THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Monday 1 Arsenal go a point clear after a 3-0 win at Charlton. “We know it’s down to us now,” says Arsène. “We’ve gifted six goals in two games,” sighs a baffled David O’Leary as Leeds’ Champs League hopes fade further with a 2-1 defeat at Spurs. Ipswich slip into the bottom three after Marcus Bent misses a penalty in a goalless draw with Chelsea, while John Gregory is “almost lost for words” after Derby’s 1-0 home defeat by Middlesbrough. Everton survive the early dismissal of a punch-throwing Duncan Ferguson (“He was stupid and I’ve told him,” says his new manager) to record a 3-1 win over Bolton, also reduced to ten. In the First, West Brom’s 1-0 win at Coventry takes them level on points with Wolves, beaten 2-0 at home by Man City. Brighton go two points clear at the top of the Second with a last-minute winner against Bristol City, displacing Reading who draw at home with Northampton. Several Luton players are questioned by police following a nightclub brawl to celebrate their promotion. Halifax, 5-0 losers at Darlington, go down to the Conference for the second time in nine years.

Tuesday 2 Man Utd achieve their best European result of the season, winning 2-0 at Deportivo in the Champions League quarter-final. David Beckham, crocked in the final minute, may miss the return. Roy Keane is stretchered off with a hamstring injury and could be out for a month. Sir Alex is philosophical: “We have a pool of players to cope with injuries, so we’ll just have to get on with it.” The Football League will take ITV Digital to court if they don’t receive the £89 million due for the second year of their contract in August. Leicester’s new stadium is to be called the Walkers Bowl after the, er, savoury snack man­ufacturers who have paid £1.5 million for the privilege.

Wednesday 3 Sami Hyppia gives Liverpool a one-goal lead to take to Leverkusen in the Champions League. “Big players always play big when it matters,” advises Gérard. Worthington announce that they will not be renewing their League Cup sponsorship which expires next season.

Thursday 4 Micky Adams receives the key to the Leicester manager’s office, with Dave Bassett moving upwards (possibly as a prelude to outwards) as director of football. Chairman John Elsom is also removed at the behest of the club’s plc. Wimbledon move to within a point of the First Division play-offs with a 2-0 win over fast-fading Crewe. Stalybridge Celtic manager David Miller is revealed to be part of a syndicate that won £1 million in Saturday’s lottery. His relegation-threatened team has also won three out of three since he took over two weeks ago. Step aside, Sven.

Friday 5 The Football Association issue six charges against Sheffield United relating to the abandoned game with West Brom, but no one is charged with deliberately trying to halt the match.

Saturday 6 “It’s the most important kick of the season so far,” says Lauren after scoring the late penalty that gives Arsenal a 2-1 win over Spurs. Leicester are relegated after a 1-0 home defeat by Man Utd. Defender Gary Rowett hints at divisions within the dressing room: “My message to any players who don’t want to stick around would be – go now.” Derby seem certainties for the drop too after a 2-0 defeat at Southampton. Chief surgeon John Gregory may have to operate: “There are so many problems throughout the club that have festered and got bigger.” Ipswich are four down at half-time in their crucial match at Bolton, eventually losing 4-1. Chairman David Sheepshanks is greatly miffed: “Some players have to realise they can do a hell of a sight better.” Man City clinch the First Division title with a 5-1 win over Barnsley, after which Stuart Pearce announces his retirement: “I would embarrass myself in the Premiership.” Coventry manager Roland Nilsson and keeper Magnus Hedman are attacked by a fan during the 4-0 defeat at Preston. Brighton are promoted from the Second Division; Wrexham are relegated to the Third despite a 5-0 thrashing of fellow demotees Cambridge.

Sunday 7 West Brom go second in the First Division after a 1-1 draw with Rotherham, but it could have been a win had the ref spotted Jordao’s shot crossing the line before it was cleared. “It wasn’t even close,” rages Gary Megson. Steve Bruce is equally unhappy as play-off candidates Birmingham are held at home by the same score against Portsmouth: “For the referee to ignore two penalties is amazing.” FA chief Adam Crozier steps into the row over the Football League’s TV contract: “There is no doubt that the dispute has harmed the ITV brand in the eyes of the City, the consumer and indeed the sports industry.”

Monday 8 Newcastle miss a chance to move back into the fourth Champions League spot, being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Fulham. Defender Robbie Elliot thinks the tension is getting to the home crowd: “The fans are starting to pick on certain players now and that does us no favours.” Rangers and Celtic vote to reject the Scottish Premier League’s plans for a dedicated TV channel. SPL spokesman Rod Petrie issues a challenge: “It is time the Old Firm came out and told the Scottish football-sup­port­ing public exactly what they now see as the way forward.”

Tuesday 9 Michael Owen chalks up a hat-trick – of misses – as Liverpool are knocked out of the Champions League 4-2 at Leverkusen. M Gérard declines to apply blame: “At least he was getting himself into the right positions.” Mansfield’s 2-1 win over Cheltenham moves them above their opponents into the final automatic promotion spot in the Third. Garry Thompson is sacked by Bristol Rovers after only four months in charge.

Wednesday 10 David Beckham may miss the World Cup finals after breaking a bone in his foot during Man Utd’s 3-2 win over Deportivo that takes them into the Champions League semis. Birmingham move up to fourth in the First Division with a 3-1 victory over Crewe, who have gone ten games without a win. Jonathan Woodgate won’t play again this season after fracturing his jaw in a nightclub incident. Europe breathes easy as Middlesbrough announce that they don’t want to be considered for the Intertoto Cup. Leicester’s new ground will be called the Walkers Stadium rather than Bowl after supporter protests.

Thursday 11 Rangers’ chairman David Murray denies that the rejection of the SPL TV deal is connected to plans for a move south: “There has been much speculation about joining England but no one is going to run away to another league.” The Football League are keeping their options open, though: “No approach has been made to either club. However, we would be willing to meet with them.” Lincoln City go into administration. “Financial difficulties have been brought to a head by the demise of ITV Digital,” says chairman Rob Bradley. McDonald’s are the latest addition to the FA’s “five-pronged sponsorship strategy” and will fund a scheme to train 8,000 new coaches over the next four years. “If you invest as McDonald’s have done, you will have people enjoying sport, getting fit and keeping out of trouble,” says the company’s director of football... Sir Geoff Hurst.

Saturday 13 Liverpool move to within a point of Arsenal after a 1-0 win at Sunderland. Gérard gets his priorities right: “At least we are back in the Champions League because we can’t finish worse than fourth now.” Newcastle hold that fourth place, and all but condemn Derby to the drop, after coming back from two down to win 3-2 at Pride Park, though two of their goals looked offside. John Gregory declines to shrug it off: “I find it incredible that a linesman can be so incompetent.” Barnsley are relegated from the First after a 2-0 home defeat by Norwich, and Crewe seem set to join them after drawing at Forest while Walsall and Grimsby both win. Man City’s three goals at Gillingham take them to 105 for the season, the highest total by any club since Graham Taylor’s Lincoln City in 1976. Blackburn’s Matt Jansen is a surprise call-up to the England squad for the match with Paraguay. Andy Cole will be pleased for him.

Sunday 14 Chelsea and Arsenal will meet in the FA Cup final after 1-0 semi-final wins. Although Middlesbrough were only beaten by a freak own goal from Gianluca Festa, Arsène is unusually upbeat: “We have the strength to win the Double.” Claudio Ranieri stays calm, more or less: “There is a saying in Italy that you don’t sell the bear’s skin until you have shot it.” The results also mean that sixth spot, currently held by Leeds, guarantees a UEFA Cup berth. Wolves stay in the hunt for the second promotion place in the First, their 1-0 win over Wimbledon leaving them a point behind West Brom with one game left. Ruud van Nistelrooy wins the PFA player of the year award, and says he’s surprised it didn’t go to Robert Pires. Man City fans may have mixed feelings about the news that Peter Schmeichel is to join them after being released by Villa.

Monday 15 ITV Digital are given a seven-day reprieve from liquidation in the High Court. Meanwhile their administrators, noted football “experts” Deloitte and Touche, claim that a “campaign of negative publicity” is hampering negotiations with the League. That damn media. Plymouth clinch the Third Division title with a 4-1 win at Darlington.

Tuesday 16 The other ten clubs in the Scottish Premier League announce their intention to resign from the league, though it can’t take effect for two years. “The clubs need to operate under rules of fairness in terms of voting structure and distribution,” says Hearts chief executive Chris Robinson after talks with Celtic and Rangers break down. Coventry sack management duo Roland Nilsson and Jim Smith, who says: “The club has horrendous financial problems and big ambitions – maybe too big.” Nottingham Forest give up their plc status after the City refuses to back a proposed takeover of the club by major shareholer Nigel Doughty. “He could be the steal of the decade,” says Glenn Hoddle of Spurs’ free transfer signing Jamie Redknapp.

Wednesday 17 England’s captain for the day Michael Owen scores the first in a 4-0 win over a somnambulant Paraguay, the other three goals all being deflections off opposition defenders. Sven is still thinking about his squad, having made nine changes during the game: “I have changed my mind many times and the performance tonight made things harder.” Mick McCarthy has a similar dilemma (“I’m going to break a few hearts”) as Ireland use 19 players in beating the US 2-1. Scotland lose 2-1 to Nigeria at Pittodrie, and Northern Ireland collapse to a 5-0 home defeat against Euro 2004 opponents Spain. ITV Digital withdraw a “compromise” offer of £78 million for the remainder of their Football League contract. Bury’s first-team coach Billy Ayre dies of cancer aged 49.

Thursday 18 “Show us the money,” says Football League chief executive David Burns after the 72 club chairmen unanimously agree to press for the full sum owed by ITV Digital, making it more likely the dispute will go to court. Gillingham owner Paul Scally goes into a raging fury after three players attend an awards ceremony run by the club’s indep­endent supporters’ association, with whom he’s fallen out: “These people believe they should be running this club so I will allow them 30 days to find acceptable funding. If they fail to do so I shall put the club up for sale.”

Saturday 20 Liverpool stay top by winning their sixth game in a row, Michael Owen scoring the two goals that beat Derby, who are duly releg­ated. Gérard is upbeat: “We will take our hats off to the team that finishes above us.” Man Utd stay second with a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge that all but finishes Chelsea’s Champions League hopes. Sir Alex does his thing: “We just have to sit and wait, but it is a long wait for Arsenal too.” Fulham and Blackburn take big steps towards safety with wins at Leeds and Middlesbrough respectively, though Graeme Souness is cautious: “We have been in this game long enough to know that it can bite you in the backside.” Leicester reach Watford’s worst-ever Premiership points total of 24 after a draw with Villa, which ends with an incident likely to attract those FA disciplinarians as George Boateng flings Paul Dickov’s boot into the crowd. Reading clinch promotion from the Second Division with a 1-1 draw at Brentford. “It was a horrible game,” says Steve Coppell, understandably. Bournemouth and Bury go down. Mansfield leapfrog Cheltenham to take the third automatic place in the Third. Conference leaders Boston’s 4-0 win over Farnborough gives them a two-point lead over Dagenham with two games left.

Sunday 21 Two Freddie Ljungberg goals take Arsenal back to the top and push Ipswich closer to the First Division. Arsène is duly delighted: “This team is solid as a rock.” George Burley bemoans “a season of Jekyll and Hyde performances”. West Brom are promoted after beating Palace 2-0, while Wolves draw at Sheff Wed. “Now I will find it easier to explain to my son why I get up at 5.45 every morning to go to work,” says Gary Megson. Millwall, Birmingham and Norwich reach the play-offs, the latter finishing ahead of Burnley by one goal. Oh, and Sven-Goran Eriksson has apparently had an affair with Ulrika Jonsson. Latest reports say the world is still turning.

Monday 22 Sven-Goran Eriksson says he will see out his contract with England, despite recent tabloid investigations into his private life: “I have never thought about quitting.” Well-balanced Carlisle owner Michael Knighton threatens to withdraw from the League, saying: “The people of this town don’t deserve a football club.” ITV Digital is put up for sale by its administrators. The League will now look to sell its TV rights to another media group. Gary Megson hints that may leave West Brom after falling out with chairman Paul Thompson: “I could give you a whole list of complaints.”

Tuesday 23 The promotion race in the Conference will go to the last game after Boston draw 0-0 at Morecambe and now lead Dagenham, 2-0 winners at Woking, only on goal difference. The Football League say they would be interested in buying ITV Digital, in partnership with another broadcaster. Torquay chairman Mike Bateson blames “the situation ITV Digital has put us in” (fast becoming football’s September 11) for the resignation of his manager Roy McFarland.

Wednesday 24 Man Utd draw 2-2 at home with Bayer Leverkusen in their Champions League semi-final, but Sir Alex seems relaxed: “We all know we will score in Germany and if you do it changes the complexion of the game.” Gary Neville is this week’s player to break a foot and is doubtful for the World Cup. Arsenal go four points clear after two late goals see off West Ham, who’d had a goal wrongly disallowed when the linesman failed to see a Frédéric Kanouté shot crossing the line. Arsène is unperturbed and narrows his eyes: “We were a machine.” At the bottom, Ipswich move to within two points of Sunderland with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. Third Division chairmen agree in principle to a two-up two-down link to the Conference to begin next season, though financial details are still to be agreed. Terry Butcher, not yet God’s gift to management, gets another chance in the hotseat after Eric Black resigns at Motherwell, who are to go into administration. Gary McAllister is the new manager of Coventry.

Thursday 25 Fulham’s redevelopment of Craven Cottage has been delayed for a year due to local residents’ opposition.“It is a disgrace that a tiny minority can spoil the enjoyment of the majority in this cynical way,” says a club spokesman. Terry Burton is sacked by Wimbledon, with Bobby Gould among the favourites to take over. Be afraid. In other managerial changes, Ray Graydon takes over at Bristol Rovers, Kidderminster caretaker Ian Britton puts down his mop to take up the job on a permanent basis and Alan Buckley is released by cash-strapped Lincoln. Tousle-haired prankster Robbie Savage is fined £40,000 by Leicester for using the referee’s toilet before last Saturday’s match. Stefan Effenberg turns down a proposed move to Man City, allegedly because they weren’t prepared to pay him £60,000 per week. Could be a narrow escape for at least one of the parties involved.

Saturday 27 Ipswich are all but down after a dubious penalty (“A joke decision” – George Burley) gives Man Utd a 1-0 win at Portman Road. Charlton’s late equaliser at home to Sunderland means Ipswich must win and Sunderland lose on the last day if Town are to stay up. Liverpool’s chances of winning the league disappear with a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham. Fulham’s last game at the old Craven Cottage is about as anti-climactic as it gets – a 0-0 draw against Leicester. “If there was a party going on and a cake being presented, we wanted to blow the candles out,” says killjoy Foxes boss Micky Adams. Rochdale striker Lee McEvilly is assaulted by Rushden fans after the sides draw 2-2 in the Third Division play-off semi. Hartlepool and Cheltenham also draw, 1-1. Ayr’s match against Airdrie is abandoned after the away side’s fans invade the pitch and break the crossbar in protest at the involvement of Ayr chairman Bill Barr in their club. “I would say that unless you replay the game in Spain, it will be a non-starter,” says Airdrie’s manager Ian McCall.

Sunday 28 Norwich take the advantage in the First Division play-offs, coming from behind to beat Wolves 3-1, though a straw-clutching David Jones takes issue with the fitness of referee Roger Furnandiz (“He was chugging around at the end like an old tugboat”). Aston Villa loanee Dion Dublin gets a late equaliser for Millwall at Birmingham. In the Second Division first legs, Cardiff win 2-1 at Stoke, while Huddersfield and Brentford draw 0-0. Boston are promoted from the Conference thanks to a 2-0 win at Hayes. A rancorous campaign ends with Chester’s manager Mark Wright branding Boston’s Steve Evans “a disgrace” for suggesting his side would lie down against second-placed Dagenham. “It is now in the hands of our lawyers,” says Wright. In Scotland, Livingston secure a UEFA Cup place in their first SPL season, thanks to a 4-1 win over Dunfermline.

Monday 29 Arsenal’s 11th successive win, 2-0 at Bolton, gives them a five-point lead with two games to go. Arsène is not prepared to be carried away: “We’re very close but I want to win it before we celebrate.” Motherwell release 19 players. “It was only when SPL TV failed that the full gravity of our position was exposed,” says a club spokesman.

Tuesday 30 Man Utd do indeed score in Leverkusen, but go on to draw 1-1 and are knocked out of the Champions League on away goals. Goalscorer Roy Keane is in no doubt what defeat means: “United belong in the European Cup finals and this is a disaster for us.” “Leverkusen got the luck tonight,” says Sir Alex, who thinks their first-half equaliser came outside the allotted two minutes of injury time (he has a nice big watch). Cheltenham win their Third Division play-off against Hartlepool on penalties after their opponents’ final spot-kick is wrongly judged not to have crossed the line. An easy mistake – if the ref had been 30 yards behind play. Rushden beat Rochdale in the other semi. West Brom chairman Paul Thompson is to resign after arguing with grumpy ginge Gary Megson over their respective roles in transfer and contract negotiations: “Gary is at the point where he doesn’t like accepting the word ‘no’ from the chairman. The danger now is that the club may spin out of control.” Leeds are widely criticised for inviting orange-hued unfunnyman Stan Boardman to an official awards ceremony at which he jokes about the assault on Asian student Sarfraz Najeib.

From WSC 184 June 2002. What was happening this month

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