THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 3 Man Utd beat Arsenal 1-0 in their FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park, Paul Scholes scoring to deny the holders a fourth successive final. “We didn't deserve to lose,” says Arsène, graciously. “I wouldn't bet on them on Tuesday night,” says Sir Alex, employing spare mind games on behalf of Claudio Ranieri. In the league, Chelsea win 1-0 at Spurs to cut Arsenal’s lead to four points. In his first start for six months, Jamie Redknapp needs plastic surgery after being accidentally punched in the mouth by his cousin Frank Lampard. Newcastle take fourth off Liverpool with a 4-2 win over Everton. Wolves lose 4-1 at home to Southampton; Claus Lundekvam scores his first goal in 296 games for the Saints. At the bottom of the First, Derby lose 1-0 to a disputed penalty at home to Walsall. Wimbledon end a run of 11 straight defeats and stave off relegation for a few days by beating Wigan 1-0. In the game of the day in the Second Division, 19,041 see Bristol City beat QPR 1-0 to draw level on points in the automatic promotion race behind Plymouth, who stay seven points clear despite a 1-0 loss at Barnsley. At the bottom Brentford and Chesterfield draw 1-1, both goals in the final minute, but slip below Peterborough, Grimsby and Stockport, who all win. Wycombe stay alive with a 2-1 win at home to Port Vale. “The lads are going through brick walls,” explains Tony Adams. In the Third Doncaster extend their lead with a 3-1 defeat of Bury, while Carlisle narrow the gap at the bottom with a 2-1 win at Swansea. In Scotland Celtic open up a 20-point lead over Rangers, coming from two down to draw with Hearts.

Sunday 4 Millwall reach their first FA Cup final, beating Sunderland 1-0 at Old Trafford with a goal from Tim Cahill and guaranteeing themselves a place in the UEFA Cup. “No one likes us and no one wants us in the final,” choruses striker Neil Harris. Liverpool beat Blackburn 4-0 to reclaim fourth, Michael Owen scoring twice. “We are the team with the most shots at goal, which for a boring team is not too bad,” says Gérard Houllier, waving his Opta stats like a weapon. Man City draw 1-1 with Aston Villa despite Kevin Keegan’s absence with an injured back. In the First, West Brom go level with Norwich after a 3-2 win at Ipswich. “When you look at it there is not a midge’s dick between the two sides,” says Joe Royle, squinting. In the Third Macclesfield climb out of the bottom two with a 2-0 win at York, who replace them. Newspapers claim that David Beckham has been enjoying “wild romps and txt sex” with a former personal assistant in Madrid.

Tuesday 6 Chelsea reach the last four of the Champions League after winning 2-1 at Highbury thanks to an 87th-minute goal from Wayne Bridge. “I’m still moving and I continue to fight,” says Claudio, who may have a set a European record for successive air punches after the winner. Arsène is appropriately ashen-faced: “Tonight we have hit the wall and it could take us some time to recover.” Chelsea now play Monaco, who knock out Real Madrid. Wimbledon are the first League team down, after a 2-1 home defeat by Sunderland.

Thursday 8
Bobby Robson has a happy return to Eindhoven in the last eight of the UEFA Cup, Jermaine Jenas’s goal earning a 1-1 draw. Celtic come from behind to get a 1-1 home draw with Villarreal, but Martin O’Neill is fuming over the referee’s “indecipherable” decision to disallow a Henrik Larsson goal for handball after he charged down a goalkeeper’s clearance.

Friday 9
“Everyone said we aren’t good any more but they forget we’re still unbeaten,” says Thierry Henry after getting a hat-trick in Arsenal’s 4-2 win over Liverpool, who had led at half-time. “I feared they would react like a wounded animal,” sighs Gérard, applying the sticking plasters. Everton go ahead of Spurs after beating them for the first time in seven years, 3-1 at Goodison.

Saturday 10 Chelsea’s lingering title hopes are exting-uished by a goalless home draw with Middlesbrough. Claudio is set for talks with Peter Kenyon and may be offered a new job as director of football but isn’t keen: “It is difficult to change after 52 years.” Man Utd dent Birmingham’s European hopes, coming from behind to win 2-1 at St Andrew’s. “It was a game of two halves and all that bollocks,” says Steve Bruce. Blackburn are in deep trouble after a tenth home defeat, 2-1 to Leeds. Graeme Souness is at a loss: “If I had any magic words I would have said them five or six months ago.” “It was like getting hit on the head with a hammer,” says a wincing Paul Ince after Wolves miss a first away win by conceding a last-minute equaliser to Shaun Wright-Philips in a 3-3 draw at Man City. Liberian striker Collins John gets both Fulham’s goals in a 2-0 win at Leicester, who look doomed. West Brom draw level with Norwich at the top of the First after a sixth successive win, 1-0 over Gillingham. Ipswich’s 3-1 win at Rotherham takes them into the play-off zone at the expense of Cup-lagged Millwall, beaten 4-0 at Coventry. Carlisle’s Paul Simpson may yet be manager of the season after his team, 15 points adrift in December, get to within three points of safety with a 1-0 over Kidderminster.

Sunday 11 Arsenal restore their lead over Chelsea to seven points with a goalless draw at Newcastle. Sir Bobby thinks they’ll stay unbeaten: “They want to make history and would deserve it.” Celtic reach the Scottish Cup final with a 3-1 win over Livingston. Dunfermline and Inverness will meet again after a 1-1 draw in the other semi. Ex-fox Francis Jeffers may spend the rest of the season training with Everton’s youth team after falling out with David Moyes over not being selected for Friday’s match with Spurs.

Monday 12 Liverpool stay fourth despite a 1-0 home loss to Charlton. Gérard offers sound advice: “The mistake would be to throw in the towel now.” Alan Curbishley bemoans home form: “If we could win at The Valley we’d be up there.” “Uriah Rennie’s refereeing wasn’t good enough, not for this level but for any level,” says a furious Dave Jones after Wolves have three penalty claims turned down during a 2-1 home defeat by Bolton, for whom Kevin Davies scores a last-minute winner. “We can’t win at home so we’ll just have to win every away match,” says Graeme Souness as Blackburn go three points clear of the drop zone by winning 4-3 at Fulham. Portsmouth join them with a 3-1 victory over Birmingham, the game turning on the first-half dismissal of Maik Taylor for handling outside his area. The ref disallows the goal that follows, sends Taylor off and awards a free-kick... from which Portsmouth score the opener. We’d repeat what Steve Bruce said, but you’d only blush. The popular new chant at the Lane, “We want Pleaty out!”, has a generous airing during Spurs’ 1-1 draw with Man City, though the target is unmoved: “I’m only the acting manager so I don’t know what they were shouting about.” “I want to apologise to all the Reading players and fans,” says referee Neale Barry, who sets up Norwich’s late winner after a clearance rebounds off him to Phil Mulryne. Crystal Palace have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs after a third straight win, 1-0 over West Ham, though Iain Dowie may face an FA charge after contributing to a big barney after the dismissal of David Connolly. “If I was a supporter I would have been disgusted,” says Tony Adams as a 2-1 home defeat by Tranmere sends Wycombe down; Grimsby face a second successive relegation after dropping to third bottom after a 2-0 defeat by Blackpool. Doncaster are promoted from the Third with a 2-0 win over Cambridge.

Tuesday 13 Roy Keane agrees to play for the Republic of Ireland again. “He’s made a good decision,” says Sir Alex, though his view may change if Keane is picked for mid-season friendlies as well as World Cup qualifiers. Gary Neville’s first goal for three seasons is enough for Man Utd to beat Leicester. Leeds are two points adrift in the third relegation spot after former player Nigel Martyn keeps them at bay in a 1-1 home draw with Everton. In the Second Division, Bristol City are a point behind second-placed QPR through beating leaders Plymouth 1-0. John Gregory can splash out on a lifetime’s supply of hair dye after reaching a settlement with Derby County, who sacked him amid controversy last year.

Wednesday 14
Newcastle are through to the last four of the UEFA Cup after beating PSV 2-1 with goals from Alan Shearer and Gary Speed. “Two of the old timers did it for us. Three if you include me,” says Sir Bobby. Celtic go out following a 2-0 defeat in Villarreal.

Friday 16 “It’s difficult to find new words for Henry every time,” says Arsène as Thierry runs riot again, hitting four in Arsenal’s 5-0 win over Leeds. “I wouldn’t even say the score was harsh,” sighs Eddie Gray. Colin Lee is sacked by Walsall for having talks about the vacancy at Plymouth. Paul Merson takes over until the end of the season. Cameroon get a Blattering: they’ll start the World Cup campaign on minus six points as punishment for wearing their one-piece kit in the African Nations Cup.

Saturday 17
“That was bloody important,” says Harry Redknapp, celebrating his first league win over Man Utd as a manager, Steve Stone’s first-half goal proving enough. Blackburn are almost safe too after finally winning at home, 1-0 against Leicester. “You could smell the fear,” says Paul Sturrock after his Southampton side win 3-1 at Man City, now only two points ahead of Leeds. The “race” for fourth still looks like an obstacle course for blindfolded competitors: Liverpool miss another penalty, Steven Gerrard the culprit, in a goalless draw with Fulham, while Birmingham take a point from a dismal 1-1 draw at The Valley. In the First Paul Merson fails to rouse Walsall, thrashed 5-0 at Norwich, but they stay a point clear of both Burnley and Gillingham, the latter dropping into the bottom three with an 11th home defeat of the season, 2-1 to Ipswich. Bradford are relegated after losing 3-2 at home to Wimbledon and their enormous debts means they can’t afford to keep Bryan Robson – so it’s not all doom and gloom. Second Division leaders Plymouth miss a chance to clinch promotion, crashing 4-1 at Oldham. Carlisle’s valiant escape bid seems to have been ended by Lincoln, 2-0 winners at Brunton Park, their second put in from over 50 yards after the opposing keeper had come up for a corner. York stay second bottom after losing by the same score to Cheltenham, their 16th game without a win. Chester return to the League after a four-year absence, taking the Conference title with a 1-0 victory over Scarborough.

Sunday 18 Newcastle are joint fourth with Liverpool after a goalless game at Villa where they play with ten men for 80 minutes after Andy O’Brien is sent off. Sir Bobby is dismayed by injuries to Jermaine Jenas and Craig Bellamy that may keep them out of the run-in: “We’ve lost £20 million of talent.” Sunderland’s hopes of winning automatic promotion from the First Division disappear in the last minute of their match with West Brom, when Jason Koumas scores the only goal.

Monday 19 Diego Maradona is hospitalised with breathing problems shortly after attending a Boca Juniors match. His doctor denies that a drug overdose was the cause. A group of senior players at Man City led by David James are said to have demanded extra training sessions in the build-up to their forthcoming match with Leicester. “We’ll be focusing on things we believe we can do better,” says Kev. Might take a while.

Tuesday 20 A disastrous night for Chelsea, beaten 3-1 by Monaco, who score twice after having midfielder Andreas Zikos sent off for an innocuous tussle with Claude Makalele. “I’m the guilty one,” says Claudio Ranieri, heavily criticised for making surprising substitutions following Zikos’s dismissal. Man Utd go a point behind Chelsea with a 2-0 win over Charlton. Millwall stay outside the play-off places in the First after a 2-1 home defeat by Watford, their fifth match without a win since reaching the FA Cup final. York stay second bottom of the Third after losing 2-1 at home to Yeovil. Dunfermline reach the Scottish Cup final for the first time since 1968 after beating Inverness 3-2 in their semi-final replay.

Wednesday 21 Norwich are promoted after Sunderland lose 3-0 at resurgent Palace, now up to seventh. “We have had a long hard trek in the desert and now the Promised Land is there,” says Delia. Rescinding his membership of the wide awake club, Ron Atkinson resigns from ITV for making an “off-air” racist comment about Marcel Desailly after the Monaco v Chelsea game that was heard overseas. Desailly himself is charged with improper conduct by UEFA for appearing to elbow Fernando Morientes. Porto, who draw 0-0 at home with Deportivo in the second Champions League semi, are to make a formal complaint to FIFA about Chelsea’s pursuit of coach José Mourinho. Aberdeen end Celtic’s 77-game unbeaten home run with a last-minute goal in a 2-1 win. Wimbledon stay in administration after the Inland Revenue object to the agreements made between the club’s prospective new owners and creditors.

Saturday 24 The FA will be viewing an X-rated video after Man City’s 1-1 draw at Leicester is enlivened by a major dust-up over a late home penalty award. After five minutes’ delay Paul Dickov duly misses. “It was a lot of passionate people who care,” says Kev. For the third time in four seasons Danny Murphy gets a Liverpool winner at Old Trafford, this year with a penalty. Villa still have hopes of a Champions League spot, moving up to fifth with a 2-1 win at Boro, though David O’Leary is driven to sarkiness by George Boateng’s dive that led to Nobby Solano’s dismissal: “It looked fantastic on film. He has a future if he wants to go that way.” West Brom are promoted before their 2-0 win over Bradford, third-placed Sunderland having earlier failed to beat Wigan. Walsall’s fourth successive defeat, 1-0 to Sheffield Utd, drops them into the bottom three, though Paul Merson is not frightened of relegation: “I have no ego and don’t think I’m too good to play in Division Two.” Plymouth’s 2-0 defeat of QPR means that Bobby Williamson wins the Second Division title in his first match in charge, having joined from Hibernian earlier in the week. Notts County are relegated to the Third after a 2-1 defeat by Port Vale. Carlisle finally move off the bottom of the League with a 3-2 win at Mansfield to be replaced by York, the Shrewsbury of 2004, beaten 3-1 at Doncaster.

Sunday 25 Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle means Arsenal only need a point for the title, which they duly get with a 2-2 draw at Spurs for whom Robbie Keane scores a last-minute penalty equaliser. “We have to keep our humility and wonder how we can become better,” says Arsène. Leeds lose 2-1 at home to Portsmouth and will probably need to win their last three games to stay up. Wolves are not quite down after a 2-2 draw at Birmingham.

Tuesday 27 It emerges that Leeds have already, rather thoughtlessly, employed an agent to arrange the sale of their three star players. Geoffrey Richmond, controversially employed as an adviser by the club until stepping down last week, has been declared bankrupt. Bolton may be signing Rivaldo on a one-year deal – his fondness for Phoenix Nights is said to be a factor.

Wednesday 28 “You would have to cut both my arms off before I would let Steven Gerrard leave,” says Gérard, possibly unwisely, in response to rumours of interest from Arsenal and Man Utd. In international friendlies, Northern Ireland score again, in a 1-1 draw with Serbia & Montenegro, the Republic’s match in Poland finishes goalless and Scotland suffer a fourth successive defeat, 1-0 in Denmark. Germany lull the other Euro 2004 qualifiers into a false sense of security by losing 5-1 in Romania.

From WSC 208 June 2004. What was happening this month

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