THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 1 Middlesbrough miss a chance to go third by conceding a last-minute equalizer at home to Forest. Pierre van Hooijdonk doesn't play but Paul Gascoigne does, having discharged himself from the addiction clinic. Paul will still undergo treatment but intends to move in with with his Dad: the latest in a long line of smart moves by the troubled Geordie. Sunderland, the League's only unbeaten team, return to the top of the First Division after a 3-0 win at Bolton.

Tuesday 3
A mixed night in the UEFA Cup (English clubs used to win it, you know). Villa lose 3-1 at home to Celta Vigo to go out 3-2 on aggregate, and Leeds are eliminated too after a goalless draw with Roma at Elland Road. Liverpool go through, however, on away goals after a 2-2 draw in Valencia, though they end the game with nine men after Steve McManaman and Paul Ince (no, really) are sent off in a general fracas towards the end. Celtic are out too, beaten 4-2 in Zürich.

Wednesday 4 In the Champions League, Man Utd thrash Brondby 5-0 and are now looking a good bet to win their group – “the first half was one of the best I’ve seen,” says Alex, hopping from foot to foot. Arsenal, though, drop to the bottom of their section after a 3-1 defeat in Kiev and will need to win both their last two matches to qualify for whatever stage comes next (look it up if you must).

Thursday 5 Brian Laudrup scores the only goal as Chelsea win 1-0 against the team he is about to join, FC Copenhagen. A group of Chelsea fans unveil an anti-Laudrup banner, taken down at half-time on the insistence of Ken Bates, who calls them “scum of the earth”. Rangers are through to the third round of the UEFA Cup after a 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. Dion Dublin signs for Aston Villa for £5.75 million, saying, “I was offered more money but that is never the issue.” There’s some who might think different. Mark McGhee is sacked by Wolves, who have won only two of their last 14 matches. David Platt (remember – the old England player with pouty lips) is favourite to take over.

Saturday 7 Villa march on, Dion Dublin scoring twice on his debut and having a third dubiously ruled out as a defensively shambolic Spurs are beaten 3-2. The Paolo push-recipient Paul Alcock makes headlines again with a distinctive reffing performance in a 3-3 draw at The Dell where Middlesbrough have two players sent off before equalising in the last minute. “It was unbelievable,” says Bryan, looking even more stunned than usual. “Phil Stamp told me he had been sent off for calling the referee ‘useless’.” That will have been enough, though. Liverpool’s poor home run continues, Derby’s 2-1 win being their first at Anfield since 1970. Pierre van Hooijdonk gets a surprisingly friendly reception from Forest fans on his return from exile, in the No. 40 shirt, but the team still lose 1-0 at home to Wimbledon (“It is not about my personal feelings – otherwise I would not have picked Pierre,” says Dave Bassett). Blackburn also drop into the bottom three after a 2-1 home defeat by Coventry. In the First Division Sunderland are now five points clear after beating Grimsby 3-1 while nearest challengers Ipswich draw at Huddersfield. Bristol City players seem to be sending a message to the club’s board – after losing 5-0 last week, shortly after the surprise sacking of manager John Ward, they are now beaten 6-1 at home by managerless Wolves. The controversial Jock Brown resigns as Celtic general manager. Thus inspired, the team go on to beat Dundee 6-1.

Sunday 8 Arsenal move up to second after a Nicolas Anelka goal is enough to beat Everton at Highbury. “This was a flat performance and it begs the question of games after Europe,” says Alex, as Man Utd are held to a goalless draw at home by Newcastle. Chelsea’s unbeaten run stretches to nine league games with a 1-1 draw at West Ham but Pierluigi Casiraghi is stretchered off with a knee injury that may keep him out for the rest of the season. Stéphane Guivarc’h scores twice on his debut for Rangers who are four points clear after thrashing St Johnstone 7-0 away.

Tuesday 10
In the Worthington, Liverpool lose at home again, 3-1 to Spurs, and lose Michael Owen with a hamstring injury that may keep him out for a month. “My situation is the least important of all. What worries me is the club,” says Uncle Roy, looking like a goner. Also through to the last eight are Wimbledon, 2-1 winners at Bolton, and Luton, who beat Barnsley 1-0. A consortium fronted by rock singer Jim Kerr and golfer Kenny Dalglish is aiming to buy Celtic from their current owner Fergus McCann, who said when he took charge in 1994 that he would sell within five years, though some may not have believed him.

Wednesday 11 Arsenal Reserves’ hopes of reaching Wembley go up in smoke with a 5-0 home defeat by Chelsea. “I stick by my decision and would do it again,” says an unrepentant Arsène. Man Utd’s second string progress, though, beating Forest 2-1. Sunderland keep up their unbeaten run by winning a penalty shoot-out at Everton and Blackburn also go through on spotkicks after drawing at Newcastle. Lincoln City’s John Reames becomes the latest chairman to chance his luck as a manager after sacking team boss Shane Westley. After a torrid time as Hull City manager,Mark Hateley is shown the door by new chairman Tom Belton.

Thursday 12 Roy Evans leaves Liverpool having declined the board’s offer of a backroom job, saying, “It’s not about the relationship between Gérard and me. You feel it is not the right formula for the players.” Phil Thompson, brought in as assistant manager, says “I’ve been brought in to give a kick up the backside to a lot of players. It’s not about egos.” Peter Schmeichel announces that he is to leave Man Utd at the end of the season: “In order to prepare myself properly now I need more time between games than I can get in England.” United are expected to make a bid for another famously stroppy custodian, Mark Bosnich, who will be a free agent in the summer.

Friday 13 Richard Wright, Lee Hendrie and Emile Heskey are new names in Glenn Hoddle’s squad to play the Czech Republic, while Pauls Ince and Gascoigne are left out. “I had a good half-hour chat with Paul [Ince] and he agreed with some of the things I said,” says Glenn, holding an ice-pack to his eye. “Paul needs a rest anyway, mentally as much as anything.” Luckily from that point of view he is now also banned from Liverpool’s next UEFA Cup game after their tie with Celta Vigo, whenever that might be. Man City lance an 18-year-old boil by beating Halifax 3-0 in the FA Cup first round. John Gregory says Bosnich can go for £1 million now. “He has shown no desire towards wanting to stay. I have the clear impression that it is about money,” he notes perceptively. Trouble at Palace, also about money, amazingly. Ron Noades serves a writ on new owner Mark Goldberg over the non-payment of a loan instalment due after the transfer of Bruce Dyer to Forest. Tax investigators recommend the prosecution of 12 former Milan players, who are said to have evaded tax on trifling sums such as £6.5 million (Ruud Gullit) and £14.8 million (Marco van Basten).

Saturday 14 Goal-crazy Dion Dublin gets another three as leaders Villa win 4-1 at Southampton. George Graham returns to Highbury for the first time as Tottenham boss and gets a chilly reception from the fans. “It’s fine, lovely, no problem at all,” he quips. George comes away glowing after a trademark 0-0 draw. Crisis club Liverpool (a phrase with a strangely satisfying ring to it) lose at home for the third time in a week, this time after conceding three goals in the last ten minutes to Leeds. The equaliser from 18-year-old Alan Smith “awakened some nightmares” says Gérard. Plenty of work there for homespun arse-kicker Thommo. Blackburn captain Tim Sherwood is sent off at Old Trafford after a clash with David Beckham, of all people, then Rovers pull back two goals but still lose 3-2. “I would like to defend him, but I have seen the incident on television,” says Roy Hodgson, who is suddenly not looking like the next England manager. Bedlington Terriers get the best result of the FA Cup first round, thrashing Colchester 4-1. St Johnstone recover from their 7-0 beating by Rangers to overturn Celtic 2-1, leaving them ten points behind the leaders.

Sunday 15 Another good day for non-League clubs in the Cup, with Leigh, Hendon and Emley getting draws against Fulham, Notts County and Rotherham respectively, and Boreham Wood going down only 2-3 to Luton. Other Merseyside crisis club Everton are only four off the bottom after a 3-0 thumping at Coventry. “It was not our worst performance,” says Walter Smith encouragingly.

Monday 16 Pierre van Hooijdonk is ignored by most Forest team-mates after scoring in their 2-2 draw with Derby. “I didn’t count the number of players who celebrated,” says unselfish Pierre (it was three). “The only thing I’m interested in is the team performance.” Manchester United tie up their deal with Belgian Second Division side Antwerp, annoying the PFA in the process. It is feared United want to exploit Belgium’s more relaxed work permit rules to sneak in players from outside the EU. Steve Thompson, one of Sheffield United’s five assistant managers, is sacked.

Tuesday 17
Andy Cole’s England future looks distinctly unpromising after he calls Glenn Hoddle “a coward” and (worse) “a bad communicator”. Frank Lampard misses a last-minute penalty as England’s Under-21s lose 1-0 to the Czech Republic at Portman Road. Burnley miss out on an FA Cup second round tie with Man City after throwing away a 2-0 lead at Darlington in the last ten minutes. “I’ve got to have a really good think,” says manager Stan Ternent. That should do the trick. Curiouser and curiouser at Crystal Palace. They have asked the FA to investigate the disappearance of £400,000 which they paid to the Chinese FA for Fan Zhiyi and Sun Jihai. “Transfers have nothing to do with me any more,” says Terry, just in case you were wondering. Fourteen “top” European clubs agree to UEFA’s proposed Champions League reforms, but still want a bigger slice of the TV revenue.

Wednesday 18
A comfy stroll for England, 2-0 v the Czech Republic with first half goals from Darren Anderton and Paul Merson. In European Championship qualifiers, Northern Ireland take a step back after some good recent results by drawing 2-2 at home with Moldova, while the Rep of Ireland are denied what seem to be two clear penalties in a 1-0 defeat away to Yugoslavia.

Thursday 19 Stirrings at Lancaster Gate with the FA to launch an inquiry into claims that their chairman Keith Wiseman awarded a grant of £3 million to the FA of Wales in exchange for their backing his (failed) bid to be elected as Britain’s FIFA vice-president. Luckily for Keith, this will be an FA investigation so we’ll hear no more about it until after we’re all dead.

Friday 19 Another day, another inquiry, this time by Hampshire police who looking in to allegations of “bad business practice” relating to Portsmouth’s signing of three Australian players in 1997. The person in charge of the club at the time, a Mr T Venables, says, “I’m being highlighted in an investigation I know nothing about. I want answers.” Hmm.

Saturday 20 Villa lose for the first time in the League this season, 4-2 at home to Liverpool. Dion Dublin scores two more but also misses a penalty, Robbie Fowler gets a hat-trick and there is the most predictable dismissal of the season with Stan Collymore sent off after two bookings for a bad foul on his old mucker Steve Harkness and an attempt to throttle Michael Owen, 18. Better news for Villa is that Arsenal and Man Utd both lose, at Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday respectively. “We were unrecognisable as Manchester United,” snarls Alex after the 3-1 defeat at Hillsborough. Roy Hodgson is sacked as Blackburn manager following their 2-0 defeat by Southampton at Ewood Park which ends with home fans chanting “Hodgson for England”. Sunderland lose for the first time this season, 3-2 at home to Barnsley, but stay five points clear. Liveliest match is at QPR where Sheffield United’s assistant manager John Deehan is arrested for swearing, the devil. In Scotland, Celtic record their biggest derby win in thirty years, beating Rangers 5-1, though the latter still hold a four-point lead at the top.

Sunday 22 West Ham’s 2-0 win at Derby is overshadowed by an outburst from Harry Redknapp after his board insisted that he rest defender Andrew Impey who is about to be sold to Leicester. “I’m outraged at the way this was done,” he says. “I don’t need a job that badly that I’ll let people walk all over me.” (Close your eyes and it’s Johnny Cash.)

Monday 23 Everton get their first home win since April, a Michael Ball penalty enough to beat Newcastle. “We could have played for another 90 minutes and not scored,” quips Ruud, who seems to be getting smaller by the week. West Ham chief executive Peter Storrie responds to Harry Redknapp’s criticism, saying, “The books have to be balanced and Harry knows that as well as I did. He can like it or lump it.”

Tuesday 24 In the UEFA Cup, Michael Owen gives Liverpool a half-time lead away to Celta Vigo but normal service is resumed after the break with the home side scoring three, the last proving once more that while Norway has produced some good defenders in recent times, none of them play for Liverpool. “The third goal was a joke really,” says Gérard, not laughing. Rangers’ chances of making progress in the same competition are dented by a 1-1 home draw with Parma. Duncan Ferguson leaves Everton for Newcastle for £8 million, in a transfer deal seemingly cooked up between the Newcastle directors and Peter Johnson, who is believed to be on the verge of selling up and will use the money to help clear Everton’s overdraft. (If he hadn’t intended to go, he will be well advised to now, as howls of outrage thunder around Stanley Park.) Walter Smith claims to have considered resigning on being told of the deal, while Duncan, poor lamb, was in tears. Ruud’s views on “his” new signing are unclear.

Wednesday 25 In the Champions League Man Utd draw 3-3 with Barcelona, having led twice after conceding a goal inside the first minute. “I always felt it would end with us having to beat Bayern in the last match and that is how it turned out,” beams Alex. Arsenal, however, lose 1-0 at home to Lens, a game that ends with the dismissal of Ray Parlour and Lens’ Tony Vareilles, who accuses Lee Dixon of feigning injury to get him sent off: “In France we call it cheating.” “It is sad to have a player sent off. It is also sad to lose to an offside goal,” says Arsène, rational yet bitter.

Friday 27 A small piece of Sky TV history is made at Oakwell where Barnsley set a record for the most goals scored in one half of a televised game, putting six past Huddersfield before half-time on their way to a 7-1 win. As they did when losing 9-1 at Man City several years ago, Huddersfield fans dance a conga when they pull one back. Continuity – very important in these changing times.

Saturday 28 Villa recover from two down to draw at Forest, and are now only three points ahead of (ulp) West Ham, who are in their highest position since the old King died, alright since 1986, after beating Spurs 2-1. Chelsea’s unbeaten run stretches to 12 League matches though they are held at home by Sheffield Wednesday. Duncan Ferguson scores twice on his debut for Newcastle who beat Wimbledon 3-1. Alan Shearer, still absent through injury, is being linked with moves to Barcelona and Blackburn, possibly as player-manager. “He’d score 15 goals and keep us up,” says Tim Sherwood, a shade deliriously. Southampton stay rooted to the bottom after a 1-0 defeat by Derby, with David Jones blaming referee Steve Lodge for failing to award two penalties: “The referee was absolute bobbins. There were so many dodgy decisions. And if you want a translation of what bobbins means, it is crap.” In the First Division Sunderland steam on with a 4-0 win at Sheffield Utd with Ipswich moving up to second after a 3-0 win at bottom-huggers Crewe. A home win over Bournemouth takes Walsall up into second place in the Second Division ahead of Fulham who lose 1-0 at Gillingham where there is no repeat of the crowd trouble that lead to a death in the last meeting between the clubs. In the Third Division, Halifax stay top and Leyton Orient move into the promotion places for the first time this season after winning at Plymouth. Hull are now only three points adrift after beating Carlisle who drop into the bottom four, demonstrating again the pitfalls of having an owner with a coaching badge.

Sunday 29 Man Utd are second after beating Leeds 3-2 at Old Trafford. “It was so exciting it made your nerves tingle. For Leeds this was the right way to play,” says Alex, just stopping short of patting David O’Leary on the head (not that he could have reached). Middlesbrough are a minute away from winning at Highbury when Nicolas Anelka equalises, which lucky for all of us as Boro’s previous wins there were in 1914 and 1939.The shock of hearing his team booed off prompts Arsène into a controversial culinary observation: “Maybe we gave the fans too much last season. When you get used to caviar it is difficult to come back to sausages.” Blackburn stay bottom after a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool. “It is always a difficult game when you come to Anfield,” says Tony Parkes, reading from old notes. Rangers win the Scottish Coke Cup, beating St Johnstone 2-1.X

Monday 30 Impromptu street parties are held around Goodison Park as Peter Johnson announces that he is to step down as Everton chairman allegedly due to “health concerns”, ie the fact the fact that he might have been lynched had he ever tried to attend another home match. He will remain as a director until a buyer is found for his majority stake. “We always viewed him as a Liverpool fan in the wrong place,” says a shareholders spokesman. Philip Carter, one of the prime movers in the first attempted super league breakaway ten years ago when Everton were in the (heh heh) Big Five, returns as chairman.

From WSC 143 January 1999. What was happening this month

More...