THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Monday 1 On transfer deadline day, Chelsea finally snap up Claude Makelele from Real Madrid for, ooh, £80 million or so. Everton fans might be pleased by the arrival of James McFadden from Motherwell, but possibly less excited by that of Kevin Kilbane and the return on loan of Franny Jeffers. Among other loan deals, Marcus Bent leaves impoverished Ipswich for Leicester and Portsmouth take Jason Roberts from West Brom.

Wednesday 3 Newcastle warn Mark Hughes not to play Craig Bellamy and his recuperating knee in the forthcoming internationals: “Wales must expect that we will fight tooth and nail on this,” says a club spokesman. Fulham will move back to Craven Cottage for next season while they continue to look for a new stadium site in west London. Notts County may be days away from closure after the latest consortium set up to buy the club pull out of a takeover deal.

Thursday 4 “I’ve learned a lot of lessons from the past,” says that man Peter Ridsdale, who will complete a takeover at Barnsley next week. Reading say they have refused permission for Alan Pardew to talk to West Ham.

Saturday 6 Going behind to a slapstick goal, bundled in by David James after Sol Campbell tried heading a ball a foot off the ground, England finally beat Macedonia 2-1, a David Beckham penalty proving decisive after Wayne Rooney’s equaliser makes him the youngest player ever to score for the national team. UEFA are likely to fine the Macedonian FA after the booing of England’s black players. “The players understand that the second-half performance was unacceptable,” says Mark Hughes, after Wales hold Italy for an hour but finally go down 4-0. Several Welsh fans are hit by missiles and various liquids dispatched from the home section. Scotland get their expected win over the Faroes, 3-1. Northern Ireland fail to score again but at least get a goalless draw in Ukraine. The Republic of Ireland are held to a 1-1 draw by Russia. Inspired by the dynamic leadership of their new owner, Barnsley go top of the Second after a 2-0 win at Chesterfield. Oxford’s win by the same score against Southend takes them two points clear in the Third, where managerless Carlisle, the only team without a win, are three points adrift at the bottom.

Monday 8 The most exciting day ever for those City “football analysts” as Man Utd chief executive Peter Kenyon quits to join Chelsea, who will double his salary to around £1.2m a year. “It was a bolt out of the blue,” says his replacement, managing director David Gill. Reading chairman John Madejski turns down a second approach from West Ham for Alan Pardew: “I’m darned if I will let him go to one of our major competitors.” The Football League give Notts County another three months to find a buyer.

Wednesday 10 Determined to prove that there are no easy games in international football, England thrash Liechtenstein 2-0, with goals from Oweninho and Roonaldo. Scotland look to the play-offs after losing 2-1 to Germany in a bad-tempered game during which Maurice Ross is sent off. Christian Dailly later interrupts Berti Vogts’ post match interview with an observation about “fucking cheats”. Wales’ 1-1 draw with Finland guarantees at least second spot in their group. Northern Ireland will finish bottom of their section after a 1-0 home defeat by Armenia, their 12th match without scoring – a European record. Representatives of the English and Turkish FAs are to meet at UEFA HQ where they will receive a rap on the knuckles with a large wooden ruler for continuing to bitch publicly about the forthcoming match in Istanbul. It’s claimed that Chelsea sounded out Sir Alex about joining them in the summer – that should speed up his contract negotiations. Alan Pardew resigns from Reading over not being allowed to talk to West Ham.

Friday 12 Hartlepool record their biggest win since 1959, 8-1 over Grimsby, whose player/manager Paul Groves begins the rout with an own goal. Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis is to have talks with a mystery consortium interested in taking a stake in the club.

Saturday 13 A controversial penalty awarded after Robert Pires tumbles in the Portsmouth penalty area earns Arsenal a point in a 1-1 draw at Highbury, Teddy Sheringham having opened the scoring. Ruud van Nistelrooy gets both goals in Man Utd’s 2-0 win at Charlton. “We are not going to build Chelsea into a bloody monster,” Alex Ferguson promises as Claudio Ranieri’s cast of thousands beat Tottenham 4-2 at Stamford Bridge, increasing the pressure on Glenn Hoddle. Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat of Blackburn at Ewood Park is marred by Milan Baros’ broken ankle and an injury to Jamie Carragher, the latter inflicted by Lucas Neill. “This game seemed to be all about making Uriah Rennie look good,” observes Dave Jones, unearthing a new TV makeover idea as Wolves lose 2-0 to Southampton to stay bottom of the Premiership. In the First, West Brom beat Ipswich 4-1 to stay top. “We’ve got your manager,” sing West Ham fans during Reading’s 1-0 defeat at Upton Park. Robert Earnshaw scores four for Cardiff as they beat Gillingham 5-0 at Ninian Park. At the top of Division Two a fourth straight home win takes Port Vale clear of Sheffield Wed. Oxford and Hull are the top two in the Third. In Scotland, Division One Brechin are no longer the only League team in the UK without a point after a 1-1 draw with St Mirren. Man Utd are reported to be the subject of a planned £600m takeover by three of those mystery billionaires who’ve been hanging about.

Sunday 14 The fall-out from Jamie Carragher’s injury rumbles on – Gérard Houllier calls Lucas Neill “a coward”. Birmingham and Fulham each have players sent off – making it five red cards in three meetings between the teams since Birmingham were promoted – in a 2-2 draw at St Andrew’s. Nicolas Anelka scores a hat-trick as Manchester City beat Aston Villa 4-1 to go third. “Nicolas might become the best in the world,” enthuses Kev, never one to get carried away.

Monday 15 The battle of Ewood Park refuses to simmer down, as Gérard describes Graeme Souness’s apology for Lucas Neill’s tackle as “pathetic”. Leicester City win their first game of the season, beating a Leeds team containing six on-loan players 4-0 at Filbert Street. “I’m happy with four,” Peter Reid reveals after the game. With rumbles of discontent growing among the benched stars at Chelsea, Joe Cole reveals that he turned down a one-year loan at Spartak Moscow shortly after signing.

Tuesday 16 “We were very dominant and aggressive,” says Sir Alex, as Man Utd thrash Panathinaikos 5-0 in their first Champions League match. In the same group, Rangers trail Stuttgart at half-time but come back to win  2-1. “I’m a lucky man, I can change my team whenever I want,” says Claudio Ranieri as a William Gallas goal brings Chelsea a 1-0 win away to Sparta Prague. Wigan replace West Brom at the top of the First after beating them 1-0. Ipswich’s first win of the season, 2-1 over Walsall, means that Wimbledon, beaten 2-0 by Millwall, drop to the bottom just in time for their move to north Bucks. Ronnie Moore despairs of Rotherham, who crash 5-0 at Sheffield Utd and have scored just once in seven games: “We look like the worst side in this division, which is soul destroying.” Hartlepool steam up to second place in the Second Division, a point behind leaders Port Vale, after a 2-1 win at Stockport. Swansea return to the top of the Third with a 3-0 win over Macclesfield.

Wednesday 17 Not the brightest of starts to Arsenal’s Champions League campaign with Inter wrapping up a  3-0 win in the first half, during which Thierry Henry misses a penalty. Arsène opens and closes his mouth several times before saying: “You know better English than I do so I will leave it up to others to find the right words.” Celtic take the lead at Bayern, who come back to win 2-1. “I am desperate to play for Dundee,” says Fabrizio Ravanelli, set to be the latest signing by the club’s publicity-shy director Giovanni Di Stefano.

Friday 19 Alan Pardew will be allowed to pack away his lawnmower and join West Ham, though Reading chairman John Madejski is far from happy: “What happened was not right and proper.” Carlton “Carlton!” Palmer is dismissed by Stockport, currently in the relegation zone in the Second. Liverpool and Everton are to have groundshare talks with the city council. “It’s time for a mature debate,” says council leader Mike Storey – so he’d better not ask Gérard.

Saturday 20 Chelsea go top with debutant Hernán Crespo getting two in a 5-0 win at Wolves. Dave Jones hopes it will be another wake-up call: “I want some fight from them.” Newcastle drop to second bottom after a goalless home draw with Bolton. “I would rather keep my feelings to myself,” says a man purporting to be Peter Reid after Leeds’ 2-0 home defeat to Birmingham, whose first goal is a retaken penalty initially saved by keeper Paul Robinson. Moody old Alpay does the shushing gesture to Villa fans after scoring their opening goal in a 2-1 win over Charlton. “We are in need of a turn­ing point,” says Glenn, as Spurs lose at home again, 3-1 to Southampton. In the First, Wigan stay two points clear with a 1-0 win over Watford. Keeper Mart Poom marks his return to Derby by heading Sunderland’s equal­iser in a 1-1 draw. Referee Paul Danson is hospitalised by an accidental (let’s make that clear) headbutt during the 2-2 draw between Crystal Palace and Sheffield Utd. Port Vale and Swansea both win to maintain top spot in the lower divisions. At the foot of the Third, Southend squan­der a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with 92nd-placed Carlisle.
Sunday 21 No goals but bags of mayhem at Old Trafford, where Ruud is jostled by a group of Arsenal players led by mardy Martin Keown after missing a last-minute penalty. Earlier he had been involved in an incident that led to Patrick Vieira being sent off. Sir Alex is scandalised: “ I really think that was terrible behaviour at the end.” Arsène takes a contrary view: “Van Nistelrooy is a great player but his attitude is always provoking.” Glenn Hoddle is sacked. “The current lack of progress and any visible sign of improvement is unacceptable,” says chairman Daniel Levy, like he had big plans or something.

Tuesday 23 “We wouldn’t have scored if we’d played until midnight,” says Steve Bruce, as Birmingham make an unhappy debut in the Carling Cup, missing a penalty in a 1-0 defeat at Blackpool. Wigan beat Fulham by the same score. Charlton need a last-minute Paolo Di Canio goal to force extra time against Luton, whom they  beat 8-7 on penalties after a 4-4 draw. Sunderland crash 4-2 at home to Huddersfield. Last season’s cup specialists Sheffield Utd go down 2-0 at home to QPR. Cardiff surrender a two-goal lead to Jermain Defoe whose hat-trick takes West Ham through  3-2. Martin O’Neill is said to have a fortnight in which to decide whether he wants the Spurs job.

Wednesday 24 Newcastle are the only English club to excel in the UEFA Cup, beating NAC Breda 5-0. Michael Owen breaks Liverpool’s European goalscoring record in a 1-1 draw away to Ljubljana. Man City come from behind to beat Lokeren 3-2, with Kev unhappy at the crowd’s disapproval: “I have never before managed a team that has been booed off at half-time.” “We can still mention ‘Southampton’ and ‘unbeaten’ in the same sentence,” says perma-chipper Gordon Strachan as his side draw 1-1 at home with Steaua Bucharest. Blackburn lose 3-1 away to Genclerbirligi, leaving Graeme Souness to curse the playing conditions: “Their sun was shining and some of them were sloppy.” Hearts beat Zeljeznicar 2-0, Dundee go down 2-1 at home to Perugia. In the Carling Cup, Paul Robinson heads a last-minute equaliser for Leeds, who finally knock out Swindon on penalties – “We lost to an act of God,” says the latter’s manager, Andy King. Arsène Wenger and Arsenal players face a total of 12 FA charges relating to the Old Trafford stramash; Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs are also charged. Arsenal make a public statement: “The club demands high standards on and off the field and the board believe these were not met last Sunday.” Stewart Robson is sacked by Southend.

Thursday 25 The Football League announces that clubs will have up to ten points deducted if they go into administration from next season. Arsène admits that his players were at fault, but:“It is trial by Sky. I could charge the media with overreaction as well.” Luca Vialli joins Raddy Antic, Klaus Toppmöller and, er, David Ginola in declaring an interest in the Spurs job.

Friday 26 Arsenal go four points clear with a 3-2 win over Newcastle. “I’m very happy with his performance, but I’m not happy with what he’s done,” says Sir Bobby of Jermaine Jenas, whose handball produces the winning penalty, scored by Thierry Henry.

Saturday 27 Chelsea stay second but Claudio Ranieri agrees with David O’Leary’s verdict on Villa’s 1-0 defeat: “They were very very lucky.” Man Utd are joint second, a point behind Arsenal following a Ruud treble in a 4-1 stroll at Leicester. “We’re still looking at the bottom not the top,” insists Steve Bruce as Birmingham stay fourth after beating Portsmouth 2-0. A 30-yard strike by Alex Rae is poised to give Wolves their first win until Bolton grab an 85th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw. Sheffield Utd go top of the First after a 2-1 win at Bradford while previous leaders Wigan draw 1-1 at Coventry. On their debut at Milton Keynes, “Wimbledon” avoid a tenth successive defeat, coming from two down to draw 2-2 with ten-man Burnley. In the Third, Mansfield are reduced to nine before half-time but still win 2-1 at Cambridge. Ray Mathias clears his desk at Tranmere, whose 2-1 home defeat by Wrexham is their eighth match without a win, and Leyton Orient say ta-ra to Paul Brush after a 3-0 defeat at Huddersfield.

Sunday 28 With David Pleat in charge (“I’m just looking after the shop”), Spurs’ goalless draw at Man City is their first point in four games. Kevin Lisbie, no less, gets all Charlton’s goals in a 3-2 win over Liverpool. Steve Watson also hits three in Everton’s 4-0 thrashing of Leeds, for which Peter Reid offers no excuses: “I’m fair with my players but I just can’t defend that.” Graeme Souness spots a crime and the culprit after Blackburn’s 2-0 home defeat by Fulham: “We’ve been mugged but we mugged ourselves.”

Monday 29 A woman claims to have been sexually assaulted in a London hotel by a group of Premiership players. Police are to interview suspects but no arrests have been made. Northampton sack Martin Wilkinson.

Tuesday 30 Newcastle’s shares drop 14 per cent and the board issues a statement denying rumours that Sir Bobby is about to resign. Arsenal misfire in a 0-0 draw at Lokomotiv Moscow, their seventh Champions League game without a win. Martin O’Neill talks of “an absolutely immense performance” as Celtic beat Lyon 2-0. Lawrie Sanchez leaves Wycombe, in the Division Two relegation zone, in the temporary care of former Hoddle adjutant John Gorman. Almost 21,000 see Hull top the Third after a 1-0 win over previous leaders Swansea.

From WSC 201 November 2003. What was happening this month

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