THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tuesday 1 George Weah signs for Man City, saying: “I think this club deserves to get into Europe and that is the aim.” Steve Coppell leaves Crystal Palace to be replaced by another former manager Alan Smith.

Wednesday 2 Intertoto defeats for Bradford, beaten 3-0 at home by St Petersburg, and Villa, who lose 2-1 to Celta Vigo. The Swiss referee, who dismisses two Villa players and one from the visitors, ends the match two minutes early and has to restart. “He was an embarrassment to UEFA,” snarls John Gregory. David Hodgson resigns as Darlington manager after chairman George Reynolds asks the players to take a pay cut.

Thursday 3 Spurs announce that fans unhappy with the sale of David Ginola can have their season tickets refunded. The “unsettled” Sol Campbell has a view too: “I don’t know whose idea it was to sell him. Everyone is blaming each other.” Middlesbrough’s new Croatian Alen Boksic will be on around £60,000 per week, making him the highest paid player in the Premiership. Airdrie’s owner-manger Steve Archibald says he is hopeful of signing Hristo Stoichkov, currently playing in America : “He could do a great job for us. This is not a publicity stunt.” FIFA say that the World Cup will be rotated between its six confederations beginning in 2010.

Friday 4 FIFA announce that the next “world club championship”, involving 12 teams rather than eight, will be staged in August 2001. No complaints expected from Premiership clubs – they’ll have to qualify for it yet.

Saturday 5 Man Utd deny reports that Roy Keane is having treatment for alcohol-related depression. To Sir Alex’s disappointment, Mark Bosnich fails to agree a loan deal with Celtic: “If Mark want to fight for his place that’s up to him, but Raimond van der Gouw is my No 2.” Dundee are top in Scotland after a 3-0 win over Dunfermline. Chris Sutton is sent off on his home debut for Celtic. But, hey, at least he’s getting involved. Rangers come back from two down to beat Kilmarnock 4-2.

Monday 7 England’s World Cup match in Finland in October will be shown live only on pay-per-view after the rights to the game were bought by a digital company u<direct (and what an irritating name that is). Viewers will have pay £10 . “The sports rights market is a competitive one and we are not the first to charge for television coverage,” huffs a u<direct spokesman. Little Kev is displeased: “I think it should be available to everybody.” Paulo Wanchope joins Man City for a club record £3.65 million. First managerial casualty of the season in Scotland is Paul Sturrock of Dundee United, pointless after all of two games.

Tuesday 8 Cardiff City’s new manager Bobby Gould says: “We’re in the Third Division and we want to get into the Premiership. There can’t be any bigger challenge.” He could be right. Graham Kelly has an exciting new job as a director of “Premier 1 Grand Prix”, a new sport to start in 2001 which will involve cars racing in the colours of 24 European football clubs, four from England. It’s all to do with “extending the brand image”. Hellish times, these.

Wednesday 9 Leeds’ Champions League hopes look shaky after they concede a last-minute goal and have two players sent off in their 2-1 win over 1860 Munich, who also have a player dismissed. David is livid: “All the dismissals were a joke. I would love to say a lot but I can’t.” Rangers beat Herfolge 3-0 in Denmark. After changing his mind at least twice, bashful Benito Carbone signs for Bradford City. “Last season we were boring Bradford, this season we want to be entertaining Bradford,” says chairman Geoffrey Richmond. This week’s John Gregory rant is aimed at Chelsea, whose £6 million offer for Gareth Southgate falls short of Villa’s valuation. “Obviously they’ve had a word in his ear and made it difficult for him to concentrate on playing for us.” Police are investigating the death of Charlton youth player Pierre Bolangi, 17, who drowned while on a training exercise at an army camp.

Thursday 10 A new low for Aberdeen, beaten 2-1 at home by Irish side Bohemians in the UEFA Cup qualifiers. Celtic and Hearts get comfortable away wins. Barry Town lose by a respectable two goals away to Boavista but compatriots Bangor City crash 7-0 at home to Halmstad of Sweden. Real Madrid say they are open to offers for Steve McManaman, who has not been given a squad number, but he insists he will not be returning to the Premiership. His agent says: “Steve will not be driven out of Spain by underhand tricks. If he has to train with the youth team he will do so without complaint.”

Saturday 12 First Division favourites Blackburn begin with a 2-0 home win over a teenage Palace, Fulham follow suit against Crewe. “We could have had a cricket score,” says player-coach John Collins, possibly to the bafflement of his manager. Terry Burton has Wimbledon passing it along the ground but their goalless draw with Tranmere is watched by just over 8,000. Fellow relegatees Watford send Graham Taylor into air-punching delight after getting their first away win in almost 12 months, 2-1 at Huddersfield. Gillingham score a minute into their First Division debut, but then concede three at home to Stockport (and not many do that). York City get the first goal of the League season, after 40 seconds at Chesterfield, but go on to let in four, as do Port Vale, beaten 4-1 at Oldham. Dundee’s good start ends in a 5-1 defeat at Hibs where they have players called Caballero and Billio sent off, leading Ivano Bonetti to talk of a “conspiracy” against foreigners in Scotland.

Sunday 13 Roy Keane lets his anger out again, getting himself sent off during Chelsea’s 2-0 win in the Charity Shield. Proceedings are greatly enlivened by a post-match spat between Ken Bates and Sir Alex, who angrily refuses a joke medal off­ered by the scampish Chelsea chairman. “I’ve made my mark in history but I’m not proud of it,” says Kevin Pressman who sets a record for the earliest sending-off, after just 13 seconds of Sheff Wed’s match at Wolves, for handling the ball outside the area.

Monday 14 The Atlantic League, comprising 16 clubs from Scotland, Holland, Belgium and Portugal, aims to launch in 2001-02, pending UEFA approval. Rangers chairman David Murray shouts the odds: “Celtic and ourselves are leaking between £10 million and £12 million every year, and we simply cannot go on sustaining such losses.”

Tuesday 15 Arsène says he will not pay £15 million for Bordeaux’s Sylvain Wiltord because of the impending European Commission ruling on transfers fees: “The transfer market may be about to collapse. We could buy an expensive player and then not be able to sell him.” Hospital habitue Duncan Ferguson’s proposed return to Everton is called off after he fails to reach agreement with Newcastle over a “loyalty” payment. Ugo Ehiogu grudgingly withdraws his request for a transfer from Villa: “I am still not happy. Some of the things the manager has said and done have not shown respect.”

Wednesday 16 Today’s whinging centre back is Frank Leboeuf, who accuses his manager of wanting to get rid of him: “There are rumours Southgate will be arriving and I don’t think Vialli has much faith in me. But he has problems with everybody.” Leeds are to sign Dominic Matteo from Liverpool for £4 million despite the player’s knee injury which will keep him out for at least two months. Northern Ireland lose 2-1 to Yugoslavia in a Windsor Park friendly. Denis Irwin will miss the start of the season after being injured in his own testimonial match against Man City. “It wasn’t one of those ‘after you Claude’ testimonials,” says Joe Royle.

Thursday 17 The Premier League unveil their “Fans Charter” which will oblige clubs to adopt minimum standards over merchandise and ticketing – at least five per cent to be set aside for non season ticket holders, away fans paying the same as home. “We want to treat the people game’s as the people’s game,” says Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, who also hopes to teach the world to sing. After an inordinate amount of faffing about, Duncan Ferguson lumbers back to Everton for £3.75 million, having apparently waived a contractual pay-off from Newcastle.

Friday 18 Craig Bellamy joins newly flush Coventry from Norwich for £6 million. Blackburn’s benefactor Jack Walker dies aged 71.

Saturday 19 Not the best of starts for Man City, beaten 4-0 at Charlton. “We played like strangers,” mutters Joe Royle. Patrick Vieira’s dismissal for elbowing Darren Williams at the end of Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at Sunderland prompts a row between the two managers. “The Sunderland player stayed down because he wanted to get Patrick sent off,” insists Arsène. Peter Reid responds: “Mr Wenger is entitled to his opinion, but I think it is a load of crap.” Emile Heskey stuns the nation by scoring what turns out to be the only goal of Liverpool’s match with Bradford. Teesside millionaire Alen Boksic gets two in Middlesbrough’s 3-1 win at Coventry. “Yes, that was bad,” winces Jim Smith as Derby come back from two down to draw at home with Southampton. The kit worn by Sheffield United for their 3-0 defeat at Preston may be ditched because the players dislike the gold and lilac shirts, colours of the sponsors. “We looked like a bunch of poofters. They are not football colours,” says a (wisely anonymous) club spokesman. Match of the day is in the Second Division, where Notts County come back from two down, only to concede a last-minute goal and lose 4-3 to Millwall. Chester’s first outing in the Conference ends in a 2-0 defeat at Rushden.

Sunday 20 Man Utd 2 Newcastle 0. Bobby Robson is impressed: “At times they were just too good and even with 37 games to go they have a reasonably good chance of retaining the title.” Fancy that.

Monday 21 Patrick Vieira is sent off again in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Liverpool, who also have Gary McAllister and Dieter Hamann dismissed by headline addict Graham Poll. Arsène is ashen faced: “It is a very sad night for us. They will say I am whinging but Patrick played the ball.” Gérard hints at dark doings: “We are never lucky with Mr Poll. I have certainly never won with him.” PSV Eindhoven react angrily to Sir Alex’s invitation to Ruud van Nistelrooy to train at Old Trafford for a month. “I can hardly believe a man who calls himself ‘Sir’ can say such crazy words,” says PSV’s president. “It is unbelievably rude.”

Tuesday 22 Chelsea lose 2-0 at Bradford, for whom Benito Carbone scores on his home debut. “If you look at history you know we have to improve on this,” says Gianluca, who also threatens to bring back his fabled rotation system. Man Utd draw 1-1 at Ipswich. Sir Alex seems happy enough with a point – “Ipswich fought like tigers” – but less so with having three players booked for dissent: “Referees? Some of them are just prima donnas.” In the Worthington Cup, Blackpool win 1-0 at Stockport and Oxford do likewise at Wolves. Watford are held to a goalless draw by Cheltenham (“I feel a mixture of embarrassment and shame,” says Graham Taylor), Crewe recover from two down to draw 2-2 at home with Bury and Fulham’s B team (they have one these days) lose 1-0 at Northampton. Alan Buckley is sacked by Grimsby.

Wednesday 23 Leeds reach the Champions League group stage after a 1-0 win in Munich. “It’s reward for our ten months’ hard work last season,” says youth worker David O’Leary. Rangers complete a 6-0 aggregate win over Herfolge. West Ham are the only Premiership team without a point after a 1-0 defeat at home to Leicester. Igor Stimac’s first half dismissal sends Harry Redknapp into paroxysms: “I cannot believe what’s happening. This game doesn’t belong to officials who don’t understand football.” Coventry get their first away win for 16 months, 2-1 at Southampton, where Glenn is, surprise, unhappy with the referee. “It’s time games were controlled by professionals,” he says. Paulo Wanchope scores a hat-trick in Man City’s 4-2 win over Sunderland and Duncan Ferguson begins his second honeymoon at Goodison with the requisite two goals in a 3-0 win over Charlton. Arsène Wenger faces a touchline ban and heavy fine after being charged with jostling the fourth official in the tunnel after Arsenal’s game at Sunderland. Graham Poll asks the FA to rescind the second yellow card shown to Dieter Hamann at Highbury but defends the other two dismissals: “The amount of criticism from people who should know better has disappointed me, as we are always asked to protect players.”

Thursday 24 Holiday video stars Kieron Dyer and Rio Ferdinand are in the England squad for the friendly in France, as are Andy Cole and Darren Anderton. Little Kev contradicts his post-Euro 2000 comments and now insists that he would never resign from the manager’s job: “If I’m going to go someone is going to have to sack me.” Aberdeen win 1-0 in Dublin but go out of the UEFA Cup to Bohemians on away goals.

Friday 25 Leeds will be returning to Istanbul after draw­ing Besiktas in their Champions League group, together with Barcelona and AC Milan. “I am certain there will be no repeat of the tragedy of last time,” says Peter Ridsdale. Man Utd get Dynamo Kiev, PSV and Anderlecht, Arsenal have Lazio plus Sparta Prague and WSC’s sweethearts, Shakhtor Donetsk. Sylvain Wiltord joins Arsenal for £12 million after all, with Bordeaux’s president bidding him a less than fond farewell: “We will miss his talent but on the human level a guy who does not keep his word has no place at this club.” To howls of outrage chez Poll, Gary McAllister has his Highbury red card overturned by the Premier League video review panel, of whom we will hear more. UEFA are reported to be ready to bring in legis­lation that will require all clubs playing in Europe to be financially solvent. Real Madrid, with debts believed to stand at £170 million, are among the clubs under threat. And if it happens, we’ll eat Lennart Johansson.

Saturday 26 Man Utd blow a two-goal lead in the last four minutes at West Ham, Davor Suker equalising a minute from time. “We are kicking ourselves for being complacent,” winces a hobbling Sir Alex. Liverpool are even more generous, surrendering a three-goal lead to Southampton. “It was the sort of match that makes managers thrown tea cups,” seethes Gérard, eyes a-popping as never before. Patrick Vieira scores twice as Arsenal trail Charlton twice before winning 5-3 and risks a joke: “I knocked a few people down in the tunnel again today. You will hear about it later.” Coventry get their second away win in four days, 2-1 at Man City, Middlesbrough’s defeat by the same score against Leeds produces the season’s first rendition of the traditional folk song “Robson Out!”. Oh, and there were no red cards. In the Football League the three divisional leaders are the only teams left with 100 per cent records –Fulham triumph 4-1 against Stockport (“We’ve never played against a team like that,” gasps an admiring Andy Kilner), Walsall win by the same score at Swindon and Chesterfield beat bottom placed Shrewsbury 3-0.

Sunday 27 Celtic 6 Rangers 2, the home team taking a three-goal lead inside 11 minutes. “They were geed up and powerful. They were incredibly powerful. Brilliant,” says an airborne Martin O’Neill. Dick Advocaat appears to be in shock: “We probably need to practise more on what went wrong.” Aston Villa and Chelsea draw 1-1, with David James repeating his Cup final gaffe for the equaliser. But Gianluca fumes that his team have no friends in the press. “Unless we win the league by 25 points we are shit,” he confides.

Thursday 31 FIFA announce that they will not contest the European Commision’s move to abolish the transfer system. “I believe we do not have the right to impose on players’ labour freedom over the age of 24,” says Sepp Blatter. Their compromise involves “development fees” for players aged 18 to 24, no international transfers for under 18s and players not being permitted to move more than once a season. The Premier League chairmen are aghast. Arsenal’s David Dein, for one, is clutching his rug: “I find it difficult to believe what has been said. The English clubs are robustly behind the current system.” Winston Bogarde joins Chelsea on a free from Barcelona, saying “The Premier League is an exciting championship for the fans” (translation: “The money’s good”). Rangers’ surprise £6 million bid for John Hartson falls through when he fails a medical, but they hold off competition from Man Utd to snap up Ronald de Boer, released as part of Barcelona’s Dutch purge.

From WSC 164 October 2000. What was happening this month

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