THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 2 The sensible sensation comes off the bench to score as England draw 1-1 in Paris. “Michael was disappointed to be left out but he provided the answer,” says quizmaster Kev. Michael, however, is appropriately huffy: “I don’t think I have anything to prove in international football.” Arsenal and Chelsea players on both sides are involved in scuffles during and after the match. Sadly, no one is injured. In World Cup qualifiers, Scotland beat Latvia with a last minute goal from Neil McCann (“I can only describe our first half performance as pathetic,” says Craig Brown), Wales lose 2-1 in Belarus, Northern Ireland survive a few scares in a 1-0 win over Malta. Best performance comes from the Republic of Ireland, who take a two goal lead in Holland before drawing 2-2. Roy Keane is cross: “We should have won. I am sick of hearing that the Irish have a good time whatever the result.” Walsall hold a four-point lead in the Second Division after their fifth successive win, 2-0 over Wigan. Relief at Oxford, where the last pointless team in the League break their duck with a home draw against Cambridge.

Monday 4 Birmingham City owner David Sullivan reacts to Trevor Francis’s claims that unnamed individuals want him to be sacked: “It’s in Trevor’s nature to be pessimistic. I would say his reaction is one of paranoia.” That should help. A month after his mate Kenny walked the plank, Celtic chief executive Allan MacDonald resigns. Arsène Wenger claims Premier League clubs are prepared to strike if the European Union abolishes the transfer system. He’s even bought a loudhailer. 

Tuesday 5 Man City beat Leeds 2-1 at Elland Road. “Two years ago we were playing Macclesfield and we won that one too,” beams Joe Royle. Bradford’s decision to play an attacking formation at Old Trafford doesn’t quite pay off as Man Utd win 6-0. Everton surrender a two-goal lead for the second successive match in losing 3-2 at Spurs. Macclesfield knock Bolton out of the Worthington Cup after winning their home leg 3-1. Huddersfield are put out by Oldham, Stockport lose to Blackpool, Wolves squeak past defeat specialists Oxford 3-2 on aggregate. Leicester may be forced to withdraw from the UEFA Cup – having been advised not to go by the Foreign Office, they won’t be able to get travel insurance for their trip to Belgrade. Leeds are to take 500 fans to Istanbul for their Champions League tie with Besiktas. Chairman Peter Ridsdale says that anyone travelling independently should be barred from the match: “As far we are concerned they would be there for the wrong reasons.”

Wednesday 6 Middlesbrough surrender a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Derby, whose second goal is the result of their not returning the ball after Boro had put it out of play to allow a player to get treatment. “They cheated,” snarls Bryan Robson. Jim Smith retaliates: “We were justified. Their lad just sat down.” Arsenal come back from two down to draw 2-2 with Chelsea. Astonishingly, there are no red cards, though Jimmy Hasselbaink sounds keen to thump someone: “Great teams keep what they have. This was stupid.” Michael Owen scores a first-half hat-trick in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Villa. Lomano Tresor Lua Lua, a name we’ll be hearing more of, also hits three in Colchester’s 4-1 win at QPR in the Worthington. Darlington provide the other shock, winning 2-1 at Forest. American journalist Albert Scardino becomes the new co-owner of Notts County alongside former West Ham chief executive Peter Storrie.

Thursday 7 A European Union official claims their recent statements on the transfer system have been misrepresented: “Contrary to what has been said the European Commission in no way intends to create a situation in which players can unilaterally break contracts,” says Sports Commissioner Viviane Reding. The European football authorities have until Hallow’een (woo) to put forward their proposals for transfer reform.

Friday 8 Granada pay £47 million for a five per cent stake in Arsenal, which will rise to the permitted maximum of 9.9 per cent when the club build a 60,000 capacity stadium. The deal will involve coverage of Arsenal matches on that internet. “Granada’s strategy has been to identify the three biggest Premiership brands globally,” says a company executive, like it was difficult. The FA are to investigate the business methods of “super-agent” Dennis Roach, who was widely criticised for his role in recent moves involving Paulo Wanchope and Duncan Ferguson. Leicester’s UEFA Cup tie in Belgrade is brought forward a week so that it will take place before the Yugoslav elections.

Saturday 9 “It’s a false position,” deadpans Sir Alex, fooling no one, as Man Utd, 3-0 winners against Sunderland, share top spot with goal-shy but impregnable Leicester, who beat Southampton 1-0. Chelsea grind out a goalless draw at Newcastle, Leeds do likewise at Coventry, where team-mates Gary Kelly and Michael Bridges have a punch-up at the final whistle. “It shows how much they care,” says coat-holder Nigel Martyn. Arsenal come from behind to force a 1-1 draw with Bradford. Liverpool surrender a two-goal lead at home to Man City but still win 3-2 after which Joe Royle demands that the PFA “name and shame the divers”, with particular attention to a gravity-defying striker with the initials “EH”. Villa’s Luc Nilis breaks his leg at Ipswich and might not play again. Watford and Bolton are joint top in the First after away wins at Portsmouth and Huddersfield respectively. “I’ve never felt so embarrassed,” says Paul Jewell, as Wimbledon end their goal drought with a 5-0 win at Hillsborough. Walsall lose their 100 per cent record in a 2-0 defeat at second placed Bury but stay two points clear in the Second Division. Halifax fans will get an uncomfortable sense of deja vu after a 5-1 thrashing at Mansfield sends them to the bottom of the Third.

Sunday 10 Erstwhile comeback kings Derby surrender a two-goal lead as Charlton score twice in the second half a for a 2-2 draw at Pride Park. “Amateurish defending,” snarls Jim Smith, glassy eyed with fury. Fulham’s fifth consecutive win, 5-1 over Barnsley, takes them back to the top of the First Division.

Tuesday 12 Gianluca Vialli is sacked by Chelsea, who say: “In a wider context it is in our best interests to seek a change of direction.” In the Champions League Arsenal win 1-0 in Prague with Silvinho’s third goal in as many games. Rangers beat Sturm Graz 5-0. The away leg of Leicester’s UEFA Cup tie against Red Star will now take place at a neutral venue. Bristol City v Brentford is the first League match to be postponed because of the fuel crisis. In the First Division, Fulham win again to stay two points clear of Watford, whose 4-3 win at Blackburn sends that nice Graeme Souness into the strop of the season so far: “The referee was a clown. I went to talk to him at half time and he was like a cornered rat.”

Wednesday 13 Man Utd 5 Anderlecht 1: Andy Cole breaks Denis Law’s club goalscoring record in Europe. Barcelona 4 Leeds 0: Lucas Radebe is carried off in a neck brace and Alan Smith is nearly sent off – “I thought he was violent and mean,” says a thumb-sucking Frank De Boer. Sheffield Wed stay in the bottom three in the First Division after losing 1-0 at home to Forest. Gianluca Vialli issues a statement in which he criticises Chelsea’s managing director Colin Hutchison for “lacking confidence in his manager’s conduct” and refers to an unnamed other person, “who was far too concerned about his image as ‘Mr Nice Guy’ to give the support which any manager would require”. It’s a smashing little mystery, that.

Thursday 14 UEFA Cup home wins for Celtic and Chelsea – where fans boo Frank Leboeuf. Leicester draw 1-1 with Red Star Belgrade. The respective managers’ refusal to shake hands at the end, fast becoming a tradition for the English in Europe, hints at a testy second leg. Liverpool win 1-0 in Bucharest, Hearts lose by the same score in Stuttgart. Ken Bates says that “the inevitable twins”, George Graham and Terry Venables, are not in the running for the Chelsea job. New favourite is former Atlético Madrid coach Claudio Ranieri, who flies in for talks, saying “If there are flowers they may bloom.”

Friday 15 Claudio Ranieri will take over at Chelsea next week. “He came across as a presence, a demeanour you could warm to,” trills Colin Hutchinson getting a bit New Age in his excitement. Mark Bosnich turns down a loan move to Middlesbrough saying “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” He’s been reading those Spanish civil war books again.

Saturday 16 Man Utd take a three-point lead at the top with a 3-1 stroll at Everton. A Jonatan Johansson goal, his third in successive matches, is enough for Charlton to beat Spurs. Keeper Dean Kiely believes there will be a rematch next year: “I don’t think it will be a Jim’ll Fix It season where we go up and straight back down.” Newcastle keep up a tradition of not winning at Southampton that stretches back to 1972, Latvia’s Michael Owen scoring twice for the home team without reply. Leeds are booed off by a section of their crowd after losing 2-1 to Ipswich. “What happened in Barcelona drained us mentally,” says David O’Leary. Dave Beasant thinks Fulham can go through the entire season unbeaten after they put three past him at the City Ground for a seventh successive win. Watford and Bolton stay in touch, two points behind. Sheffield Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat at Tranmere leaves them one off the bottom and prompts striker Andy Booth to set a new target: “If we finish mid-table we’ve done well.” A 1-0 win over Bury by Second Division bottom-huggers Oxford leaves Halifax, three points adrift in the Third, as the only League team without a win.

Sunday 17 Leicester rejoin Man Utd at the top of the table with a 2-0 win at Chelsea, who reserve most of their energy for arguing among themselves. Dennis Wise does manage a row with former team-mate Muzzy Izzet, who says “I used to clean his boots, now he uses them to kick me.” Harry Redknapp may be breezily unconcerned – “This is the best team there’s been here in 20 years” – but West Ham stay bottom after a 1-1 home draw with Liverpool. It’s the same score between Man City and Middlesbrough and in the Potteries derby. Another joint-manager experiment is ditched with Keith Stevens and Alan McLeary shown the door by Millwall.

Monday 18 Brazilian striker Savio says his would-be teammate Christian Panucci was one of the people who advised him against leaving Real Madrid for Chelsea. Kenny Dalglish’s unfair dismissal claim against Celtic is undermined slightly by the Scottish Premier League table, which shows his former employers on maximum points from seven games after a 2-1 win at Dunfermline.

Tuesday 19 A Lee Bowyer shot dropped over the line by Milan keeper Dida in the last minute gives Leeds a surprise 1-0 Champions League win. “It was fluky, maybe the great man was looking down on me tonight,” says God-bothering David O’Leary. In the same group Barcelona crash 3-0 to Besiktas. Man Utd get a 0-0 draw in Kiev. Ipswich’s 2-0 defeat at Millwall is the big surprise in the slowly expiring Worthington. Middlesbrough score twice in the last three minutes to beat Macclesfield 2-1 in front of 5,144 at the Riverside and Wimbledon’s 0-0 stalemate with Wigan is watched by just 1,941. Sol Campbell is injured in Spurs’ draw at Brentford and may miss England’s World Cup qualifiers next month.

Wednesday 20 Martin Keown scores twice in the last five minutes as Arsenal come back from two down to beat ten-man Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 at Highbury. Arsène contradicts himself: “We were lucky tonight, but we deserved to win,” and praises his goalscorer: “Martin’s body language shows his desire.” In the Worthington, Charlton lose 2-1 at Stoke, George Weah gets a late equaliser for Man City at home to Gillingham and perennial second round chokers Everton are held 1-1 by Bristol Rovers. Lomano Tresor Lua Lua joins Newcastle for £2.2 million.

Thursday 21 “They won’t give up will they?” says Harry Redknapp as West Ham turn down Leeds’ £15 million offer for Rio Ferdinand. Bohemians of Dublin win 1-0 in Kaiserslautern but go out of the UEFA Cup on aggregate. The G14 group of “super” clubs ask for official recognition from UEFA. “We want to solve football’s problems,” says Barcelona’s president, trying to keep a straight face.

Saturday 23 Chelsea come back from two down before half-time to draw 3-3 at Old Trafford. “I’m so satisfied,” says Claudio Ranieri who looks “sharp and wily” according to the News of the World. Dwight Yorke storms off after being left out of the starting line up and says: “I decided it was better to spend the day relaxing at home.” Arsenal stay third after a late equaliser at Ipswich. “I was really scared. Every game we have to come back,” gasps Arsène, getting more wan by the day. Charlton’s 1-0 win at Newcastle takes them up to fifth but Alan Curbishley’s feet are locked on terra firma. “They made T-shirts last time we were top of the league and we went down.” West Ham’s first win of the season, 3-0 at Coventry (“We could have punished them even more,” exults Harry Redknapp), takes them off the bottom spot, now occupied by Bradford, who are booed off after losing 1-0 to Southampton. Fulham continue to leave the First Division for dust with an eighth win on the trot, 3-0 against Gillingham. Walsall and Chesterfield lead the Second and Third, the latter after a 3-1 win at Blackpool who consequently join Halifax on the bottom. Steve McMahon will be livid. So, no change there then. Celtic’s eighth successive win takes them four points clear of Hibs with Rangers a distant third.

Sunday 24 Future Premiership and Football League managers will be required to have the “pro licence” coaching qualification recognised throughout Europe. “It is ludicrous that highly respected young coaches such as Peter Reid and Alan Curbishley couldn’t currently work abroad,” says the FA’s senior bib-dispenser Howard Wilkinson. Leicester miss a chance to go top of the Premier League, being held to a 1-1 home draw by Everton. “I felt sorry for the lads,” says Peter Taylor. “But level with Man Utd is a start I’ll take.”

Tuesday 26 Leeds 6 Besiktas 0. “I’m starting to get a liking for this competition,” says David O’Leary. Man Utd, below full strength, crash 3-1 at PSV. “My team selection could be questioned but I wanted a fresh side for next Sunday,” sighs a crestfallen Sir Alex, preoccupied by Highbury. David Beckham could be in trouble for appearing to gob at the referee. Stoke knock Charlton out of the Worthington on away goals. Ipswich are taken to extra time by nine-man Millwall. Man City also need the extra half hour to get past Gillingham. Stan Collymore is transfer listed by Leicester after asking for a wage rise. “Stan told me he would like to play abroad. I hope he does,” says Peter Taylor.

Wednesday 27 Arsenal are one win away from qualifying from their Champions League group after a Freddie Ljungberg double beats Lazio. Rangers lose 3-2 to Galatasaray, whose coach Mircea Lucescu risks a spot of post-match banter: “They underestimated us.” “He’s an arsehole,” replies Dick Advocaat. Everton make an early exit from the Worthington once again, losing on penalties to Bristol Rovers. Man Utd sign a kit deal with Nike that will bring in £300 million over 15 years after their current deal with Umbro expires in 2oo2.

Thursday 28 Chelsea are out of Europe, having lost 2-0 at St Gallen in the return leg of their UEFA Cup first round tie. “My players were not very intelligent,” says Claudio. “They wanted to counter attack and we let them.” Roberto Di Matteo breaks his leg and will miss the rest of the season. Leicester are out too, beaten 3-1 by Red Star in neutral Vienna. Club officials will complain to UEFA about flares fired into the Leicester end by opposing fans, who also racially abuse Ade Akinbiyi and Andy Impey. Celtic squeak past HJK Helsinki with a Chris Sutton goal in extra time securing a 3-2 aggregate win. Liverpool are through after a goalless snore draw with Rapid Bucharest. Man Utd sack their new head of PR, Alison Ryan, after discovering that that she had falsified her past employment record. Alan Little is dismissed as manager of Southend.

Saturday 30 George Graham’s strolling players drop in on Elland Road and, hey presto, it’s a goal bonanza, Leeds winning 4-3. “It was awful,” whispers David’s former mentor. “Don’t ask me why, but we just couldn’t defend.” Everton are the latest team to be booed off after a home defeat by Ipswich, who win 3-0. Dan Petrescu’s 90th minute equaliser at West Ham brings Bradford a first away point of the season and sends Derby, beaten 4-1 at Villa, to the bottom. Jim Smith bustles on to the team coach without even saying goodbye. Sheffield Wed prop up the First Division after a 2-0 defeat by Gillingham. “Some of them seem to think they should be at other clubs and I wish they were,” says Paul Jewell, fiddling with his claret and amber tiepin. Fulham plough on at the top with a ninth successive win, 2-0 at Bolton. “Everyone thinks I am the demon and they’ve got to slay me,” says Denis Smith the Horned One as Oxford’s winless run continues with a 1-0 home defeat by Bristol City. Walsall stay three points ahead in the Second with a 5-1 thrashing of Notts County. Chesterfield now hold a five-point lead in the Third. Cocked eyebrows in Somerset, where David Webb resigns as manager of Yeovil, second in the Conference, to take up an offer “too good to refuse” from... Southend.

From WSC 165 November 2000. What was happening this month

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