Tuesday 2 Nine Austrian players refuse to fly to Israel for Saturday’s World Cup qualifier. “It is far too dangerous there,” says one of them, Walter Kogler. Joe Royle says he is suing Man City for a £500,000 pay-off, on the basis that they were still a Premiership club when he was sacked in May, even though they had finished in a relegation spot.

Friday 5 England Under-21s beat Greece 2-1 at Ewood Park, their fourth win in a row, to qualify for a European Championship play-off. “I started with a good poker hand and was able to look at the bench and see different cards to play,” says the inscrutable David Platt. Arsenal win 2-1 in Wroclaw to qualify for the quarter-finals of the women’s UEFA Cup.

Saturday 6 David Beckham’s injury-time equaliser against Greece puts England through to the World Cup finals thanks to Germany’s failure to do better than a 0-0 at home to Finland. “I am not a jealous person, but I love scoring the important goals,” says Beckham. But England’s overall display is awful. “I am lucky,” admits Sven. “Maybe we were a bit nervous and tense.” Franz Beckenbauer denounces the Germans’ performance as “sheer stupidity”. They face Ukraine in the play-off. Craig Brown steps down after Scotland’s 2-1 win over Latvia. Sir Alex denies that he might be interested in following him. “I have said I am going to retire and I mean to do just that.” Wales break their winless streak by beating Belarus 1-0 in Cardiff, while Northern Ireland win 1-0 in Malta, despite having Sammy McIlroy and his assistant Jim Harvey sent to the stands. The Republic beat Cyprus 4-0, with Niall Quinn getting his 21st international goal to beat Frank Stapleton’s previous Irish record, but their 24 points are only enough for second in the group. A friendly in Paris between France and Algeria is abandoned after fans invade the pitch 15 minutes from time.

Sunday 7 China reach the World Cup finals for the first time thanks to a 1-0 win over Oman. The US are there too as they beat Jamaica 2-1 while Honduras unaccountably go down at home to Trinidad. In the First Division, the Sheffield derby ends 0-0 at Hillsborough thanks to Kevin Pressman in the Wednesday goal. “He is one of the first people I want in the trenches for us,” says the old-fashioned Peter Shreeves. Harry Redknapp rules himself out of the Leicester job and will stay at Portsmouth. “I feel I owe them a special loyalty,” he says. Hmm.

Monday 8 Jim Smith is sacked by Derby, whose chairman Lionel Pickering admits he is “losing a little bit of interest” in the club. Bolton beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 in the Worthington.

Tuesday 9 Gérard Houllier gets his first ever opportunity to say “Grimsby were fantastic” after they knock holders Liverpool out of the Worthington Cup 2-1 at home, former Everton striker Phil Jevons scoring the winner in the 12oth minute. Leicester’s woeful run continues with a 6-0 home defeat by Leeds. Walsall move out of the relegation zone in the First Division after beating Norwich. David Webb resigns after a year in charge at Southend.

Wednesday 10 Champions League wins for Celtic, 1-0 at home to Rosenborg, and Man Utd, 2-0 away against Olympiakos. “We were pathetic, but this doesn’t affect my position at all,” says Trevor Francis as Birmingham are thrashed 6-0 at Man City in the Worthington Cup. Colin Todd’s first match in charge of Derby ends in a 5-2 defeat at Fulham. Dave Bassett is to take over at Leicester (“You could say that my middle name is Red Adair”) with Micky Adams leaving Brighton to become his assistant. Jocky Scott is sacked by Notts County. Terry Venables would consider the Scotland job if it was offered to him, which it hasn’t been: “I enjoy my work with ITV but you can never say never.”

Thursday 11 Swansea’s new owner Terry Petty denies that the club have tried to cancel the contracts of several first teamers but says that all are available for transfer. “They are in a difficult position and we are very concerned,” says the PFA’s Brendon Batson.

Saturday 13 Gérard Houllier is taken to hospital at half-time with a serious heart condition while Leeds draw 1-1 at Anfield and later undergoes an 11-hour operation. Arsenal and Man Utd close the gap at the top by winning at Southampton and Sunderland respectively. Newcastle score four at Bolton, though three are past emergency keeper Bo Hansen after Jussi Jaaskelainen is sent off, reserve Steve Banks having broken his finger. “It’s Murphy’s Law, whoever Murphy is,” notes Bobby Robson sympathetically. Goal-happy Crystal Palace beat tenants Wimbledon 4-0 in the First Division while Stockport get the equivalent of a goalless draw at Maine Road (2-2). Wolves are five points clear after winning 3-0 at Bradford, though Dave Jones warns: “If we take our foot off the gas we will get our faces slapped.” More than 11,000 fans take advantage of Brentford’s offer of free entry to see them beat Peterborough 2-1 and go to the top of the Second.

Sunday 14 Glenn Roeder is the latest manager in crisis mode after West Ham lose 7-1 at Blackburn. “Only if we realise how shit we are will we improve,” says Paolo Di Canio on the club’s admirably candid official website. Aston Villa move up to fourth with another pragmatic win – “We find something extra to grind things out,” says John Gregory with relish – 2-0 over Fulham. Still temporary Roland Nilsson buffs his cv a bit more with a 1-0 win at Walsall, in their first match against Coventry since 1963.

Monday 15 Derby remain third from bottom after a 3-1 defeat by Spurs. “We’ve been here before and know what is required,” says Colin Todd, which is handy. Trevor Francis is sacked by Birmingham City, but chairman David Gold insists that it’s not down to results: “What counted was the chemistry, with some people getting worn out.” Tommy Taylor leaves Leyton Orient, blaming the fans: “Some people were moaning and it was getting to the players.”

Tuesday 16 Liverpool become the first British side to beat Dynamo Kiev away, 2-1. “This is a great young team and I’m just the babysitter,” says Phil Thompson. Arsenal win by the same score at home to Panathinaikos. Man City stun the world by taking part in a goalless draw, with Sheffield United. Peter Shreeves resigns after Sheffield Wednesday’s home defeat by Preston that leaves them second bottom. Crystal Palace move up to second after beating Bradford, with owner Simon Jordan hoping that Steve Bruce won’t be tempted by a job offer from the west midlands: “Who are Birmingham? When were they in the Premiership?”

Wednesday 17 Two cock-ups by Fabien Barthez contribute to Man Utd losing 3-2 at home to Deportivo. Sir Alex seems unperturbed: “It was disappointing, but even the best slip up.” Celtic are beaten 3-0 in Porto. Six Chelsea players opt not to travel to the team’s UEFA Cup tie in Tel Aviv. Ken Bates takes a different view: “I honestly think we will have a bigger problem when we go to Leeds on Sunday.” “I wanted to get back to work because I hate shopping,” says Peter Taylor on becoming manager of Brighton.

Thursday 18 Chelsea Irregulars lose to two late goals in Israel. “It will be difficult to go through now,” sighs Claudio Ranieri, pulling his sad face. Ipswich draw at home again, 0-0 with Helsingborg. Leeds beat Troyes 4-2 but might have had more as their opponents were down to ten men for 40 minutes. “We keep making the same mistake,” fumes Dick Advocaat as Rangers concede a last-minute goal in a 3-1 win over Dynamo Moscow. “Fabrizio wanted me here,” says Benito Carbone, lightening Bradford’s wage bill with a loan move to Derby. The 2002 World Cup will be shown for free on terrestrial television after BBC and ITV strike a deal with the media group Kirch, paying £160 million for the rights to show the next two tournaments.

Saturday 20 Bolton are the latest team to win at Old Trafford, thanks to a late winner from Michael Ricketts. “We have no excuses, although the pitch looked really slow and sticky,” says Sir Alex. Peter Schmeichel scores for Aston Villa, but they still go down 3-2 to almost-rampant Everton. Liverpool win 4-1 at Leicester, Robbie Fowler getting a hat-trick. Crystal Palace are this week’s First Division leaders, taking over from Wolves after a 1-0 win at Molineux. In Scotland, Livingston’s 5-1 win at Kilmarnock is the result of the day, leaving them in third place, only 11 points behind Celtic. In the FA Vase, Billingham Synthonia win a moderately entertaining game at Washington 9-7, after the 90 minutes ended at 6-6.

Sunday 21 David O’Leary is sent to the stands for protesting about a Graeme Le Saux challenge in Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Elland Road. “I only saw the replay after I’d gone crazy and that didn’t help. I went even crazier then,” the Leeds manager says. Newcastle go down 2-0 at home to Tottenham, while Fulham and Ipswich draw 1-1. Luis Boa Morte misses a penalty and is then sent off. Eyal Berkovic lasts 18 minutes before being dismissed as Preston beat Man City 2-1. “I asked Eyal what he said and he told me ‘nothing’,” says trusting Kev. Riot police are called in to separate fighting fans as Port Vale and Stoke draw 1-1 in the Potteries derby.

Monday 22 Gordon Strachan is officially appointed as Southampton’s new manager, succeeding Stuart Gray. “We were very loyal to Stuart,” says chairman Rupert Lowe after sacking him four months into a three-year contract. In the Premiership, Middlesbrough beat Sunderland 2-0 but have Paul Ince sent off. Bertie Mee, manager of Arsenal’s 1971 Double-winning team, dies.

Tuesday 23 Three late goals against Olympiakos take Man Utd into the next round of the Champions League. “It’s in the nature of the way we do things,” says Sir Alex, putting a playful headlock on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Celtic, beaten 2-0 by Rosenborg, will need to win their last match to qualify. ITV move their Saturday night football show back to 10.30pm. “I’m not disappointed that we haven’t converted every Blind Date viewer,” says Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.

Wednesday 24 Arsenal qualify for the next stage of the Champions League with a 3-1 win over Mallorca. Arsène is enraptured by Thierry Henry, scorer of the third goal: “He doesn’t miss chances any more. We wouldn’t swap him for anyone.” Liverpool will need a point from their last match after drawing 1-1 away to Boavista. West Ham become the first League team to beat Chelsea this season, 2-1 at Upton Park. Glenn Roeder is thrilled: “This is my biggest scalp as a manager.” “I did say I wanted more action in the goalmouth,” sighs Gordon Strachan as Southampton lose a two-goal lead in drawing 3-3 at home with Ipswich. Coventry’s 1-0 win at Wimbledon puts them joint top of the First with Palace and Wolves. David Sullivan puts Birmingham City up for sale, blaming the “drip, drip criticism in the media by Trevor Francis”. Gary Bennett resigns as Darlingon manager but will stay on as a coach. FIFA suggest that France and Australia pick only one player per club for their contentious friendly in November. The Australian FA is unimpressed. “FIFA has no legal basis for this request. We will be unmoved, unbending and unyielding,” says a spokesman.

Thursday 25 Andy Todd is transfer-listed by Charlton after a training ground incident which left team-mate Dean Kiely with a black eye. “He’s not a bad lad,” insists his father, who may sign him for Derby. Wolves return to the top of the First Division after a 1-1 draw at West Brom. Tommy Taylor is the new manager of Darlington. Nigel Spackman is free to resume duties as a Sky pundit after being sacked by Barnsley.

Saturday 27 Aston Villa, yes Aston Villa, are League leaders after a 3-2 win over Bolton. John Gregory’s mouth twitches slightly: “Inwardly I’m happy, the trouble is I know all the shit that comes with being top.” “In time-honoured fashion we’ve pulled it out of the fire again,” says Sir Alex as an 89th minute Solskjaer goal rescues a point for Man Utd at home to Leeds. Both managers agree Robbie Keane should have been sent off for shoving David Beckham in the face. “The players I have here need help,” says Gordon Strachan, plotting chequebook activity after second-bottom Southampton lose at Fulham. Coventry, 2-0 winners against Sheff Wed, are top in Anybody’s Division. Brentford stay two points clear in the Second after winning at Reading, Luton hold the same advantage in the Third where Halifax are the latest team to prop up the table. A last-minute goal from Andi Herzog gives a makeshift Austria side a 1-1 draw in Israel and puts them in the World Cup play-off against Turkey.

Sunday 28 Derby stay in the bottom three after a 1-1 draw with Chelsea: Fabby gets his customary goal and has a bust-up with Marcel Desailly. Wolves go top of the First again after a 3-0 win over Burnley. The tabloids are excited by the news that England will prepare for the World Cup in a Swedish resort famous for its nudist beaches. The long len­ses have been packed already.

Tuesday 30 Liverpool qualify for the next stage of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Dortmund. Phil Thompson: “Sometimes we give teams too much respect, but not tonight.” Arsenal, already through, lose 3-1 to Schalke having had Oleg Luzhny dismissed after ten minutes. Arsène duly sets a target: “Our next step must be to play with 11 men for a whole match.”

Wednesday 31 Celtic beat Juventus 4-3 but fail to reach phase two because of Porto’s win over Rosenborg. “We did everything,” sighs Martin, “but the UEFA Cup is a great competition too.” Man Utd draw 1-1 in Lille. Wolves establish a three-point lead in the First Division with a last-minute winner at home to Millwall. In the season’s oddest sacking, Andy Ritchie is dismissed by Oldham after apparently rejecting a “promotion” to techical director.

From WSC 178 December 2001. What was happening this month

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