THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 3 Liverpool's first derby win in ten attempts, 3-2 at Anfield, is overshadowed by a row over Robbie Fowler's celebration when scoring the first of his two goals, when he mimics snorting cocaine from the white line, geddit, of the penalty area. Gerard Houllier, game for a laugh, claims Fowler was pretending to eat grass but the FA are expected to whip out another of their misconduct charges. Chelsea and Leeds make ground at the top after beating Charlton and Forest while Man Utd are held 1-1 by Wimbledon and Arsenal get a goalless draw at Southampton. In the First Division, Sunderland's 11th successive home win, 3-0 over West Brom, equals a club record. Ipswich stay second after thrashing Swindon 6-0 at the County Ground.

Monday 5 Coventry charge towards near-safety after a 1-0 home win over Southampton. Everton drop into the bottom three after defensive blunders bring about a 2-1 home defeat by Sheffield Wed, who had lost their previous five matches. Charlton move out of the relegation places thanks to a late goal by Graham Stuart at West Ham. West Brom's 5-1 home thrashing by Crewe is missed by striker Fabian De Freitas who thought it was an evening kick off. "To say I am not pleased is an understatement," says manager Denis Smith, expecting a vote of confidence at any moment. Fulham's fifth successive win takes them 14 points clear at the top of the Second Division. Second placed Preston's 1-1 home draw at home to Man City is watched by over 20,000, their biggest crowd since the mid-Seventies. England's under-strength team lose 1-0 to the US at the World Youth Championship in Nigeria. The PFA are to back a Premier League proposal that from next season, players have their wages automatically docked each time they receive a booking. "I may get stick from the players for this but we have to raise standards," says Gordon Taylor.

Wednesday 7 A Ryan Giggs equaliser in injury time gives Man Utd a 1-1 draw at home to Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League semi. Alex, however, remains upbeat: "Something tells me we are going to win," adding more contentiously, "Juventus can't play for nil-nils, it's not in their nature." In the other tie, Dynamo Kiev lose a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 at home with Bayern Munich. Charlton are studying a plan to build a 45,000 all-seater stadium on the site of the Millennium Dome, a mile away from their current ground. In one of the harsher sackings of the season, Halifax, mid-table in the Third Division, dismiss manager Kieran O'Regan.

Thursday 8 A second-half equaliser from Tore Andre Flo prevents Chelsea falling to their first home defeat in a European tie, but opponents Mallorca will be favourites to reach the Cup-Winners Cup final after their 1-1 draw. The headlines are made by TV pictures of rascally Dennis Wise apparently biting an opponent on the arm. Gary McAllister retires from playing for Scotland, citing the abuse he received during the team's defeat against the Czechs. "A certain section of the crowd are looking for me not to do well," he maintains. Today's sacked boss is Jeff Wood of Brighton, who have lost nine of their last ten League games.

Friday 9 BSkyB's takeover bid for Manchester United is blocked by the government, acting on a recommendation from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Trade Secretary Stephen Byers announced that the takeover would not have been in the public interest. "There is disappointment because we have been working on this for nine months," says United chief executive Peter Kenyon. Robbie Fowler picks up a six-match ban and a record £32,000 fine for his recent transgressions. Graeme Le Saux gets a one-match ban.

Saturday 10 Bad results for Charlton, who go down 2-0 at Middlesbrough – "perhaps some of the players left their legs at Upton Park" muses Alan Curbishley – and Southampton, who become only the second team this year to lose to Villa, 3-0, the game turning on the hotly contested first-half dismissal of Claus Lundekvam. Pierre van Hooijdonk looks to have played his last match for Forest after walking out of the ground when substituted (OK, he probably got changed first) during the 1-0 defeat at Derby. His main contribution to the game is a flying elbow on Vas Borbokis, who is taken off with a broken cheekbone. Lee Sharpe, back from Sampdoria, and so soon, is among the scorers as Bradford regain second place in the First Division with a
2-1 win over Portsmouth. Celtic reach the Scot≠tish Cup final with a 2-0 win over Dundee Utd.

Sunday 11 Newcastle are back at Wembley after Spurs are beaten by two Alan Shearer goals in extra time. "I may have looked calm but my backside was going some," says Alan, and what a disturbing image that is. Earlier, a Nikos Dabizas handball in the penalty area had been missed by referee Paul Durkin, whom George Graham accuses of having "a very bad day at the office". More contentious reffing in the other tie, with Man Utd appearing to score in their goalless draw against Arsenal, only for it to be disallowed for a marginal offside. Nelson Vivas becomes the tenth Arsenal player to be sent off this season, a new record. Chelsea are now only two points off the top after a 2-1 win at Wimbledon. Everton move out of the bottom three with a 2-0 win over Coventry. Bob-a-job Micky Adams takes his fourth managerial post in under two years, replacing Jeff Wood at Brighton. A point from the first goalless East Anglian derby since 1983 takes Ipswich back to second in the First Division. Rangers amble into the Scottish Cup final, beating St Johnstone 4-0. England's Under- 20s finish the World Youth Championship with the worst record of any team after a third straight defeat, 2-0 to Japan. But 6ft 5in debutant defender Peter Crouch becomes the tallest ever England player, so that's something.

Tuesday 13 Sunderland are back in the Premiership with Kevin Phillips scoring four in their 5-2 win at Bury. Fulham are up too, after a 3-0 home win over Gillingham. "The England situation hasn't changed. I will see my Fulham contract through until the end," says Kev. Both clubs could still break the League points record of 102.

Wednesday 14 A Ryan Giggs solo goal, hailed as one of the best ever seen in the FA Cup, takes Man Utd to the Cup final. "We were hanging on for grim death, we needed something out of this world," says Alex. Dennis Bergkamp had missed a penalty in the last minute with the score at 1-1. Chelsea miss a chance to go top, drawing 0-0 at Middlesbrough. Liverpool announce that Michael Owen, carried off with a hamstring injury during the 0-0 snoozathon at Leeds on Monday, will not play again until August.

Saturday 17 Man Utd rest Cole and Yorke but still stroll to a 3-0 win over Fair Play champions-elect Sheffield Wed. Church bells peal through the land as Mark Hughes scores his first goal for Southampton, who salvage what could be a vital point against Blackburn after trailing 3-1. That draw means Forest are still not mathematically down even though they lose again, 1-0 at home to Spurs. "Hey, I never said we were Real Madrid," observes Big Ron, and who would doubt him? Charlton get a point, but miss a penalty at home to Leeds. Kevin Campbell becomes Everton's joint top scorer after hitting another two in a surprise 3-1 win at Cup-happy Newcastle: "There is something missing. It is like having a Ferrari but only driving it in fourth gear," mutters Ruud from behind a copy of Popular Mechanic. Liverpool's worst season since the Fifties lurches on with a 1-0 defeat at home to Villa. "I know where we're going," says Gerard Houllier (the answer being "shopping in France"). West Brom face a heavy FA fine after a fan runs on and attacks an assistant referee in the match with Portsmouth. In the Second Division, Man City continue their late charge with a 2-0 win at Gillingham but Walsall stay second by beating Macclesfield. In the basement, Scarborough look to be heading back to non-League after losing their relegation six-pointer with Hartlepool 3-0. All the day's games are preceded by a minute's silence marking the tenth anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Sunday 18 Chelsea move up to second but let slip a two-goal lead in the last ten minutes to draw with Leicester. "When they went route one we didn't cope well at all," says Ray, standing in for Gianluca, who is too upset to talk. "The savages destroyed the game," crows Martin O'Neill. Rangers' draw at Dundee means they are only four points ahead of Celtic with five games left. Wigan win the Auto Windscreens with a last-minute goal against Millwall. An incident-packed spell for Robbie Fowler continues with a scuffle in a Liverpool hotel from which he emerges with a broken nose. Paul Merson wants the world to know his shame at having ended his dry spell by drinking a bottle and a half of vodka: "I'd gone without a drink for years so I thought I could have one."

Monday 19 Arsenal move to within a point of Man Utd after scoring four in nine minutes in a 5-1 win over Wimbledon. "I expected a reaction after last week but the question was how deeply they were psychologically hurt," says Arsene. Barnsley, nearer the relegation zone than the play-offs, sack manager John Hendrie.

Tuesday 20 After holding a first-half lead, Charlton crash 4-1 at home to Spurs and will probably need to win three of their last four matches to have any chance of staying up. "We've got to believe we can do it," says Alan Curbishley. "I'd like Charlton to stay up because they're a London club and it's not very far for us to travel," says George Graham, helpfully. Ipswich move back up to second in the First Division after beating Stockport. Walsall's hopes of automatic promotion from the Second Division are knocked back by a 1-0 defeat at fourth-placed Preston, whose manager David Moyes is being strongly tipped to take over at Forest in the summer.

Wednesday 21 Man Utd stage one of the great European comebacks, recovering from two down in the first ten minutes to beat Juventus 3-2. Andy Cole gets the winner late in the second half after Roy Keane and Dwight Yorke had levelled before half-time. "We have beaten the finest club side of the last decade. The first 45 minutes were the best in my career as a manager," says Alex. United will now play Bayern Munich, who beat Kiev 1-0. Cable company NTL withdraw plans to buy Newcastle in the wake of the government's opposition to the BSkyB bid for Man Utd.

Thursday 22 Chelsea bow out of the Cup-Winners Cup at the semi-final stage after a goalless draw in Mallorca, Dennis Wise missing their best chance from a yard out in the last minute. "You can't be a great player without living through the disappointment of losing," says Gianluca, bottom lip a-tremble. Cheltenham get the point needed for promotion to the League in a draw with Yeovil.

Saturday 24
Arsenal go top for the first time this season after inflicting Middlesbrough's worst-ever home defeat, 6-1, with two more from Nwankwo Kanu, the second an acrobatic back heel. "The fact that we did this without Bergkamp makes it one of our best performances in my time," says Arsene. Down among the stragglers, Southampton get only their seventh away point of the season in a goalless draw at Derby but stay second bottom. Forest's relegation is confirmed by a 2-0 defeat at Villa, after which Big Ron announces his retirement, signing off by describing the team's performance as "pathetic". On-loan Kevin Campbell may end up with the best goals-per-game record in Everton history after getting another in a 4-1 win over Charlton, whose next opponents, Blackburn, lose too, 3-1 to Liverpool. Brian Kidd and Phil Thompson are involved in a comical touchline spat broken up with the aid of a policewoman who says: "If they were my two boys I'd have smacked their legs."In the First Division, Crewe record the surprise result of the day, winning 2-1 at Ipswich, who lose second spot to Bradford City. Man City's hopes of automatic promotion all but disappear after a home defeat by Wycombe. Walsall, five points clear in second place, need only two points from their final three games to go up. Celtic look to have blown their title chances with a 1-0 defeat at St Johnstone.

Sunday 25 Man Utd come from behind to get a point in a 1-1 draw at Leeds but stay second. "This is always an emotional place to come. Leeds were very pumped up," says Alex. "I will hound United for the next few years. We want to be where they are," says that nice David O'Leary, trying to sound fierce. Third-placed Chelsea get a limp goalless draw at Sheffield Wed. Rangers go seven points clear in Scotland after beating Aberdeen ≠3-1. David Ginola is the surprise choice as PFA Player of the Year, with Nicolas Anelka winning the Young Player award.

Tuesday 27 A last-minute own goal salvages a home draw for Northern Ireland against Canada. Responding to suggestions that defeat would have cost him his job, manager Lawrie McMenemy quips, "But we didn't lose did we?" He used to be on TV a lot at one time.

Wednesday 28 England give debuts to five players in a 1-1 draw in Hungary, the home side's late goal equalising Alan Shearer's first-half penalty. "It was a worthwhile exercise," insists Kev, who now expects to be released from his Fulham contract: "It's time to stop playing games, I want the job." Scotland beat Germany for the first time in 40 years through Don Hutchison's goal in Bremen. "We're not saying we're good," cautions Craig Brown. In Dublin, Ireland beat Sweden 2-0. Blethering sports minister Tony Banks again calls for a united British team to play in the World Cup: "Scotland never make it past the group stage and England consistently fail to find that extra push in the final stages. As Britain they would win it." "You always get a lively debate with Tony," says FA super-caretaker David Davies, smiling through gritted teeth.

Thursday 29 Premier League players' salaries increased by more than 40 per cent in 1997-98 to £200 million, according to the latest survey of football finances by accountants Deloitte and Touche. Thirty-nine players are currently earning at least £20,000 per week, with Duncan Ferguson the highest paid on £40,000. PFA chief Gordon Taylor knows who is to blame: "It's not as if the player is putting the club's arm up its back. It's up to clubs to balance budgets." Lou Macari's 19-year-old son Jonathan, released by Forest last summer, is found dead, having apparently committed suicide.

Friday 30 The death is reported of former England manager Sir Alf Ramsey, 79. "I couldn't be more upset if he was family," says Bobby Charlton, while Alan Ball suggests a statue to Ramsey be built outside Wembley.

From WSC 148 June 1999. What was happening this month

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