THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 2 The addition of Rio Ferdinand to Leeds’ defence has an instant impact, with Leicester scoring three times in the first half hour at Filbert Street. “One of my central defenders cost us all three goals but I’m not saying who it was,” says David O’Leary. The fact that Jonathan Woodgate was taken off after 37 minutes may be a clue. At Anfield, Alan Curbishley and Gérard Houllier disagree politely about Emile Heskey, who twice downs Richard Rufus. “I try to cool my players down and he tries to get my player sent off,” rages Houllier after Liverpool’s 3-0 win. “Mind you, he is English, so you forgive him.” In the First Division, Huddersfield win at home for the first time this season, beating Crewe 3-1. Wimbledon lose at home again, 1-0 to rising West Brom. “Maybe the players have a rampant sex life when they stay in their houses on Friday night,” ponders knockabout Dons boss Terry Burton. Oxford are seven points adrift in the Second after losing  3-2 at Oldham. “It is time to start kicking backsides because some of these players are looking for excuses and that’s why they are losers,” says manager David Kemp. Which should help boost morale.

Sunday 3 Chelsea get their first win in six games, 2-1 over Manchester City. Six league defeats in a row now for City. “If we’re going to have a bad spell, I’d prefer it to be now, rather than after Christmas,” says Joe Royle. But what if it’s both? Royle is unhappy about Dermot Gallagher, recently labelled a homer (or possibly a Homer) by Jim Smith. “I don’t want to go on about the referee’s per­formance,” Royle says. His ill-concealed fury is shared by Dick Advocaat, whose Rangers team wins 1-0 at Hearts despite having two players sent off. “I don’t want to talk about the referee,” he says. “It’s not allowed in this country.” Hibs stay second after a 3-1 win at Motherwell.

Monday 4 Terry Venables is confirmed as the new coach of Middlesbrough where he will allegedly be “working under” Bryan Robson. “I certainly don’t see any down side to this arrangement,” Bryan insists. “It will mainly be Terry picking the team, however I know he will bounce things off me.” Like the practice balls perhaps. Bryan Hamilton resigns as Norwich manager.

Tuesday 5 A Champions League triumph for Leeds who win away to Lazio away with a late goal from Alan Smith. “It just keeps getting better,” trills David, now said to be a target for Inter and... Lazio. Another nightmare for Arsenal, with Bayern coming back from two down to draw at Highbury. “We are disappointed but there is no magic cure,” sighs Arsène, who is involved in a contretemps with the fourth official at the final whistle, after which Gilles Grimandi goes in search of a fight. UEFA investigation pending.

Wednesday 6 Man Utd go into the Champions League winter break on top of their group after a 2-0 win at Sturm Graz. Charlton claim a loan agreement set up with Inter last summer means they have first option on Robbie Keane, though the player’s agents don’t seem to agree. Celtic pay £5.7 million for Neil Lennon.

Thursday 7 Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Olympiakos takes them into the last 16 of the UEFA Cup, prompting Gérard to risk a bit of boosterism: “There are some good teams left in this competition but maybe we are one of them.” “I knew my players would be motivated for this by the German-Dutch conflict,” says Kaiserslautern coach Andi Brehme after his side’s 3-0 win dumps Rangers out. He’s not thought to have been referring to William of Orange. Alan Sugar addresses Spurs’ fans concerns at the club’s AGM, telling the leader of the Tottenham Action Group: “Bring bona fide people to me and not just a bunch of monkeys and I will gladly step aside.”

Friday 8 Ken Bates is allowed to stay on as nominal head of the company alleged to be redeveloping Wembley, but the FA drastically downgrades his plans for the new stadium. Or, as Ken himself puts it: “I have received the unanimous backing of the FA and everything is fine.” Bobby Robson wants to bring Ronaldo to Newcastle on loan. “I know for a fact he would love to come here and play for me,” he says. Pelé and Maradona are involved in an unseemly dispute over FIFA’s player of the century award, for which the rules keep changing mysteriously. Maradona says: “Let’s be serious – don’t compare me with him any more.”

Saturday 9 Three non-League teams upset their notional betters in the Cup: Dagenham and Redbridge win 1-0 at Lincoln, Chester beat Oxford 3-2 and Morecambe put out Cambridge, while Northwich have to settle for a 3-3 draw with Leyton Orient. Goals, goals, goals in the Premiership, with Charlton scoring twice late on to hold Man Utd 3-3, Bradford doing the same to Tottenham and Arsenal and Man City putting five past Newcastle and Everton respectively. “In every season there is a game when you have to battle and scrap,” says Sir Alex condescendingly. The “Venables magic” hasn’t worked at Middlesbrough yet – they lose 1-0 at Sunderland – though Peter Reid pronounces Terry “relaxed and lively, which showed in his team’s performance”. In the First Division Watford go down to their fifth defeat in a row, 1-0 at Palace, whose determinedly crazy manager Alan Smith emerges for the press conference wearing boxing gloves. Sheff Wed score twice in the first 15 minutes but wind up losing 4-2 at home to Stockport. “The players read in the papers how good they are and started to believe it,” rages Paul Jewell. Not sure which paper he gets.

Sunday 10 Yeovil add another FA Cup victim to their list with a 1-0 win at Blackpool. “I thought we did try and play football, perhaps too much at times,” says Blackpool boss Steve McMahon, not altogether persuasively. In the geezer derby Southend put out  Canvey Island, 2-1. Neil Lennon makes his debut for Celtic in a 2-1 win at Dundee. In the Premiership, Ipswich go third after a 1-0 win at Liverpool, while Leicester go down by the same score at Coventry. “My players looked at the pitch and felt they couldn’t play on it,” says Peter Taylor. “I do not think that was a good enough excuse.” Us neither.

Tuesday 12 Birmingham reach the Worthington semis with a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wed. “This will be welcome revenue for the owners,” says Trevor Francis, pointedly. Paul Jewell, sent off by referee Jeff Winter, is puzzled: “I’m amazed we didn’t roll up our sleeves.” Bad weather causes the first half abandonment of Man City v Ipswich and the late postponement of Palace v Sunderland (“I said this morning no way will the game be on – Michael Fish could have told them,” yells the unstoppable Alan Smith).

Wednesday 13 Liverpool progress to the last four of the Worthington after beating Fulham 3-0 in extra time, Michael Owen – “Boy wonder (retd)” according to one paper – getting the first. The game is watched by 8,000  fewer people than see Huddersfeld’s 3-1 win at Forest, which takes them off the bottom of the First. Matt Elliott’s alleged elbow on Craig Bellamy during Leicester’s match at Coventry on Sunday is to be studied by the FA’s video experts. Bellamy’s team-mate David Thompson, who drew attention to the incident on his website, is mortified: “I shall be apologising to Matt at the earliest opportunity.”

Thursday 14 Internazionale’s team bus is firebombed on the way into the San Siro before an Italian Cup match against Parma, though no one is hurt. “If nothing’s done soon to calm things, someone will go into the stands with a gun and start shooting,” says coach Marco Tardelli. Referees will be allowed to wear sponsored shirts from next season. SpecSavers, your hour has come.

Friday 15 Alan Sugar confirms he is about to quit Tottenham. Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is the first to be touted as his likely successor, which would at least be harder for fans to work into a rude chant. UEFA reject this month’s version of the Atlantic League. Petulant general secretary Gerhard Aigner accuses the clubs involved of wanting “more receipts and a more attractive competition”. David James is the latest Villa player to ask for a transfer, citing lack of ambition. John Gregory is also concerned about David Ginola’s weight, accusing him of “carrying a bit of timber”. Which would probably be a first.

Saturday 16 Title-chasing Ipswich beat Southampton 3-1 thanks to two goals from Alun Armstrong, surplus to requirements at Middlesbrough. His old club get their first home win of the season, 1-0 over hapless travellers Chelsea. David Ginola removes his shirt to prove it’s all muscle after getting a late equaliser for Villa against Man City (and is commendably booked for his vanity). John Gregory, though, is unhappy at the dismissal of Lee Hendrie for dissent. “You don’t have to say too much to Mr D’Urso – he’s very precocious.” At Goodison Paolo Di Canio passes up the chance to score a late winner for West Ham by catching the ball in the area after Everton keeper Paul Gerrard goes down injured. “It was a fantastic thing to do, but I’d be lying if I said I was happy,” says confused Harry Redknapp. In the First Division, Bolton are the big movers, going four points clear in second place thanks to a goal from the returning Dean Holdsworth against sex-mad Wimbledon. Just when Aberdeen thought things couldn’t get any worse, they concede two goals to Ramon Vega on his debut for Celtic in a 6-0 win.

Sunday 17 Liverpool break all sorts of records by winning 1-0 at Old Trafford. It’s the first time for two years Sir Alex has had to accuse the referee of being biased after Leeds-based Mike Riley sends off Luke Chadwick: “He couldn’t get the boy off quick enough. I’m sure he will be the toast of Leeds tonight.” More fan problems in various parts of the world. Blackburn supporters are kept behind for over an hour after a tempestuous 2-0 win at Burnley in the resumed Lancashire derby. In Holland, fans riot in Den Bosch after the local mayor calls off a second division match in response to the killing of an alleged hooligan by police. The Rome derby, won 1-0 by Roma, is soured by increasingly extreme racist chanting and banners from Lazio fans. In Scotland, a goal from Oxford United reject Derek Lilley is enough to earn Dundee United a draw against Rangers.

Monday 18 A last minute Patrick Vieira equaliser saves a point for Arsenal in the north London derby. “I cannot understand how the referee allowed that goal to stand,” fumes George Graham, claiming Vieira fouled Les Ferdinand. Alan Sugar says he has yet to receive an offer for his Tottenham shares, “but we are, as they say, hot to trot”. Wolves sack Colin Lee. “We must not allow indifference to take hold,” says chief executive Jez Moxey.

Tuesday 19 Crystal Palace will meet Liverpool in the Worthington semis after a 2-1- win over Sunderland, former transfer-listee Clinton Morrison scoring the winner.  “I can’t accept getting beaten like that,” rages Peter Reid. Ipswich set up a semi with Birmingham by winning 2-1 at Maine Road. Ken Bates is replaced as chairman of Wembley National Stadium Limited by Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of Leicester City’s plc.

Wednesday 20 Having turned down moves to West Ham and Chelsea, Robbie Keane joins Leeds on loan, with a view to a permanent move. “Inter asked him which club he preferred and we are delighted he chose us,” says Peter Ridsdale. Leyton Orient fix up an FA Cup tie with Spurs after edging past Northwich 3-2 in extra time, the crucial goal coming when a keeper’s clearance rebounds in off striker Scott Houghton’s bum.

Thursday 21 Alan Sugar agrees to sell the majority of his controlling stake in Spurs to Daniel Levy, chief executive of ENIC, who already hold stakes in several European clubs. Levy, reported to be a season ticket holder, says: “We are firmly committed to improving Tottenham’s commercial viability.” So that will be nice. Liverpool reject Chelsea’s offer of £12 million for Robbie Fowler.

Saturday 23 “Maybe we’re in a false position,” says, Sir Alex, affecting to look concerned as Man Utd retain their ten-point lead with a 2-0 win over Ipswich. Liverpool’s revival continues with a 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal but Gérard is not fooled: “Even though we beat United last week it doesn’t mean we’re at their level.” Derby’s run continues with a 2-0 win over Newcastle, which moves them ahead of Man City, beaten by a quick free-kick at Sunderland: “The referee didn’t even blow his whistle,” says the customarily aghast Joe Royle. In the First, Fulham win as usual and Bolton go four points clear of the rest after inflicting Burnley’s second home derby defeat in a week. Millwall keep a narrow lead in the Second, Chesterfield head the Third by four points, which is also the margin to be made up by Carlisle if they are to avoid the drop. The news that Villa are to spend £10 million on Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel doesn’t stop John Gregory accusing his chairman of being “stuck in a time warp” for refusing to sanction more spending.

Tuesday 26 More unrest at Villa, whose 1-0 home defeat by Man Utd is overshadowed by Doug Ellis’s response to Gregory: “I’m furious with what has been said and will deal with it face to face.” Arsenal thrash Leicester 6-1. Liverpool go down 1-0 at Middlesbrough, whose failure to install undersoil heating at the Riverside is blamed by butter-fingers Sander Westerveld: “The ball had ice on it.” Travel-sick Chelsea get as close as they’ve been to an away win this season, taking a two-goal lead at Ipswich before drawing 2-2. Coventry keeper Chris Kirkland is struck by a coin during his side’s 2-1 win at Everton. Fulham’s stroll towards promotion continues with a 5-0 thrashing of Watford. Rotherham lose their record of being the only League side to score in every game this season with a 0-0 draw against Notts County. Celtic’s 4-0 win at Dundee United means there are 53 points between top and bottom in the Scottish Premier.

Wednesday 27 “We played all the football, they played the long ball and it paid off,” is George Graham’s assessment of Spurs’ latest away defeat, 2-0 at Southampton. Dennis Bergkamp agrees a new two-year deal with Arsenal.

Saturday 30 The year ends with the fixture list in the icy grip of the Pools Panel. Man Utd concede a late equaliser at Newcastle but stay eight points clear, as Arsenal lose a two-goal lead to draw at home with Sunderland. “I asked my players a lot of questions at half-time and they gave me the right answers,” says quizmaster Peter Reid.  Man City drop into the bottom three after being hammered 4-1 at home by Charlton. In the First Division Bolton miss a chance to close the gap on Fulham, losing 1-0 to West Brom. Millwall’s lead in the Second is cut to two points as they are beaten at home by Notts County while Wigan win at Luton. Peter Davenport is sacked as manager of Macclesfield for refusing to work with the new  director of football Gil Prescott. And a happy new year to you too.

From WSC 168 February 2001. What was happening this month

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