THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 1 Blackburn move into the second promotion spot in the First Division with a 5-0 thrashing of Burnley, prompting Graeme Souness to issue a warning: “We’ll be treating every fixture like it’s the last game of our lives.” After a 1-0 home defeat by Wolves, Birmingham’s sights are now set no higher the play-offs, where they could yet be joined by Sheffield United, who win their local derby, 2-1 at Hillsborough. Leicester’s European hopes fade with a 2-0 defeat at Charlton, but Peter Taylor has identified the problem: “We are missing a footballer.”

Tuesday 3 Man Utd lose to a late goal at home to Bayern in the Champions League (or is it Cup now?) and will be without the booked David Beckham for the return leg. Sir Alex puts on a brave face: “It’s only half-time. The worry for them is losing a goal.” Gérard Houllier gets into a strop with the Premier League, who refuse to reschedule busy Liverpool’s forthcoming league match with Ipswich: “It’s obvious that some people would prefer them to be in the Champions League rather than us.”

Wednesday 4 Leeds’ 3-0 win over La Coruña allows their manager to bask in self-parody: “For a young team we showed a lot of maturity.” Arsenal come from a goal down to beat Valencia 2-1, leaving Arsène all fired up: “I have some regrets because we could have had more. We must attack them again.” Steve Bruce is the new manager of Wigan Athletic. QPR’s administrators say they have received two bids for the club, one from the property developer son of a former chairman.

Thursday 5 Liverpool grind out a goalless bore in their UEFA Cup semi-final first leg in Barcelona. Understandably, M Gérard is unrepentant: “I would prefer to be loyal to our fans and sacrifice some of my principles to get a result.”

Saturday 7 “This was all about being brave,” says Gordon Strachan as Coventry’s revival continues with John Hartson scoring twice in a 3-1 win at Leicester, who have now lost four league games in a row. Derby slip back intro trouble after being thrashed 4-0 at home by Chelsea. Despite drawing at Watford, Palace move into the bottom three in the First Division, above QPR and Tranmere, both beaten again and looking doomed. Second Division leaders Millwall take a three-point lead over Rotherham after beating them 4-0. Oxford are the first team to be relegated this season, courtesy of a 1-0 defeat to Oldham. Celtic are Scottish champions after a 1-0 win over St Mirren.

Sunday 8 Spurs’ year ends in 01 with an FA Cup semi-final defeat by Arsenal, who come from behind with Robert Pires scoring the winner. “We weren’t big enough or strong enough mentally,” sighs Glenn. Liverpool score two late goals against Wycombe, who pull one back just before time. Lawrie Sanchez is not downcast: “This is not the end for us. I hope to be talking promotion this time next year.” Man City slip further into trouble with a 3-1 defeat at Everton.

Monday 9 Middlesbrough and Sunderland get a goalless draw that isn’t much good to either. Christian Karembeu’s late dismissal adds to Boro’s woeful disciplinary record.

Tuesday 10 The match that Gérard was dreading ends in a 1-1 draw, Alun Armstrong equalising an earlier goal from Emile Heskey. And still he goes on, in barely coherent fashion: “We had our knees on the floor but Ipswich could knock us by playing the match on this day. And why not?” Man Utd are two wins away from the championship after beating Charlton 2-1. A 1-0 win over Birmingham takes Tranmere off the bottom of the First, at the expense of QPR, who surrender a two-goal lead in the last four minutes to draw at Crewe. Halifax, beaten at home by Blackpool, replace Torquay at the foot of the Third. Australia set a world record by beating American Samoa 31-0 in an Oceania World Cup qualifier.

Wednesday 11 Man City set their sights on the First Division after losing 4-0 at home to Arsenal, who declare before half-time. Joe Royle, not known for praising opponents, is impressed: “It wasn’t a question of us being poor. They played football from a different planet.” A last-minute goal in a 2-1 win at Blackburn (“We have been punched on the nose in the cruellest of ways,” says Graeme Souness) takes Fulham to within three points of promotion. Forty-three people are crushed to death at a South African league match in Johannesburg.

Thursday 12 Chesterfield are fined £20,000 and have nine points deducted as punishment for financial irregularities. “We are surprised that some of the charges have not been upheld,” says a League spokesman, while former chairman Darren Brown is “extremely confident” that the club will have the points restored on appeal.

Friday 13 Leeds consolidate the third Champions League place with a 2-1 win over Gérard’s nags (“we were bad”) at Anfield. “That was not acceptable,” says Alan Curbishley, understating furiously after a 2-0 defeat for Charlton against Bradford. Blackburn’s promotion chances are improved further by Bolton’s 2-2 draw with Birmingham.

Saturday 14 Man Utd are champions again after beating Coventry 4-2, while Arsenal lose 3-0 at home to Middlesbrough. “It’s always great,” says Sir Alex. “It hurt me more back in November when I knew that we couldn’t win the title,” says Arsène from inside a black cloud. At the unpleasant end, Man City still nurture hopes of survival with a 2-1 win at everyone’s favourite opponents, Leicester, while Derby and Everton are still in the sticky stuff after defeats at West Ham and Villa respectively. Fulham clinch promotion with a 2-1 win at Huddersfield and are 25-1 to win next season’s Premiership. Preston miss a chance to take a five-point lead over their play-off pursuers after conceding a last-minute equaliser at home to Forest. Despite a goalless home draw with Oldham, Joe Kinnear hasn’t given up hope of Luton staying the Second: “We’ll be all right if we win our last six games.” In the Third, Brighton are up after victory at Plymouth and Chesterfield, who beat Kidderminster, will be too if they get their points back. Hibs reach the Scottish Cup final with a 3-0 win over Livingston.

Sunday 15 Henrik Larsson’s two goals in Celtic’s 3-1 Scottish Cup semi-final victory against Dundee United means that he breaks Charlie Nicholas’s record of 48 in a season.

Monday 16 John Hartson scores the only goal in Coventry’s win over Sunderland, which leaves Gordon Strachan starting to think about next season’s Premiership fixtures: “We believe that we can win all our remaining games.” Derby stay five points clear of the relegation zone after inflicting Leicester’s sixth successive league defeat, 2-0, in the process drawing level with Everton, beaten by a 40-yard Gary McAllister free kick in injury time which gives Liverpool their first win at Goodison in 11 years. Tranmere are four points adrift at the foot of the First after a 2-0 defeat by QPR. Palace, booed off after a 2-0 home defeat by Bolton, stay third bottom. In the Second, Luton and Swansea look all but down after losing again. Halifax stay bottom of the third despite a 3-0 win over Shrewsbury, while Carlisle have three players plus manager Ian Atkins sent off in a 3-0 defeat at Scunthorpe, whose manager, Brian Laws, accuses them of trying to get a fourth dismissed to force the abandonment of the game. Referee Mike North dies after collapsing during Southend’s match with Mansfield.

Tuesday 17 Leeds are through to the Champions League semi-finals on a 3-2 aggregate after a 2-0 defeat in La Coruña. David O’Leary is pleased, in quite a graphic way: “It is nice to shove it up all those people who jumped on our backs at the start of the season.” Their next opponents will be Valencia, who knock out Arsenal on away goals after a 1-0 win. “You can never be sure that you will have such a chance again,” sighs Arsène.

Wednesday 18 Man Utd are knocked out of the Champions League, losing 2-1 in Munich. Sir Alex is disconsolate – “This defeat takes away the joy of winning the Premiership” – while Roy Keane wants to see some changes: “Maybe it’s the end of the road for this team.” Third Division club chairmen ask for the points penalty imposed on Chesterfield to be increased.

Thursday 19 Liverpool reach the final of the UEFA Cup, beating Barcelona with a Gary McAllister penalty at Anfield. “They rubbished us and there was a total lack of respect,” McAllister says. “But we are through and they are out.” In the final Liverpool will meet Alavés, who complete a 9-2 aggregate win over Kaiserslautern and are the first team to reach a European final at the first attempt. Gérard Houllier is again quick to stress how much more fun it will be to finish third in the league, however. “We want above all a place in the Champions League,” he says.

Saturday 21 Chelsea and Coventry are the big losers in the Champions League and relegation battles, the Londoners going down 1-0 at home to Charlton and City losing 2-0 at Ipswich, now definitely in the UEFA Cup at least. Inscrutable Middlesbrough put three past Leicester to complete a neat quartet of defeats against relegation strugglers for Peter Taylor’s team. Derby go down 2-0 at Bradford, prompting Jim Smith to remark: “We are in no more trouble than we were before.” Except that their last three games are against the top three. Roy Keane is sent off for one of the fouls of the season on Alf-Inge Haaland in the drawn Manchester derby, though Derby’s Seth Johnson runs him close with a two-footed leap at Stuart McCall. “I did not see the incident myself,” says Sir Alex. At Highbury, Everton’s Alex Nyarko walks off and says he is retiring after an aggrieved fan runs on the pitch and offers to swap shirts with him. Issues settled down the league include relegation for QPR and Tranmere in the First and Swansea from the Second. They will swap places with Cardiff, definitely promoted from the Third. The big Conference showdown ends in a 0-0 draw between Rushden and Yeovil.

Sunday 22 Liverpool keep up their challenge for the competition that really matters by beating sagging Tottenham 3-1 at Anfield. In the First Division, Preston beat Watford 3-2 to cement their play-off spot. “It’s games like this that make you think ‘Thank goodness it’s only six weeks to retirement’,” says Graham Taylor. Port Vale win the LDV Vans Trophy at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, scoring twice late on to beat Brentford 2-1. Chelsea vice-president Peter Harrison is said to be preparing a hostile takeover bid for the club. “It’s a load of rubbish,” says the current owner.

Monday 23 Man Utd confirm the signing of Ruud van Nistelrooy for £19 million. “It’s incredible a club like Manchester United can wait for a player for so long,” he says. “It gives me such a warm feeling.” The wages will help, too.

Tuesday 24 The Football League board of directors reject the nine point punishment imposed on Chesterfield as insufficient and asks their disciplinary panel to re-consider. “This is bad new s for the club and the town, ” says Chesterfield’s chief executive. While they’re feeling flush, Man Utd are said to have bid £20 million for Kieron Dyer, though Newcastle insist he is not for sale. Luton are relegated from the Second Division after a home defeat by Rotherham. A win over Darlington takes Torquay above Halifax at the bottom of the Third.

Wednesday 25 The Republic of Ireland come back from a goal down to beat the massed ranks of Andorra 3-1 in their World Cup qualifier. “I hate these games,” growls Mick McCarthy. High excitement for San Marino, who get their first ever away point , drawing 1-1 with Latvia. The latter’s English coach, Gary Johnson, is sacked after the match. Scotland’s friendly in Poland ends 1-1. Locking a stable door, UEFA ban Galatasaray’s stadium from staging European games for “a serious overall lack of security”. Watford decline to confirm rumours that Gianluca Vialli is to become their new manager.

Thursday 26 Alex Nyarko revises his decision to retire but his spokesman thinks a move is on the cards: “I don’t think he would like to stay at Everton.” Kevin Phillips, barracked by Sunderland fans during the recent match with Newcastle, is said to have asked for a transfer. Colin Hendry is “stunned” by a six-match international ban imposed for his alleged assault on an opponent during Scotland’s match with San Marino. Bryon Butler, former football correspondent for BBC radio, dies aged 66.

Saturday 28 Man City still have a chance of salvation after a 1-0 win over West Ham (“We’ve gone from 100-1 to 50-1,” says Joe Royle with a flurry of hand movements) which takes them a point above Coventry, beaten 2-0 by Liverpool. Gordon Strachan keeps his chin up: “It’s not in our hands now but all we can do is win two games.” Derby and Middlesbrough are four points ahead after home defeats by Arsenal and Man Utd. Bradford are down, missing two penalties in a 2-1 defeat at Everton. “It was never going to be a quick fix,” concedes Jim Jefferies, though he still looks happier than Walter Smith. Preston, Birmingham and West Brom clinch the remaining First Division play-off spots, while Palace are on the brink of relegation after losing at home to Wolves. Rotherham come up from the Second, their second promotion season in a row, after a last-minute winner against Brentford, while rivals Reading lose at Colchester. Leaders Millwall also clinch promotion with a 1-1 draw at Wrexham that is twice interrupted by crowd violence. There are 16 arrests in Oldham after fighting before and after the match with Stoke City. Barnet’s 15th successive away defeat, 3-2 at Blackpool, dumps them on the bottom of the Third. Their last match of the season at home to Torquay should decide who drops down, though three other clubs are still in it. Livingston are promoted to the Scottish Premier League.

Sunday 29 Teddy Sheringham, already voted the Football Writers’ Player of the year, wins the PFA award too. Celtic heap further humiliation on Rangers with their first win at Ibrox in seven years, 3-0. Blackburn need three more points to go up after a 3-1 win over Portsmouth, whose next match is a relegation showdown with Palace, now managerless after the sacking of Alan Smith: “Things were not going the way they needed to go,” says club chairman Simon Jordan, correctly.

Monday 30 Ipswich’s Champions League hopes suffer a major blow with a 2-1 defeat at Charlton. “It may be a step too far now,” concedes George Burley. Chesterfield have been bought by a fans co-operative. The club still face a winding-up order with debts of over £1 million. X

From WSC 172 June 2001. What was happening this month

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