THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Wednesday 1 Holders Leicester crash out of the Worthington Cup, 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace. “Our players have found out that they are not invincible,” says crown prince Peter Taylor. Arsenal reserves lose 2-1 at home to Ipswich. Wednesday win the Sheffield derby in extra time. Robbie Fowler’s first goal since the Reformation beats Chelsea. Joe Kinnear is named director of football at Oxford, with David Kemp becoming team manager. Tony Cottee replaces John Still, booted upstairs at Barnet. Lou Macari and Joe Jordan are the new management team at First Division laggers Huddersfield.

Thursday 2 Airdrie fans raise the £15,000 demanded by the club’s liquidators who had locked manager-owner Steve Archibald out of the ground in a dispute over debt repayments. Adam Crozier claims there is “lack of closeness” among England players, which is blamed on card schools encouraged by noted gambler Kevin Keegan.

Saturday 4 As you were, with Man Utd and Arsenal winning at Coventry and Middlesbrough respectively. Liverpool forget to defend again, losing a two-goal lead in a 4-3 defeat at Leeds, all of whose goals are scored by modest Mark Viduka. “I don’t think I had an exceptionally good match,” he says. “It was a strange game of different halves,” sighs Claudio Ranieri’s interpreter after Chelsea come from two down only to concede an injury time winner at Southampton. Watford and Fulham continue to run roughshod over the First Division with thumping home wins. Joe Kinnear’s oft-declared desire for a chal­lenge looks set to be satisfied by Oxford, whose 14th defeat in 17 league games, 1-0 at home to Bristol Rovers, leaves them 11 points adrift of safety in the Second. A home win takes Halifax off the bottom of the league to be replaced by Michael Knighton’s best-known creditors, beaten 4-1 by Brighton. Hartlepool sack their mascot, H’angus the Monkey, for simulating sex with an unwilling partner during the half-time lottery draw at Scunthorpe.

Sunday 5 Paul Merson scores a last-minute winner for Villa at Everton and joins in the England card school debate: “Gambling is so mentally draining. The players looked tired at Euro 2000 and you wonder if all the card playing had something to with it.” You do wonder.

Monday 6 Harry Redknapp is unimpressed with West Ham’s goalless draw at Derby: “I slagged my lot off something rotten at half-time and I’ll be doing it again on the way home.” Chris Hutchings is sacked by Bradford, who won one match in 12 on his watch. “Results count for everything in this business,” says Geoffrey Richmond, declining to take any flak for having promoted Hutchings in the first place. UEFA will “investigate” claims that Barcelona have offered Milan’s players £60,000 each to beat Leeds in their forthcoming Champions League match. “We are always concerned about the integrity of every match,” says a UEFA spokesman, stifling a chuckle.

Tuesday 7 Kevin Keegan is to sue the News of the World for allegations made about his role in the England squad’s gambling. Paul Ince, for one, is furious. “Not only do we have a coward in the camp we have a mole as well.” Some papers think that the eponymous light-sensitive mammal may be Dennis Wise. Rangers fail to reach the second stage of the Champions League after a 2-2 home draw with Monaco. A team matching the description of Arsenal turn up in Donetsk but lose 3-0.

Wednesday 8 Leeds reach the next stage of the Champions League after a 1-1 draw in Milan. “It’s as good as winning the competition,” beams David O’Leary, who also wishes Barcelona luck in the, heh, UEFA Cup. Juventus fail even to qualify for that after finishing bottom of their group following a defeat by Panathinaikos. Man Utd are through too with a 1-0 win over Kiev. “It was nervous, but that teaches the players discipline,” says Sir Alex. Manager Jim Jefferies’ allegedly amicable departure from cash-strapped Hearts leads to fan demonstrations calling for the resignation of chairman Chris Robinson.

Thursday 9 Peter Taylor’s England squad for the friendly with Italy omits all but two players over 30. Newcomers include Seth Johnson of Derby and Leeds keeper Paul Robinson. Spice husband David Beckham will be captain. Liverpool’s 3-2 win in Liberec takes them through in the UEFA Cup but Celtic go out, beaten in extra time by Bordeaux. Several clubs will be resuming Jeffers-watch as Everton face another financial crisis after NTL pull out of a proposed share deal said to be worth at least £20 million.

Saturday 11 Six successive defeats for Middlesbrough but they give Man Utd a fright, taking the lead at Old Trafford before losing to two second half goals. They remain third from bottom, just ahead of Derby, whose achievement in holding Arsenal to a goalless draw is blamed by Martin Keown on his side’s European exertions: “Derby weren’t in Ukraine for a half a week.” James Beattie’s long range strike in Southampton’s 2-2 draw at Sunderland is variously measured between 35 and 45 yards and has Glenn in ecstasy: “That was the beautiful side of the game. We all want more of that.” In the First, Louis Saha’s double in Fulham’s 3-0 win at Wimbledon draws unusual praise from Terry Burton: “Saha is quick and intelligent – like having a beautiful woman with loads of money.” Huddersfield’s 2-0 home defeat by West Brom leaves them eight points adrift of safety and sparks a fan demonstration against owner Barry Rubery. They’ll be paddling in the streets of the Thames Valley as Oxford record their first win in ten matches, 2-1 at Swansea. Tony Cottee makes a sensational debut as Barnet manager, scoring the first in a 7-0 thrashing of Blackpool. Hibs miss a chance to go top in Scotland after conceding a late equaliser at home to Kilmarnock.

Sunday 12 Two more for Emile Heskey as Liverpool go third with a 4-1 win over fast-collapsing Coventry. Mark Viduka scores again for Leeds but Gustavo Poyet retrieves a point for Chelsea. David O’Leary voices his profound displeasure with the perma-smiling Graham Poll over the free kick that led to the equaliser: “I might get the book thrown at me, you never know,” he adds, hopefully.

Tuesday 14 Paolo Di Canio, who has a book to promote, may have talked his way out of West Ham after suggesting that team-mates Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole are “not yet ready” for international football: “The lads will be sick­ened by this and I have had enough,” growls his manager.

Wednesday 15 “Sven will have liked what he saw,” says Peter Taylor after England are unlucky to lose 1-0 in Italy. The goal is scored by Gennaro Gattuso, who moments earlier might have been sent off for striking the newly mature David Beckham in a row over a refused penalty. Late sub Seth Johnson nearly equalises with his first touch. The FA will make an official complaint over the persistent racist barracking of Emile Heskey. “This was an unacceptable performance,” snaps Craig Brown as Scotland crash 2-0 at home to Australia. England’s next World Cup opponents Finland miss chances galore in a 3-0 defeat in Dublin. Ricky Hill is sacked by Luton, bottom-but-one in the Second.

Saturday 18 A David Beckham goal wins the Manchester derby, while Arsenal lose 2-0 at Goodison: “If you lose five points to Derby and Everton you cannot pretend to have much hope,” sighs Arsène. Leicester are third after a 3-0 stroll at the Riverside, where Bryan Robson is booed whenever he appears by the touchline. Jim Jefferies watches his new team lose a six-pointer, 2-0 to previously winless Derby. “I was close to tears,” says Sunderland keeper Thomas Sorensen after saving an Alan Shearer penalty in his side’s 2-1 win at St James’ Park. Paolo Di Canio misses West Ham’s trip to Leeds with a “stomach bug”. “We had 11 honest players out there,” says Harry Redknapp pointedly after his side’s 1-0 win. In the FA Cup, Yeovil thrash Colchester   5-1, Kingstonian inflict Brentford’s first defeat by a non-League team in 28 years, 3-1 at Griffin Park, and Gateshead win 2-0 at Halifax. Hampton & Richmond concede two goals in the last five minutes to lose 2-1 at Barnet, whose celebrations of the equaliser lead to a barney after which the scorer and the keeper are sent off. Celtic hold an eight-point lead in Scotland after beating Hearts 6-1 while Hibs lose at home to Aberdeen.

Sunday 19 White Hart Lane, allegedly a seething cauldron of discontent, sees Tottenham record their sixth home win out of seven, 2-1 over Liverpool. “All this crisis talk makes me laugh,” says cheery George Graham. Liverpool’s Gérard Houllier, by contrast, rages at his side’s “childish” defending, particularly Stéphane Henchoz’s mistake for Tottenham’s first goal. “We try to pass the ball out when we should simply clear our lines.” So, message from the continental school of coaching: if in doubt, hoof it out. In the FA Cup, Canvey Island score twice in the last minute to draw 4-4 with Port Vale, who also miss a penalty. Summing up a bizarre afternoon, Canvey Island manager Jeff King says: “The streaker wasn’t a very big lad, but he seemed to have the desired effect on us.” Bernard Manning’s Radcliffe Borough lose 4-1 at home to York.

Monday 20 Despite what their manager describes as “our worst performance yet”, Ipswich move to joint fourth after an injury-time winner at Coventry. “We did all right. Gordon Strachan is only upset when his players do not compete,” says the Coventry boss. Brentford chairman Ron Noades sacks himself as manager but is not expected to seek compensation from the club.

Tuesday 21 Man Utd suffer a nervous night at home to Panathinaikos, who are finally undone by two late goals from Paul Scholes in a 3-1 win. “It was exactly the right time to score,” says Nuneaton manager Steve Burr after his side beat Stoke with a goal in the third minute of injury time in their FA Cup first round replay.

Wednesday 22 English takeover of Europe postponed for the time being. Leeds lose 2-0 at home to Real Madrid – “We got hammered before and bounced back so we’ll have to do it again,” says David O’Leary – while Arsène blames “stupid” defending for Arsenal’s latest unhappy away trip, a 4-1 defeat by Spartak Moscow.

Thursday 23 Liverpool draw 2-2 at Olympiakos in their UEFA Cup third round tie. “We will not let it go at Anfield,” says Gérard, able to risk a prediction in view of his opponents’ failure to win any of their last 14 away fixtures in Europe. West Ham agree to sell Rio Ferdinand to Leeds for £18 million while Tore Andre Flo joins Rangers for £12 million, prompting Chelsea to offer £8 million for Rio’s erstwhile team-mate Frédéric Kanouté (keep up, there’ll be questions).

Saturday 25 High drama at the Riverside where Bradford take a two-goal lead in the first ten minutes but finally concede an equaliser in the 89th. Bryan Robson remains bullish: “People are talking about whether I’ll be sacked or will resign but for me it’s not an issue.” Derby’s mini-revival crashes to a halt at home to Man Utd, whose 3-0 win takes them eight points clear: “They’re telepathic,” whispers Jim Smith. Ipswich go third after inflicting Man City’s fifth successive defeat, 3-2 at Maine Road. “Fulham are playing the right way,” says the watching Michel Platini as the First Division leaders move nine points ahead of the pack. The same margin separates Huddersfield from safety after defeat at Birmingham. Millwall are the new leaders in the Second where Oxford slip further behind after squandering a two-goal lead in a 3-2 defeat by Notts County.

Sunday 26 Arsène denies being involved in a scuffle in the tunnel – “There was was a lot of talking but nothing physical” – after Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at Leeds, during which they have seven players booked. Liverpool lose   their third successive away match, 2-1 at Newcastle. Debutant Tore Andre Flo scores in Rangers’ 5-1 win over Celtic. Terry Venables is said to   be considering an offer to join Middlesbrough’s manage­ment team: “I thought I would only return at international level but   if two people could change my mind they are Steve Gibson and Bryan Robson,” he says, and   who but a cynic would doubt him?

Tuesday 28 Sir Alex seems genuinely annoyed by Man Utd’s Worthington Cup exit at Sunderland, where Dwight Yorke  is sent off. “A more capable referee wouldn’t have made that decision,” apparently. Ipswich and Crystal Palace also go through. A magnificent night for non-League clubs in the FA Cup, with four knocking out League opponents, three of them away from home – Chester and Kettering win at Plymouth and Hull respectively, Canvey Island set up a local derby with Southend thanks to a 2-1 extra-time victory at Port Vale and Northwich complete the set with a 1-0 win over Bury.

Wednesday 29 “You would expect us to beat Sheffield Wednesday,” rages Harry Redknapp after West Ham’s home defeat in the Worthington by the aforementioned Yorkshire club. Paul Jewell rubs in the salt: “They’ve got world class stars and we had players some people had never heard of. Even I hadn’t heard of some of them.” Bobby Robson is equally vexed by Newcastle’s last-minute defeat at Birmingham – “I hope this hurt my players because it certainly hurt me.” Liverpool record their biggest ever away victory, 8-0 at Stoke. Chelsea sack four coaches including Ray Wilkins and Graham Rix. Their replacements may be Italian. Chief executive Colin Hutchinson hints at belt-tightening ahead: “We’ve always said that there needed to be a change of direction.” England’s women qualify for next year’s European championship finals with a 2-0 win over Ukraine.

Thursday 30 Terry Venables’ interminable neg­otiations with Middlesbrough seem to have hit an im­passe, the problem being that the Laughing Cavalier wants to bring in his own staff. (And who might they be?) Leeds seem keen to reduce Inter’s wage bills by taking either Robbie Keane or hospital habitué Ronaldo on loan until the end of the season. Stockport are considering a move to Maine Road when Man City relocate to Eastlands in 2003. Chairman Brendan Elwood even suggests they could be rechristened: “I would want to keep some refer­ence to Stockport. Man-Stock County for instance.” Nurse, quick.

From WSC 167 January 2001. What was happening this month

More...