THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Thursday 1 Clydebank, nearly £200,00 in debt, may close down next week if creditors fail to reach an agreement with the club’s prospective buyer. Alan Buckley is to take over at Lincoln. Long-ball zealot John Beck returns for a second spell as manager of Cambridge and says: “There were a lot of lies told about what we did here before.”

Saturday 3 Man Utd are fortunate to draw 1-1 at Leeds, where a Wes Brown own goal in the last minute is ruled out for a contentious offside. Earlier, Fabien Barthez is booked rather than being sent off for conceding a penalty, which he duly saves. “Fabien takes chances. There’s nothing you can do about it,” says his manager. A fortunate draw with Charlton keeps Middlesbrough two points clear of the relegation area. Their head coach is catching on: “The real world is that we’re not League champions.” “This club’s not logical,” sighs Joe Royle as Man City’s home form lets them down again, Southampton winning 1-0 at Maine Road. “You can’t expect a team second from bottom to play cosmic football,” advises Gordon Strachan after Coventry pick up a point at home to Chelsea. Tranmere slip to the bottom of the First after a 3-1 defeat at Crewe described as “a kick in the guts” by a wincing John Aldridge. Sheff Wed move out of the bottom three after a home win over Gillingham. Millwall hold a seven-point lead at the top of the Second after their pursuers falter; Chesterfield are a whopping 16 points clear in the Third but could yet be placed below Carlisle, now four points adrift at the bottom. Dundee Utd stride away from the foot of the SPL with a 4-0 mauling of relegation rivals St Mirren.

Sunday 4 Ipswich move up to third after a 3-1 win over Bradford, who cheekily hold the lead at half-time. A 1-1 home draw with Bolton keeps Fulham on course to be the first club promoted this season.

Monday 5 The European Commission reaches agreement with FIFA and UEFA over the transfer system, though the players’ union is not party to the final talks. And also no one knows exactly how the new sys­­tem will work yet. But apart from that it’s all sorted. Sunderland and Aston Villa draw 1-1, though Sunderland have a last-minute goal contentiously disallowed. “It was an eventful night,” says deadpan David James. “But that’s football.”

Tuesday 6 A good night for Real Madrid, who succeed in getting Luis Figo and Claude Makelele booked in their game against Leeds, ensuring their availability for the Champions League quarter-finals. David O’Leary’s plucky youths are less happy, going down 3-2 after a blatantly handballed goal from Raúl and a googly from Figo off a divot that wrongfoots Nigel Martyn. “What I admired was that the referee came into our dressing-room at the end to apologise,” O’Leary says. Arsenal laboriously overcome Spartak Moscow 1-0 with a late goal from Thierry Henry and, with Lyon beating Bayern 3-0, no one is yet sure to go through from their group. “We were without nerve, courage and discipline,” says master psychologist Franz Beckenbauer. In the First Division a plethora of draws gives added significance at top and bottom to Birmingham’s 2-1 win at Palace and Crewe’s 1-0 victory over Sheff Utd, whose manager is predictably narked. “I have never known Dario’s players to try to get other players booked and sent off before,” says Neil Warnock.

Wednesday 7 Team England march on in the Champions League as a Paul Scholes goal in injury time rescues a point for out-of-sorts Man Utd in Athens, all but ensuring they are in the quarter-finals. Sir Alex is in mock-humble mode: “I’m just glad to be there, thank God, struggling along as we are.” Blackburn go through to the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 3-0 win over Bolton. “I don’t care what anyone says, both sides were trying to win,” insists Graeme Souness. Church bells peal throughout west London as Chelsea record their first away win in almost a year, 2-0 at West Ham. Stan Collymore announces his retirement from football in order to “explore other career opportunities which are available to him”.

Thursday 8 Liverpool draw 0-0 in a rain-sodden first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final against Porto. “I still don’t rate our chances as better than 50-50,” says Gérard Houllier. The 33,000 who watch Barcelona beat Celta Vigo 2-1 is the biggest crowd of the four ties. Sir Alex pleads with Man Utd fans to sit down in future, after Trafford Council threatens to close parts of Old Trafford if they persist in standing up. The council will be monitoring behaviour at next week’s night of European passion against Sturm Graz. Alec McGivan, leader of England’s failed 2006 World Cup bid, admits it was damaged by the fact that other FIFA members believed English football had adopted “an insular attitude” and was “stand-offish and arrogant”. They never.

Saturday 10 Teletext recruit Roy Essandoh scores a last-minute winner to put Wycombe through to the FA Cup semi-finals with a 2-1 win at Leicester, even though some of his team-mates admit they barely knew who he was. “I wouldn’t say he was rubbish, but he made very little impression,” says Lawrie Sanchez of the Ghanaian Ulsterman’s debut in the reserves. Sanchez is banished from the dugout for disputing a penalty decision and Wycombe’s Steve Brown gets a second yellow card for taking off his shirt to reveal a message for his sick 15-month-old son. “Too many referees know the rules but not the game,” says an otherwise jubilant Sanchez. In the other quarter-final Arsenal beat a listless Blackburn 3-0. “While it’s nonsense to suggest we weren’t trying, I wanted to keep some of our younger players fresh,” says Graeme Souness, again. In the First Division Sheff Wed are the only victors among the strugglers, 2-1 at West Brom, thanks to a winner from the in-demand Andy Booth. Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock claims his player Georges Santos may sue Forest’s Andy Johnson over the incident that left him with a broken nose and eye socket (“It is one of the most despicable challenges in football”). At the bottom of the Third, Halifax are the new fancy, a 4-3 defeat at home to Scunthorpe leaving them only two points ahead of Carlisle, while all the other contenders pick up points. Livingston are through to the Scottish Cup semi-finals after disposing of Peterhead, 3-1. Hibs also go through, 1-0 at Kilmarnock.

Sunday 11 Tottenham win 3-2 at West Ham to set up a Cup semi-final with Arsenal. “You can’t give away three goals like that in matches like these,” explains Harry Redknapp, though George Graham is equally unhappy about Cup traditions: “Doing the draw as we kicked off was absolutely awful. You’ve got to have a bit of dignity and respect for the competition.” Liverpool, 4-2 winners at Tranmere, get Wycombe. “There are no underdogs at this stage,” says modest M Gérard. “If we play well on the day, maybe we’ll go through.” Dundee Utd knock Rangers out of the Scottish Cup, 1-0.

Monday 12 The Arsenal v Tottenham semi-final will be at Old Trafford, with Liverpool playing Wycombe at Villa Park. “We know that most people these days travel by road and understand the problems there can be on the M6,” says the FA’s ever-alert David Davies, after gallantly persuading the police to put the Old Trafford kick-off back from 1pm to 1.30. Leeds United’s former commercial director Adam Pearson is revealed as the new owner of Hull City. “This is one of four clubs outside the Premiership with so much untapped potential,” he says.

Tuesday 13 Nottingham Forest and Watford both miss the chance to cement a First Division play-off spot, losing 1-0 to Crewe and Burnley respectively. Champagne corks pop in Carlisle as United move off the bottom of the Third Division with a 1-0 win over Leyton Orient, to be replaced by Halifax. Man Utd go through to the Champions League quarter-finals with a regulation 3-0 win over Sturm Graz. “It is normal,” says never-say-die Graz manager Ivica Osim. “The difference between the two teams is too large.” In Paris, more than 50 people are injured in clashes between Galatasaray and PSG supporters.

Wednesday 14 Arsenal (goal difference minus two) go through to the CL quarter-finals at the expense of Lyon (goal difference plus four) thanks to UEFA’s innovative method of keeping score. “If we are in the last eight we must have some qualities,” says Arsène hopefully, after a 1-0 defeat in Munich leaves Arsenal’s fate in the hands of Spartak Moscow. They come up trumps by drawing 1-1 with Lyon. Leeds draw 3-3 with Lazio while, in matches that count, Blackburn win 2-0 at Birmingham and Preston overcome Wolves by the same score to strengthen their position in the First Division promotion race. Rangers complete a notable Tayside double by losing 2-0 at home to Dundee in the league.

Thursday 15 Liverpool go through to the UEFA Cup semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Porto, but in his moment of triumph M Gérard does not waste any time in weighing up his club’s chances of actually winning a trophy. Instead he says: “Now we have to focus on the Premiership because that is my priority.” FIFA announce that the 2010 World Cup will be held in Africa.

Friday 16 George Graham threatens to sue Tottenham after he is dismissed by the important new executive vice-chairman, David Buchler. “I felt that he was totally undermining my position,” Buchler says after comments from Graham to the press about the shortage of funds to buy new players. After meeting Graham he says: “I wanted to find out exactly what the situation was, but he was defiant, aggressive and used inappropriate words.” In a statement from his agent, Graham insists: “For them to say that he had his ‘own agenda’ is untrue and a complete reversal of facts.”

Saturday 17 Middlesbrough are the big movers at the bottom of the Premiership thanks to a 2-1 win at Newcastle, where little Nobby Solano misses a penalty near the end. “I lost a World Cup semi-final on penalties, so I know all about that,” says nostalgic pensioner Bobby Robson. Man City miss the chance to make ground with a 2-2 draw at Bradford, while Coventry and Everton both lose. Away wins are the fashion at the top, Ipswich bolstering their Champions League hopes with a 1-0 victory at West Ham, Sunderland whacking Chelsea 4-2 and Leeds winning 2-1 at Charlton. “Our European experience showed in the second half,” David O’Leary points out uncharacteristically. John Aldridge resigns after Tranmere throw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at home to Barnsley. “My leaving might just give them a bit of an impetus and get them out of the bottom three,” he says. In the Second Division, Rotherham move to within a point of Millwall at the top with a 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers. Police are investigating further at Chesterfield, after leaflets are distributed at their game against Rochdale with pictures of witnesses who have given evidence against chairman Darren Brown.

Sunday 18 Sven-Goran Eriksson names a squad with few surprises for England’s World Cup qualifiers against Finland and Albania. It boasts five Liverpool players, including the fragile Steven Gerrard, who is only fit to be used as a sub in a tame 1-1 draw with Derby at Anfield. Gérard Houllier is not happy: “I hate these games on a Sunday when there are internationals afterwards. Their heads are on the flight.” Gilles Grimandi does his best to brighten up a dismal 0-0 draw between Aston Villa and Arsenal by getting himself sent off in injury time. In the First Division, allegedly promotion-chasing West Brom crash 3-1 to Wolves in the Black Country derby, prompting manager Gary Megson to declare: “Not one of my players can expect to be in the team next week.” Celtic win the Scottish League Cup, beating Kilmarnock 3-o thanks to a Henrik Larsson hat-trick.

Monday 19 Newcastle vice-chairman Douglas Hall, having promised “exciting times and exciting purchases” for the fans, is true to his word, capturing Andy O’Brien for £2 million from Bradford City.

Wednesday 21 The mud continues to fly at Tottenham, with George Graham claiming that £18,700 supposedly “discovered” in a desk drawer after his departure was raised from player fines and intended for charity: “I am surprised that the new owners should be expressing any concern about this.” Andy Goram joins Man Utd from Motherwell as replacement for the injured Fabien Barthez and will play in the forthcoming Champions League match with Bayern. Bradford’s going down sale hits a snag when Benito Carbone fails to agree terms with Middlesbrough. Gordon Strachan receives public backing from his chairman, who says: “We’re not dead until we’re dead.”

Friday 23 Darren Brown resigns as chairman of troubled Chesterfield saying: “This should in no way be seen as trying to run away.”

Saturday 24 England recover from a goal down to beat Finland 2-1 in their World Cup qualifier. “I have to be reasonably happy, but we all know that we can improve,” says the manager, still dead set against providing serviceable post-match quotes. Scotland squander a two-goal lead against ten men to draw 2-2 with Belgium, who equalise in the last minute. Craig Brown still has his sunny side up, though: “Being Scotland we have to do it the hard way, but we usually get there in the end.” Wales draw 2-2 in Armenia, Northern Ireland are beaten 1-0 at home by the Czechs, the Republic win 4-0 in Cyprus. Tranmere’s 2-1 defeat at West Brom leaves them five points adrift of safety in the First Division. Rotherham blow a chance to take a three-point lead at the top of the Second by losing 4-3 at demob-happy Oxford. Torquay replace Halifax at the foot of that crazy Third Division after the latter’s 3-0 win over Barnet.

Tuesday 27 Tony Cottee becomes the first player to appear in all four divisions in one season, making his debut for Millwall in a goalless draw at Wycombe. His new club stay second, three points ahead of Reading, 1-0 winners at Swindon. Hartlepool’s 19th match without defeat, a 1-0 win over Lincoln, keeps them clear in fourth place in the Third Division and handily placed to benefit should leaders Chesterfield be “demoted” by one division at the end of the season.

Wednesday 28 Albania 1 England 3, with all the goals coming in the last 15 minutes. The home side have an equaliser wrongly disallowed in injury time, after which Andy Cole gets his first international goal and debutant Ashley Cole is laid out by a lipstick case. “It is scandalous that this can happen in international football,” froths an FA spokesman. Scotland get four against San Marino but Colin Hendry, scorer of the first two, faces a FIFA ban for an alleged assault on an opponent. John Hartson scores again for Wales in a 1-1 draw with Ukraine, Northern Ireland go down 4-3 in Bulgaria with Sammy McIlroy bemoaning “schoolboy errors”, and the Republic win 3-0 in Andorra. Wes Saunders is sacked as manager of Torquay and replaced by Colin Lee.

Friday 30 Tottenham announce Glenn Hoddle as their new manager, though Southampton claim not to have agreed compensation terms yet. Graham Taylor reveals that he is to retire at the end of the season. Tranmere’s post FA Cup blues continue with a 4-1 home thrashing by Fulham.

Saturday 31 Liverpool complete their first double over Man Utd since 1979 with a 2-0 win at Anfield. M Gérard keeps it in perspective: “The difference between us and United is that we still make stupid mistakes.” Arsenal win the north London derby 2-0, while Leeds stay third after winning 2-0 at fellow European aspirants Sunderland, despite having problem child Alan Smith sent off. At the bottom, Man City and Middlesbrough lose, but Coventry stir themselves with a win over Derby. Gordon Strachan has a metaphor handy: “The coffin lid has opened and we’re sitting up and looking around.” West Ham are slipping too , level on points with Derby and Everton after the latter win at Upton Park, where Paolo Di Canio, presented with a sportsmanship award before the game, is lucky not to be sent off for disputing a penalty. Oxford’s bid to be the first club to be relegated this season receives another setback when they win 1-0 at Northampton. Torquay get a last-minute equaliser at home to Hull but remain bottom of the League by one point. Scottish Second Division leaders Partick Thistle become the first club to be promoted this season after a 3-0 win at Stirling. Former England international David Rocastle dies of cancer aged 33.

From WSC 171 May 2001. What was happening this month

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