Sunday 1 A Jerzy Dudek howler allows goal-machine Diego Forlan to score the first of his two as Man Utd win 2-1 at Anfield. “It seems that every time we make a mistake, we pay for it,” says a disgruntled Gérard. Yet more trouble for Tel as Leeds crash to their fifth successive league defeat at home, 2-1 against Charlton, who score twice in the last ten minutes. “When the players Terry has are fit, they should be too good to go down,” says Alan Curbishley encouragingly. David Batty is said to be considering legal action over comments allegedly made by Peter Ridsdale at the Leeds AGM to the effect that knee injuries have effectively ended his career. Everton’s run of wins comes to an end at Newcastle, who come from behind with two late goals, after Joseph Yobo is sent off early in the game. David Moyes has an unusual criticism to make of the officials: “Too many referees hide behind the laws
Monday 2 West Ham’s horrific home form continues, as James Beattie scores Southampton’s last-minute winner. Glenn Roeder curses their luck: “If there are any breaks up ahead I just hope they are coming soon.” Stuart Watkiss steps down as manager of goal-daft Mansfield, bottom of the Second Division but in an entertaining way.
Tuesday 3 Man Utd reach the last eight of the Worthington Cup for the first time in four years, winning 2-0 at Burnley. Sunderland’s second string, who won at Highbury in the last round, go down 2-0 at Sheffield Utd. The FA are investigating John Gregory’s transfer dealings at Villa, who have been asked to provide information on the signings of Bosko Balaban, Juan Pablo Angel and Alpay.
Wednesday 4 Wigan claim another Premiership scalp in the Worthington, beating Fulham 2-1, with Jean Tigana complaining about “horrific” defending. Ipswich take Liverpool all the way at Anfield, finally losing 5-4 on penalties. Everton’s previously sturdy defence crumbles at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea win 4-1.
Thursday 5 Man Utd chief executive Peter Kenyon whips up a storm by claiming there should only be 40 professional clubs in England: “I can’t see much beyond the first two divisions being fully professional and then a third being semi.” Palace chairman Simon Jordan leads the chorus of critics: “Perhaps if clubs like United encouraged more redistribution of wealth, the rest wouldn’t be in such trouble.”
Saturday 7 Unbeatable Arsenal go down again, 2-0 at Man Utd, while Chelsea close to within two points at the top after an eventful 3-1 win at Everton that sees David Unsworth sent off. Liverpool make it one point out of 15 thanks to a 2-0 defeat at Charlton and it’s four defeats in a row for Tel’s merry band, as they go down 1-0 at Fulham. Wolves are the only winners in the top eight of the First, 1-0 at home to Norwich, while at the bottom Shefki Kuqi comes up with a last-minute equaliser at Hillsborough to prevent Brighton leapfrogging Wednesday. Rangers go top in Scotland after beating Celtic 3-2. A 17-year-old Forest fan dies after a fight in a pub before their match against Burnley.
Sunday 8 Yorkshire’s last team in the early FA Cup rounds, Harrogate Railway, go out 3-1 at home to Bristol City, but three non-League sides are still in the competition. Oxford win the Silicon Valley derby, beating Swindon 1-0, and are drawn away at Arsenal in the third round. In the league, Tottenham beat West Brom 3-1. The FA’s bung-busting compliance unit is said to be looking into all Derby County’s transfers over the last five years plus the deal that took Steve Marlet from Lyon to Fulham for £11.5 million.
Monday 9 Sunderland stretch their non-scoring streak to nearly eight hours in a 3-0 home defeat by Man City. “I think the fear of failure is the biggest fear they have at the moment,” says Howard. Looks like they may be about to confront it.
Tuesday 10 Arsenal’s wobbly home form in the Champions League continues with a 0-0 draw against Valencia, who appeal to Arsène’s sophisticated tastes because “they know to foul intelligently”. A bad day for Sheffield Wednesday – two of their players, Ian Hendon and Phil Scott, are arrested after a fracas in a nightclub and the team slips to the bottom of the First Division after Brighton take a point off Ipswich.
Wednesday 11 Two Ruud van Nistelrooy goals see off Deportivo at Old Trafford. “We will not give up,” warns Sir Bobby as Newcastle lose 3-1 in Barcelona. Steve Paterson quits as Inverness manager to join Aberdeen.
Thursday 12 The Scotland-Ireland bid fails to make the top three in the voting for the hosts of Euro 2008, which goes to Austria/Switzerland. “I just do not understand this,” says Scottish FA chief executive David Taylor, while “goodwill ambassador” Kenny Dalglish is more forthright: “This stinks of corruption.” In the UEFA Cup, Liverpool complete a 2-0 aggregate win over Vitesse and Celtic stay in Europe after Christmas for the first since since 1982 after going through on away goals against Celta Vigo. “Terry, Terry Time To Go,” sing the home crowd as Leeds drop out with a 2-1 defeat to Málaga. El Tel is also nearly thumped by an irate fan. Fulham are out too, after a goalless draw with Hertha.
Saturday 14 Everton are the day’s big movers, jumping to fourth thanks to a Rooney-inspired 2-1 win over Blackburn. Man Utd are level on points at the top after beating West Ham 3-0, while Villa get a late winner from Thomas “the Hammer” Hitzlsperger to see off West Brom, despite Steve Staunton’s red card for elbowing Danny Dichio. “He didn’t seem to know whether to hold his chest, his head or his stomach,” says a sceptical Staunton. In the First Division, Dennis Wise’s return to Leicester ends in a 4-1 defeat for Millwall (“a good atmosphere and a good occasion” according to another returnee, Steve Claridge), while Sheffield United are the only winners in the chasing pack, 2-0 at Reading. Bristol City leapfrog Cardiff in the Second after winning 2-0 at Ninian Park, but still trail leaders Wigan, who win by the same score at Oldham. Rochdale are the stars of the Third, thumping leaders Hartlepool 4-0, while Hull’s last game at Boothferry Park is an anti-climactic 1-0 defeat to Darlington in front of 14,162.
Sunday 15 “This is the worst moment I have experienced with this team,” says a miserable Gérard, as Liverpool lose 2-1 at Sunderland. Arsenal get their customary 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane to lead the table by a point, while Fulham go down 1-0 at home to Birmingham in a bad-tempered match that allegedly includes a dust-up between Rufus Brevett and Clinton Morrison’s mum Angela in the players’ bar. Drama in Scotland as Celtic are held 1-1 at Kilmarnock. They now trail Rangers by four points and are looking over their shoulder at third-placed Dunfermline, only 17 points further back.
Monday 16 Leeds shock everyone by winning 3-0 at Bolton, with Danny Mills and Jason Wilcox scoring from long range. “There was nothing between us apart from those wonder strikes,” insists Sam Allardyce. Ronaldo is voted European footballer of the year, despite barely setting foot on the field in Europe for the past 12 months. Port Vale go into administration with debts of £2.5 million, “Vale mad” millionaire Robbie Williams having failed to heed a call for help. Newcastle midfielder Clarence Acuña is arrested after the club’s Christmas fancy dress party for drink-driving. He’d gone as Captain Hook.
Tuesday 17 Man Utd are showing a distinct interest in the Worthington Cup, fielding a full-strength team in their 1-0 quarter final win over Chelsea, prolific Diego Forlan getting the goal. Holders Blackburn are through too after a 2-0 win at Wigan, while Sheffield Utd beat Crystal Palace 3-1 with two late goals from sub Paul Peschisolido. Reading’s John Mackie apologies for having racially abused Carl Asaba of Sheffield Utd after their match last Saturday. Mackie will also donate two weeks’ wages to the Kick It Out campaign. “It’s not really a blow,” says Gillingham manager Andy Hessenthaler after Paul Gascoigne fails to respond to the club’s declared interest in signing him.
Wednesday 18 The start of Aston Villa’s Worthington Cup tie with Liverpool, won 4-3 by the latter, is delayed for 80 minutes because fans are still outside queuing to collect tickets. Ticketmaster get the blame, though the irrepressibly grouchy Doug Ellis insists that “17,000 people turned up five minutes before kick-off”. Three Celtic players are arrested following a dust-up with photographers after the club’s Christmas party in... Newcastle, where they’d gone to avoid press attention. Ex-Tory minister Brian Mawhinney is to be the new chairman of the Football League. Former FA chairman Sir Bert Millichip dies aged 88.
Saturday 21 Arsenal stay two points clear of Chelsea after both record 2-0 home wins, though the former struggle to see off ten-man Middlesbrough, Robert Pires getting the second in the last minute. West Ham fail to win at home once again, though Glenn Roeder thinks the officials missed a blatant offside in Bolton’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw: “They can slide away into the night, but we are accountable.” Kevin Phillips is firmly back in favour after scoring both goals as Sunderland come back from two down to draw 2-2 at West Brom: “He won’t be sold,” says Howard. “I may be daft but I’m not that daft.” New manager Chris Turner has yet to make an impact on Sheffield Wednesday, who stay at the foot of the First after a 2-0 defeat to relegation rivals Grimsby. Former Wednesday boss Paul Jewell may be swapping places with his former employers as his Wigan side continue to lead the Second after a 1-0 win over Huddersfield. “A blind school team could have beaten us,” says Shrewsbury’s Kevin Ratcliffe after his side’s 6-0 defeat at Boston, who had lost their previous eight. Their place at the bottom of Third is taken by Bristol Rovers, who have also lost eight in a row, the latest defeat 3-1 at Cambridge.
Sunday 22 Man Utd suffer a first defeat in nine matches, 1-0 at Blackburn, but Sir Alex is unruffled: “The only important thing is to be in the top three and we will be.” A goalless Merseyside derby ends in a dust up as Steven Gerrard escapes without even a booking from that man Graham Poll after a two-footed tackle on Gary Naysmith.
Monday 23 Fulham scrap proposals to build a 28,000-seat stadium at Craven Cottage, allegedly due to escalating costs. Spurs move to within two points of a Champions League place after a 3-2 win at Man City, though Glenn may have other things on his mind as the FA ask to interview him in relation to two transfer deals involving his chum, controversial agent Dennis Roach.
Thursday 26 “That was a game we could have lost,” says Arsène after Thierry Henry’s late goal secures a 2-1 win at West Brom. No such ifs for Sir Alex, whose charges crash 3-1 at Middlesbrough despite the return of Roy Keane: “I don’t want to think what will happen if we don’t win our next two games.” Wayne Rooney is sent off in Everton’s 1-1 draw at Birmingham, and loses his record as the youngest Premiership goalscorer to James Milner, who gets the first of Leeds’ goals in their 2-1 win at Sunderland. “The players have to fight and scrap,” says Glenn Roeder after West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Fulham, advice taken literally by barmy Tomas Repka who is booed off by Hammers fans after being dismissed. Elvis was still a truck driver when Liverpool last went eight games without a win, a record they equal today with a 1-1 draw at home to Blackburn. They could recall winger Richie Partridge, currently on loan to Coventry for whom he scores one of the goals of the season after a 50-yard run in a 2-0 win over Reading. Stoke drop down to joint bottom of the First after crashing 4-2 at Bradford while their three main relegation rivals all win. Wigan establish a seven-point lead in the Second, where Mansfield, the division’s top scorers at home, move off the bottom after beating Stockport 4-2.
Saturday 28 Teen fever sweep Leeds as Milnerinho scores again, in his side’s 2-0 win over Chelsea. “My job is to keep his feet on the ground,” says his manager, outside Elland Road with a rack of “I Luv Jamie” T-shirts. Man Utd move to within four points of the top after beating Birmingham 2-0. West Ham come back twice to draw at Blackburn but stay bottom just behind West Brom, beaten 1-0 at Charlton, and Sunderland, who lose to a 94th-minute goal at Southampton (“Things are very difficult at the moment,” sighs Howard). After four successive draws Portsmouth win again, 2-1 at Forest, and lead the First by four points from Leicester with third-placed Sheffield Utd a further eight points back. Conga lines form in Stoke after the team’s first win in 17 games, 3-2 against Sheffield Wed. Hartlepool lead the Third, a 3-0 win over Cambridge (goalless for the first time this season) taking them past Rushden, beaten 2-0 at home by Oxford. Swansea are two points adrift at the bottom after a last-minute own goal brings a 1-0 defeat at Lincoln. Mark Bosnich is to contest an FA charge of bringing the game into disrepute after his second drug sample tested positive.
Sunday 29 Arsenal hold a five-point lead after a 1-1 draw with Liverpool who score first from the spot then concede a penalty when Franny Jeffers takes a tumble, which infuriates Gérard: “He is a great comedian because it was a great dive.” Fortunately Liverpool don’t have any players known for such things, otherwise he’d look a bit foolish. Newcastle move up to fourth with a 2-0 win over Spurs.
From WSC 192 February 2003. What was happening this month