THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Monday 1 Manchester United miss a chance to go nine points clear, drawing 2‑2 at injury-hit Newcastle. Liverpool’s 3‑0 win over Bolton takes them third. “They’ve shown me in the last couple of weeks why they are down there,” says Alan Curbishley as West Ham crash 6‑0 at Reading, their third successive defeat. Wigan drop to 17th after a fifth straight loss, 3‑0 at home to Blackburn. Antti Niemi is hospitalised with a serious neck injury in Fulham’s 0‑0 draw with Watford. Derby’s 2‑1 win at Preston takes them to within three points of Championship leaders Birmingham, beaten by a 90th‑minute goal at Ipswich. Torquay are six points adrift in League Two after losing 1‑0 at Bristol Rovers.

Tuesday 2 Chelsea stay six points behind Man Utd after a 0‑0 draw at Villa. Thierry Henry scores on his return for Arsenal in a 4‑0 defeat of Charlton. Hull caretaker boss Phil Brown gets the manager’s job.

Thursday 4 Paul Le Guen leaves Rangers two days after he sacked Barry Ferguson as captain for allegedly undermining him. Chris Morgan gets a three-game ban for punching Robin van Persie, not spotted by the referee during Sheffield United v Arsenal.

Friday 5 Luis Boa Morte joins West Ham, who are also to sign Nigel Quashie from West Brom. Fulham take Vincenzo Montella on loan from Roma and sign US striker Clint Dempsey. Bayern say they won’t sell Owen Hargreaves to Man Utd for less than £25 million.

Saturday 6 The FA Cup third round throws up a couple of shocks. Sheffield Utd’s second string lose 3‑0 at home to Swansea. “The second half made me embarrassed to be a supporter,” says Neil Warnock, throwing a season ticket at himself. “Reality is a big thing,” warns Colin Calderwood, as League One promotion-chasers Nottingham Forest beat Charlton 2‑0. No such luck for Macclesfield, who have their keeper sent off on the way to a 6‑1 defeat at Chelsea. Newcastle draw 2‑2 at Birmingham, as do Fulham at Leicester. Middlesbrough draw 1‑1 at Hull. West Ham take a breather with a 3‑0 home win against Brighton. “It’s time for the talking to stop,” says Alan Curbishley, possibly via a complicated mime. Arsenal knock out the holders, beating Liverpool 3‑1 at Anfield. “We cannot win the FA Cup now,” says Rafa, who really seems to be getting the hang of things. “I think we’re gradually improving,” says Dennis Wise, as Leeds lose 3‑1 at West Brom. Plymouth’s Hasney Aljofree apologises to Peterborough fans for his celebrations after scoring in a 1‑1 draw at London Road: “Lilian Nalis came over and said, ‘We might have overdone it a bit’. That’s when he was hit on the head by a bottle of Coke.”

Sunday 7 Henrik Larsson scores on his Man Utd debut, a 2-1 home win against Villa in the Cup. “The goal summed him up, no drawback,” says Alex Ferguson, weirdly. Spurs’ 0‑0 draw at Cardiff is given an exciting new spin by Martin Jol: “When you don’t score, this is the maximum result.” Blackburn win 4‑1 at Everton, who blame the new FA Cup ball for deceiving keeper Tim Howard, and Sheffield Wednesday draw 1‑1 at home to Man City. Rangers are out of the Scottish Cup, beaten 3‑2 at SPL bottom club Dunfermline. “I’m hurting, but it’s not just about Ian Durrant,” says acting manager Ian Durrant. Sunderland pay £2m for Arsenal’s 18‑year‑old striker Anthony Stokes.

Monday 8 Nottingham Forest get Chelsea away in the draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup. Fellow giant‑killers Swansea travel to Chester or Ipswich. Man Utd get Portsmouth at home and Arsenal host Bolton. The SFA reject Walter Smith’s request to leave the Scotland job and take over at Ibrox. Stuart McCall, rumoured to be part of Smith’s likely back‑up team, says he would be willing to “crawl over broken glass” for the Rangers job, but adds: “I don’t think it will happen.”
Tuesday 9 Liverpool lose 6‑3 to Arsenal reserves in the Carling Cup quarter-final, with Julio Baptista getting four and missing a penalty. It’s the first time they’ve conceded six at home since 1913. “All I can say is ‘sorry’ to our supporters,” says Rafa, who rested several first‑choice players. Barnet beat Colchester 2‑1 in the FA Cup third round. Graeme Souness (remember him?) says he has made a £20m takeover bid for Wolves: “This is not a Johnny Foreigner coming along to make a quick buck.”

Wednesday 10 Chelsea draw 1‑1 at Wycombe in their Carling Cup semi-final first leg, after which José refuses to comment on reports that he may leave after falling out with Peter Kenyon. Walter Smith is threatened with legal action by the SFA after resigning as Scotland manager to take over at Rangers. Newcastle’s Emre is to be charged for allegedly making racial comments to black Everton players during his team’s match at Goodison last month. Sheffield Utd sign Sunderland’s Jon Stead after declining to pay Preston’s asking price of £6m for David Nugent. Weymouth, currently in the play-off places in the Conference, release manager Gary Hill and several players as chairman-owner Martyn Harrison announces that he is withdrawing financial support.

Friday 12 David Beckham is to join LA Galaxy in MLS on a five-year deal worth a squillion dollars per week, including a share of merchandising and TV rights. Birmingham City could be fined or have points deducted after calling off tomorrow’s match with Leeds because their newly relaid pitch won’t be ready. Watford say they have turned down an offer of £7m for Ashley Young. Charlton may sue the FA after Osei Sankofa’s one-match ban for a red card against Arsenal, for a foul on an offside Robin van Persie, was doubled following the club’s appeal, which was described as “frivolous”. Former Barrow defender James Cotterill is jailed for four months for breaking the jaw of Bristol Rovers’ Sean Rigg in an FA Cup tie in November. Denis Smith is sacked by Wrexham, currently 20th in League Two.

Saturday
13 Man Utd keep their six-point lead with a 3‑1 defeat of Villa, who are without a win in 12 games, their worst run in 20 years. “In football you cannot be 100 per cent categoric about some issues,” says José, fending off questions about his future after Chelsea’s 4‑0 win over Wigan. The latter’s sixth successive defeat means they stay 17th, three points ahead of West Ham, who let in a 93rd-minute equaliser for a 3‑3 draw with Fulham. Charlton sink deeper into the mire with a 3‑1 defeat to Middlesbrough, while Alan Pardew is concerned that he may lose the injured Darren Bent: “I am sure he is getting phone calls which perhaps he should not.” “Wacky Races defending,” sighs dastardly Neil Warnock as a defensive mix‑up between Paul Gerrard and Claude Davis gifts Portsmouth a late equaliser in a 1‑1 draw at Bramall Lane. Arsenal seem to have adapted to bruising encounters in the cold, winning 2‑0 at Blackburn despite having Gilberto sent off after ten minutes. Derby go joint top of the Championship, a 94th-minute free-kick from David Jones beating Sheffield Wednesday. Mike Newell suggests that most officials are “not capable of refereeing or running the line” as West Brom get the first of two late goals in a 3‑2 win when play is waved on with a Luton player lying injured. Micky Adams may be on borrowed time as Coventry, now seven games without a win, go four down in the first half at home to Palace before rallying to lose 4‑2. Scunthorpe slip from the top of League One, having two players sent off in a 1‑1 draw with third-placed Oldham; Forest regain the lead with a 1‑0 win over Yeovil. MK Dons drop out of the top three in League Two as Izzy McLeod is sent for the third time this season in a 1‑0 defeat at Hartlepool. Torquay look like they may never win again: from 2-0 up against ten‑man Bury with 11 minutes left, they go on to concede a 90th-minute equaliser. Walter Smith marks his return to Rangers with a 5‑0 win over Dundee United.

Sunday 14 Real Madrid tell David Beckham that he won’t play for them again: “A player cannot have the same commitment when he has signed to another club,” says Fabio Capello. Newcastle score twice in three second-half minutes to win 3‑2 at Spurs, with Glenn Roeder claiming that his players had been “galvanised to fight” by a half-time row over Shay Given being impeded by opponents when he was making clearances.

Monday 15 Ashley Young turns down a £9m move to West Ham, seemingly because he’s waiting to hear from Spurs. After being rejected by Fulham’s Collins John, Watford are to sign Rotherham striker Will Hoskins. Keith Alexander is sacked by Peterborough, who have dropped out of the League Two play-off places after six straight defeats. Liverpool apply for special dispensation to sign Javier Mascherano – FIFA rules forbid players from appearing for three different teams within a year.

Tuesday 16 In FA Cup replays, Bristol City win 2‑0 at Coventry, who have gone eight games without a win. Man City and Middlesbrough get narrow home wins over Hull and Sheffield Wednesday respectively. Joey Barton denies being interested in a move to Everton after his agent said that his contract allows him to talk to any club offering upwards of £5.5m. David Dunn has a last‑minute change of mind about moving to Bolton and opts to rejoin Blackburn instead.

Wednesday 17 Newcastle are thrashed 5‑1 at home by Birmingham in their FA Cup replay, but Glenn Roeder won’t be panicking: “I could buy a couple of central defenders who are the wrong side of 30, but that’s the road to nowhere.” Fulham recover from 3‑1 down to defeat Leicester 4‑3 with a 90th-minute goal. Spurs beat Cardiff 4‑0. “It’s not been a disastrous tenure,” says Micky Adams on being sacked by Coventry. It emerges that club chairman Geoffrey Robinson recently contacted Andy Gray for managerial advice but mistakenly spoke to the former Palace midfielder, who’s also a friend of Micky Adams, rather than the Sky pundit.

Thursday 18
Calum Davenport joins West Ham from Spurs and Lauren leaves Arsenal for Portsmouth. Weymouth reject a takeover offer from their former chairman, Mail on Sunday journalist Ian Ridley. The Premiership will receive £625m for three seasons’ overseas TV rights beginning in 2007‑08. It’s twice the previous deal and means that the bottom club will make £26m.

Friday 19 Spurs’ UEFA Cup last‑32 opponents Feyenoord are thrown out of the competition for their fans’ riot during the group match at Nancy in November. Lucas Neill opts to join West Ham rather than Liverpool. Villa are the latest club to agree terms with Watford for Ashley Young. Newcastle say they are no longer in takeover talks with the mysterious Belgravia Group. Lomana LuaLua is held by police over an alleged domestic violence incident. Meanwhile, his team-mate Glen Johnson, on loan at Portsmouth from Chelsea, is fined £80 for stealing bathroom fittings from a B&Q store, along with Millwall’s Ben May. Frank Lampard responds to criticism from Joey Barton who said that he and Steven Gerrard “needed a ball each” when playing for England: “Joey mentioned that he was running at six in the morning and wondered if me and Stevie were doing the same. When I read that, I thought, ‘I was doing that when I was 11’.”

Saturday 20 “I am not magic,” admits José Mourinho as Chelsea lose 2‑0 to Liverpool at Anfield, Dirk Kuyt and Jermaine Pennant scoring in the first 18 minutes. At the bottom, Charlton win 1‑0 at Portsmouth. West Ham let a two-goal lead slip at St James’ Park to draw 2‑2 with Newcastle, Uriah Rennie allowing a James Milner goal to stand despite Scott Parker dummying the ball into the net in an offside position. On‑loan Roma striker Vincenzo Montella scores his third goal in three games for Fulham as they draw 1‑1 with Spurs. “The game is flowing for us,” says Gareth Southgate as Middlesbrough beat Bolton 5‑1. Keith Gillespie is sent off for elbowing Stephen Hunt moments after coming on as a sub in Sheffield United’s 3‑1 defeat at Reading, whose coach Wally Downes is also dismissed for shoving Neil Warnock in the ensuing barney. Derby go top of the Championship with a 1‑0 win at Southend. Preston are third after coming from 2‑0 down to win 3‑2 at home to Stoke. Leeds stay 23rd, Dennis Wise getting sent to the stands for pushing Diomansy Kamara on the sidelines in West Brom’s 3‑2 win. “I was just disappointed generally with the performance,” says the-glass-is-half-empty-kind-of-guy Roy Keane as Sunderland win 4-2 at Sheffield Wednesday to go seventh. At the top of League One, Forest and Scunthorpe both draw and Bristol City go second with a 3‑0 win at Oldham. League Two leaders Walsall lose 2‑1 at Mansfield. Clive Platt scores MK Dons’ first hat‑trick since their rebrand in a 3‑1 win at home to Barnet. Macclesfield climb out of the relegation zone for the first time with a 3‑0 win against Hereford. “I don’t feel any sense of personal achievement,” says Paul Ince. Peterborough appoint Darren Ferguson as manager two hours before kick-off against Stockport. They lose 3‑0.

Sunday 21 “We fought back because we have lions in our team,” says Arsène, making a scary face after Thierry Henry’s injury-time header beats Man Utd 2‑1 at the Emirates. Robin van Persie is out for six weeks after breaking a bone in his right foot seven minutes from time while celebrating his equaliser to Wayne Rooney’s opener. Wigan lose their seventh game in a row, 2‑0 at home to Everton. “For the next 15 games we have to be men,” warns Paul Jewell. Rangers win their second game in a row under Walter Smith, 1‑0 at Dunfermline, to stay a mere 17 points behind Celtic.

Monday 22 Villa sign Norwegian striker John “The Hulk” Carew from Lyon in part exchange for Milan Baros. Liverpool full-back Stephen Warnock joins Blackburn. Aidy Boothroyd reveals that Watford have looked at 25 trialists from around the world: “I can’t pronounce most of them.”

Tuesday 23 Andriy Shevchenko scores twice as Chelsea beat Wycombe 4‑0 to reach the Carling Cup final. José feels he’s making headway: “You cannot just open a player’s head and put your philosophy inside.” Watford win for the second time this season, 2‑1 against Blackburn, who lose Robbie Savage with a broken leg. Aidy thinks his players benefited from going to see the new Rocky film: “They had heard enough of me and wanted to hear someone else.” Luton beat QPR in their FA Cup third-round replay. Birmingham turn down a West Ham bid of £6m for Matthew Upson. Benfica centre-half Ricardo Rocha joins Spurs. Ron Atkinson becomes director of football at Kettering, where his managerial career began in 1971.

Wednesday 24 Julio Baptista atones for an own goal, scoring twice as Arsenal come from two down to draw 2‑2 at Spurs in their Carling Cup semi. “He has the smell to get in the box,” says Arsène. Reading and Sheffield Utd are charged by the FA over Saturday’s mêlée. Simon Davies leaves Everton for Fulham, who are also to sign Alexei Smertin from Dynamo Moscow.
Friday 26 Michel Platini is elected president of UEFA, narrowly defeating the incumbent Lennart Johansson, who has been in charge for 17 years. UEFA also vote against admitting Gibraltar (only the English, Scottish and Welsh FAs were in favour). Russell Hoult is suspended by West Brom after mobile‑phone footage of him having sex appears on the internet. “We only sell players when we want to sell,” says Sir Alex, after Real Madrid are reported to have offered £35m for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Saturday 27
No shocks in the FA Cup, though Bristol City come back from two down to draw 2‑2 at home with Middlesbrough and Blackpool get a 1‑1 draw at Norwich. West Ham are booed off again after losing 1‑0 at home to Watford. Wayne Rooney comes off the bench to score both Man Utd goals, the second a spectacular chip, in a 2‑1 home defeat of Portsmouth. Birmingham lose 3‑2 to Reading on a relaid pitch that still looks like the Somme. Stuart Pearce will take charge of the England Under-21 team for this summer’s European Championship in Holland. With their nearest rivals playing in the Cup, Scunthorpe move three points clear in League One with a 3‑0 defeat of Millwall. Lincoln’s 1‑0 win over Peterborough lifts them to third in League Two, while MK Dons are down to fifth after a 5‑0 thrashing at Rochdale.

Sunday 28 Chelsea stroll to a 3‑0 Cup win over Forest, all the goals coming in the first half. West Brom win by the same score at Wolves, which doesn’t seem to surprise Mick McCarthy: “They’re entitled to have a good side, they’ve made maybe £70 million going up and down from the Premiership.” Arsenal go behind for the tenth time at the Emirates before scrambling a 1‑1 draw with Bolton. Steve Bruce insists that Matthew Upson will not be moving to West Ham who have had two bids rejected: “I couldn’t give a shit if I have got an unhappy player or not. He is not going, full stop.”

Tuesday 30
Liverpool move to within two points of Chelsea after a 2‑1 win at West Ham. Paul Jewell frets over “rank bad goals” as Wigan, two points above the Hammers, fall to a club record ninth successive defeat, 3‑2 at Reading. Sheffield Utd beat Fulham 2-0. Derby stretch their Championship lead to six points by beating Burnley 1‑0 while Preston and Birmingham both lose, the latter 3‑1 at home to Southend, who move off the foot of the table; Leeds win 2‑1 at Hull, but are bottom on goals scored. Meanwhile, Dennis Wise swipes at Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez, who has advised David Healy to find a new club: “Lawrie, please answer my phone calls and stop harping on if you don’t mind.”

Wednesday 31 “Life is said to be too easy for young boys, but they showed they are highly motivated,” says Arsène, as his second string reach the Carling Cup final by beating Spurs 3‑1 after extra time. Man Utd and Chelsea stroll to home wins, 4‑0 and 3‑0 respectively, against Blackburn and Watford. Ashley Cole suffers a knee injury; Michael Ballack is booed by his own, but José doesn’t care: “Because I pick the team – not the fans – if he makes me happy, he’s OK.” Charlton draw level on points with West Ham through a 1‑1 draw at Bolton. Dubai International Capital withdraw their takeover bid for Liverpool, who get FIFA dispensation to take Javier Mascherano on loan. West Ham sign Matthew Upson from Birmingham for £6 million. Michael Ball joins Man City from PSV, Shaun Maloney leaves Celtic for Villa and Wigan sign Nigerian striker Julius Aghahowa. Bristol City end an 18-match unbeaten run with a 1‑0 home defeat by Cheltenham. A 3‑1 win over St Johnstone takes Hibs into the CIS Insurance Cup final; they’ll play Kilmarnock, 3‑0 winners against Falkirk on Tuesday.

From WSC 241 March 2007. What was happening this month

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