelsea or Man United but is massive to us,” says Boro chairman Steve Gibson of his club’s first trophy in 128 years. Sam Allardyce is unhappy over the manner of Zenden’s (accidental) two-footed penalty and the referee’s refusal to award one to Bolton in the closing minutes: “We have always had a problem with Mike Riley. He has not been kind to us to say the least and, unfortunately, he lived up to his reputation.” Leeds and Liverpool stay sixth and bottom respectively after a 2-2 draw, Harry Kewell getting the visitors’ first on his return to Elland Road. Portsmouth’s 24-hour stay in the bottom three is ended with an 89th-minute equaliser in their 1-1 draw with Newcastle, scored, wouldn’t you know it, by on-loan Magpie Lomano LuaLua. Whoever forgot about a contract clause might want to skip town if the dropped points cost fourth place.X

From WSC 206 April 2004. What was happening this month

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