THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tuesday 1 Liverpool beat Chelsea on penalties to reach the Champions League final. “In extra time we were the only team who tried to win,” says José, pouting more than ever. Joey Barton is suspended by Man City for a training‑ground fight with team‑mate Ousmane Dabo. The FA are to investigate Oldham chairman Simon Blitz, who made a £500,000 loan to Queens Park Rangers.

Wednesday 2 No all‑English Champions League final after Manchester United fall 3‑0 at AC Milan in the second leg of their semi. “We never looked like we were going to score,” say a chastened Sir Alex. Conference club Gravesend & Northfleet are to change their name to Ebbsfleet United, after a nearby Eurostar station. Sheffield United and Wigan threaten legal action against West Ham and the Premier League. “The bottom six will take action together with whichever two clubs go down, if West Ham aren’t one of them,” says Dave Whelan.

Friday 4 Leeds go into administration, activating a ten‑point deduction for this season, but are then bought by a company of which Ken Bates is a director. Oxford win 1‑0 at Exeter in the Conference play‑off semi‑finals, while York and Morecambe draw 0‑0.

Saturday 5 Man Utd stretch their Premiership lead to eight points with a 1‑0 win at Man City. Cristiano Ronaldo scores the penalty winner, having earlier been stamped on by Michael Ball; City miss a penalty and set a record for the fewest goals scored at home in the top tier. West Ham move out of the bottom three with a 3‑1 win at home to Bolton, who have Sammy Lee in charge; Carlos Tévez scores twice. Wigan are three points behind the Hammers after a 1‑0 home defeat to Boro, Mark Viduka scoring from a spooned free‑kick that appears to be kicked twice by Stuart Downing as he falls over. “That’s illegal,” points out Paul Jewell. Sheffield United lose 3‑0 at Aston Villa. “It’s still in our hands and that’s the way we want it to be,” says Neil Warnock, trying to be upbeat. Fulham are almost safe after beating a second‑string Liverpool 1‑0 at Craven Cottage, but Michael Brown could be in trouble for headbutting Xabi Alonso. Everton are almost certain of a UEFA Cup spot after a 3‑0 win at home to Portsmouth. Bristol City go up from League One after a 3‑1 win at home to Rotherham. “On days like this, you see just what a big club City can be,” says Gary Johnson. Blackpool end Swansea’s play‑off hopes with a 6‑3 win at the Liberty Stadium, Andy Morrell scoring four. Oldham finish sixth after a 1‑0 home win against Chesterfield. Swindon are promoted and Walsall are League Two champions after their 1‑1 draw. “I hope the club and the town can now be arm in arm,” says Paul Sturrock, trying to start a conga. Stockport win 5‑0 at Darlington but miss out on the play‑offs to Shrewsbury and Bristol Rovers. Wrexham stay in the League with a 3‑1 win at home to Boston, who are relegated and enter a Company Voluntary Arrangement minutes before the match ends. Celtic keeper Artur Boruc is in trouble with Strathclyde police for running across the Ibrox pitch with a flag, after a 2‑0 defeat to Rangers. The Premier League are to sue YouTube for showing match footage online.

Sunday 6 Man Utd win the title as Chelsea can only draw 1‑1 at Arsenal, their ninth draw in a season that has seen them lose the fewest games of any team not to win the title in the history of the top division. “I always knew one day I would not be a champion,” says José, ticking off another ambition. Sunderland finish top of the Championship after a 5‑0 win at Luton. Roy Keane describes the League’s refusal to present the trophy at an away ground as “an insult”. Birmingham lose 1‑0 at Preston, who miss out on the last play‑off spot as Southampton beat Southend 4-1 at St Mary’s. West Brom win 7‑0 at home to Barnsley and will face Wolves. “Whoever wrote the script certainly has a sense of humour,” chuckles Mick McCarthy. Glenn Roeder resigns as Newcastle manager after 12 months in charge.

Monday 7 Charlton are relegated after losing 2‑0 at The Valley to Spurs. “There’s no politics involved, no court cases, this is where it’s at,” sighs Alan Pardew. Charlton also lose in the Women’s FA Cup final, 4‑1 to Arsenal, who complete a quadruple of three domestic trophies plus the UEFA Cup. The Premier League say that Everton and Man Utd did not break any rules in having an unwritten agreement that Tim Howard would not play in their recent match at Goodison. Morecambe reach the Conference play‑off final with a 2‑1 win over York.

Tuesday 8 Exeter will play at Wembley for the first time after beating Oxford on penalties in the Conference play‑offs. The Premier League say that a legal challenge to the Tévez‑Mascherano verdict is “bound to fail”.

Wednesday 9 Chelsea and Man Utd play out an irritable goalless draw with under‑strength teams. But José still has the energy to fume over refereeing decisions: “If you ask me if I jump with happiness when I know Mr Poll is our referee? No.” Freddy Shepherd is angry at reports that Michael Own wants to leave Newcastle: “Either Michael tells our fans that he is happy here – or I tell him that not one of the big four clubs are interested in him.”

Thursday 10 Spurs draw with Blackburn to close in on a UEFA Cup place. Dave Whelan stokes up the Tévez row, asking for “concrete evidence” that he was eligible to play against Wigan in April. Michael Ball is banned for three matches for his stamp; Michael Brown gets the same for his butt. Michael Owen is in the England B squad to face Albania. Rick Parry says Liverpool’s allocation of 17,000 tickets for the Champions League final is “totally inadequate”. A proposed League rule change from next season would mean that clubs who go into administration from four games before the end of a season will have ten points deducted from the following campaign.

Friday 11 “Obviously it is disappointing to not be taking Northern Ireland to the European Championships,” says Lawrie Sanchez on being confirmed as Fulham’s full‑time manager. Forest win 2‑0 at Yeovil in the first leg of their League One play‑off semi-final. Bobby Williamson is named Chester boss.

Saturday 12 Derby come from behind to win 2‑1 at St Mary’s in the first leg of their Championship play‑off semi. Steve Howard scores twice, while Southampton’s Gareth Bale and Kenwyne Jones will miss the second leg with injury. “We need a wee bit of luck,” says George Burley, crossing everything. “They were giving each other high fives at the end,” mutters goalscorer Jeff Hughes as Lincoln lose 2‑1 at Bristol Rovers in their League Two play‑off first leg. Stirling beat Airdrie 5‑4 on aggregate in the Scottish First Division play‑off final. Queens Park are promoted to the Second after completing a 7‑2 aggregate win against East Fife. At Wembley, 53,262 see Stevenage come back from 2‑0 down to beat Kidderminster 3‑2 in the FA Trophy.

Sunday 13 Sheffield United are relegated from the Premiership thanks to an inferior goal difference of one after a 2‑1 home defeat by Wigan, who stay up. “Fate is fate,” observes Neil Warnock, before also blaming Alex Ferguson, Mike Dean, Rafa Benítez and the Premier League. West Ham are safe after winning 1‑0 at Man Utd, who start with only five first-choice players. Predictably enough, Carlos Tévez scores the goal. “I have just seen the Sheffield United chairman and said ‘you get stuck into them’,” says Dave Whelan, almost but not quite promising to support legal action over Tévez’s iffy registration. Spurs finish fifth after a 2‑1 home win against Man City. “It’s all very exciting for me,” says a flushed Sammy Lee as Bolton also qualify for the UEFA Cup, finishing seventh after a 2‑2 draw with Villa. Blackburn are in the Intertoto after a 3‑3 draw at home to Reading who, along with Portsmouth, declined the chance to take part. Chelsea and Everton draw 1‑1. In the Championship play‑offs West Brom win 3‑2 at Molineux. “Welcome to the rollercoaster that is Wolves,” mutters Mick McCarthy. Blackpool win 2‑1 at Oldham in the first leg of their League One semi‑final play‑off, their eighth consecutive victory.

Monday 14 Paul Jewell resigns as Wigan manager. “I feel it is time for me to have a break from football,” he says. Assistant Chris Hutchings takes his place. “I feel as though I have been a caretaker with no money to spend,” says Stuart Pearce after being sacked by Man City, who are said to be in takeover talks with Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister of Thailand. Don Revie’s son Duncan is to bid for Leeds, apparently with the backing of the Maktoum family, rulers of Abu Dhabi. Shrewsbury and MK Dons draw 0‑0 in their League Two play‑off semi, the last ever match at Gay Meadow.

Tuesday 15 Derby reach the Championship play‑off final with a shootout win over Southampton after a 4‑4 draw on aggregate. “I feel like I’m ready to implement what I did at Bolton for seven years,” says Sam Allardyce on being confirmed as Newcastle’s new manager. One of his first moves is to release Titus Bramble. José Mourinho is cautioned by police after a “misunderstanding” over quarantine regulations with regard to the family’s Yorkshire terrier – wrongly reported to be named Gullit. Officers deny receiving a tip-off from a man with a Glasgow accent.

Wednesday 16 West Brom’s 1‑0 win over Wolves takes them into the Championship play‑off final. Sevilla beat Espanyol on penalties in the UEFA Cup final at Hampden Park. Neil Warnock resigns at Sheffield United, after a disagreement over a new contract. Police interview Joey Barton over the “assault” on Man City team-mate Ousmane Dabo. The FA are to investigate all Luton’s transfers since 2004, after former chairman Bill Tomlins admits to making several unauthorised payments to agents.

Thursday 17 A 5-3 away win puts Bristol Rovers’ in the League Two final, as Lincoln lose in the play-offs for a fifth year in a row.

Friday 18 Yeovil reach the League One final thanks to one of the most dramatic ever play‑off matches, winning 5‑2 at Forest and 5‑4 on aggregate after extra time. “It was heart-attack material,” says manager Russell Slade. Shrewsbury’s 2‑1 win at MK Dons takes them through to face Bristol Rovers.

Saturday 19 “It wasn’t very enjoyable,” declares José as Chelsea win the FA Cup, beating Man Utd 1‑0 after extra time in a disappointingly cagey final. Didier Drogba scores the only goal in the 116th minute. United claim to have had a legitimate goal disallowed after Petr Cech carries the ball over his line in a clash with Ryan Giggs, and that they should have had a penalty in the build‑up. “Neither side deserved to win or lose,” grumbles Sir Alex. Blackpool reach the League One play‑off final, beating Oldham 5‑2 on aggregate. “Maybe we’ve lived in the past too long,” says Simon Grayson, wafting away the ghosts of Matthews and Mortensen.

Sunday 20 Morecambe win the Conference play‑off final, beating Exeter 2‑1 in front of 40,043 at Wembley. “It ranks right up there with the FA Cup finals, World Cup finals and managing Northern Ireland,” says Sammy McIlroy, who falls over spectacularly while celebrating. Bayern Munich announce that Owen Hargreaves has agreed a deal with Man Utd, moving for £17million. In Scotland, Aberdeen beat Rangers 2‑0 to qualify for the UEFA Cup. Hibs also beat Celtic 2‑1, the first time the two Old Firm clubs have lost on the same day since November 1999.

Tuesday 22 Driven mad by the furore over relegation, Sheffield United appoint Bryan Robson. “With hindsight, Neil Warnock wasn’t quite right for our Premiership ambitions,” says chairman Kevin McCabe, who’s seen nothing yet. Former Blades coach Stuart McCall takes over at Bradford. Wolves are bought by former Liverpool bidder Steve Morgan.

Wednesday 23 Liverpool lose 2‑1 to AC Milan in the Champions League final, Dirk Kuyt scoring late on after Filippo Inzaghi nets twice. There are clashes with police outside when some Liverpool fans with valid tickets are unable to get in; thousands of forgeries are said to have been sold. The Hall family sell their 41 per cent stake in Newcastle to Mike Ashley, owner of several sports-shop chains. Freddy Shepherd will not be easily shifted: “He has spent £50 million but he’ll have to spend a whole lot more.” The Republic of Ireland draw 1‑1 with Ecuador in New York.

Friday 25 England B beat Albania 3‑1 in front of 22,500 at Turf Moor. Stewart Downing scores twice. “We did everything right and the players can be proud,” says Steve McClaren, talking the whole thing up a bit. Martin Allen is the surprise choice as new Leicester manager; Neil Warnock may have missed out for criticising the club when they were promoted while in administration in 2002. There’s confusion at Torquay, as Leroy Rosenior is appointed manager, for the second time, then sacked ten minutes later when club chairman Mike Bateson sells up to a consortium including former manager Colin Lee. Gareth Bale joins Spurs from Southampton for £5m, which could double with appearances. Hermann Hreidarsson leaves Charlton for Portsmouth, who are also to sign Sylvain Distin on a free from Man City.

Saturday 26 Celtic complete the Double, a late goal from Jean‑Joël Perrier Doumbé (yes, him) beating Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup final; the goalscorer is on loan from Rennes while midfielder Stephen Kenny becomes the first player to win the trophy with three different clubs. Bristol Rovers beat Shrewsbury 3‑1 in the League Two play‑off final, Richard Walker scoring twice. “I‘m going to drink for six weeks,” he promises. David Beckham is recalled by England for the friendly against Brazil and the qualifier in Estonia. “Beckham is back to help me win the game. End of story,” says Steve McClaren, who really should know better than that. The Republic of Ireland complete their US tour with a 1‑1 draw against Bolivia, Reading striker Shane Long scoring his first international goal. Wales draw 2‑2 with New Zealand in Cardiff, Craig Bellamy twice equalising goals from Shane Smeltz, who used to play for AFC Wimbledon and Exeter.

Sunday 27 Blackpool beat Yeovil 2‑0 in the League One play‑off final and are promoted to the Championship, their first appearance in the second tier since 1978. Robbie Williams and Keigan Parker score in a club‑record tenth consecutive win. Steve Evans resigns as Boston manager. “I have a family to support,” he explains.

Monday 28 Derby beat West Brom 1‑0 in the Championship play‑off final. Stephen Pearson scores the winner in the 61st minute. Billy Davies might still be off in the summer, though. “I’m not saying I don’t want to be the manager of Derby County. I’m saying that like anything in life, nothing is 100 per cent,” he says. John McBeth of the Scottish FA will have his nomination as Britain’s new FIFA vice‑president withdrawn after appearing to suggest in a newspaper interview that African and Caribbean football associations were corrupt: “They’re poor nations and want to grab what they can.” Paul Gascoigne has surgery for a perforated ulcer after being taken ill on his 40th birthday.

Tuesday 29 Graham Poll formally announces his retirement as a referee, which he says was partly prompted by Brian Barwick and the FA failing to defend him over the dismissal of John Terry in Chelsea’s match at Tottenham in November. “Chelsea do what they do because they are allowed to. If you see an unruly child, you don’t blame the child you blame the parent.” The FA vote in favour of Lord Burns’ review, which recommended the appointment of an independent chairman (Jeffrey Archer is available) and the creation of a semi‑independent disciplinary body; fans’ representatives will also be given places on the FA Council. Steve Evans is quickly back in work and will face Boston in the Conference next season as manager of Crawley Town.

Wednesday 30 The FA’s invisible man, Geoff Thompson, will replace Jim McBeth as Britain’s FIFA vice‑president. Scotland beat Austria 1‑0 in a friendly in Vienna. Oldham are to sign former West Brom and Coventry striker Lee Hughes, jailed in 2004 for manslaughter after a car crash, if he gets parole in August. John Russell, who took over Exeter in 2002 after lying about his wealth, is jailed for fraud; Michael Jackson was an honorary director of the club during Russell’s year in charge, which left Exeter facing bankruptcy.

Thursday 31 Man Utd buy Sporting Lisbon midfielder Nani and Porto’s teenage Brazilian winger Anderson, who says: “It is a dream the size of the world.” United also confirm Bayern’s claim that Owen Hargreaves will join them shortly. Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari joins Portsmouth from Udinese. Sepp Blatter is re‑elected unopposed for a third term as FIFA president. He promises to fight against “the devils and evils that beset football”, which include corruption, apparently.

From WSC 245 July 2007

More...