THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Monday 1 Spurs win the battle of the reserve XIs, beating Man Utd 4-1. Peter Schmeichel, injured in the warm up, misses the second half and will be out for a month, reportedly. "We're up against it," says Alex Ferguson. Liverpool come back from two down to beat Forest 4-2 and are now three points clear in third place. An exchange of views between Joe Royle and Sam Hammam after Everton's 3-2 win at Wimbledon, during which the home side have two penalty appeals turned down, ends with Joe being pursued onto the team coach by Sam and his brother. Their Dads should sort it out.

Tuesday 2 "We have just buried the ghost of Old Trafford," says Kevin Keegan after Newcastle's 2-0 home win over Arsenal takes them seven points clear again. David Ginola scores the first inside a minute. Roy McFarland is sacked by Bolton. Co-manager Colin Todd, left in sole charge, says, "It is nothing to do with me." Uh-oh - FIFA's international board are considering a suggestion to widen goal posts by the diameter of two balls and increase the height by the diameter of one ball. The changes would be introduced after the 1998 World Cup. Plenty of time for petitions.

Saturday 6 Sheffield Wed, beaten 2-0 at Charlton, are the only Premiership team to lose to lower division opponents in the FA Cup Third Round, but several others get nasty shocks, notably: Spurs, held 1-1 at Hereford, who miss a penalty (by a mile); Arsenal, held at home by Sheffield Utd; and Man Utd and Forest, both in need of late equalizers, against Sunderland and Stoke respectively. Norwich and West Brom both replicate their League form, the former beaten at home by Brentford - Gary Megson still without a win in his tenth match as manager - and the latter going out 4-3 at Crewe. Ian Rush's goal in Liverpool's 7-0 win over Rochdale is his 42nd in the competition, breaking Denis Law's 20th century Cup goalscoring record.

Sunday 7
Les Ferdinand equalizes in the last seconds of the Chelsea v Newcastle Cup tie (1-1). The uncaring ref fails to see Glenn Hoddle pointing at his watch and mouthing, "Songs of Praise is about to start."

Wednesday 10 Terry Venables' reign as England manager will end with their last European Championships match so that he can spend more time with his lawyers. "I have a number of court cases coming up over the next twelve months and I need to be free to fight them," he says. "It's sad that a highly regarded, very inventive coach should feel it necessary to reach the decision he has done," says Graham Kelly - amid speculation that the lack of similar endorsements from Graham's FA colleagues is the real reason Terry's leaving. Kevin Keegan, one of the chief candidates for the job, is involved in a touchline fracas with Bruce Rioch (and stewards and police: they were both very cross) after David Ginola is sent off for striking Lee Dixon during Newcastle's 2-0 Coca Cola Cup defeat at Arsenal. In the other ties, Norwich draw with Birmingham and there are home wins for Villa and Leeds against Wolves and Reading.

Friday 12 The all-star soap opera that is the Inter Toto Cup develops another spectacular plot twist: UEFA give Wimbledon and Spurs a one-season ban from the next European competition they qualify for in the next five years, as a punishment for fielding understrength sides. "There must be a major misunderstanding," says Alan Sugar. Both clubs are appealing. Sugar also speculates that Terry Venables may well reassess his position after Euro 96, and carry on with England; perish the thought that Alan is trying to make absolutely sure that Terry doesn't change his mind.

Saturday 13 A weird day: Blackburn win away, Bolton win at home and Glenn Helder scores for Arsenal - the third goal in a 3-2 win at Middlesbrough. Man Utd draw at home with Villa where Andy Cole misses several chances - "Andy should be hitting the target from those distances but I'm not going to single anyone out," says Alex Ferguson. Liverpool get a late equalizer at Sheffield Wednesday and are now fourth behind the new model Spurs, 1-0 winners against Man City (Alan Ball: "We just weren't good enough. This is starting to worry me."). Russian internationals Yuran and Kulkov make their New Den debuts and discover what they gave up the Champions League for - Millwall are beaten 2-1 by Port Vale.

Sunday 14 Newcastle take a nine-point lead after a 1-0 win at Coventry, Steve Watson scoring after a defensive cock-up by John Salako. Terry Venables is in all the papers pointing the finger at members of the FA International Committee who he felt had "gone wobbly" and "were making a meal of my problems", the guilty men being Ian Stott of Oldham, Noel White of Liverpool and "a Mr Anonymous who talked to a newspaper reporter about his doubts". What a sneaky thing to do - you can't imagine Terry having unattributed chats with reporters, even the ones who are regulars at Scribes West.

Tuesday 16
More trauma for Blackburn, beaten 1-0 at home by Ipswich in an FA Cup Third Round replay, Paul Mason getting the goal. Man Utd leave it late at Sunderland, coming back from behind to win 2-1 with an 89th minute goal from Andy Cole. The Bristol derby in Division Two draws a crowd of 20,000 to Ashton Gate with thousands more locked out, including many season ticket holders. "No one expected a capacity crowd. That was an error of judgment," says a club spokesman, while a steward comments: "The club are lucky they didn't have another Hillsborough on their hands."

Wednesday 17 Newcastle are out of another Cup, losing a penalty shoot-out to Chelsea after a 2-2 draw at St James's Park, Ruud Gullit's goal two minutes from time meaning that Newcastle failed to equal a club record of 14 successive home wins. "Everyone was so tired I asked Glenn if he wanted to toss a coin for the tie," says Kevin Keegan, cheekily. Arsenal are out, too, beaten 1-0 at Sheffield Utd - "They were up for the game, we weren't," says Bruce Rioch - while holders Everton edge past Stockport 3-2 thanks to a last minute winner.

Saturday 20 Mick Harford, Gary Kelly and Phil Whelan all see red - with contrasting results. Phil is singlehandedly responsible for Middlesbrough's defeat at Southampton, according to manager Bryan Robson; Wimbledon win anyway, against QPR, so Mick's in the clear; while Gary, even though his dismissal sparks the avalanche in Leeds' 5-0 defeat by Liverpool, is supported by both his own manager and his opponents'.

Sunday 21 According to the papers, Arsenal are after Gianluigi Lentini. Which would make another Arsenal player who wouldn't be asked for many lifts by his teammates. On the pitch, Aston Villa beat Spurs 2-1 in a crucial battle-for-the-UEFA spots clash - assuming Spurs are still in the running.

Monday 22 Bryan Robson puts forward his old mentor Bobby as the ideal man for the England job. Which hints at how desperate the search for a qualified successor who can get released from his club is likely to become. George Graham's not in work at the moment, mind. Of course, the Irish job is still up for grabs, and George Best (yes, the very same) has thrown his hat into the ring for the vacancy at the FAI. A 1-0 win at Upton Park would have done Manchester United fine last May regardless of what else happened there, a win now is marred by Nicky Butt's dismissal.

Tuesday 23
Yet another Premiership raid is on Serie A is launched: Newcastle's slightly surprising target is Faustino Asprilla, while neighbours Boro want Branco to keep Juninho company. It certainly suggests that the minds of Keegan and Robson are on club, rather than country. Bobby Gould might be available soon: Wales can only keep the score down to 0-3 in Italy thanks to the terrible pitch preventing many a final pass reaching its destination.

Friday 26 David Batty's spat with Blackburn seems terminal, to judge from the backpages. Paul Gascoigne is going to have to spend more time with his lawyers, and his translators: an assault case involving a Roman paparazzo will take him on a nostalgia trip to Italy. Faustino Asprilla, meanwhile, seems to have gone back to Parma without quite signing a contract.

Saturday 27 It's colder outside than in the Blackburn dressing room, as only four games in England escape the weather. Last season's FA Cup finalists endure mixed fortunes: Duncan Ferguson "gets Everton out of jail - a man who knows what it's like to be in jail" - Radio 5, only for Ian Bogie's deflected shot to force a replay for Port Vale; meanwhile Manchester United ease past some early pressure from Reading to win 3-0. At White Hart Lane, Don Goodman chases a long ball forward in the expectation that the exercise will help keep him warm rather than the hope that he might reach it. Which was to reckon without the help of Dean Austin and Ian Walker. In the Scottish Cup Third Round, Rangers uncharacteristically play the big bullies and overwhelm Keith 10-1.

Sunday 28 Savo Milosevic falls over at Bramall Lane, Dwight Yorke converts the resulting penalty and Villa are through in the Cup at the expense of Sheffield United. Celtic's attempt to match Rangers goes awry as only three goals get past the Whitehill Welfare keeper. The FA Cup draw goes ahead, with only two teams definitely through; in the old days it might have been postponed along with the matches, but you just can't disappoint that live studio audience.

Wednesday 31 Stan Collymore's new tactic of hitting the ball straight at the keeper in the expectation that he'll dive out of the way pays dividends again, with Mark Bosnich joining Mark Beeny in the victims' club; Liverpool's 2-0 win at Villa is their first there in twelve seasons. West Ham throw away a two-goal lead but still win at home to Coventry; while Alan Ball's return to the Dell and Nigel Clough's return from reserve exile ends in a draw for Manchester City. Carlton Palmer scores an equalizer for Leeds at Forest, only for a linesman to decide he's handled at the other end. Bryan Roy waves his thanks to the official after scoring the winner.

From WSC 109 March 1996. What was happening this month

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