THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Monday 3 French striker Robert Pires confirms that he is to sign for Arsenal, saying: “I would have preferred to have played for Real Madrid but I am happy to link up again with my French friends.” Middlesbrough announce that they are prepared to give Paul Gascoigne a free transfer.

Tuesday 4 Brazil withdraw from the contest to stage the 2006 World Cup in exchange for getting African support for their bid in 2010. Franz Beckenbauer is aghast: “What happened is horse trading and now their vote will probably go against Germany.” Concacaf ’s Jack Warner claims to have suggested to the FA that they pull out. “They will be humiliated. The writing is on the wall and as a friend I thought I’d tell them.” Valerenga of Norway become the latest club to turn down the chance of taking Paul Gascoigne on loan. “We are not a summer rehabilitation centre,” sniffs their chairman. Dino Zoff resigns as Italy coach a day after being publicly criticised for “amateurish” tactics by Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi. Luton manager Lennie Lawrence is sacked by the club’s new board.

Wednesday 5 Arsenal, it seems, want to add Sylvain Wiltord to their growing French legion. “We hope that he will come to London for this season to play in your beautiful country,” smarms his agent. Man Utd have allegedly joined the chase for Nick Barmby, Everton having rejected Liverpool’s initial offer of £3.5 million. Derby say their goalkeeper Mart Poom will be able to start pre-season training despite injuring his genitals in a charity match against an Iron Maiden XI, as you do.

Thursday 6 Germany get the 2006 World Cup, beating South Africa by one vote in a third round of balloting. England pick up an unexpected five votes in the first round, but only two in the second. Germany’s surprise victory is put down to Asian delegates switching their support from South Africa and to one of the two England voters, Charlie Dempsey of Oceania, abstaining in the run-off. England 2006 bid director Alec McGivan finds a handy scapegoat: “Our hopes of getting extra votes died the day the hooligans took to the streets of Charleroi.” Mobile phone millionaire Simon Jordan buys Crystal Palace, ending the long-running saga over their ownership. Carl Cort joins Newcastle for £7 million, saying: “I’m looking to learn by playing alongside Alan Shearer.” Duncan Ferguson is, as ever, unavailable for comment.

Friday 7 The 2006 voting row hots up. The New Zealand sports minister describes Charlie Dempsey’s abstention as “a total embarrassment” and claims that he had been mandated to vote for South Africa in the second round. Dempsey claims there were attempts to bribe him (imagine that). FIFA allege that Dempsey received death threats before casting his vote, then withdraw the allegation. A fax sent to several delegates offering gifts if they voted for Germany turns out to be the work of a satirical magazine.

Sunday 9 Thirteen people are killed at a World Cup qualifier in Harare between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Police fire tear gas into the crowd which rioted after the visitors had taken a 2-0 lead. That man Charlie Dempsey resigns as president of Oceania but still defends his abstention: “It had been made clear to me by influential European interests that if I cast my vote in favour of South Africa there would be adverse effects for my confederation.” Bradford City march into the third round of the Intertoto with a 4-1 win over Atlantas of Lithuania.

Monday 10 Internazionale offer £31 million for Paul Scholes but Sir Alex doesn’t want to sell and, for now, United’s board agree. A few days after Carl Cort’s move, Wimbledon have more reason to be thankful for the inflated transfer market as elbowmeister Ben Thatcher joins Spurs for £5 million. Former Dons chairman Sam Hammam takes control of Cardiff City. Ricky Hill is the new manager of Luton.

Tuesday 11 Arsenal’s new Brazilian signing Edu is sent home from Heathrow for using a forged EU passport. “He is not our player any more,” shrugs a spokesman for his former club, Corinthians. “It is up to Arsenal to sort it out.” Further proof that clubs will pay silly money for a big lad to play up front is provided by Lazio, who break the world transfer record to buy Hernan Crespo from Parma for £36 million. Crespo is valued at £12 million cash, with Sergio Conceiçao and Argentinian Mathias Almeyda also moving to Parma in exchange.

Wednesday 12 According to a report published by Labour MP Jim Murphy, Leeds have more troublemakers – defined as people banned from attending matches by court order – than any other club. Of the 402 supporters currently under restriction, Leeds have 59, followed by Stoke on 43, then Man City and Chelsea. “I am surprised by this,” says Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale. “To my mind our track record has been largely unblemished over recent years.” John Hartson is fined £8,000 for his part in the rumble in the tunnel after Wimbledon’s match at Bradford in April. In the first round of Champions League qualifiers, Shelbourne win 1-0 in Macedonia, TNS of Wales draw at home with the Estonian champions and Linfield lose in Finland.

Friday 14 “Just because we are a plc doesn’t man we are under pressure to sell anyone,” says Martin Edwards, turning down an alleged £40 million offered by Milan for David Beckham. Nick Barmby completes his move to Liverpool for £6 million. “The clubs wish to emphasise that negotiations have been conducted in a spirit of goodwill and integrity,” says an anxious Everton spokesman. Everton also sell Don Hutchison to Sunderland for £2.5 million and sign Ghanaian Alex Nyarko from Lens for £4.5 million.

Sunday 16 In the Intertoto Bradford beat RKC Waalwijk 2-0. Villa get a goalless draw at Dukla Pribram, where Mark Delaney is sent off for tangling with a goalkeeper called Michael Spit.

Monday 17 Martin Edwards is to step down as chief executive of Man Utd on August 1, though he will remain on the board. His replacement Peter Kenyon makes the right noises: “I will continue to look at a number of opportunities for the business, including attacking the communications arena.” Paul Gascoigne joins Everton, saying: “It’s a gamble for the club to take me on because of my off-field antics.” “We needed a headliner,” says Agent Kenwright, now fully activated.

Tuesday 18 South African FA officials say they will ask to be given the 2010 World Cup at the next FIFA executive committee meeting in early August. They are also considering a legal challenge to the 2006 vote.

Thursday 20 Aston Villa sign Turkish defender Alpay Ozalan for £5.5 million. Villa, however, don’t seem about to sell Ugo Ehiogu, having rejected Man City’s offer of £6.5 million. “He can sit out the remaining two years of his contract as far as I’m concerned,” snaps John Gregory, back to his grouchy best. Charlton quadruple their transfer record to buy Claus Jensen from Bolton for £4 million. Spurs deny having received an offer from Marseille for David Ginola (it was probably George Graham in a phone box).

Friday 21 Bob Murray, one of the two former police officers accused of manslaughter over the Hillsborough disaster, in a case brought by the Family Support Group, is found not guilty. The Football League announce that their new chairman will be Keith Harris, head of a digital radio company, Radio First, but not, sadly, the man who had his hand up Orville. Leeds draw Munich 1860 in the third qualifying round of the Champions League. Rangers have an easier task against Herfolge of Denmark. Arsenal pull out of the Edu transfer. “The problem was that he didn’t have a passport. We feel cheated,” says Arsène.

Saturday 22 Intertoto progress for Bradford, who complete a 3-1 aggregate win over RKC Waalwijk, and Villa, whose wantaway players are booed during their 3-1 win over Dukla Pribram. John Gregory is not inclined to offer sympathy: “Anyone who’s unhappy at Villa Park can go. I share the sentiments of our fans on that score.”

Monday 24 The world transfer record is broken again with Luis Figo joining Real Madrid – said to be over £100 million in debt – from Barcelona for £37 million. Barcelona’s new president in turn is said to be prepared to pay £50 million for Arsenal’s Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars. Arsène seems tempted: “In football you never say never and if another club puts a bid of that size you can’t say you won’t consider it.”

Tuesday 25 The Hillsborough trial judge rules that there should be not be a retrial after the jury fail to reach a verdict on charges against former superintendent David Duckenfield. The government announces the launch of the Football Foundation, which will receive £60 million a year from 2001 to spend on playing facilities and equipment for grassroots clubs. Liverpool’s matches will be broadcast on the internet and through mobile phones as part of a £20 million deal set up with Granada Media. “If we get this right, Liverpool FC Broadband could become more valuable than the club itself, ” chirps chief executive Rick Parry. In a new chapter of his autobiography Alex Ferguson stirs up an old row by claiming he dropped David Beckham from a match with Leeds last season because he didn’t believe the player’s excuse for missing training. “David made me lose my temper badly, which I hadn’t done in years.” No, really?

Wednesday 26 Bradford and Villa both lose 1-0 away in their Intertoto “semi-final” first legs. Two goals in the last minute give Rangers a 4-1 lead to take to Lithuania in their Champions League qualifying tie. Marc Overmars denies stories that he signed a pre-contract agreement to join Barcelona when Louis van Gaal was still their coach: “Frankly I find such a hilarious lie ridiculous.” Leicester spend a sizeable chunk of the Heskey cash, signing Ade Akinbiyi from Wolves for, ulp, £5 million. South Africa lodge an official appeal with FIFA over the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany.

Thursday 27 The FA introduce a new series of new disciplinary measures, including 12-match bans for players who manhandle referees. Teams who misbehave persistently face a range of heavy fines building up to points deductions. The Department of Employment rejects an appeal from the football authorites for quotas to be imposed on players from the European Economic Area. “Any such move would be illegal under European law and would be extremely unpopular with fans and clubs,” says Employment Minister Margaret Hodge. The FA will now ask for limits on non-EEA players, two per club for the Premeirship and one for the Football League.

Friday 28 Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit are to join Barcelona for a combined fee of more than £30 million, though details of the breakdown are hazy. “I have agreed a pact of silence with Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood,” says Barcelona’s top cloak-and-dagger man Joan Gaspart. Robbie Keane leaves Coventry to join Inter for £12 million. “It’s a chance I couldn’t pass up.” Didier Deschamps and his unfeasibly large ego head off to Valencia for £2.3 million. “Didier didn’t adapt to the English game as well as he would have liked,” says Chelsea’s managing director Colin Hutchinson, dabbing at his eyes with a hankie.

Saturday 29 On the opening day of the Scottish Premier League, with its exciting new format that no one can quite understand, Rangers come from behind to beat St Johnstone 2-1, while Dundee survive the dismissal of new manager Ivano Bonetti to win 2-0 at Motherwell. Steve McManaman is said to be furious that Real Madrid have accepted anoffer of £8 million from Middlesbrough. Can’t imagine why.

Monday 31 Tony Banks claims that the organisers of Eng­land’s 2006 World Cup bid wanted to withdraw after the violence in Charleroi but were asked not to by the FA: “We knew we couldn’t win it but they told us it would be like surrendering to the hooligans.” “This is the only club that really wanted me,” says David Ginola on signing for Villa.

From WSC 163 September 2000. What was happening this month

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