THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Sunday 1 England beat Moldova 3-0. "We came here with a few banana skins lying about and sidestepped them," says Glenn, whose metaphors might need a bit of working on.

Tuesday 3 Sheff Wed extend their lead at the top to five points after a 2-1 home win over Leicester, the first of their two coming from 'teenage sensation' Richie Humphreys who now has three in four games. "He came, he saw, and (guess...) he conquered," says David Pleat.

Wednesday 4 Never a dull moment for George Graham. Both he and Frank Clark are to help Norwegian police with their enquiries into the business activities of agent provocateur Rune Hauge, facing jail on fraud charges. Colchester stage the come back of the night in the Coke Cup First Round - 3-2 down from the first leg they win 3-1 at West Brom. Southend lose 3-2 on aggregate to Fulham and Reading's first-ever visit to Wycombe ends in a 2-0 defeat. Internazionale's Nwankwo Kanu may have to retire due to a heart condition spotted during a medical following his move to Milan from Ajax.

Thursday 5 Ray Wilkins resigns as QPR manager, seemingly in a row over not being given money to strengthen the squad. "This has come as such a shock," says new chairman Chris Wright. A Les Ferdinand goal gives Newcastle a 2-1 win at Roker Park, Chelsea get a last-minute equalizer in a 3-3 draw at Arsenal, who had previously come back from two down, Villa go second after a 1-0 win at Everton and Coventry are bottom after losing by the same score at home to Liverpool. Oh, and Vinny Jones is sent off, for the 12th time, during Wimbledon's home win over Spurs after a dust-up with Darren Anderton, who is alleged to have spat at him. Vinny wants an FA investigation: "I'd tell them what their little England star did and ask what they were going to do about it. If he'd spoken to me after the game he'd have had a broken nose." Goodness, he's such a ruffian.

Friday 6 "You'd have to be on drugs to spit at Vinny," says Darren, "He ran into it." Which one will the headmaster believe? Blackburn's endless quest for a striker is now focussed on Swedish international Martin Dahlin, unhappy at Roma, but possibly not dreaming of a move to East Lancs. West Ham claim that interest from Spurs has forced them to offer improved terms to Croatian defender Slaven Bilic. "Foreigners don't seem to stay anywhere too long," says Harry Redknapp. Unlike English players abroad.

Saturday 7 Sheffield Wed stay top but lose their 100% record, being beaten 2-0 at home by Chelsea, now second. Aston Villa would have gone top had their opponents Arsenal not scored an injury time equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Villa Park, which led to the ref being surrounded by helpful Villa players offering to repair his watch. Coventry, beaten 4-0 at Middlesbrough, stay bottom. Ron's had the vote of confidence already. Terry Venables claims that Alan Sugar has settled the libel action prompted by comments made in Venables autobiography, a few weeks before the case was due to go to court. Sugar, of course, denies it.

Monday 9
Howard Wilkinson is sacked by Leeds, and says, "I'm shocked and dismayed. A small section of our supporters have focussed their disappointment on me." "We hope his critics will now recognize the job he has done in establishing us as a top Premiership club," says Leeds director Bill Fotherby, not sounding wholly sincere. "I'm no quitter," says Ray Harford after Blackburn lose 2-1 at home to Derby. With the Man City job still up for grabs Howard might be spoilt for choice soon.

Tuesday 10 In the UEFA Cup Newcastle beat Halmstad 4-0 but Villa are held 1-1 at home by Helsingborg, who get a late equalizer, and Arsenal do some comedy defending in the process of losing lose 3-2 to Mönchengladbach at Highbury. Celtic are beaten 2-0 at home by Hamburg, Aberdeen beat Barry Town 3-1. George Graham takes over as Leeds manager and says, "I'm not promising overnight success because I don't believe in it." Hey, neither do we. Talking about Graham's departure from Arsenal, Leeds director Bill Fotherby says, "We discussed what happened to him but decided it wasn't relevant." Billy Kirkwood of Dundee Utd becomes the seventh manager dismissed this season, making way for Tommy McLean, who took over at Raith just a week ago. As Tommy's big brother Jim is United's chairman he should have more job security than most, though you never can tell with siblings - there could be broken meccano to be avenged.

Wednesday 11 In the Champions League Man Utd, yet to beat Italian opponents in Europe, escape with a 1-0 defeat away to Juventus who miss several chances. "If you lose possession at this level they will cut your throat," says Alex Ferguson, sounding like a kid dreading his first day at secondary school. Rangers crash 3-0 in Zurich against Grasshoppers. Kubilay Turkyilmaz, scorer of two of the goals, says, "I think Rangers underestimated us and came here for a holiday," a supposition testily denied by Rangers' Walter Smith. Best perfomance of the night comes from Porto, who win 3-2 in Milan, the latter's first home defeat in Europe since 'Video Killed The Radio Star' was at Number One (1979, silly). You'll be fascinated to learn that Porto were the opponents then, too. Well, it might crop up in conversation.

Saturday 14
United go top after beating Forest 4-1 and are still hopeful of getting Miguel Nadal from Barcelona (Alex Ferguson: "The Spanish are just playing silly buggers. It happens" - as Andrei Kanchelskis and Everton already know). Coventry move off the bottom after a 2-1 win at home to Leeds - who deny having kept George Graham on a retainer in readiness to replace Howard Wilkinson - and are replaced by Blackburn, beaten 2-1 at Newcastle, who are helped by a dubious penalty for handball against Colin Hendry. The ref later misses a similar offence by Newcastle's Steve Howey. By far the strangest reffing performance of the day, however, comes from Gerry Evans in Scotland, who sends off four Hearts players during their 3-0 defeat at Rangers. Tony Adams admits that he is an alcoholic, an Arsenal team mate having apparently leaked the story. ("Someone sneaked - like the little rat they are," says Ian Wright, who also describes Tony as "a man's man", as if that was a good thing rather than his main problem.) Blackpool player Gary Brabin is arrested following an after-match incident that led to Brentford captain Jamie Bates being taken to hospital unconscious. Otherwise, a quiet day.

Saturday 14 Liverpool go top after beating Leicester 3-0 with two goals from debutant substitute Patrik Berger, a half-time replacement for Stan Collymore who'd popped home to do some ironing and lost track of the time. Chelsea draw with Villa 1-1 at Stamford Bridge and will be keeping coach Graham Rix, who has turned down an offer to become the new number 2 at Arsenal. "It's been a great source of jokes," says Ruud Gullit. In Division One Wolves go third after winning 4-2 at West Brom with Iwan ('Yoo-an') Roberts getting a hat-trick.

Monday 16 The cull continues: Rotherham have parted company with joint managers Archie Gemmill and John McGovern and apparently offer Kenny Dalglish £6,000 a week to take over (as if Kenny's head would be turned by money), though they are expected to settle for Danny Bergara. East Fife, currently bottom of the Scottish First Division, have dispensed with baby clothes entrepreneur Steve Archibald, now keen to resume his playing career (he's 39, but if Butch can do it...), while the Bristol City board have given Joe Jordan their full backing. Ulp, Joe. Arsenal announce that Arsène Wenger is to take over as manager at the end of the month. Stewart Houston, meanwhile, is off to QPR ("it was time for me to have a go at being a No 1"), with the new doyen of ultra-cautious pundits, David O'Leary, going to Leeds as George Graham's sidekick.

Tuesday 17 At last, good news for Man City: things can't get any worse. How else to interpret a 4-1 defeat at Lincoln City? Only the first leg of their Coke Cup tie, of course, but it's a fair bet that caretaker Asa Hartford isn't expecting to get the manager's job. Dave Bassett, meanwhile, denies having had contact with Franny, as you do. In other ties, Derby lose 1-0 at Luton and Spurs concede a last minute equaliser at Preston. Once again Hearts fail to keep eleven on the pitch for a whole game but it's only one off this time as they beat Celtic, also down to ten, 1-0 in the Scottish Coke Cup Quarter-Final. Dundee and Dunfermline are the other qualifiers. Several Premiership managers are said to be in the throes of Klinsmannmania after reports that Jürgen has fallen out badly with Bayern coach Trappattoni. The condition is debilitating but usually recedes within a fortnight.

Wednesday 18 Elland Road enters the George Graham era with a hard-fought- no-quarter-given-run-for-90-minutes 2-2 draw with Darlington in the Coke. Everton's dire run continues with a 1-1 home draw against York City, and West Ham get a late equaliser away to Barnet. Ray Wilkins' return to Ibrox, as a Hibs player, ends in a 4-0 defeat (surprise!) in the Scottish Coke Quarter-Final.

Thursday 19 How much more can one man take? Is it some sort of curse? Franny is "flabbergasted" that Dave Bassett should turn down Man City: "I went to bed last night convinced it was all OK. This morning he rang me to say that he had changed his mind overnight." "He was devastated," Dave confirms. It surely has to be Bruce or Howard W now, doesn't it? Surely?

Thursday 19
The PFA, still unhappy with the money offered to them from the new TV deal, are to send out strike ballots to Football League players on Friday week. Industrial action would begin in mid October but would only affect matches due to be televised live. In keeping with tradition among international strikers under contract to Italian clubs, Oliver Bierhoff turns down an approach from Blackburn. Hey, how about Diego now that he's out of the drug dependency clinic?

Friday 20 Peculiar doings at QPR - Stewart Houston's assistant is to be his former boss, Bruce Rioch. Has to be part of a BBC2 documentary about role reversal in the workplace. Man City fans will be underwhelmed to hear that Tommy Docherty wants to help out as a consultant: "All Francis Lee has to do is give me a call. It is a genuine offer." Nigel Winterburn is to face disrepute charges after being accused of abusing Sheffield Wed supporters in the disabled section during Arsenal's last home game. Brentford say they will back Jamie Bates if he decides to press charges against his assailant from last weekend, Blackpool's Gray Brabin.

Saturday 21
Liverpool stay top after crushing Chelsea 5-1. "Our passing was sloppy," says Roy Evans, showing off a bit. "This defeat may have come at the right time for us," says Ruud. Nice try. Newcastle are second after winning 1-0 at Leeds who have Carlton Palmer dismissed for a second bookable offence by the never dull Paul Adcock - "One of the poorest referees we have ever encountered," says David Batty, something of a connoisseur in that area. Arsenal's Manager of the Day Pat Rice is odds on to become Arsène's Numero Deux after overseeing their 2-0 win at Middlesbrough. Until today, guessing who would be the next manager to get the bullet would have come down to a choice between Graeme Sharp at Oldham and Brian Laws at Grimsby, but the Jimmy Quinn/Mick Gooding joint team at Reading are coming up on the rails after a 6-1 home defeat v Palace followed by a supporters' demo.

Sunday 22 Gerry Francis heads straight for the airport after seeing Spurs beaten 2-1 at home by Leicester, as anyone would, but in this case it's only because he's hot on the trail of new players, of a very specific type: "We need three Sol Campbells, maybe two at the back and one in midfield." Kicking a self-made millionaire while he's down, Sheffield United follow Crystal Palace in alleging that Franny made an illegal approach to their manager. Latest name to be linked with the Man City job is Lou Macari of Stoke, who go fourth in Division One after beating Huddersfield, who are managed by someone Franny is unlikely to approach, illegally or otherwise.

Tuesday 24
A mixed night for the Little brothers. Brian's Aston Villa are now free to concentrate on, er, qualifying for Europe after going out of the UEFA Cup following a 0-0 draw in Helsingborg ("We played against a team that defended for 179 minutes and they've beaten us," he observes) but Alan's York City knock Everton out of the Coke Cup, 4-3 on aggregate. "I haven't a clue why we played like that," says Joe Royle for about the fourth time this season. (If Man City, beaten 1-0 by Lincoln at Maine Road, can wait another month or so Joe might be available.) David Pleat points the finger at Sky TV after Sheffield Wed go out to Oxford after a 1-0 defeat at the Manor Ground: "We've had four games in eight days now and that's a heavier schedule than anyone else has had to put up with." Back in Europe, Celtic have two players sent off during a 2-0 defeat in Hamburg and Newcastle "stroll around" according to Kev in the process of losing 2-1 in Halmstad.

Wednesday 25 Easy for Man Utd, 2-0 winners over Rapid Vienna in the Champions League, through goals from Beckham and Solskjaer. The Ivanov-Cantona dust-up, eagerly anticipated by the tabloids, fails to materialise. Another grim European night at Ibrox, though, where Auxerre win 2-1. Rangers will probably now need to win all their remaining matches to qualify. But, hey, there's always next year. Arsenal take the lead in Germany against Mönchegladbach but eventually lose 3-2 again. In the Coke, Derby's home draw with Luton means they're out 3-2 on aggregate, their display summed up by Jim Smith as "plenty of endeavour but no brains". West Ham squeeze past Barnet 1-0 and Chelsea, 4-1 up from the first leg, are rescued by a Spencer goal having gone three down to Blackpool at Stamford Bridge. Ruud, seething, comes over all primal: "Blackpool could smell our lack of concentration and sensed they could do something."

Saturday 28 Arsenal are second after a 2-0 win over a nine-man Sunderland, referee Paul Danson having dismissed Paul Stewart and Martin Scott in the first half with manager Peter Reid also sent from the bench for protesting. "All we ask for is consistency," he says afterwards, not quite what he had said at the time. The annual spate of articles decrying Wimbledon's image as a long-ball team will start any day now after their fifth successive win, 2-0 at Derby, takes them up to third, a position that would have been Chelsea's had Forest not got a late equaliser at Stamford Bridge. Southampton get a first win over the season, 4-0 over Middlesbrough and their lower division defence, but Blackburn are still waiting for theirs after a goalless draw at Highfield Road, loudly declared to be "a load of rubbish" by large sections of the home crowd. In Division One Bolton stay top despite a home draw because nearest rivals Barnsley can only help to increase Brian Laws' chances of surviving the autumn by losing 3-1 at home to Grimsby. Palace get a second successive 6-1 win, Southend the victims this time. Rangers are five points clear in the Scottish Premier after winning the Old Firm game, 2-0, Celtic falling in with this month's fashion in having a player sent off before half time.

Sunday 29 Liverpool are three points clear after a 2-1 win at West Ham, Man Utd go third after two more Solskjaer goals ("Viking pillages" according to the Mirror) beat Spurs at Old Trafford. Elton John denies that he is to return to parking his roller/helicopter/Lear jet in the Chairman's space at Vicarage Road, Chester chairman Mark Guterman confesses that he is interested in taking over at Man City. Takes all sorts.

Monday 30
Newcastle go second after a hanging on for a 4-3 win over Villa, who fought back after being 3-1 down and reduced to ten before half-time, Mark Draper being dismissed for two bookables by the "baldy bastard" (© Duncan Ferguson 1996), David Elleray. Quality time at the garden centre coming up for Alan Smith, sacked by Wycombe who are yet to win a League game this season and lost 6-3 at Peterborough on Saturday, and for Alex Miller, who leaves Hibs after ten years in charge, his last match being a 3-1 home defeat by Hearts. Oddly, these are also the clubs that Ray Wilkins has played for since he got sacked by QPR. Maybe he's bad ju-ju.

From WSC 117 November 1996. What was happening this month

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