Saturday 2 Man Utd march on with a 4-1 win over sliding Sunderland but Arsenal slip up, drawing 1-1 at home with Southampton, for whom Matt Le Tissier is booked while warming up for saying something rude to an assistant referee. Newcastle come from behind twice to beat Bolton 3-2, one of their goals stemming from a free-kick given for Bolton’s keeper holding on to the ball for more than six seconds. John Gregory celebrates a debut win at Derby, 1-0 against Spurs, and explains why he hopes the FA won’t impose a touchline ban for alleged misconduct a month ago: “I need to be out there to kick a backside and offer a cuddle.” Wolves close to within three points of Man City with a 2-1 win over Rotherham, whose manager Ronnie Moore is unhappy about the controversial decider: “If that ball crossed the line I’ll wear a dress next week.” Robert Prosinecki hits a hat-trick for Portsmouth but they only get a point in a 4-4 draw with Barnsley, who equalise in the last minute. Reading take a break from seven successive wins with a 1-1 draw at Bury, but still lead the Second by seven points. In the Third, Luton cut Plymouth’s lead to four points by beating them 2-0.
Sunday 3 “Not bad for a boring side, is it?” asks Phil Thompson after Liverpool stay two points off the top with a 4-0 win at Leeds. David O’Leary is not gracious in defeat: “I’ve said all along that the title is between Arsenal and Manchester United and I stand by that.” Steve McClaren speaks plainly after Middlesbrough’s goalless draw at home to Charlton: “You try to look for positives and there weren’t any.” Wimbledon complete the double over Man City with a 2-1 win at Selhurst Park.
Monday 4 Newcastle sign 18-year-old Jermaine Jenas from Forest for £5 million. “You could say that I have bought him for the next manager,” says Bobby Robson. It is claimed that Sir Alex Ferguson may be staying on at Man Utd for at last another year because the club’s top two choices as his replacement, Fabio Capello and Ottmar Hitzfeld, want to see out their current contracts.
Tuesday 5 Graham Taylor leaves his role as a non-executive director (whatever that was) at Villa to return as manager, saying: “I want to go one better than in 1990 when we finished runners-up.” Bolton slip to their third defeat at Spurs this year, 4-0 in the FA Cup fourth round. Giant-killing Rangers beat Celtic 2-1 to reach the CIS Insurance Cup final.
Wednesday 6 Jousting John Terry scores for both sides in Chelsea’s 3-2 win at West Ham in their FA Cup fourth round replay, his second goal of the night being the last-minute winner. Sir Alex will be staying on at Man Utd for a further three years with a contract worth £11 million: “It was really my wife’s idea but I have to confess it was an idea I was hoping she’d come up with.” Exeter’s entire first team squad hand in transfer requests in protest at not being paid, though the PFA are expected to bail the club out with a loan. Ayr Utd reach their first major final after a 1-0 win over Hibernian in the CIS Insurance Cup semi. Craig Bellamy is cautioned for assault after a night-time incident in Newcastle city centre.
Saturday 9 Liverpool top the table on goal difference after thrashing Ipswich 6-0 away. Phil Thompson plays it cool: “People aren’t jumping through hoops in the dressing room.” Newcastle, 3-1 winners against Southampton, are second. “It was a fluke but we’ll take it,” says Steve McClaren of Middlesbrough’s first goal in their 2-2 draw with Leeds, when Paul Ince’s tame shot hits a divot and bounces over Nigel Martyn. The John Gregory bandwagon loses a wheel with a 1-0 home defeat by previously win-shy Sunderland. Bolton move out of the bottom three with their first home win since August, 1-0 against West Ham. Their place is taken by Blackburn, beaten 2-0 at Fulham; Craig Short, contentiously sent off, will miss the Worthington Cup final. Leicester look done for after losing 2-1 at Spurs where Dave Bassett is very unhappy at the injury-feigning Mauricio Taricco: “Players like him should be done away with.” In the First, Coventry hit six away too, at Crewe, who take off their keeper after the sixth goes in. Sheffield Wed win the battle of the basement, 3-0 at Walsall. Reading are seven points clear in the Second after winning at home to Notts County, while nearest challengers Brighton have star striker Bobby Zamora sent off in a defeat at Oldham. Plymouth hold a ten-point lead at the top of the Third, while Halifax are now six points adrift at the bottom and could become the first club to be relegated to the Conference twice.
Sunday 10 Man Utd regain the Premiership lead with a 2-0 win at Charlton, after which Sir Alex denies rumours that Steve McClaren will return as his No 2: “That’s just speculation. I have staff in place already.” Arsenal stay fourth and three points adrift after a fluky goal off Sylvain Wiltord’s shin is enough to beat an Everton side containing debutants Lee Carsley and David Ginola. Man City restore their three-point lead in the First Division, beating Preston 3-2. Stoke miss a chance to move into the promotion places in the Second, losing 1-0 at home to their jinx team... Port Vale. Cameroon win the African Nations Cup, beating Senegal 3-2 on penalties after the tournament’s ninth goalless draw.
Monday 11 Michael Owen misses his third successive England friendly due to injury. “My only concern is that Michael is fit in June,” says Sven. Trevor Sinclair and (surprise!) Darren Anderton also pull out of the squad to face Holland. Brighton narrow Reading’s lead at the top of the Second Division to four points after beating them 3-1.
Tuesday 12 Jamie McClen is the latest Newcastle player to be arrested, for being drunk and disorderly. “I can only repeat that this club cannot condone anti-social behaviour,” says club chairman Freddy Shepherd – good job that none of his fellow directors have ever got up to mischief. “I am really eager to discover this new challenge,” says French World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff on signing for Bolton until the end of the season. Blackpool beat Huddersfield to reach the LDV Vans Trophy final.
Wednesday 13 “The World Cup has to be at the back of my mind,” says Darius Vassell after scoring on his England debut in a 1-1 draw against Holland. Southampton’s Wayne Bridge and Michael Ricketts of Bolton also play, the latter becoming his club’s first England cap in 39 years. 62,000 in Cardiff see Craig Bellamy give Wales the lead against Argentina before drawing 1-1. “Same old story,” sighs Sammy McIlroy as Northern Ireland lose 4-1 to Poland. The Republic of Ireland beat Russia 2-0. Sunderland take Cameroon striker Patrick Mboma on loan from Parma. Merton Council announce plans to build a new stadium at Plough Lane and say they will look for another tenant if Wimbledon’s board refuse to move back.
Thursday 14 Teeth gnashing in the tabloids after Argentina’s Kily Gonzalez says his country’s World Cup match with England will be “a chance for revenge for what happened in the Falklands”. Former Hull City director Philip Webster is arrested in connection with police investigations into alleged fraud by the club’s previous regime. Third Division basement tenants Halifax are put up for sale for a “minimum six-figure sum”.
Friday 15 Berti Vogts is officially unveiled as Scotland’s new manager, saying: “I love the kind of football that is full of emotion and passion as displayed by the Scots.” Bury claim they will go out of business if they lose a court case due to start in early March over an outstanding loan of £1 million. “We are trapped in a one-way alley with bullets flying all around us,” says chairman John Smith.
Saturday 16 Fulham’s 2-1 win at Walsall takes them to the last eight of the FA Cup for the first time since being runners-up in 1975. But Jean Tigana isn’t reading from the script: “It would be a far greater achievement to get into Europe through the Premiership than doing it through the Cup.” Graeme Souness is furious with referee Graham Barber for sending off Lucas Neill during his side’s 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough: “Arguably he has cost Blackburn the game, but who judges him? Somebody has to decide.” Arsenal are given a fright by Gillingham, who equalise twice before losing 5-2. West Brom record their 13th 1-0 of the season to see off Cheltenham. Wolves draw level with Man City at the top of the First with a 3-1 win over Bradford. Sheffield Wed take advantage of Crewe and Walsall’s Cup commitments to move six points clear of the relegation zone with a 2-1 win over Watford – “We play exquisite football but come off the field beaten,” sighs a baffled Gianluca. In the Third, Plymouth stretch their lead to ten points with a top v bottom 2-0 win at Halifax, while Luton mark Joe Kinnear’s first year in charge by losing 3-2 at home to Scunthorpe, a result that leaves their manager “speechless with fury”, bless him.
Sunday 17 Little Kev gets a huge ovation on his return to Tyneside where Man City lose 1-0 in the FA Cup fifth round, having lost Richard Dunne to a red card in the first half. Chelsea and Spurs set up a quarter-final meeting with home wins over Preston and Trammere respectively. Battling Everton hold Crewe to a goalless draw. Alan Cork resigns as manager of Cardiff, currently 11th in the Second Division and beaten 4-0 at Wigan yesterday – director of football Lennie Lawrence steps in. After deliberating for several days, Muzzy Izzet turns down a £6 million move to Middlesbrough: “I want to help Leicester win the fight for survival.” Former England manager Sir Walter Winterbottom dies aged 89.
Tuesday 19 Champions League frustration for Arsenal, who concede a last-minute equaliser and have Ray Parlour contentiously sent off in a 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen. “Although the referee was French you couldn’t accuse him of doing us any favours,” mutters the Moaning Minnie of Highbury, who also gets into a row with the BBC over their “unbelievable” decision to televise the FA Cup quarter-final with Newcastle at 5.35pm. Middlesbrough charge up to 11th place after a 2-1 win over Fulham. Steve McClaren: “The cup run has created a buzz but we’re not taking our eyes off the main priority.” Millwall go third in the First Division after beating West Brom 1-0. Cambridge put aside their woeful away record for one evening to qualify for the LDV Vans final with a 2-0 win at Bristol City.
Wednesday 20 A Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty in injury time salvages a 1-1 draw for Man Utd in Nantes where the action continues in the players tunnel with allegations that United players were spat at. Galatasaray goalkeeper Farid Mondragon keeps Liverpool at bay on a goalless night at Anfield. Wolves take over at the top of the First Division with a 4-1 win at Crewe. Dave Bassett and Micky Adams may be falling out over who will be in charge at Filbert Street next season: “As far as I am concerned I’ve got this year and next year,” says Dave. “I want to be manager of Leicester but I have not issued any ultimatums,” says Micky. PSV’s Mark van Bommel dismisses a projected move to Elland Road: “Leeds are not big enough for me. I want a team who will always be in the Champions League.” Skonto Riga it is, then.
Thursday 21 “Although our priority is getting into the Champions League it would be nice to pick up a trophy,” says David O’Leary, as casual as you please after Leeds’ goalless draw at PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Cup fourth round. Rangers need a late penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw at home to Feyenoord, some of whose fans are involved in scuffles with the police before the game. Hibernian, second bottom of the SPL, sack manager Franck Sauzée after just 15 games in charge.
Saturday 23 A Ruud van Nistelrooy goal beats Villa and keeps Man Utd at the top, three points clear of Arsenal, who set aside their shaky home form to beat Fulham 4-1. “Far too many teams come here to defend so it was nice to see an attractive game of football for once,” says Arsène, who surely would have said the same if the score had been reversed. Nicolas Anelka gets his first League goal for Liverpool but they are held 1-1 by Everton. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a spell like this,” says Dave Bassett as Leicester are cast eight points adrift following a 3-0 home defeat by Derby. Wolves are five points clear in the First after winning 4-1 at Stockport while Man City draw 0-0 with Walsall. Portsmouth fans sing “Bye Bye Rixy” during their 5-0 defeat at West Brom. The lower divison leaders all keep their places, though Peter Taylor gets into a row with Brighton fans who barrack the team during a goalless draw with Wrexham: “Where were they two years ago?” Kilmarnock threaten legal action to stop their manager Bobby Williamson quitting to join Hibernian.
Sunday 24 Blackburn win the Worthington Cup, beating Spurs 2-1 with Andy Cole getting the winner. Graeme Souness offers graphic praise: “If Ian Rush got half a chance he would cut your throat. That’s what Andy Cole does.” Glenn Hoddle speaks of a “nailed-on penalty” not awarded by Graham Poll after a Teddy Sheringham tumble in the closing moments. Leeds’ Champions League hopes fade further after a goalless draw with Charlton. Newcastle go second, two points behind Man Utd with a game in hand, after a Nikos Dabizas goal beats Sunderland. Bobby Robson is taking it in his stride: “I’m one of those fellas who tries not to get too excited when we win, or too morose when we lose.”
Tuesday 26 Man Utd are two points away from the Champions League quarter-finals after thrashing Nantes 5-1. Sir Alex can find nothing to complain about: “That was brilliant.” Liverpool draw away to Galatasaray but Phil Thompson remains confident: “Anyone who has seen us over the last 18 months knows we always come through.” Everton edge past Crewe 2-1 in their FA Cup fifth round replay to set up a mouth-watering tie at Middlesbrough. The Scottish Second Division stages the Game of the Millennium so far – Queen of the South 6 Morton 5, the home side having been 6-3 up at half-time. Craig Bellamy may be out of action for a month due to a knee injury. “Just when things look lovely they explode on you,” says his manager.
Wednesday 27 Arsenal improve their Champions League chances by beating Leverkusen 4-1 at Highbury. “We are still a long way from the Treble, but who knows?” beams Arsène. UEFA call for an investigation into alleged bribery at the 1998 FIFA presidential elections after the vice-president of the African federation alleges that money was given to delegates voting for the eventual winner, Sepp Blatter. Imagine that.
Thursday 28 Leeds are knocked out of the UEFA Cup by a last-minute goal from the player with the longest surname in European football, PSV’s Jan Venegoor of Hesselink. “The big-game players have to stand up and be counted now,” says David O’Leary. Rangers exit too, losing 3-2 at Feyenoord. Brian Little surprisingly quits as manager of Hull City, currently sixth in the Third Division. Darlington’s players stage a mass walkout at a fans’ forum after being criticised for lack of effort by the chairman’s wife, Susan Reynolds. The largely unwatched ITV Digital is rumoured to be on the point of folding. A Football League spokesman denies that its three-year contact may have to be renegotiated: “We have an agreement and we expect them to honour that.”
From WSC 182 April 2002. What was happening this month