THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tuesday 1 Plenty of encouragement for Man Utd as would-be contenders Liverpool draw 1-1 (“You always feel with Bolton you need the extra goal,” says Phil Thompson) and Chelsea collapse 4-2 at home to Southampton. “It is very strange,” says Claudio Ranieri, rubbing his chin as though he had discovered a new phenomenon. Leeds stay top after disposing of West Ham 3-0. Newly buoyant Ipswich spring a leak, losing 3-2 at Charlton after Marcus Bent scores twice in the first five minutes. “You always remain optimistic,” says Walter Smith unconvincingly after Everton’s fifth defeat in a row, 1-0 at Middles­brough. Nicky Law leaves Chester­field to take over at Bradford City.

Wednesday 2 Man Utd’s sixth win on the trot, 3-1 over Newcastle, takes them up to second. “I knew they’d come because they have too many good players,” sighs Bobby Robson. Paolo Di Canio may be on his way too, though West Ham have turned down an offer of £3.5 million from Old Trafford. Derby stay in the bottom three after a Horacio Carbonari own goal secures Fulham’s win at Pride Park. 

Saturday 5 On a day when several FA Cup ties are cancelled due to bad weather, Leyton Orient provide the biggest upset, winning 4-1 at Portsmouth, whose manager Graham Rix immediately goes into “talks” with owner Milan Mandaric. Dagenham take the lead against Ipswich but lose 4-1. The other non-League side left, Canvey Island, go out by the same score at Burnley. With Everton’s 1-0 win at Stoke giving Walter Smith a stay of execution, Sunderland are the only Premiership side knocked out, 2-1 at home by West Brom. John Terry plays in Chelsea’s goalless draw at Norwich, hours after being released by police following a nightclub fracas. Reading join Stoke at the top of the Second Division after a 1-0 win over QPR.

Sunday 6 Cardiff and Bristol Rovers provide belated third round shocks, putting out Leeds and Derby respectively, but Cardiff’s 2-1 win is overshadowed by serious crowd trouble and pathetic antics from Sam Hammam, who ends up in confrontations with a BBC reporter and David O’Leary. The Leeds manager is also upset about the sending-off of Alan Smith: “I think referees sit around at their meetings talking about him,” he says, probably correctly. Rovers win 3-1 at a sparsely populated Pride Park, thanks to a hat-trick from Nathan Ellington, while Cheltenham reach the fourth round for the first time by beating Oldham 2-1 and West Ham win 3-0 at Macclesfield. At Villa Park, Man Utd score three times in five minutes to overhaul Aston Villa’s 2-0 lead. John Gregory, always one to stand out from the crowd, says: “Hand on heart, I could not see them scoring.”

Monday 7 The English FA and the FA of Wales will jointly investigate the crowd violence at the Cardiff v Leeds FA Cup tie. Sam Hammam is unrepentant: “If I walk around the pitch to get the crowd going, so what? I am just being a mascot.” Fulham’s bid to sign striker John Carew from Valencia collapses when he fails a medical due to a condition known as “jumper’s knee”. A day after leaving Mansfield Bill Dearden becomes Notts County’s new manager. Jody Morris and Wimbledon’s Des Byrne are also charged with assault for the nightclub incident involving John Terry.

Tuesday 8 The Metropolitan Police refuse permission for Arsenal’s fourth round FA Cup tie with Liverpool to kick off at 7pm on a Sunday to fit in with BBC schedules. “We have to consider crowd safety and public order. There is also the issue of people drinking all day before going to matches,” says a police spokesman. Basking in the spotlight, Sam Hammam announces that he will stop his touchline antics “for the good name of football”. England assistant coach Tord Grip is in hospital after suffering heart problems. Andy Cole scores his first goal for Blackburn as they take a 2-1 lead from their Worthington Cup semi away at Sheffield Wednesday. Fulham need an 88th minute equaliser to avoid FA Cup defeat at Wycombe.

Wednesday 9 Liverpool’s poor run of form continues with a 2-0 defeat at Southampton. “I hope people write us off now because I know what we’re capable of,” says Phil Thompson, who may be about to write a big cheque to buy Trevor Sinclair. Chelsea will take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their Worthington Cup semi with Spurs. Players from both sides are hit by missiles thrown from the crowd, and Chelsea managing director Colin Hutchinson issues a warning: “Fans have been give the freedom to watch games without being caged and I hope the idiots don’t send us down the route of reversing that decision.”

Thursday 10 More fallout from Cardiff, with the news that one of Sam Hammam’s minders is a convicted hooligan. “We know that poachers make the best gamekeepers,” says Hammam. Millwall and Birmingham share a lively 1-1 draw at the New Den where one player and both managers are sent off and an assistant referee is hit by a meat pie.

Saturday 12 Danny Mills does his bit for Leeds’ public relations by getting sent off for kicking Craig Bellamy in his club’s 3-1 defeat at St James’. That takes Newcastle back to the top for a day. “We don’t need people missing matches through stupidity,” says a cross David O’Leary. At the bottom Ipswich creep up by beating Tottenham 2-1, and Middlesbrough’s defeat by the same score at Fulham leaves them only one place above the bottom three. In a shot-shy First Division, Sheff Wed’s 1-0 win over Crewe is the most critical result of the day, while Graham Rix’s Portsmouth lose yet again, 3-1 at Bradford, and have two players sent off. “We have had more kicks in the teeth as a club than is normal,” Rix complains. Reading are top of the Second after winning 1-0 at Huddersfield. In the Third, Leyton Orient suffer the rare experience of letting in five goals in half an hour against Carlisle, and wind up 6-1 losers.

Sunday 13 Arsenal and Liverpool draw 1-1 at Highbury, leaving Man Utd to take over at the top thanks to their 3-1 win at Southampton. “They’ll have a slight blip,” hopes Phil Thompson. “I don’t believe they’ll stay top for the rest of the season.” Man City are three points clear in the First after they beat Norwich 3-1, though Danny Tiatto is sent off after ten minutes and nearly sparks a brawl with the Norwich bench. “He wanted to fight the world, and that’s bad,” says Kev. Wolves stay in touch with a win over Coventry, who have David Thompson dismissed. Bottom club Stockport lose their tenth game in a row, 1-0 at home to Palace.

Monday 14 “The overwhelming feeling was that we needed a change of direction,” says Derby chief executive Keith Loring as Colin Todd is sacked after three months in charge. The club decline to comment on claims that Fabrizio Ravanelli may be asked to take over. Dick Advocaat has to turn down the Holland manager’s job because Rangers won’t release him from his contract. His employers avoid a repetition of their most embarrassing defeat with a goalless draw at Berwick in the Scottish Cup.

Tuesday 15 Some rare good news for fans of up-for-sale York City as their team knock Grimsby out of the FA Cup, 1-0. Middlesbrough’s 2-0 win over Wimbledon is watched by one of their lowest ever crowds for an FA Cup tie – 9,687. Darlington miss a twice-taken penalty in their draw with Peterborough. Millwall’s 1-0 win over Watford takes them up to second in the First Division.

Wednesday 16 Southampton are the latest Premiership team to go out of the Cup, beaten 2-1 at Rotherham. In other ties Chelsea crush Norwich 4-0, Tottenham see off Coventry 2-0 at Highfield Road and Bolton enjoy themselves against everyone’s favourite opponents, Stockport, winning 4-1. Blackburn are also through, beating Barnsley 3-1, though Graeme Souness is unimpressed: “Certain individuals wanted to show how clever they are.” In the First Division Crystal Palace enjoy a 3-1 win over Gillingham described by Trevor Francis as “exhilarating”. Roy Hodgson and Ossie Ardiles are said to be in the frame for the Derby job. In the women’s League Cup semi-final, Arsenal lose their first game for 22 months, going down 3-2 to Fulham.

Thursday 17 Wolves strengthen their promotion challenge with a 3-2 win at hapless Portsmouth. Dave Beasant replaces Japan’s Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi in goal, only to let a tame free-kick slip through his grasp for the first goal. “I wanted to say well done to the players but I couldn’t because we have given three bad goals away,” says Graham Rix. Patrick Vieira is reported to have been seen in “top secret” negotiations in Madrid.

Friday 18 The Uruguayan superstar no one had heard of a week ago, Diego Forlan, snubs Steve McClaren to sign for his old boss for £6.9 million. “I had offers from Middlesbrough and Manchester United, but United offered me more so I’m going there,” he says disarmingly.

Saturday 19 Glum draws for Newcastle (0-0 at Leicester) and Liverpool (1-1 at home to Southampton) increase Man Utd’s pleasure in a narrow 2-1 win over Blackburn that takes them two points clear. “I don’t know where it went wrong,” says a despairing Phil Thompson. “You tell me.” Ipswich are out of the bottom three, thanks to a 3-1 win at managerless Derby, to be replaced by Middlesbrough, who draw 1-1 with Bolton. “We have to be big enough to deal with what the fans are saying,” says Gareth Southgate, covering his ears. In the First Division, triumphant Stockport finally avoid defeat, drawing 0-0 at Coventry. Rangers’ 1-0 win at Aberdeen is interrupted for 17 minutes after objects are thrown on to the pitch. In the African Nations Cup, hosts Mali draw 1-1 in the opener with “George Weah’s Liberia”. The former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle dies, aged 59.

Sunday 20 More reasons to be cheerful for Man Utd as Leeds and Arsenal draw 1-1 at Elland Road. Against expectations, no one is sent off there, but Paolo Di Canio gets a red at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea beat West Ham 5-1. “Now I’ve got a three-match ban, Man Utd won’t buy me for £1,” he says mournfully. In the First Division, Man City romp clear with a 2-1 win at Watford, while West Brom beat Walsall 1-0. “He doesn’t deserve to feel bad about it,” says Gianluca Vialli after Heidar Helguson’s own goal gives City victory. “We all still love him.”

Monday 21 “Our goal is fourth place,” says John Gregory as Aston Villa move up to seventh with a 2-1 win at Charlton. Peterborough’s 2-0 win over Darlington clinches an FA Cup fourth round tie with Newcastle. Barry Fry duly announces that he will field a reserve side at tomorrow night’s league match with Tranmere: “It’s a disgrace that we have three games in four days.” “We’re not looking for a comedian here, we’re looking for a football manager,” says Scottish FA chief executive David Taylor, confirming that Berti Vogts will be the new national coach.

Tuesday 22 Man Utd 0 Liverpool 1, Danny Murphy the scorer five minutes from time. Phil Thompson is happy: “No title is ever won in January, we will be there in the shake-up come May.” Sir Alex less so: “All they did was knock the ball down the middle.” Blackburn reach the Worthington final after completing a 6-3 aggregate win over Sheff Wed. Walsall put up a contender for the strangest boardroom decision of the season by sacking Ray Graydon.

Wednesday 23 “That was the way to nail the record to the mast,” says a jubilant and possibly confused Glenn as Spurs overcome their 26-game Chelsea hoodoo by beating them 5-1 in their Worthington semi second leg. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is sent off for being close to Mario Melchiot when the latter punches Teddy Sheringham. Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Leicester takes them to second, a point behind with a game in hand. Cheering crowds throng the streets of Carlisle after Michael Knighton sells his controlling interest in the club to Irish businessman John Courtenay.

Thursday 24 John Gregory resigns. “It was most unexpected but has been amicable,” says Villa chairman Doug Ellis, though some might not believe him on either count. Former Wolves manager Colin Lee takes charge at Walsall.

Friday 25 England will face Turkey in the Euro 2004 qualifiers, plus three countries they’ve not played before: Slovakia, Macedonia and Liechtenstein. Scotland get Germany but otherwise a fairly soft draw. Russia will be the Republic of Ireland’s main opponents. Northern Ireland and Wales (with Spain/Ukraine and Italy/Yugoslavia respectively) will be aiming for third spot in their groups, as per. The FA announce that Mario Melchiot will receive a suspension for the red card wrongly given to Hasselbaink. Adam Crozier suggests St James’ Park could be one of the venues for the 2008 European Championship if a joint bid by Scotland and the Republic of Ireland is successful.

Saturday 26 FA Cup surprises at Charlton, who lose 2-1 to Walsall (“Everything we did was too hurried,” says Alan Curbishley), and Middlesbrough, where Man Utd concede two in the last five minutes, the first an error by Laurent Blanc described as “ridiculous” by his manager. Sheffield Utd’s Neil Warnock waxes nostalgic about the handball decision that brought the decisive goal in Preston’s 2-1 win: “The last time I saw something like that it was on a black and white TV.” Dave Bassett is equally cross about the penalty by which West Brom beat Leicester: “You hope the referee gets it right because those decisions affect players’ careers.” Inverness CT’s 3-1 win at Hearts takes the cup headlines in Scotland. Reading take a nine-point lead in the Second Division after a 3-0 win over Colchester; Plymouth, 4-2 victors against Oxford, are seven points clear in the Third.

Sunday 27 High dudgeon at Highbury, where three are sent off in Arsenal’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Liverpool, including the goalscorer Dennis Bergkamp for assaulting Jamie Carragher, who is then dismissed for chucking back a coin thrown from the crowd; Martin Keown had gone earlier. “Maybe we need to improve our behaviour,” says Arsène. Newcastle need two late goals to see off Peterborough 4-2. Sam Hammam is banned from sitting on the bench as Cardiff go out 3-1 at Tranmere, and Cheltenham balance their books for the season with a 2-1 win over Burnley. Man City thrash Ipswich 4-1 away and will now face Newcastle. “If we lose there I’d like them to go and win the Cup,” says Little Kev, cherubically.

Tuesday 29
Man Utd won’t be signing Paolo di Canio, as Sir Alex explains: “That has been derailed because of Dwight’s reluctance, or his agent’s reluctance, to move to Middlesbrough.” Still, they go four points clear with an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hat-trick contributing to a 4-0 win at Bolton, who duly slip into the bottom three. Middlesbrough move out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at Sunderland, who are booed off. Peter Reid: “It’s a sticky patch but our ability will get us out of it.” In front of a wincing John Gregory (or does he always look like that?) Derby sink further into the mire with a 1-0 defeat at Charlton. Wolves miss a chance to join Man City at the top of the First Division, losing 1-0 at Barnsley. Stoke’s 2-1 win at Peterborough takes them up to second place in the Second. An FA tribunal rules that the Football League must reconsider their decision to block Wimbledon’s proposed move to Milton Keynes. Liverpool buy the enigmatic Abel Xavier from Everton for £800,000.

Wednesday 30 “If the sleeves aren’t rolled up already, then they will be from now on,” says John Gregory on taking over at Derby. Arsenal close to within a point of Man Utd after a controversial 3-2 win at Blackburn – Oleg Luzhny’s dismissal is the 43rd of the Wenger era and Dennis Bergkamp might have gone too for hitting an opponent. “If you smack somebody in the mouth you deserve to go,” says combat expert Graeme Souness. Bobby Robson talks of a “monumental performance” after Newcastle stay third with a 3-1 win at Spurs. Emile Heskey’s second goal in 35 games is enough for Liverpool to beat his old club, Leicester. Leeds slip further off the pace with a fight-free 2-0 defeat at Chelsea. Villa fans stage an “Ellis Out” march prior to their goalless draw with Everton. Man City survive the early dismissal of Ali Benarbia to beat Millwall 2-0 for a six-point lead in the First. Coventry chairman Bryan Richardson resigns after a unanimous vote of no-confidence from his board. “If we hadn’t done it, Coventry might not have had a football in club in 12 months,” says his successor, Mike McGinnity.

Thursday 31 Four players – Patrick Vieira, Alan Smith, Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink – are charged with misconduct by the FA on the basis of video evidence. All could face three-match bans if found guilty.

From WSC 181 March 2002. What was happening this month

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