THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 1 A ten-point lead for Man Utd who thrash West Ham 7-1 – “It was one of those days when everything went right,” says Sir Alex  – while Big Dave’s babies lose for the third time in four games, 1-0 to Chelsea. Michael Owen’s tufty hair receives plenty of ruffling as he scores two in a 3-0 win at Coventry that takes Liverpool to within a point of Leeds. Southampton and Wimbledon both lose but Bradford fail to take advantage, beaten 2-0 at Newcastle. Watford still need eight points to avoid the worst ever Premiership total, their defensive frailties highlighted at Goodison Park, where even Mark Hughes manages to score in Everton’s 4-2 win. There’s violence in Birmingham, where home fans clash with Wolves supporters before their game at St Andrews, and in Bristol, with Stoke goalkeeper Kevin Ward attacked on the pitch by three Rovers fans at the end of the teams’ 3-3 draw. Trapdoor teasers Chester win again, 1-0 at Halifax, and draw level on points with fast sliding Shrewsbury. Hamilton’s match at Stenhousemuir in the Scottish Second Division is called off when the visiting team’s players go on strike over unpaid wages.

Sunday 2  Aston Villa reach their first FA Cup final since 1957 after David James makes two shoot-out saves  following a goalless draw with Bolton, for whom Dean Holdsworth misses an open goal in extra time. Benito Carbone tries to storm off after being substituted but goes down the wrong tunnel. A very bad day for Bradford as Derby move five points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-0 win over Leicester. Stan Collymore breaks a leg and will be out until next season.

Monday 3 Premiership chairmen agree to include 40 pay-per-view matches, to be shown on Sunday afternoons, in the new TV deal beginning in 2001-02. There will be a further 66 live games and two weekend highlights programmes. “I’m sure pay-per-view will provoke a reaction but I believe we have acted responsibly,” shouts Premiership chief executive Richard Scudamore from atop a tottering cash mountain. The League may block Leeds’ attempt to take a 9.9 per cent stake in Oldham with a view to creating a youth academy at Boundary Park. Under League regulations clubs are not permitted to sign Under-16 players who live outside a 90-minute radius of their clubs.

Tuesday 4 Mark Bosnich holds Real Madrid at bay as Man Utd come away from the Bernabeu with a goalless draw in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.  “It was one of our poorest performances of recent years,” says Sir Alex. “There wasn’t even an intense tackle.”  Football League chief executive John McKeown leaves after only three months in charge. “Both sides recognise that it had not worked out,” says a spokesman.

Wednesday 5 Two Leeds fans, Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, are stabbed to death in Istanbul. “It is one of the black days in history,” says Leeds  chairman Peter Ridsdale. Chelsea beat Barcelona 3-1 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final. Gianluca is happy but cautious: “We worked really hard but it is only half-time,” while Louis van Gaal works his customary charm: “They created little and made goals out of nothing.”  Victory over Bolton takes Man City back to second place in the First.

Thursday 6 Leeds lose 2-0 in Istanbul in their UEFA Cup semi first leg. There is no minute’s silence before the match and Galatasaray players don’t join their opponents in wearing black armbands. “Either gesture would have added to the tension,” says coach Fatih Terim. In the other semi-final tie a Dennis Bergkamp goal gives Arsenal a 1-0 lead over Lens. The Scottish FA post a strong entry for the most ludicrous points deduction ever handed out as Hamilton are docked 15 points for their players’ refusal to play against Stenhousemuir.

Friday 7 Leeds want UEFA to ban away fans from the return match with Galatasaray, who say they will ask for the game to be switched to a neutral venue if the request if granted.

Saturday 8 Bradford are six points adrift after a fourth successive defeat, 2-1 at home to Southampton. Paul Jewell surveys the long-range forecast: “We didn’t come up expecting a breeze. Instead it has been stormy.” Stefan Schnoor misses a penalty for Derby in a goalless draw at Watford (“the way he took it was typical of the game – very poor,” says Jim Smith) but they move above Wimbledon, beaten 2-1 by Sunderland. Leicester’s Muzzy Izzet, who has opted to play for Turkey, is booed by a section of Everton’s support during the clubs’ match at Filbert Street. A late Forest equaliser at The Valley prevents Charlton becoming the first club to be promoted this season. Fans of Chesterfield, 13 points adrift of safety in the Second, stage a demo demanding the removal of manager John Duncan after their home defeat by Wycombe. Last gasp specialists Carlisle do it again, their 90th-minute winner at Chester taking them five points clear of the relegation spot in the Third Division. A 2-0 win over rivals Rushden means Kidderminster are virtually assured of a League place next season – unless the dreaded Ground Grading Committee know different. Rangers stroll into another Scottish Cup final, thrashing Ayr Utd 7-0.

Sunday 9 Another Wembley defeat for Newcastle, two goals from Gustavo Poyet giving Chelsea a 2-1 win in their FA Cup semi. “The sooner they knock this place down the better,” groans Alan Shearer.  Liverpool go second  by beating Spurs while Leeds lose at Aston Villa. David O’Leary thinks that his team’s European run is to blame for their loss in form: “Liverpool are playing Saturday to Saturday with nothing in midweek. Mentally we are over-tired.” Unpredictable Aberdeen reach a second final of the season, beating Hibs 2-1 in their Scottish Cup semi.  

Monday 10 Galatasaray threaten to go to the European Court of Human Rights if their fans are banned from Elland Road. “It  appear to me that Galatasaray are being opportunistic,” says Peter Ridsdale. “They are trying to find any means possible to get through to the final without kicking a football.” A 4-3 win at Middlesbrough means Man Utd need seven points from six games to be champions. Sir Alex remains calm: “You start the season and you don’t mind when you win the league.” Boro players may have been distracted by the news that the club is to play two matches in Libya to celebrate the opening of the Great Man River Project, a scheme known to be close to Bryan Robson’s heart. John Duncan is sacked by Chesterfield. Fulham confirm that Jean Tigana will become their manager in the summer and will spend the rest of this season “assessing the playing staff”. Could be bad news for Barry Hayles. Bolton are fined £45,000 for poaching manager Sam Allardyce from Notts County. The Football League will pay the money to themselves, rather than County, on the grounds that the club found a new manager almost straight away. Nice work.

Wednesday 12 Wimbledon fail emphatically to put more daylight between themselves and Bradford by losing 2-0 at home to Sheffield Wed. Egil Olsen is rather more positive than his team: “I haven’t considered resigning and I am never aware of what the fans are singing.” Chelsea go fourth, two points behind Leeds, after a 2-1 win over Coventry. Ronaldo will be out for at least eight months after damaging a knee in his comeback match for Inter, who deny rumours that he may never play again. Nike executives have been seen lighting candles to the patron saint of sportswear marketing.

Thursday 13 Chelsea are fined £50,000 for their players’ part in the tunnel bust-up with Wimbledon in February. Dennis Wise was fined £7,500 for saying rude words to Dons defender Kenny Cunningham. Because of what an FA spokesman described as “conflicting evidence”, Wimbledon’s case will be heard by a separate tribunal in a few weeks’ time.

Friday 14 Elland Road will stage the UEFA Cup semi-final second leg without Galatasaray fans. “We are delighted with the UEFA decision,” says Peter Ridsdale. “We have to play two football matches because violence must not prevail.” In Istanbul, four men are charged with the murder of the two Leeds supporters. Charlton fail to clinch promotion, losing 1-0 at home to Huddersfield.

Saturday 15 “Hopefully the championship will be decided next weekend,” sighs Sir Alex from his chaise longue, though Man Utd’s 4-0 demolition of Sunderland leaves them needing another four points from five games to be certain. Wednesday fans will be dreaming of a great escape after a second successive win, 1-0 at home to Chelsea. Peter Shreeves has a message for them: “It does give my starting platform a better lift-off situation.” Bradford drop back into second bottom place and have Paul Jewell muttering into his cagoule about “an even bigger mountain than it was last week” after crashing to a sixth defeat in a row, 4-0 at Everton. Spurs fans demonstrate against Alan Sugar, rumoured to be on the brink of selling up, after the team lets a two-goal lead slip in a 4-2 home defeat by Villa. In the First, Ipswich close to within a point of Man City after winning at Stockport  – “That’s the worst we’ve played in a long time,” beams George Burley –  while their rivals draw with Grimsby. Preston hold an eight-point lead in the Second after a 2-0 win over fading Bristol Rovers, who slip to fourth, two points behind Millwall and Wigan. “If we don’t pick ourselves up it’s bye-bye,”  says Shrewsbury manager Kev­in Ratcliffe as his side props up the League for the first time this season following a home defeat by Rochdale.

Sunday 16 Liverpool are closer to automatic qualification for the Champions League after beating Wimbledon 2-1 while Leeds, who have Ian Harte sent off before half-time, crash 4-0 at home to Arsenal. “Playing four consecutive Thursdays has cost us,”says David O’Leary. A crowd of 75,000 sees Reykjavik-on-Trent win the Autoglass Trophy, beating Bristol City 2-1.

Monday 17 Gary Neville claims to have been attacked in his car by Liverpool fans after their match with Man Utd in March and to have received death threats: “People don’t like us because we’re winning everything. I want to play for a team that opposition fans feel threatened by.” The European Commission reject UEFA’s request that clubs be legally restricted to five foreigners per team.

Tuesday 18 Drama in the Nou Camp, where Chelsea come within eight minutes of knocking Barcelona out before conceding the goal that brings the tie level. Rivaldo misses a penalty before full-time, but gets another in extra time in a 5-1 win.  “We gave it our best shot but in the end they were better than us,”sighs Gianluca.                

Wednesday 19 A Roy Keane own goal sends Man Utd on their way to a 3-2 home defeat by Real Madrid who add another two through breakaways before Utd make the score respectable. “It’s a shock,” says Sir Alex. “But that’s why I was disappointed we didn’t get an away goal in the first game.” The FA charge Chelsea with failing to control their players following incidents at the end of Saturday’s defeat at Sheffield Wed. Middlesbrough are charged too, for disputing a Man Utd goal in their 4-3 defeat at the Riverside. Hull City sack manager Warren Joyce. 

Thursday 20 Leeds are out of the UEFA Cup after a 2-2 draw with Galatasaray who take the lead twice in the first half during which Harry Kewell and an opponent are sent off. “I’m making no excuses about tired minds or tired legs. It’s just been a sad couple of weeks,” says David O’Leary. Fifteen fans are arrested in scuffles outside Elland Road, with a BBC TV crew among those injured. Galatasaray will now play Arsenal, for whom Kanu and Henry score in a 2-1 win at Lens. Nine Arsenal fans are arrested while trying to gain entry to the stadium. It is alleged that Lens had resold tickets allocated to visiting fans. Fulham’s bid for world domination comes a step closer with the announcement that they will have the first fully professional women’s team in the UK from the start of 2000-01.

Friday 21 Man Utd are set break the British transfer record by buying Ruud van Nistelrooy from PSV for £18.5 million having apparently outbid Arsenal, though Arsène is rather sniffy on that point: “It’s not as if Sir Alex is buying Rivaldo. Anyone coming here from a smaller league is unproven.” Bradford and Derby share eight goals at Valley Parade and the visitors also miss a penalty, one of four awarded. “It could have finished anything each,” gasps Paul Jewell. The Merseyside derby ends goalless. Sander Westerveld’s injury-time free-kick hits Don Hutchison and rebounds in but referee Graham Poll claims to have already blown for full-time (and picks up a nice after-dinner anecdote into the bargain).

Saturday 22 “This is a marvellous league to be part of and the best group of players I’ve ever had,” trills Sir Alex as Man Utd clinch the title with a 3-1 win at Southampton. Wimbledon sink to a sixth successive defeat, 2-0 at Spurs, but Egil Olsen doesn’t think that team spirit is the problem: “I’ve never known a nation which talks so much about spirit. It is football as well.” Sheffield Wed fail to take advantage, however, losing to two Kevin Phillips goals at home to Sunderland with Peter Shreeves understating mightily: “The number of goals we’ve scored is not what we would have liked.” Charlton return to the Premiership after third-placed Ipswich lose at QPR – “We can make a better go of it this time,” says Alan Curbishley –  and Preston go up from the Second. Chester slip back to the bottom of the Third. Rangers are Scottish champions again after Celtic carelessly fail to win at home to Hibs. Hamilton are relegated from the Scottish Second Division following defeat by Ross County but their deducted points will be restored while they appeal.

Sunday 23 Arsenal stay in the hunt for a Champions League place as runners-up with a 3-2 win at Watford where Patrick Vieira seems lucky to escape with a booking for butting Heidar Helguson – “There is no place on a football field for a head movement like that,” snaps Graham Taylor. Leeds continue to stumble, missing a penalty in a 2-2 draw at Newcastle.

Monday 24 Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League are extinguished by a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford. Gianluca’s dander is up: “I’m not threatening anyone but I have to find out who wants to give his best for this club.” Bradford grab a lifeline, a 1-0 win at Sunderland taking them to within two points of Wimbledon. “I don’t know how many points we need,” says Paul Jewell. “Just one more than third-bottom will do.” Derby are almost safe after beating Southampton. Port Vale are relegated from the First after losing at home to Huddersfield. Shrewsbury, beaten in the last minute at Halifax, slip to the bottom of the pile again.  

Tuesday 25 The Van Nistelrooy transfer is in doubt with United asking for more tests on his injured knee. Meanwhile Sir Alex’s arch nemesis Martin Edwards  hints that there will have to be sales: “To go and spend more than you actually earn on one player doesn’t make sense.” Brian Little is the new manager of Hull City. 

Wednesday 26 Scotland get a goal­less draw in Holland, whose coach Frank Rijkaard declines to mince his words: “It was an awful match.” The two Irelands are beaten 1-0 at home, Greece winning in Dublin, Hungary in Belfast. 

Friday 28 Ruud van Nistelrooy will be out for  a year after picking up a cruciate ligament injury. “It might be due to all the testing in Manchester,” says a peeved PSV president. United scrapped the deal yesterday because the player refused keyhole surgery on his troublesome knee.

Saturday 29 Arsenal go second after a 1-0 win at Ever­ton while Liverpool are beaten 2-0 by Chelsea. “Now we have to take the Premiership more seriously than Europe,” says Gianluca, like he has a choice. Ipswich’s win at Charl­ton means Man City must take a point from their final match to be certain of going up. Blackpool and Scun­thorpe are relegated from the Second to be replaced by Roth­erham and Swansea. Kidderminster are promoted from the Conference. Roy Keane is voted Footballer of the Year.

Sunday 30
Sheffield Wed all but bid their farewells with a 3-0 home defeat by Leeds. Wimbledon slip into the bottom three after conceding a debatable penalty and having John Hartson dismissed in a  3-0 defeat at Bradford.“Two scandalous decisions could cost us our Premier League status,”says Hartson. “But whether we stay up or not we need a change of manager.”

From WSC 160 June 2000. What was happening this month

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