THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Monday 1 How long do you go on waiting for results?” asks Wolves chairman Rick Hayward after sacking Dave Jones with the club 19th in the Championship. Bradford’s Dean Windass has the second yellow card shown to him during a 4-0 defeat at Luton rescinded – he had protested at the referee allegedly taunting him about the score.

Tuesday 2 “There is no need to get dramatic because we are still unbeaten in Europe,” says Arsène as the Gunners are held 1-1 at home by Panathinaikos. Pascal Cygan, now firmly established as the new Frank Sinclair, contributes an own goal for the visitors’ equaliser after the Greeks miss a penalty. Chelsea are through to the Champions League knockout stages, though, after a 1-0 win at CSKA Moscow who also squander a spot-kick. Celtic can still avoid elimination after beating Donetsk 1-0. In the Championship, managerless Wolves are only three points above the relegation zone after a 3-1 defeat at Sunderland and West Ham lose to Cardiff for the first time since 1952, 4-1 at Ninian Park. The top two, Wigan and Ipswich, both win, the latter setting a club record by scoring in their 29th consecutive game, a 5-1 victory over Sheffield United.

Wednesday 3 Ruud van Nistelrooy gets all Man Utd’s goals in their 4-1 win over Sparta Prague. “He is definitely the most clinical finisher I have ever seen,” says Sir Alex. Liverpool win, too, 1-0 at Deportivo La Coruña. Rotherham lose a two-goal lead for the second time in four days to draw 2-2 at Forest. It’s their 17th winless match from the start of the season, the worst League run since Newport in 1970.

Thursday 4 A good European week for English clubs ends with 2-0 home wins for Middlesbrough and Newcastle in the UEFA Cup against Lazio and Tbilisi respectively. Hearts lose 1-0 at home to Schalke. Adrian Mutu receives a seven-month ban for taking cocaine – one month less than Rio Ferdinand got for missing  a test. Gary Mills may take legal action against Notts County after he is sacked as manager then offered a youth coaching job.

Friday 5 Jacques Santini resigns as Spurs manager, saying he will return to France for “personal reasons”. He is believed to have fallen out with director of football Frank Arnesen, who wanted scintillating attacking play rather than a team that had scored six goals in 11 league games. Thierry Henry says he was racially abused by Panathinaikos fans. “After scoring I stared at them for a few seconds. I couldn’t make a gesture with my hands or I would get into trouble.”

Saturday 6 Chelsea are two points clear after beating Everton 1-0 while Arsenal draw 1-1 at Palace. José is pleased with his players’ determination – “If you want to be champions you have to treat every game as a final” – while Arsène still has Old Trafford on his mind: “When you go 49 games unbeaten and then lose, of course that’s  a shock.” Spurs’ woeful run continues with a 3-2 defeat at home to Charlton, after going 3-0 down. Norwich blow their best chance yet of a win, drawing 1-1 with Blackburn, who had Jay Bothroyd sent off before half-time. Nigel Worthington is still chipper: “We’re competing every time and not getting thumped like Wolves last season.” That nice Steve Wigley is now in double figures for winless games since he took charge at Southampton after a 2-2 draw with West Brom. Wigan’s Championship lead is halved to three points by a first defeat, 2-0 at home to Plymouth, while Ipswich win at Burnley. Rotherham come back from two down to draw 2-2 this time, against Cardiff. Forest are second bottom after a 2-1 defeat at Wolves, where home fans chant their disapproval of the notion of Gary Megson becoming manager. Luton’s 5-1 defeat of Wrexham keeps them six points clear in League One; Stockport are four points adrift at the bottom after a 3-0 home defeat by Sheffield Wed. More than 8,000 see Scunthorpe stay ahead in League Two with a 2-0 derby win over Grimsby. At the opposite end, Kidderminster slump to a fourth successive defeat, 4-0 at home to Boston.

Sunday 7 “They are not good enough to win the championship on that display,” says Sir Alex, whose side are 11 points adrift of Chelsea after a goalless home draw with Man City. Bolton miss a chance to go third after Boro equalise late on in a 1-1 draw at the Riverside. Fulham win away for the first time and in some style, 4-1 at Newcastle where Graeme Souness is dismissed for complaining about a penalty his side didn’t get. Glenn Hoddle won’t be reincarnated as West Brom manager after negotiations break down: “After three or four days  I could see we were not really right for each other.”

Monday 8 Arsène is charged with improper conduct for calling Ruud van Nistelrooy a cheat after that game. “I feel strongly that there is a lot we can achieve together,” says Martin Jol on being named Spurs’ new manager (OK, “head coach”). Stuart Murdoch is sacked by MK Dons, currently 23rd in League One.

Tuesday 9 “A horrific performance and a horrific result,” is Steve Wigley’s assessment of Southampton’s  5-2 thrashing at Watford in the fourth round of the Carling Cup. Elsewhere, 18-year-old Dutchman Quincy Owusu-Abeyie inspires Arsenal reserves to a 3-1 win over Everton and Martin Jol says: “You all saw a Spurs I can build on,” after a 3-0 win at Burnley. “The feedback I have had is that the fans have been right behind me to get this position,” says Bryan Robson on being appointed West Brom manager (the fans in question support Wolves). Tony Adams resigns at Wycombe, saying: “It saddens me to have to leave before finishing the job I started” – the club are 17th in League Two. Former Liverpool and England captain Emlyn Hughes dies aged 57.

Wednesday 10 The uninterested make progress in the Carling Cup with weakened teams: holders Middlesbrough are beaten by two late goals from Liverpool’s Neil Mellor; a Chelsea line-up with seven changes beat Newcastle in extra time thanks to goals from subs Gudjohnsen and Robben; Man Utd and Palace use shadow sides at Old Trafford, the home team winning 2-0. Fulham need extra time to win 4-2 at Forest, who had been a goal up with three minutes of normal time left. Man Utd are drawn at home to Arsenal in the quarter-finals. “The FA will be delighted,” says Sir Alex, waving his dry cleaning receipt. Gérard Houllier rules himself out of the Wales job because the £250,000  annual salary is too low.

Thursday 11 “You tell me one time in England when a manager and a director of football combination has worked,” says Harry Redknapp, not really wanting an answer, after reports that Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric wants to appoint Panathinaikos general manager Velimir Zajec. Mansfield suspend manager Keith Curle pending an investigation into an “alleged breach  of club discipline”. Ace Beeb pundit Carlton Palmer will stand in. Barry Knight, who had been scheduled to take Bolton v Villa on Saturday, is switched to another match – he hasn’t refereed a Bolton game since dismissing two  of their players in a play-off defeat by Ipswich in 2000.

Friday 12 John Toshack is the new manager of Wales. His predecessor Mark Hughes, who had been criticised by Toshack, offers a guarded welcome: “The fact he is going to put his own head on the block and try it himself means  I have more respect for him now.” Weird beard a quiver, Malcolm Glazer blocks the re-election of three Man Utd directors for opposing his takeover plans, prompting his bankers JP Morgan to drop him. Jean Tigana will bag £2m after winning his court case for unfair dismissal against Fulham. Leeds must sell Elland Road to generate cash after a projected takeover falls through.

Saturday 13 “If Claudio Ranieri signed Arjen Robben, I have to say thanks a lot,” says José as the Dutchman is outstanding again in Chelsea’s eighth successive win, 4-1 at Fulham. “We’ve been beaten by the champions,” adds Chris Coleman, maybe seething over Arsenal’s controversial win two months ago. For the first time in 21 years Spurs score four against Arsenal, but concede five. It’s the highest score in the fixture. “Local derbies are either completely locked with no chances or completely crazy. This time, you got the crazy version,” says Arsène. Everton are four points clear in third after another 1-0 grinder, at Birmingham, who have lost four times at home by that score, leading Steve Bruce to mutter about “groundhog days”. Bolton slip to a first home defeat, thanks to Thomas Hitzlsperger’s spectacular last-minute winner for Villa. Blackburn move off the foot after their first penalty in 52 games in a 1-1 draw at Man City, to be replaced by Norwich, thrashed 4-0 at Charlton. Nigel Worthington seems worried: “We have got to keep believing. I thought in the first half one or two stopped.” In the Championship, Wigan’s second successive defeat, 1-0 at QPR, means they’re top only on goal difference from Ipswich, who beat Leeds. Steve Claridge, recently sacked by Weymouth, makes his Brighton debut in their first ever win at West Ham, 1-0. “The problem is we don’t know how to win and we don’t how to hold on,” says Ronnie Moore as stranded Rotherham again take the lead before losing, 2-1 at home to Wolves. The FA Cup first round is chock-full of shocks: Slough Town of the Rymans League beat Walsall 2-1  ­– “There are players here who don’t respect my authority,” says Paul Merson – and Hinckley Utd of Conference North also knock out League One opponents, Torquay, 2-0. Shrewsbury lose 2-0 at Southern League Histon, while Conference sides Exeter and Halifax beat Grimsby and Cambridge Utd. AFC Wimbledon set a new English senior record of 76 league games unbeaten after a 1-1 draw at Bromley.

Sunday 14 “We always stick in there,” says Sir Alex, peering up at the summit as Newcastle are the first league side this season to concede three to Man Utd. Wayne Rooney gets two again either side of a Ruud penalty, Alan Shearer having briefly brought the home side level. “I’m angry and frustrated,” says Graeme Souness, whose side are tenth. Bryan Robson gets off to a losing start as West Brom manager thanks to Kanu’s bizarre miss from a yard out in the last minute of the 2-1 defeat by Middlesbrough.

Monday 15 After “peace talks” with his chairman, Harry Redknapp appears to accept the arrival of Velimir Zajec as Portsmouth’s executive director. Wolves may  turn down Gary Megson’s application to be manager after chairman Rick Hayward says he would be “hung from  the rafters” by fans if the appointment went ahead.

Tuesday 16 David Beckham denies he will retire from England action after the 2006 World Cup (qualification for which he seems to take for granted, bless him). Wrexham could have ten points deducted after they apply for an Administration Order, to be activated in two weeks, due to a tax bill. Robbie Keane’s 24th international goal is enough to defeat Croatia in Dublin.

Wednesday 17 Spain beat England 1-0 in a bad-tempered “friendly” in Madrid. Wayne Rooney  is substituted before half-time to avoid being sent off:  “In the first half we lost our heads and when you do that it’s difficult to come back,” says Sven. The FA will make  an official complaint about England’s black  players being booed by the home crowd (“It was the worst I’ve heard,” says Jermaine Jenas). Scotland’s dire run continues with Sweden being the first visitors in 31 years to score four, James McFadden’s late penalty no consolation. SFA chief David Taylor responds to the chants of “sack the board”: “Everyone wants to see improvement in the national team, but I repeat that any Scotland manager cannot purchase new players.” Graham Stack, currently on  loan to Millwall from Arsenal, is charged with rape.

Friday 19 The Spanish FA formally apologise for the racist booing at the England match, having initially blamed the English press for their pre-match needling of Luis Aragonés. Wayne Rooney also says sorry, for his first-half tantrum. Uncle Sven, it seems, had words: “I don’t know why he was like that. Sometimes we do forget he’s just a boy.”

Saturday 20 Chelsea let slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Bolton, for whom the nigh-on prolific Radhi Jaidi gets an 87th-minute equaliser. José just about manages to offer a compliment: “They create danger from nothing. It is a style I don’t like but  we have to give them credit.” Arsenal can’t benefit, drawing 1-1 at home with West Brom, Robert Earnshaw levelling late on (“An accident,” says Arsène). Everton match their total of wins for the whole of last season in beating Fulham 1-0. Boro’s 2-0 win over Liverpool, who try Harry Kewell up front, takes them up to fourth (“We would take sixth if we were offered it now,” says Steve McClaren); Man Utd are a point behind having beaten Charlton by the same score, after which
Sir Alex criticises Malcolm Glazer’s manoeuvrings: “We don’t want the club to be in anyone else’s hands.” Bunting is strewn across Norfolk as the Canaries get their first win, 2-1 over Southampton. Velimir Zajec is present at Fratton Park to see Harry Redknapp pick up the October Manager of the Month award, after which Portsmouth are beaten  3-1 by Man City. Championship leaders Wigan continue  to wobble with a goalless home draw in their first League match against Leicester. Hitherto goal-shy Leeds go berserk with a 6-1 thrashing of QPR, Brian Deane getting four. In League One, Luton continue to lead by six points after a 4-1 win in their first “derby” at Milton Keynes. Scunthorpe return to the top of League Two by winning  3-0 at Bristol Rovers, while Swansea are beaten 2-0 at Shrewsbury. Rangers are a point off the top of the SPL after a particularly rambunctious 2-0 win over Celtic.

Sunday 21 Birmingham squander a two-goal half-time lead in a 3-3 draw at Blackburn, who move off the bottom. The FA are to investigate claims that Dwight Yorke was racially abused by home fans. Meanwhile, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter says he would support a team walking off in such circumstances: “We have to maintain discipline and respect on and off the field.” Ipswich miss a chance  to top the Championship, losing 2-0 at Sunderland. Alan Pardew is jeered by travelling fans as West Ham stay on the fringe of the play-off places after losing 1-0 at Millwall.

Monday 22 Villa move up to fifth after a spectacular goal by Nobby Solano beats Spurs, who have lost six in a row, one short of equalling their worst ever run. Martin Jol is still breathing steadily: “Of course I am concerned but we have the spirit to get out of it.” Rotherham, who are losing £100,000 a month, are considering going into administration in order to attract a buyer.

Tuesday 23 A 2-1 win over Lyon takes Man Utd into the knockout stages of the Champions League in Sir Alex’s 1,000th match as a manager. He’s enjoyed the attention: “I’ve been portrayed properly for the first time this week, but I don’t suppose it will last.” Liverpool will need to beat Olympiakos in their last group match after losing 1-0 in Monaco. Rafa  is enraged by a handball by scorer Javier Saviola in the build-up to the goal: “All the people around the world saw it.” Andy Hessenthaler resigns as Gillingham boss, but is offered a place on the board.

Wednesday 24 Patrick Vieira and Lauren are sent off in Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at PSV, where Thierry Henry is again hit by a lighter thrown from the crowd, but a home win against Rosenborg will be enough. Celtic bow out after a  1-1 draw at Barcelona, but can qualify for the UEFA Cup. In the season’s least surprising news, Harry Redknapp resigns, but claims Velimir Zajec’s arrival was not a factor: “It was something I’ve been thinking about for some time.” A Blackburn fan receives a five-year ban from matches after admitting to racially abusing Dwight Yorke.

Thursday 25 Despite resting several players, Newcastle maintain their 100 per cent record in the UEFA Cup with a 4-0 win at Sochaux; Rangers do likewise by beating Grazer AK 3-0. Middlesbrough continue to lead their group despite a 2-0 defeat at Villarreal. Hearts can still reach the next round after a 2-1 win away to Basel. Sammy McIlroy is invited to pack up his paperweights at Stockport,
who are bottom of League One with only two wins.

Friday 26 Brian Barwick, currently controller of ITV Sport, is named as the FA’s new chief executive. He will get £275,000 a year, his own parking space and an enormous in-tray marked “Brian: Urgent”.

Saturday 27 A 4-0 canter at Charlton takes Chelsea into a five-point lead. Man Utd go fourth after a fifth successive win, 3-0 at West Brom, who are bottom due to Blackburn’s 2-0 win at Fulham, which has Chris Coleman mightily fired up: “What I can’t take is their arrogance. They think they can just turn up.” “We need the supporters to help us,” sighs Steve Bruce as Birmingham are booed off after a 1-1 draw with Norwich. “Sources close to” Harry Redknapp seem to think that their boy may fetch up at Southampton, who stay in the bottom three after struggling to a 2-2 home draw with Palace. “We were Boltoned,” says an admiring Sam Allardyce as Velimir Zajec’s Portsmouth begin with a 1-0 at the Reebok; Great Expectorator El Hadji Diouf is likely to be banned after spitting at Arjan de Zeeuw.  Ipswich are top of the Championship after a Shefki Kuqi strike beats Brighton, overhauling Wigan who score their first goal in five games, in a 1-1 draw at Reading. Michael Bridges’ first League goal in four years is enough to beat Stoke and take Sunderland up to third; Sergei Rebrov’s first since December 2001 completes West Ham’s comeback from two down to beat Watford 3-2. In League One, Tranmere’s 2-0 win over MK Dons takes them to within four points  of Luton, held at home by Doncaster. Scunthorpe are five points clear in League Two after beating Shrewsbury 3-1.

Sunday 28 Rangers are top of the SPL for the first time in a year, after beating Hearts 3-2 while Celtic draw 2-2 at Dundee. “We look like we’re suffering from fatigue,” says Arsène after another calamitous afternoon for Arsenal, beaten 2-1 at Liverpool by a Neil Mellor goal in the 92nd minute. Everton are a point behind in third after David Moyes celebrates his 100th league match in charge with a 1-1 draw at Newcastle. Spurs win at last, 2-0 against Boro. But scorer Jermain Defoe will be suspended after being booked for taking off his shirt to reveal the message “Happy Birthday Baby” – at least he wasn’t thanking God.

Tuesday 30 Chelsea reach the semis of the Carling Cup after Frank Lampard’s 88th-minute goal secures a 2-1 win at Fulham. Portsmouth are beaten 3-0 at Watford, whose fans sing: “You’ve even worse than Southampton.” Earlier, Milan Mandaric absolves Harry Redknapp of blame for the £3.4 million in agents’ fees paid during the ex-manager’s tenure.

From WSC 215 January 2005. What was happening this month

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