THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 2 Man Utd go six points clear with a 2‑1 win at Middlesbrough. Gareth Southgate accuses Cristiano Ronaldo of cheating to earn a penalty for the opening goal. “The lad’s got history,” he growls, sounding like he’s on The Bill. “I’m not scared of the word ‘crisis’,” says Arsène, as Arsenal beat Spurs 3‑0 to go third, helped by two iffy penalties awarded by Graham Poll. Arsène and Thierry have a pre-match row over the latter being rested. Liverpool end their away hoodoo, winning 4‑0 at Wigan. Charlton lose 2‑1 at Sheffield United, Keith Gillespie scoring the winner in the 88th minute. “There is a confidence problem being bottom of the league,” says Les Reed. Birmingham top the Championship with a 3‑0 win at home to Plymouth. Preston lose 2‑0 at Luton. Cardiff draw 0‑0 at Colchester, their fourth game without a goal. Leeds stay in the drop zone after a 2‑2 draw at home to Barnsley. In the Cup, Tamworth are into round three, while four League One clubs lose to League Two sides including Tranmere, beaten 2‑1 at home by Peterborough, and Port Vale, who crash 4‑0 at Hereford.

Sunday 3 “We just need a break,” says Alan Pardew, looking forward to Christmas as Everton beat West Ham 2‑0 at Goodison. Salisbury come from behind to draw 1‑1 at home to Nottingham Forest in the Cup. The third-round draw pits bottom‑of‑the‑League Macclesfield against Chelsea. “I’ve spoken to Lamps and the banter has stared already,” gurgles Paul Ince. Liverpool are at home to Arsenal. Rangers are 23 points behind Celtic in the SPL after a first defeat to Falkirk in 35 years.

Monday 4 Hull sack Phil Parkinson, who has won only four matches in his five months in charge. Liverpool are in takeover talks with Dubai International Capital, also owner of Travelodge hotels. “Liverpool’s investment requirements are well publicised,” says DIC chief executive Sameer al‑Ansari, possibly thinking about Peter Crouch. Sepp Blatter’s new idea for the week is for the European season to run from February to November, with internationals played in the winter.

Tuesday 5 Charlton are off the bottom after beating Blackburn 1‑0 with a 90th-minute free-kick from Talal El Karkouri. “We don’t want to overblow it, but that goal could prove vitally important at the end of the season,” says Les Reed. Spurs’ 2‑1 win over Middlesbrough ends in a brawl, with George Boateng and Didier Zokora sent off. Forest lose 2‑0 at Bournemouth, but still lead League One by five points from Scunthorpe, who draw 1‑1 with Tranmere. Macclesfield finally win a game, 1‑0 against Rochdale, but are nine points adrift; League Two leaders Walsall are that many clear after a 2‑1 win at Bury. In the Champions League, Liverpool’s second string lose 3‑2 to Galatasaray; Shaun Wright‑Phillips and Andriy Shevchenko get rare goals as Chelsea beat Levski Sofia 2‑0. Boston’s chairman claims they may go under after planning permission for a new stadium is rejected.

Wednesday 6 Break out the face paint – England are the first country to have four clubs in the Champions League knockout stage. Man Utd beat Benfica 3‑1, after going behind. Arsène insists that Arsenal’s mutually beneficial goalless draw with Porto was above board: “Porto tried to beat us until the 85th minute. It’s normal in the last few minutes for it to slow down.” Celtic miss a chance to top their group, losing 3‑1 in Copenhagen. “We haven’t had too many displays where you’ve thought, ‘My God, that was no good at all’,” says Alan Pardew as West Ham drop into the bottom three after losing 2‑0 at home to Wigan. Mike Newell is charged by the FA over comments made about official Amy Raynor in November.

Thursday 7 Andriy Shevchenko concedes his Chelsea move hasn’t worked out so far: “But if I don’t suit somebody I’ll go back to Italy and prove how good I can still be.” George Boateng’s red card is rescinded, but Boro and Spurs are charged with failing to contain their players. An unnamed party wants to buy Man City for £75 million.

Saturday 9 Premiership leaders United win the Manchester derby 3‑1. Portsmouth stay third, Matthew Taylor scoring from 45 yards in a 2‑0 defeat of Everton. Liverpool beat Fulham 4‑0 at Anfield, watched by chief executive-in-waiting, Sameer al-Ansari, who has, apparently, been a Liverpool fan for 32 years. “We’re on the crest of something big,” says Aidy Boothroyd as Watford draw 0‑0 at home to Reading and stay bottom. More “honest discussions in the dressing room” for Les Reed as Charlton are hammered 5‑1 at Spurs. “It wasn’t as easy as it looked,” says Sam Allardyce, suppressing a chuckle, as Bolton beat West Ham 4‑0 – the Hammers have gone eight away games without a goal. Gary McSheffrey scores a hat‑trick as Birmingham beat Preston 3‑1 to go three points clear in the Championship. Derby are second after a 1‑0 win at Leeds, their first victory there since they won the League in 1974‑75. “We’ve got the squad to get out of this,” says Dennis Wise, looking forward to League One. Just four points separate the ten clubs below Southampton in the last play‑off spot. League One leaders Forest win 4‑1 at Crewe. Scunthorpe go second with a 2‑0 win at Carlisle. Brentford, Cheltenham and Orient are all joint last, with only five points separating the bottom seven clubs. Steve Claridge, 40, makes his 1,000th first-team appearance in a surprise comeback for Bournemouth – they lose 4‑0 at home to Port Vale. In League Two, Swindon are seven points behind leaders Walsall after beating them 2‑0 at Bescot Stadium. MK Dons go third with a 4‑3 win at Accrington. Macclesfield win for the second time in a week.

Sunday 10 Chelsea and Arsenal draw 1‑1 at the Bridge. José accuses Arsène of being in cahoots with Sir Alex: “It’s very funny, very enjoyable to see this kind of co‑operating.” In the absence of any real flare‑ups, the tabloids settle for an “amazing” story about Cesc Fábregas not shaking Ashley Cole’s hand. In Scotland, Celtic are 16 points clear in the SPL after a 2‑1 win at Dunfermline. Theo Walcott, who is definitely young, wins BBC Sport’s young personality of the year award. The News of the World reveals Roman Abramovich is terrified of being poisoned and will only eat food cooked by his personal chef: “Roman refuses to eat the sandwiches prepared by the kitchen staff for the half-time buffet.” A 20‑year‑old man is charged with the attempted murder of Ronnie Wallwork at Manchester’s Sugar Lounge ten days ago.

Monday 11 West Ham sack Alan Pardew. “This season’s results have left the club is a very difficult position,” says a statement. Everton are considering a stadium site as part of a Tesco development in Kirkby.

Tuesday 12 West Ham captain Nigel Reo‑Coker thinks he is being blamed for Alan Pardew’s dismissal after reports of rows between the manager and some players: “I’m getting it in the neck but no one knows what goes on behind the scenes.” In Cup replays, League One strugglers Leyton Orient and Bournemouth lose at home to League Two Torquay and Bristol Rovers respectively.

Wednesday 13 Alan Curbishley take charge of West Ham, saying: “The young players of last season are now being asked different questions, and we have got to find the answers.” Chelsea close to within five points of Man Utd after scrambling a 1‑0 win over Newcastle. “I am enjoying the experience of being second in December because I’ve not had that since I’ve been here,” says José. Arsenal win by the same score at Bolton with an 88th‑minute goal from Emmanuel Adebayor. Blackburn clinch top spot in their UEFA Cup group, beating Nancy with an injury-time goal from Lucas Neill.

Thursday 14 Arsène is fined £10,000 for his pitchside antics during Arsenal’s match at West Ham. Alan Pardew will have a personal hearing next month.

Saturday 16 Liverpool go third after a 3‑0 win at Charlton. “I’ve got to exude the belief that we can do it,” says Les Reed, thumbing though his own FA coaching manual. Arsenal come back from 2‑0 down to draw 2‑2 at home to Portsmouth. Arsène is involved in another rumble, this time with the fourth official. “It’s a punch on the nose but we won’t wallow in it,” says Aidy Boothroyd as Watford stay bottom after a 2‑1 defeat at Newcastle, Obafemi Martins scoring twice. Sheffield Utd, unbeaten in four matches, zoom up to 15th with a 1‑0 win at Wigan. Birmingham win 3‑0 win at Sheffield Wednesday, a result Wednesday manager Brian Laws describes as “the biggest travesty I have seen”. Cardiff slip to fifth after losing 4‑1 at third‑bottom Hull. Colchester are sixth after their ninth home win in a row, 3‑0 against Stoke. The Dennis Wise revival continues to splutter as Leeds go second‑bottom with a 1‑0 loss at Ipswich. In League One, Orient win 3‑1 at leaders Forest. Bristol City move closer with a 1‑0 win against Millwall. Bottom‑placed Brentford, 1‑0 losers at Port Vale, haven’t won in 17 games. League Two leaders Walsall draw 1‑1 at Wrexham. Swindon win to cut the gap, as do MK Dons, 3‑1 at home to Wycombe, who have eight players booked and one sent off. Macclesfield are denied their third win in a row by a last-minute Accrington equaliser. Dundee’s Andy McLaren receives three red cards during a 2‑1 defeat at Clyde, the third for kicking a hole in the referee’s door. In the Second Division, mid‑table Raith win at home for the first time since March.

Sunday 17 Man Utd’s lead at the top is cut to two points as they lose 1‑0 at West Ham in Alan Curbishley’s first game in charge. “We have to gather ourselves and start a charge,” says Sir Alex. Chelsea come from behind twice to win 3‑2 at Everton, Didier Drogba scoring a spectacular 87th-minute winner. José accuses the “dangerous” Andrew Johnson of diving. Spurs win away in the Premiership for the first time this season, 2‑1 at Man City. Stuart Pearce sympathises with a fan led away by police while trying to storm the dugout in the first half: “In his position I would do the same thing.” “I take with me many fond memories,” says Steve Parkin after being relieved of his duties by Rochdale, currently 22nd in League Two. Rangers and Celtic draw 1‑1 at Ibrox.

Monday 18 Fulham beat Boro 2‑1 at Craven Cottage and move up to 11th. Fabio Cannavaro adds the FIFA World Player of the Year award to his European title. “It’s time for Italian football to grow up and move on,” he says. Andrew Johnson threatens to sue José for unfairly questioning his “integrity as a footballer”.

Tuesday 19 Calamity for Charlton, who lose 1‑0 at home to Wycombe in the Carling Cup last eight. Les Reed is silent but chief executive Peter Varney says: “Performances which lack passion and heart are not what you want to see.” Mansfield manager Peter Shirtliff is replaced by coach Billy Dearden.

Wednesday 20 Lord Stevens’ bungs inquiry finds 17 transfers that need further investigation, due to eight agents having refused to co‑operate. A leaked memo from Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore suggests that the report has been watered down in the interests of clubs. Spurs need extra time to beat Southend 1‑0 in their Carling Cup quarter‑final; Chelsea win by the same score against Newcastle. José apologises for having described Andy Johnson as “untrustworthy”. John Gorman resigns as manager of Northampton, currently 18th in League One. Bury are thrown out of the Cup for fielding an ineligible player in their second-round win against Chester.

Friday 22 The FA want Premier League clubs to boycott the eight agents who have refused to co‑operate with the Stevens inquiry. Sam Hammam gives up his controlling stake in Cardiff – the city council had refused to approve plans for a new stadium unless Hammam agreed to sell.

Saturday 23 “Perhaps we shouldn’t believe José Mourinho – he said Chelsea would be top at Christmas and they are not,” says Sir Alex as Man Utd keep their two-point lead with a 3‑0 win at Villa. Chelsea nick another one, needing a 90th-minute Arjen Robben goal to beat Wigan 3‑2, having lost a two-goal lead. “For sure complacent,” snarls José. Nicolas Anelka’s two goals at Man City keep Bolton fourth, level with Arsenal, who score three in the last five minutes to beat Blackburn 6‑2. Watford and Charlton are cast further adrift at the bottom after 2‑0 defeats at Liverpool and Middlesbrough. Aidy Boothroyd is hoping to recruit in January: “It is going to require brave people to come here, the majority will say, ‘I don’t fancy that’.” Birmingham’s 4‑0 thrashing of Southend takes them five points clear in the Championship. Keeper Mark Crossley heads an injury-time equaliser for Sheffield Wed in their 3‑3 draw with Southampton. Forest lead League One by only two points after losing 1‑0 in the final match at Doncaster’s Belle Vue. MK Dons go second in League Two, four points behind Walsall, with a 2‑1 win over Rochdale. Swindon drop from second to fourth after a 2‑1 defeat at reanimated Macclesfield, now only three points adrift.

Tuesday 26 Alan Pardew is to be the new manager of Charlton, replacing Les Reed, who was sacked on Christmas Eve. “It had to do with the way we lost the last two games,” says chief executive Peter Varney. Man Utd’s lead doubles as they beat Wigan 3‑1, while Chelsea can only draw 2‑2 at home with Reading. José laments the missing John Terry and Petr Cech: “For us to win matches right now we need to score three times.” Liverpool drop from third to sixth after a 1‑0 defeat at Blackburn. Bolton and Arsenal win 2‑1, against Newcastle and Watford respectively. Man City are five points above the relegation area after a first away win, 1‑0 at Sheffield Utd. Afterwards Neil Warnock rages at Sky, whose reporter told referee Mark Clattenburg at half‑time that he’d missed a Sheffield Utd handball: “I don’t think a referee should be mentally tried with statements like that.” Birmingham mark their 100th anniversary at St Andrew’s by going eight points clear in the Championship, with a 2‑1 defeat of QPR while nearest challengers Preston and Derby both lose. Leeds announce that Elland Road has been sold for the second time in just over a year, to a company registered in the British Virgin Islands; the team stay 23rd after a 2‑0 defeat at Sunderland. Forest and Scunthorpe lead League One after wins over Port Vale and Chesterfield respectively. Brentford are six points adrift after losing 4‑1 at home to second‑bottom Millwall – manager Scott Fitzgerald says his players “have two matches to save their careers at this club”. Torquay are 92nd after losing 2‑0 to MK Dons while Macclesfield, unbeaten in eight, win 3‑0 at Chester. SPL leaders Celtic look set for a first home defeat by Dundee Utd in 14 years, before two late goals earn a 2‑2 draw. A Conference record crowd of 11,065 sees leaders Oxford draw 0‑0 with Woking.

Wednesday 27 Charlton concede an injury‑time equaliser, from a wrongly awarded free-kick, for a 2‑2 draw with Fulham. Alan Pardew is encouraged: “There were times when we looked rash and ugly, but you could not fault the commitment.” Liverpool’s prospective owners from Dubai deny reports that their plan is to sell the club in 2014.

Saturday 30 José almost admits to mistakes as Chelsea mess up again, drawing 2‑2 with Fulham. “Why did I sell Gallas and Huth? It’s a good question. There is no answer.” Man Utd extend their lead to six with a 3‑2 win over Reading. Bolton on are up to third after a 3‑2 defeat of Portsmouth. “It was a typical cup game,” shudders Arsène as Arsenal are outmuscled again, losing 1‑0 at Sheffield Utd, who have defender Phil Jagielka in goal for the last 30 minutes. Middlesbrough drop to 17th after defeat at Blackburn and are now only five points ahead of Charlton, who beat Villa 2‑1, a result seen by Alan Pardew as “a kick in the teeth for the management and staff at five or six other clubs”. In the Championship, 1‑0 wins for Derby and Preston take them to within six points of Birmingham, who drew 2‑2 with Luton last night. Scunthorpe’s 3‑2 defeat of Bournemouth takes them top of League One on goal difference, ahead of Forest who draw 1‑1 with Tranmere. Bottom-placed Brentford get a first win in nearly four months, 2‑1 against Chesterfield. Torquay, winless in 17 games, are three points adrift in League Two after losing 1‑0 at home to Macclesfield. Steven Gerrard’s commitment to long-range wallops is finally recognised with an MBE.

From WSC 24o February 2007. What was happening this month

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