THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 1 Tony Banks joins the Kate Hoey row: "If they go back in the FA Cup then that would be bloody disastrous. This sacrifice is worth paying even if it is unpopular with a number of politicians." Arsenal beat Man Utd 2-1 in the Charity Shield, Ray Parlour scoring the winner. Nicolas Anelka does not turn up to cheer on his old mates. 

Monday 2 Feathers fly as Sir Alex reveals via the Sun's serialisation of his autobiography that he was offered a bung by Andrei Kanchelskis's agent in 1995. A package containing £40,000 was kept in United's safe for a year before being returned. The FA leap into action immediately: "Our compliance officer will contact Sir Alex to request the full facts," says a spokesman. Nicolas Anelka is to join Real Madrid for £23 million, with Davor Suker moving the opposite way for £3.5 million. "We now have a Suker rather than a sulker," says David Dein. Bad news for the Beeb and Bob Wilson as fancy man Des Lynam joins ITV to present their coverage of the Champions League and FA Cup. Stuart Pearce joins West Ham on a free from Newcastle.

Tuesday 3 Arsenal are to sign Juventus's Thierry Henry for £11 million. "No top team can go into a season like this without four strikers," says Arsene. Brian Little becomes West Brom's eighth manager in ten years and says: "Trying to get a team into the Premiership these days is more of a challenge than managing a Premiership club." The Football League lifts its threat to withdraw membership from Luton and Palace, who are both in administration. "Negotiations with interested parties have progressed and we hope that both clubs will be allowed to start and complete the 1999-2000 season," says a spokesman. 

Wednesday 4 Jimmy Hasselbaink toddles off to Atletico Madrid for £12 million, saying: "I had two great years but the club wouldn't sit down and work out a deal." West Ham will play Metz for a place in the UEFA Cup after beating Heerenveen 2-0 on aggregate in their Intertoto semi. In the Champions League Rangers prepare for Parma with a 3-0 win over the Finns of Haka. Mark Hughes is to manage Wales for their remaining Euro 2000 matches after the Welsh FA reject Terry Venables's demands for £200,000 a year to do the job part-time. Man Utd reserve defender Ronnie Wallwork faces a lifetime ban from professional football imposed by the Belgian FA for allegedly assaulting a referee while playing for United's nursery club, Antwerp. The agent at the centre of the Kanchelskis bung allegations, Gregori Essauolenko, denies all: "Everything Ferguson said never happened. He is lying."

Friday 6 Sheffield United's managing director John Thurman suggests that his club and Wednesday should hold talks about a merger: "Market forces may decide it is sooner rather than later." Ken Bates, out of the headlines for at least a week, makes up for it by calling for England to pull out of the 2002 World Cup in protest at FIFA's suggestion that the finals start in May to avoid the hosts' rainy season. "What idiot thought of that? European countries should withdraw and see how FIFA like it." Nwankwo Kanu claims to be thinking of changing his first name, possibly to Fitzroy, with Maximilian also under consideration. Everton's Francis Jeffers – born locally, former season ticket holder – demands a transfer because he's not being paid enough. Kids, eh?

Saturday 7 Chelsea top the table on the opening day after beating Sunderland 4-0. "I was happy with the scoreline at the end and I don't mean that flippantly," says Peter Reid. Mixed fortunes for the other newcomers, with Watford losing 3-2 at home to Wimbledon despite playing against ten men for most of the match, while Bradford win 1-0 at Middlesbrough with a debut goal from the middle-aged Dean Saunders. High dudgeon at Newcastle where Alan Shearer is sent off by headline hogger Uriah Rennie for a debatable second yellow card. Villa score the winning goal a few minutes later. "I could not let this go. The referee has cost us three points," fumes Ruud, who has to be held back at the final whistle. "Defeat would have been a nightmare," croaks Arsene as Arsenal scrape a 2-1 win over Leicester courtesy of a last-minute Frank Sinclair own goal. In the First Division, Charlton begin with a 3-1 win over Barnsley but their fellow relegatees have a rough day. Forest's performance in a 3-1 defeat at Ipswich is described as "unacceptable" by David Platt, while Blackburn's goalless home draw with Port Vale prompts Brian Kidd to observe that "Anybody who thought this was going to be easy was barking up the wrong tree." Crystal Palace start the season at least, drawing 1-1 at home with Crewe. "I'm surprised that I haven't heard from the new chairman, whoever he is," says Steve Coppell. Second Division favourites Wigan christen their new JJB Stadium with a 3-0 win over Scunthorpe. In the Third, Brighton celebrate their return to the town with the biggest win of the day, 6-0 at home to Mansfield, who have a player dismissed after ten minutes. Cheltenham have an unhappy League debut, beaten 2-0 at home by Rochdale.

Sunday 8 Dwight Yorke gives Man Utd an early lead at Goodison but Everton grab a point with a late own goal from Jaap Stam. "We are kicking ourselves for not winning," says Alex. United claim Roy Keane will be put up for sale this week if he refuses to sign a new contract. The ubiquitous Lazio are said to be standing by with a £25 million deal, but that's what they tell everyone.

Monday 9 Newcastle lose again, 3-1 at Spurs. "There was no commitment and I blame the players. It was nothing to do with me," says Ruud. People used to like him didn't they?

Tuesday 10 Graham Taylor questions the choice of referee Jeff Winter for his team's 2-0 defeat at Sunderland: "The referee was from Teesside and he was calling the Sunderland players by their first names. It doesn't create the right impression." Arsenal get their second 2-1 win, this time at Derby. "People write off players too early," says Bryan Robson after Paul Gascoigne is at the forefront of Middlesbrough's 3-2 win at Wimbledon, before going on to a showbiz party where he is photographed legless in the early hours. "We're not out of it yet," says Harry Redknapp as West Ham miss a penalty in the process of losing 1-0 at home to Metz in the Intertoto.

Wednesday 11 "We won't get carried away," says John Gregory, as Villa top the table again after a 3-0 win over Everton. Man Utd fans barrack Martin Edwards, blamed for Roy Keane's failure to sign a new contract, during the team's 4-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wed. Michael Bridges gets all the goals in Leeds' 3-0 win at Southampton, and will soon be joined by Darren Huckerby, who will cost £5 million from Coventry. In the Champions League qualifiers Chelsea score three in the last quarter of an hour to beat Skonto Riga 3-0, Chris Sutton gets the third and does the badge-kissing bit. Rangers take a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their tie with Parma.

Thursday 12 UEFA Cup frolics for Celtic who beat Cwmbran Town 6-0 away, but a night to forget for Kilmarnock, beaten 1-0 by KR Reykjavik. St Johnstone come from behind to draw 1-1 in Finland. Ruud Gullit takes time off from studying the Jobs Vacant column in Gazzetta dello Sport to declare that Newcastle's poor start is, in fact, his fault: "When things like this happen, it means I haven't done my job properly." An apparently contrite Francis Jeffers withdraws his request for a transfer from Everton, which is blamed on a "misunderstanding" (let's hope he wasn't being teased about those ears).

Friday 13 Blackburn come back from two goals down at Huddersfield, then lose to an injury-time goal from Rob Edwards. "Whoever finishes above Blackburn will be there or thereabouts," says Steve Bruce, though that's pretty much what they said last season too. Mark Goldberg resigns as Crystal Palace chairman, for the time being, while denying that two men caught at 2am in the Palace managing director's office with electronic listening equipment were there on his orders. Chelsea sign striker Gabriele Ambrosetti from Vicenza for £3.5 million. Ruud Gullit is charged with misconduct by the FA for his "alleged remarks" to Uriah Rennie.

Saturday 14 Watford get the result of the day in the Premiership, a 1-0 win against Gerard Houllier's all-stars at Anfield. "I never recognised my team today," says Gerard, but then how would he? Frank Sinclair nabs his second last-minute own goal in a week to give Chelsea a point in a 2-2 draw at Leicester. "Tim Flowers told me the ball was going in anyway," says Frank, but that was before he'd seen the video. Man City's Andy Morrison is sent off in the 0-0 draw at Fulham, apparently for poking his tongue out at Stan Collymore, or down his throat, depending on whom you believe. "The word eoblivious' springs to mind," says a furious Joe Royle, for some reason. Man Utd stay top after a 2-0 win over Leeds. "There were some good tackles out there," says Arsene Wenger witheringly after Emmanuel Petit and Dennis Bergkamp go off injured in Arsenal's bruising 0-0 draw at Sunderland. Terry Venables is touted as the new manager of this season's death-wish club Newcastle in a "dream team" with Alan Shearer.

Sunday 15 More trouble for Ruud as Newcastle leak four goals in 20 minutes at The Dell to go down 4-2 to Southampton. But Gullit denies he is resigning: "I thought I had lost the support of the players and the management, but I have found out that is not the case." In Scotland, Celtic lose 2-1 at Dundee United, who move into second place in the table behind Rangers, 4-1 winners over Motherwell. John Barnes isn't worried though. "We lost in the right way," he says.

Monday 16 Another last-minute goal from a Sinclair, this time Trevor, earns West Ham a point in a 2-2 draw at Villa Park. Alan Shearer, touted as Ruud Gullit's successor, declines to give public backing to his manager: "The club have asked the players not to comment and we have to respect that decision." Gullit's agent, however, is keen to point the finger: "A good performance or two from the captain wouldn't go amiss."

Wednesday 18 Kevin Davies, who joined Blackburn from Southampton a year ago for £7.5 million, rejoins Southampton in a part-exchange for Egil Ostenstad. "He has been stagnant for a year and we have got to reactivate him," says David Jones, slipping into his white lab coat. The Football League chief executive Richard Scudamore is to join the Premier League who have been lacking a big cheese since dumping Peter Leaver five months ago.

Thursday 19 Robbie Keane joins Coventry from Wolves for £5 million. "If he has a couple of good seasons then I expect his value to rise to £10 million," says Coventry chairman Bryan Richardson, neatly encapsulating the spirit of the times. Man Utd buy South African striker Quinton Fortune (great name) from Atletico Madrid reserves for £2 million. Fortune has not played enough matches to fulfil the DoE's requirements for a work permit but, hey, rules are there to be broken. Meanwhile, Rayners Lane of the Chiltonian League await an official response to their sporting offer to take Man Utd's place in the FA Cup third round.

Saturday 21 Spurs, no less, top the Premiership for the first time after a 2-1 win at Sheffield Wed. "The media gets too excited when they see the table. Wait until October," says George, failing to suppress one of those smug grins. Robbie Keane, announced as "Roy Keane" by the Highfield Road tannoy, scores twice on his debut as Coventry beat Derby. Today's Villa own goal is contributed by Ugo Ehiogu and proves to be enough for a Chelsea win at Stamford Bridge. Newcastle get their first point on the season but it should have been three, Wimbledon grabbing a last-minute equaliser in a 3-3 draw. "We are suffering from injuries all the time. What can you do?" says Ruud. Be brave darling. Man City record the biggest win of the day, 6-0 against Sheffield United, who have keeper Simon Tracey dismissed before half-time. Ipswich are two points clear in the First Division after beating Bolton. No team has maximum points in the Second after three games, with Notts County top on goal difference. A good weekend for Steve Parkin, whose new club Rochdale lead the Third with a 100 per cent record, while his former employers Mansfield are pointless and bottom, on alphabetical order, below Chester, managerless since Kevin Ratcliffe's resignation on Friday.

Sunday 22 Roy Keane's day at Highbury where he takes part in several lively punch ups and scores both goals in Man Utd's 2-1 win, the second two minutes from time. "The defeat was not only a psychological blow it was a mathematical blow as well," says Arsene in a masterly display of stating the obvious. The Arsenal manager claimed to have missed Patrick Vieira's headbutt on Keane that sparked a big brawl. Sun in his eyes, probably. Sir Alex hardly has time to comment on United's return to the top, having to dash off for a helicopter trip to Old Trafford where Simply Red were waiting to perform. It's a glamorous life.

Monday 23 Liverpool's alleged crisis is stemmed by a 2-1 win at Leeds, Lucas Radebe becoming about the 15th Premiership defender to put through his own net this season for the winner. "We knew we were on the right lines," beams Gerard. "This is the worst result since I came here," thunders David, clean forgetting to mention how his young his team is, for a change.

Tuesday 24 West Ham's Intertoto adventure ends triumphantly, with a 3-1 win in Metz taking them through to the first round proper of the UEFA Cup. "This win's for the punters," says Harry, though not, presumably, for the small group of away fans sprayed with tear gas by French police. A big night for booing at Molineux as Wolves crash out of the Worthington, beaten 4-2 at home by Wycombe. Port Vale go out after a 4-4 draw with Chester, and Norwich are taken to extra time by Cheltenham before finally squeaking through 3-2 on aggregate. Middlesbrough fail to go top of the Premiership, in their customary emphatic manner, losing 3-0 at home to Leicester. Villa are second after winning 1-0 at Watford.

Wednesday 25 Newcastle surrender a lead for the fourth successive match, losing 2-1 at home to Sunderland in an appropriately apocalyptic rainstorm. Alan Shearer only plays the last 20 minutes as a sub. "When we put him on we lost, so what is the conclusion? It's not about Alan Shearer," says Ruud not trying too hard to defuse rumours of an irreparable feud. Sheffield Wed stay bottom after a 2-0 defeat by Derby. A 2-1 win at Coventry takes Man Utd three points clear at the top, Arsenal are third after beating Bradford 2-0. Chelsea qualify for the group stages of the Champions League after a 0-0 draw with the people known to Barry Venison as "the Skontons" and will be joined by the Shed's favourite other team, Rangers, who knock out Parma on a 2-1 aggregate. Mick Wadsworth resigns as Colchester manager, apparently having taken a year to establish that it's too far to travel from his home in the north.

Thursday 26 All three Scottish teams get through their UEFA Cup preliminary round ties, though Kilmarnock need an injury-time penalty to force extra time against the ten men of KR Reykjavik. Stuart Pearce, the only 37-year-old veteran of the Second World War, is included in England's squad for the matches against Luxembourg and Poland. "We need men to do men's jobs," says Kev, putting on a scary deep voice. The England manager also confirms that Alan Shearer will be in his starting line up: "It's always Alan and someone else up front as far as I'm concerned." Andy Cole will not be the AN Other, however, because he's been dropped from the squad in favour of Chris Sutton. Good luck to Gary Johnson, who leaves Watford's youth team to become the new coach of Latvia, saying: "It's an oppo≠rtunity I couldn't miss." And "our" clubs are drawn against some nice big foreign clubs in the Champions League first round groups, so everyone's happy.

Saturday 28 Ruud Gullit resigns, saying: "When I came, people asked me if I knew how the big the job was. Now I know what they meant." But the press, it seems, are to blame: "Reporters have been hassling my family in Holland. That for me was the limit." That nice Bobby Robson is favourite to take over. Villa stay second with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. Their coach Steve Harrison (the wardrobe poo man, you remember) is upbeat: "I think we can stay the course. Last year we literally ran out of bodies after doing the business for two thirds of the season." Arsenal's second defeat in a week, 2-0 at Liverpool, sends Arsene off the deep end: "Whoever does the fixtures is wrong. We have had three in a week. They are an absolute joke." Spurs drop out of the top six after losing at home to Leeds. "Everything I have I owe to George Graham," says David O'Leary, somehow keeping a straight face. Benito Carbone heads for the airport after being named as substitute for Sheffield Wed's match at Southampton which ends in their fifth defeat of the season. "If I had my way he would never play for the club again," rages Danny Wilson. Goals aplenty in the First Division: "We struggled against a rampant Huddersfield," says Steve Coppell after his team crash 7-1 at the McAlpine Stadium, while Portsmouth have two players sent off in the first half on the way to a 6-0 defeat at Barnsley, which Alan Ball refuses to discuss afterwards saying: "I don't talk about farces." More goals still at Barnet, who score four without reply in the second half to beat York 6-3.

Sunday 29 Sunderland fans disappointed with their 1-1 home draw with Coventry will nonetheless take solace in being seven points ahead of Newcastle after only six matches. Something horrible's happened to Aberdeen – beaten 3-0 at home by St Johnstone, they have no points, no goals and a goal difference of minus 15 after just five matches.

Monday 30 Man Utd restore their three- point lead with four goals from Andy Cole in a 5-1 thrashing of Newcastle, who have defender Nicolas Dabizas sent off for protesting about United's second goal: "I was shown a red card when all I said was eWhy, why, why?'" Leicester move up to fifth after a 1-0 win over Watford. Chester face an FA inquiry after referee Chris Foy is dragged to the ground by a home fan during the team's defeat by Rochdale.

Tuesday 31 Sky offer to pay £13.8 million for a 9.8 per cent stake in Leeds. The company are expected to buy stakes in other clubs in the build-up to the renegotiation of the Premiership TV contract in 2001. So that's something to look forward to.

From WSC 152 October 1999. What was happening this month

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