THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 1 Business as usual at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal sees Patrick Vieira sent off and a David Seaman blunder. Bolton move off the bottom with a 1-0 win over non-scoring Aston Villa, thanks to a goal from Birmingham-born Michael Ricketts and a disallowed goal from Juan Pablo Angel. “In this country we have got good referees who are being let down by assistants who are not so good,” says Graham Taylor. Lloyd Owusu’s goal with his first touch for the club puts Wednesday on their way to a 2-0 win in the Sheffield derby.

Monday 2 “You can’t punish people all their lives,” says Sven as Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer are included in the England squad for the friendly with Portugal. Arsenal announce their “frustration and disap­point­ment” at referee Andy D’Urso’s refusal to rescind the red card shown to Patrick Vieira against Chelsea. Two late goals at Anfield give Newcastle a draw and prevent Liverpool going to the top of the table. “It looked as if we were buried at sea,” admits a relieved Bobby Robson. Roy Keane is to have an operation on his hip (possibly to be carried out by a brain surgeon) that may keep him out of football for even longer than his suspensions.

Tuesday 3
Vieira may pick up a further suspension to add to his automatic one-match ban after the FA charge him with verbally abusing Andy D’Urso (apparently calling him a flipping winker or somesuch). Middlesbrough are beaten by a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty at Old Trafford, where Paul Scholes turns out despite being declared unfit to play for England. David Beckham is also allegedly injured in the match and will miss the friendly with Portugal.

Wednesday 4 Roy Keane faces two charges of bringing the game into disrepute for the tackle made on Alf Inge Haaland and comments made about it in his non-fiction bestseller. He is expected to receive a fine rather than a ban, so those book sales will come in handy. Stung by Scholesgate, the FA are to enforce FIFA rules obliging injured players to be called up for squad meetings, though Sven refuses to be drawn into an open confrontation with Sir Alex: “It is a ding, rather than a ding-dong,” says an FA official with a keen sense of the absurd.

Thursday 5 The black clouds over Pride Park get a bit more thundery as Danny Higginbotham hands in his notice, having not been paid for August. “I look forward to seeing Derby back in a healthier state,” he says. To the consternation of Rams fans, the former Coventry City insolvency expert Bryan Richardson is said to be considering refinancing Derby in exchange for a role in running the club, “to help bring some financial stability to Pride Park”, as chairman Lionel Pickering puts it.

Saturday 7 The European Championship qualifiers almost begin with a shock result, as plucky Scotland come from 2-0 down to draw with the Faroes in Toftir. “I don’t know why it happened,” says Berti Vogts encouragingly. “I asked the players at half-time what happened and they didn’t know either.” Wales get off to a flier, winning the battle of the Southampton goalies 2-0 in Helsinki, but the Republic of Ireland go down 4-2 to Russia. “We have never defended like that before,” sighs Mick McCarthy. Elsewhere the most creditable results are achieved by Bulgaria (2-0 winners in Belgium), Estonia (a 0-0 in Croatia) and Armenia, who draw 2-2 with Ukraine. An Alan Smith goal gives England a 1-1 draw in a farcical friendly with Portugal, who substitute their entire team – England make do with just the seven changes. “To say we short-changed the public would not be right,” protests Sven. Portsmouth march on at the top of the First with a 3-1 win at Gillingham, chased by Leicester, who win 3-2 at Wimbledon in front of a new record low crowd of (officially) 2,165.

Sunday 8 Liechtenstein hammer out a warning to England by securing their third draw in four games, 1-1 at home to Macedonia in front of 2,650 – ten per cent of the population. Sir Alex denies that he set out to humiliate the England manager by including Paul Scholes in Man Utd’s team against Sunderland: “I did not snub Sven-Goran Eriksson at any time. This has been an attempt to drive a wedge between me and him, but it hasn’t worked.”

Tuesday 10 Arsenal return to the top after beating Man City 2-1. Thierry Henry scores the winner but is in trouble for displaying a T-shirt message to poptastic pal Sharleen Spiteri, thereby contravening FIFA’s ban on dopey slogans. Little Kev is sorely vexed by the dismissal of Ali Benarbia for arguing with an assistant referee: “I don’t think the linesman even knew there was another team playing.” Massimo Maccarone scores two in Middlesbrough’s 3-0 win over Sunderland. Cheltenham take the Worthington Cup headlines, winning 3-0 at Norwich. Luton also win away, 2-1 at Watford where fighting between rival fans delays the kick-off. Millwall and Reading lose to Third Division opponents, Rushden and Cambridge respectively. It’s not a leap year but Celtic still lose an SPL match, 2-1 at Motherwell. New Zealand’s Auckland Kingz are the latest club to deny any interest in signing vibrant funster Paul Gascoigne, despite his agent’s claims to the contrary.

Wednesday 11 “I’m scratching my head to see where that performance came from,” says Glenn as Spurs miss a chance to return to the top, losing 3-2 in injury time at Fulham having been two up. Bolton keep up a tradition by winning at Old Trafford, Kevin Nolan scoring the only goal after a mistake by David Beckham (“I apologise to the fans because they pay their money to come and watch us”). For the second match in a row Liverpool let a two-goal lead slip, Clinton Morrison getting Birmingham’s injury-time equaliser. Gérard reflects on what-ifs: “The fact is that we should be top of the Premiership now.” West Ham are anchored to the bottom after losing 1-0 at home to West Brom. In Scotland, Rangers leapfrog Celtic with a 2-0 win over Hibs.

Friday 13 Everton’s manager David Moyes joins a long queue of people who want to complain about Berti Vogts, writing to the SFA about Berti’s criticism of David Weir in the Faroes Fiasco. “I will let my performances answer my critics,” says Weir. Controversial World Cup referee and far-right political candidate Byron Moreno is under investigation by FIFA. He has been suspended for 20 games by the Ecuador FA for playing an extra six minutes of injury time in a club match, during which two decisive goals were scored.

Saturday 14 A good day for west London, not so good for the north-east, as Chelsea beat Newcastle 3-0 and Fulham win at Sunderland by the same score, leaving both the losers in the bottom three going into next week’s derby. “We’ve got some recovering to do,” says Bobby Robson, while Peter Reid admits: “We were all over the place.” Arsenal also win 3-0, at Charlton, to stay clear at the top (“The dream is to see the team play perfect football,” says a demanding Arsène) while the Rio grudge match is a bit of a damp squib, with Leeds inflicting Man Utd’s second defeat of the week by 1-0. They are now behind West Brom, who win 1-0 for the third game in a row, this time against Southampton. In the First Division battle of the bankrupts Leicester beat Derby 3-1 to stay second behind Portsmouth, 1-0 winners over Millwall thanks to a goal described as “diabolical and terrible” by Mark McGhee. Hartlepool still top the Third after beating ambitious-but-crap local rivals Darlington 4-1, while in the Second it’s Oldham’s turn to pump goals past Mansfield, Clyde Wijnhard getting four in a 6-1 rout.

Sunday 15 Never a dull moment at Man City, where the home side get two in the last ten minutes to draw 2-2 with Blackburn, despite having Danny Tiatto sent off for an airborne lunge at David Thompson and Richard Dunne absent after arriving late (and allegedly drunk) for training. “As far as I’m concerned Danny Tiatto doesn’t exist,” says a very cross Kev. Goal-happy Tottenham leave West Ham still with just a single point after a 3-2 win at White Hart Lane, Anthony Gardner getting a very late deflected winner. “The league table doesn’t lie,” says Glenn hopefully as Spurs jump to second, though you suspect it may be keeping one or two guilty secrets. In the East Anglia derby, a last-minute goal from Pablo Couñago rescues a point for Ipswich. To a chorus of polite coughing, Gordon Taylor floats the idea that the Premier League should “buy” one of the three promotion places from the First Division for £100 million.

Monday 16 Birmingham beat Villa 3-0 with help from Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckelman who lets a throw-in roll under his foot for the second goal. “The word I can think of to sum up my reaction is ‘incredulous’,” says Graham Taylor. The FA will hold an enquiry into the pitch invasions that happened after each goal, with one fan appearing to slap Enckelman. Steve Coppell joins Swindon as assistant manager.

Tuesday 17 Freddie Ljungberg, back from injury with a normal hairdo, scores the first goal in Arsenal’s 2-0 Champions League win over Dortmund. “We did not see the real Liverpool tonight,” says Gérard, who leaves Michael Owen on the bench until after half-time at in the 2-0 defeat at Valencia, where Emile Heskey is racially barracked by the home crowd. In the UEFA Cup, Rangers lose 2-0 at Viktoria Zizkov and Aberdeen draw 0-0 at home with Hertha. Wimbledon keeper Kelvin Davis does an Enckelman stepover for Portsmouth’s third goal in the 4-1 win that keeps them three points clear in the First. Nearest challengers Leicester beat Bradford 4-0.

Wednesday 18 Man Utd come from behind to beat Maccabi Haifa 5-2 with Diego Forlan getting his first goal for the club, a penalty in the 89th minute. “That will kick-start him now for sure,” says Sir Alex. Newcastle’s Champions League opener ends in a 2-0 defeat in Kiev, where striker Laurent Robert argues with coaching staff after not acknowledging the travelling fans on the final whistle. “Wimbledon” receive planning permission for a temporary stadium at the Milton Keynes Bowl, set to be used from Boxing Day. Leicester win the right to terminate Dennis Wise’s contract having appealed against the original judgment in the little tinker’s favour.

Thursday 19 Fulham are best the English performers in the UEFA Cup, winning 1-0 win away to Hajduk Split; the club are to complain about the sustained abuse aimed at defender Rufus Brevett. Alan Smith gets Leeds’ only goal at home to Zaporizhya. Terry is philosophical: “These teams aren’t there to roll over for us.” Former Woking striker Ben Wright scores an injury-time goal for Viking FK in their 2-1 defeat at Chelsea. Claudio Ranieri peeks through his fingers: “This is a disaster.” Blackburn and Ipswich are held to 1-1 home draws by CSKA Sofia and FK Sartid respectively. Celtic thrash Suduva of Lithuania 8-1. Livingston score twice in injury time at Sturm Graz but had let in five earlier. Neil Thompson resigns as caretaker manager of Boston, off the bottom of the Third after last night’s 1-0 win over Swansea; the latter are set to make Brian Flynn their fourth manager in a year.

Saturday 21 David Seaman lets a cross sail in over his head again, but his team stay top, an injury-time goal from Kanu beating Bolton 2-1. It’s the 46th consecutive league match in which Arsenal have scored, equalling a record set by Chesterfield in 1930. Liverpool are second, moody Michael Owen missing from the spot in a 2-0 win over West Brom. Crisis over for Man Utd, who beat Spurs with a Van Nistelrooy penalty. “Ask the players why they have stopped responding because I don’t know,” sighs Peter Reid, who may not have to suffer for much longer after Sunderland’s 2-0 defeat at New­castle. “No one is pressing the panic button,” says Glenn Roeder as West Ham double their points for the sea­son by drawing 0-0 with Man City. Glenn’s pre­dec­es­sor has a rare bad day, with Portsmouth’s lead in the First cut to two points after a 1-0 defeat at Norwich. “Wim­ble­don” get their lowest crowd yet, 2,077 watching a 1-0 de­feat by Cov­entry. QPR, 3-1 winners at Bristol City, lead the Second. Hartlepool are a point clear in the Third, with rel­egation favourites Lincoln and Torquay both in the top four.

Sunday 22 Villa bounce back from their derby misery with a 3-2 win over Everton. Alan Smith misses a penalty as Leeds lose 1-0 at Blackburn. Tel is wearing his grim face: “I have to get consistency.” The England women’s team are two matches away from World Cup qualification after a play-off semi-final win over Iceland, 3-2 on aggregate. Mill­wall, beaten 3-0 at home by Walsall yesterday, want to sign that Dennis Wise. Chairman Theo Paphitis has given it some thought: “We know he can get a bit excited about things but he’s a good player”.

Tuesday 24 Man Utd record their first win in Germany since 1966, 2-1 at Leverkusen. Sir Alex is vexed by the home team’s theatrics: “It’s difficult playing against them because you’re afraid to tackle.” Newcastle lose again, 1-0 at home to Feyenoord. Sky will transmit Champions League matches from next season, with ITV beating off the BBC for the terrestrial rights. FIFA rule that from next month, all players who are sent off will get an automatic one-match ban with no appeal, except in cases of mistaken identity “It’s farcical,” says the PFA’s Gordon Taylor.

Wednesday 25 “My team has class and spirit and soul,” says Arsène as Arsenal win 4-0 in Eindhoven, with Gilberto Silva scoring the fastest goal in Champions League history after 20 seconds. Thierry Henry is the latest player to be subject to persistent racial abuse from opposition fans – UEFA are to investigate. Liverpool are held 1-1 at home by Basle. Watford’s players agree to defer part of their wages to help prevent the club going into administration. Sunderland chairman Bob Murray says he asked Peter Reid to stay away from training for two days to “cool off” after last Saturday’s defeat by Newcastle.

Thursday 26 The new £750 million Wembley finally gets the go-ahead, with only a three-year delay on its completion date (back in 1999 it was due to open for the 2003 Cup final) and £275 million added to the original cost estimates. Adam Crozier inevitably promises it will be “the best stadium in the world”. For that kind of money it would want to be. Leeds announce pre-tax losses of £34 million, a result described by Peter Ridsdale as “very disappointing”. No doubt he’s got a plan.

Saturday 28 Crushing away wins all round. Irresistible Arsenal (“better than Real Madrid” according to Olivier Dacourt) rout Leeds 4-1, rejuvenated boy wonder Michael Owen gets all three in Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Man City (“It’s simple man-management,” according to modest M Houllier), Man Utd come from behind to beat Charlton 3-1 and Middlesbrough (Middlesbrough?) surge into the top four by disposing of Tottenham 3-0 at White Hart Lane. “The transfer window has really hurt us,” says Glenn Hoddle, reaching instinctively for football’s new all-purpose excuse. Chelsea lose their unbeaten record in lovably familiar style, going down 3-2 at home to previously winless West Ham. In the First, the top three all win, while Forest go fourth by beating cavalier travellers Rotherham 3-2. That makes it 28 goals in the Millers’ away games so far, compared to six at home. No change at the top of the Second either, but Rushden upset Third Division leaders Hartlepool with a 2-1 away win.

Sunday 29 Teen sensation Wayne Routledge wins Crystal Palace a point in a 2-2 home draw with Gillingham, but chairman Simon Jordan is unhappy. Having predicted that a third of First Division clubs will be in administration before the end of the season (not Palace, obviously) he then lashes out at criticism of Trevor Francis. “Creating a negative and abusive environment affects results,” he says.

From WSC 189 November 2002. What was happening this month

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