THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Wednesday 1 A fantastic night in the Premiership sees the big four all mess up. Arsenal lose 3‑2 at home to West Ham – Sol Campbell, at fault for two goals, is subbed at half‑time and promptly leaves the ground – though Thierry Henry does at least beat Cliff Bastin’s club league goalscoring record with his side’s first. Man Utd are beaten 4‑3 at Blackburn, for whom David Bentley gets a hat-trick, and have Rio Ferdinand sent off. Liverpool concede a late equaliser in a 1‑1 draw with Birmingham, who had been down to ten men for over an hour. Chelsea also lose a lead late on in a 1‑1 draw at Villa. Newcastle lose 3‑0 at Man City to a backdrop of “Souness out” banners. Mark Wright is to sue Peterborough for being sacked over alleged racist remarks.

Thursday 2 Graeme Souness is sacked by Newcastle. Alan Shearer and Glenn Roeder take temporary charge, while Freddie Shepherd prepares to sift through CVs: “Of course people want the job. It’s one of the biggest in world football.” Bryan Robson responds to criticism from the departed Rob Earnshaw: “Players will never look at themselves. But the stats show when Rob started for us we got 12 points from a possible 54.”

Saturday 4 Alan Shearer breaks Jackie Milburn’s Newcastle goalscoring record in a 2‑0 home win against Portsmouth, who start with six players brought in by Harry Redknapp during the transfer window. “It’s a fairy tale. Even the ref shook my hand,” Shearer says. Manchester United beat Fulham 4‑2 at Old Trafford, where Chris Coleman is sent off for raging at a clear offside in the third United goal. Birmingham stay third from bottom after a 2‑0 defeat at Arsenal, Emmanuel Adebayor scoring on his debut. West Brom move up to 16th after beating Blackburn 2‑0. “I can’t put my finger on our inconsistency,” muses Bryan Robson. More jeering at the Riverside, where an angry fan throws his season ticket at the home bench during Middlesbrough’s 4‑0 defeat to Aston Villa, Luke Moore scoring a hat-trick. “The thing that surprises me is we looked so inept,” says Steve McClaren. In the Championship, bottom‑placed Crewe become the first league team this season to score three against Reading, but still lose 4‑3. Sheffield Wed move four points clear of the relegation area, winning 1‑0 at Millwall, Frank Simek scoring the winner while Millwall players are still celebrating a disallowed goal that appeared to have gone in straight from a corner but been missed by the officials. “We’ll wipe ourselves down and get on with it,” promises David Tuttle. In League One Colchester beat Bradford 3‑1, their ninth consecutive win, to stay second behind Southend. After Walsall’s 5‑0 thrashing at Brentford, which leaves them one point above the drop, Paul Merson promises to resign if they lose next week. Carlisle are the new League Two leaders, on goal difference from Grimsby and Wycombe. For the first time in 19 years neither Old Firm team will be in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup after Hibs beat Rangers 3‑0 at Ibrox. Ivory Coast beat Cameroon 12‑11 on penalties, after the first 22 kicks had all been scored, to reach the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup.

Sunday 5
Chelsea lead by 15 points after beating Liverpool 2‑0 at Stamford Bridge. José Reina receives a red card for touching Arjen Robben on the neck. “I’m in a hurry because I must go to the hospital to see Robben,” says an unusually sarcastic Rafael Benítez. The recalled Jermain Defoe scores twice against his former club as Spurs beat Charlton 3‑1 to go four points clear of Arsenal in fourth. In the Championship, Ipswich beat Norwich 2‑1 at Carrow Road in an 11.15 kick off, thanks to an 88th‑minute own goal from Gary Doherty.

Monday 6 Ian Holloway is suspended by QPR for asking permission to speak to Leicester about their vacancy. “If a man is happily married why would he look for another woman?” says chairman Gino Paladini. Watford go third in the Championship with a fifth successive win, 4‑1 at Sheffield Utd. The latter still lead them by 11 points, but Adrian Boothroyd thinks automatic promotion is still on: “Until somebody tells me they can’t be caught then they are going to be caught.”

Tuesday 7
Sol Campbell returns to training after going missing for a few days due to what Arsène calls “exceptional circumstances”. Walsall push Paul Merson before he jumps, ending his 18-month spell as manager. Sunderland chairman Bob Murray says he is “angry and insulted” by Mick McCarthy’s suggestion that the club didn’t spend much in the summer because they were anticipating relegation. Turkey must play six matches at an empty neutral venue as punishment for the fighting at the end of their World Cup play-off with Switzerland; players from both sides get suspensions.

Wednesday 8 Chelsea stroll in the Cup, beating Everton 4‑1 in their fourth-round replay, while Middlesbrough edge past Coventry 1‑0. With Liverpool losing 2‑0 at Charlton, José forecasts that Chelsea will wrap up the title on April 9. Mido is banned from playing for Egypt for six months after reacting badly, hysterically even, to being substituted during their semi-final win yesterday. Hearts insist that Graham Rix is still in a job despite his confession to players that chairman Vladimir Romanov picks the team (imagine that).

Thursday 9 Alex McLeish will leave Rangers in May, with ex-Lyon coach Paul Le Guen favourite to take over. Hartlepool sack manager Martin Scott who had been suspended following a “dressing-room incident” last week. Rotherham need to raise £1m in the next few weeks to avoid going out of business: “The club’s financial position has entered a critical phase,” says chairman Peter Ruchniewicz. Former West Ham and England manager Ron Greenwood dies aged 84.

Friday 10
Premier League chairman and prize fool Dave Richards, one of the three-man panel who’ll find Sven’s successor, hints that Martin O’Neill is favourite by saying he favours a “British manager who understands our passion”. Mike Newell stays at Luton, after talks with Leicester. Duncan Ferguson receives an extra four-match ban for violent conduct not seen by the ref before his red card against Wigan. Egypt beat Ivory Coast on penalties to win the African Nations Cup.

Saturday 11 Chelsea lose 3‑0 at Middlesbrough, their second league defeat of the season and the equal-heaviest of José’s managerial career. “I am not surprised at Middlesbrough winning, because Chelsea are experts at giving life to death,” he says. Manchester United cut the gap to 12 points with a 3‑1 win at Portsmouth. Glenn Roeder oversees his second successive victory as Newcastle’s temporary manager, 2‑1 at Aston Villa. Everton win 1‑0 at Blackburn despite having their debutant goalkeeper Iain Turner sent off after nine minutes and replaced by another debutant, John Ruddy. Heidar Helguson (“a throwback” according to Chris Coleman) scores twice as Fulham thrash West Brom 6‑1 at Craven Cottage. “We lost six goals today and that is not good enough,” says a flustered Bryan Robson. Liverpool win for only the second time in six games, 1‑0 at Wigan, and Arsenal and Bolton draw 1‑1 at Highbury. “That was not football,” says Arsène, accusing Bolton of time-wasting. In the Championship, Watford beat Coventry 4‑0 to cut Sheffield United’s lead in second place to nine points. Wolves are held 1‑1 at home by Crewe, their 14th league draw of the season. Preston extend their unbeaten run to 24 games, beating Luton 5‑1 at home. “The referee was incompetent and arrogant,” explains Mike Newell. “The fourth official couldn’t do his job either.” In League One Southend stay top as Huddersfield beat Colchester 2‑0 and at the bottom MK Dons draw level with Rotherham after a 3‑0 defeat of Blackpool. Hearts continue to stutter, losing 2‑1 at home to Aberdeen. “I picked the team today,” boasts Graham Rix. “I also made the substitutions.”

Sunday 12 Joey Barton scores the winner as Man City beat Charlton 3‑2. Daryl Murphy’s 89th-minute equaliser earns Sunderland a tenth point of the season, at home to Spurs. “Europe here we come,” says Mick McCarthy, already thinking about a nice summer holiday. Celtic beat Rangers 1‑0 at Ibrox to go 13 points clear of Hearts at the top of the SPL. Guus Hiddink reveals he only wants to be England coach if he can do it part-time. “London is only one hour from where I live,” he says. The News of the World claim two unnamed Premiership players, one of whom has been capped “several times” by England, have been caught on camera “in a homosexual orgy that will shock soccer”.

Monday 13
“I’ve just seen my team get stuffed,” says Steve Bruce as Birmingham remain six points adrift of safety after a 3‑0 defeat at West Ham, who move up to seventh; Nicky Butt will be fined after walking out after being named as a sub. Milan Mandaric may sue Rupert Lowe for claiming that Harry Redknapp pretended to like Clive Woodward while secretly slagging him off: “I want a refund on my money. According to him he sold us a dishonest manager who can’t be trusted.”

Tuesday 14 Arsène accepts that Arsenal won’t finish in the top two after they lose to a late Luis García goal at Liverpool. Watford’s six-match winning run in the Championship ends at Leeds, where they lose 2‑1 after having two players dismissed. Sheffield United are clear in second after a 1‑1 draw with Reading. Brentford are only three points behind League One leaders Southend after beating them 2‑0; Colchester miss a chance to go top, being held 0‑0 by Walsall. The rest of the division is extremely tight, with four points separating 13 teams down to Blackpool in 22nd. Wycombe return to the top of League Two by beating Notts County while Carlisle are held 2‑2 by Shrewsbury.

Wednesday 15 Bolton draw 0‑0 with Marseille in the first leg of the UEFA Cup last-32 tie. Sam fumes at the ref for missing “an absolute definite, a screamer, a 120 per cent penalty”. Mark Hughes is targeting Europe after Blackburn’s 2‑0 defeat of Sunderland takes them eighth. Forest drop to 13th in League One as a 3‑0 defeat at Oldham is accompanied by fans demanding that Gary Megson be sacked. John Robertson replaces Paul Lambert as manager of Livingston, currently six points adrift in the SPL.

Thursday 16 Boro’s renaissance extends to a second match, a 2‑1 UEFA Cup win at Stuttgart. Gary Megson resigns amid rumours that disgruntled players were passing out his team selections in advance.

Friday 17 Reading lose 3‑2 at Luton so only equal Liverpool’s divisional record of 33 games unbeaten. Steve Coppell is unfazed: “It’s a kick in the groin. But the sun will be shining tomorrow.”

Saturday 18
In the FA Cup fifth round, Charlton beat Brentford 3‑1 at The Valley, Kieron Dyer feels “like a school kid again” after scoring the only goal as Newcastle beat Southampton, and Liverpool get their first FA Cup win over Manchester United since 1921, 1‑0 at Anfield with a header from Peter Crouch. “They just pump the ball in the box, we didn’t have enough height to cope with that,” says Sir Alex. Late in the game Alan Smith is carried off with a badly broken leg, prompting several days of debate about the reaction of some Liverpool fans inside and outside the ground. Bolton and West Ham will replay after a goalless draw, raising the prospect of Bolton playing four games in a week if they stay in the UEFA Cup. United win the Sheffield derby 2‑1 at Hillsborough in front of 33,439, the biggest Championship crowd of the season. Chris Eagles scores from inside his own half as Watford beat Brighton 1‑0 at the Withdean. Leeds draw 1‑1 at Leicester and Kevin Blackwell isn’t happy: “This isn’t fanny football in the Championship. I’ll put it in one word – we were brain dead.” In League One, Southend go four points clear at the top with a last-minute 4‑3 win at Chesterfield, while Rotherham win at Swindon to leave MK Dons five points adrift at the bottom after a 5‑0 defeat at Huddersfield. “I don’t know where this came from,” says Danny Wilson. Carlisle go from fourth to top in League Two by thrashing bottom side Rushden & Diamonds 5‑0. Keith Curle is sacked after Chester’s 11th defeat in 12 games, 2‑1 at home to Mansfield.

Sunday 19 Colchester take the lead at Stamford Bridge but end up losing 3‑1, Joe Cole scoring twice. José concedes that the surface at Stamford Bridge could be better: “Sometimes you see beautiful people with no brains. Sometimes you have ugly people who are intelligent, like scientists. Our pitch is a bit like that.” Micah Richards scores in the 94th minute, then tells a live BBC TV audience “fucking hell I just can’t believe it”, as Man City draw 1‑1 at Aston Villa. Boro win 2‑0 at Preston and Birmingham win 1‑0 at Stoke. Controversially, the four quarter-final ties will be played on successive days during the week to fit in with TV requirements and Sven’s request for an early end to the season, a situation described as “a mess” by Alan Curbishley. Celtic beat Dunfermline 8‑1, an SPL scoring record, and go 13 points clear of Hearts. The News of the World publishes another “gay orgy” Premiership story, this time about a group of players giving each other oral sex as “a party prank”.

Monday 20
The FA confirm that Wembley won’t be ready to stage matches this season. Mark Wright returns to Chester as their manager on a short-term deal.

Tuesday 21
“I am happy in every department tonight,” says Arsène as Arsenal become the first English team to win in the Bernabéu, Thierry Henry’s strike beating Real Madrid’s alleged galácticos. Liverpool lose 1‑0 late on to Benfica. Kevan Broadhurst is the new manager of Walsall.

Wednesday 22
“How do you say cheating in Catalan?” asks José, enraged by the dismissal of Asier Del Horno for fouling Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Chelsea go on to take the lead at a muddy Stamford Bridge but lose 2‑1 to a Samuel Eto’o goal in the 80th minute. “We’re still alive,” says Alex McLeish after Rangers come back twice to draw 2‑2 at home with Villarreal.

Thursday 23 Boro are in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup on away goals after a 1‑0 home defeat by Stuttgart. Bolton take the lead at Marseille but go out, 2‑1. Chelsea apologise for threats from fans towards Terje Hauge, the ref against Barça, on the official website.

Saturday 25 Birmingham are only three points adrift of safe-for-now West Brom after a 1‑0 win over Sunderland. “For the sake of midlands football I hope we can drag another team into it,” says Steve Bruce. Portsmouth continue their brisk jog towards relegation with a 2‑0 defeat at Chelsea. “We are thinking about Europe,” says Mark Hughes, as Blackburn’s 1‑0 defeat of Arsenal moves them up to fifth. In the Championship, Neil Warnock criticises Sheffield Utd fans for jeering their players during the 3‑2 home defeat by QPR; United’s lead over third‑placed Watford, 2‑1 winners over Cardiff, is now seven points, with Leeds a point further back. League One leaders Southend’s goalless draw with Walsall takes them four points clear; managerless Forest ease relegation worries with a 7‑1 thrashing of Swindon. Carlise stay ahead of Wycombe on goal difference in League Two, where the top five all win. Second Division Gretna reach the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup with a 1‑0 win over St Mirren.

Sunday 26
Middlesbrough’s 2‑0 win at West Brom takes them eight points clear of the relegation area. Man Utd lift the League Cup for the first time since 1992 with three goals in seven second-half minutes in a 4‑0 win over Wigan. Ruud van Nistelrooy is left on the bench and seems strangely reluctant to join the celebrations.

From WSC 230 April 2006. What was happening this month

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