April 1997

Tuesday 1 Bournemouth seem set to survive after being taken over by a community-run trust fund which will use money raised from a public appeal to acquire a controlling interest in the club. The rescue package has to be ratified by the League and the Inland Revenue, who have postponed a winding up order on the club. Nathan Blake says he withdrew from Wales' squad for their World Cup match at the weekend after being racially abused by manager Bobby Gould. "I have a total lack of respect for him," says Blake. "Perhaps we are of a different era. You learn, one becomes a little wiser," says Gould, unwisely.

Thursday 3 Scotland fans will be booking seats on Eurostar for Summer 1998 after two Kevin Gallagher goals secure a comfy win over Austria. Not so good for the Irelands, though, with the North losing 2-1 away to Ukraine and the Republic going down 3-2 in Macedonia, where nice, mild-mannered Jason McAteer is sent off after a last-minute dust-up. In England's group Poland and Italy share a goalless draw in Chorzow.

Saturday 5 Derby stun Man Utd with a 3-2 win at Old Trafford, their second a long solo run from Costa Rican debutant Paulo Wanchope. After the match Alex Ferguson responds thunderously to Arsene Wenger's criticism of Utd's request to play their outstanding match with Newcastle after all the other fixtures have been completed: "He's come here from Japan and he's telling English people how to organize our football. He should keep his mouth firmly shut". Arsenal move into second place two points behind Utd after a 3-0 win at Chelsea which leaves Ruud fuming: "If I played like that I would be ashamed". At the bottom, Forest's survival chances are severely dented by a 3-1 home defeat against Southampton, and a defeat by the same score at Villa pushes Everton nearer to the danger zone. Bolton are coming up, though, after a 2-1 win over QPR.

Sunday 6
A tense Hokey Cokey Final springs to life in extra time with Fabrizio giving Middlesbrough the lead which they hold until three minutes from time when Emile Heskey scrambles an equalizer for Leicester. "We should have gone on and killed them off and it's bitterly disappointing" says Bryan. "I am absolutely knackered" says Martin. Boro find themselves back in the bottom three after an injury time Dion Dublin goal – helped by a big 'assist' from jittery David James – brings Coventry a 2-1 win at Anfield, after which Roy Evans also joins in the Fergie-fixture debate: "I think it's a funny old time to start moving the goalposts. Everyone needs to be treated the same."

Wednesday 9 Man Utd lose to a Rene Tretschok goal for Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League Semi Final with Beckham, Butt and Cantona missing chances before the home side score fifteen minutes from time. "We found it difficult to handle the referee with his different culture and different approach," says Alex Ferguson, mad about another booking for genial Roy Keane (now out of the return), adding "I can tell you we won't play that poorly again".

Thursday 10 A stunningly inept performance by David James helps Paris St Germain to a 3-0 first leg lead over Liverpool in their Cup Winners Cup Semi Final first leg, the first two goals both resulting from football's best known computer nerd missing crosses. "We did not defend and we did not attack," says Roy Evans not trying too too hard to look for plus points.

Saturday 12 Man Utd, 3-2 winners at Blackburn, maintain a three point lead over Arsenal who beat Leicester 2-0. In the dungeon, Southampton get a glimpse of daylight, moving out of the bottom three with a 2-0 win over fast-fading West Ham. No doubt much to the dismay of the Premier League and their satellite buddies, Barnsley edge closer to promotion from Division One with a 4-0 win over Charlton while nearest challengers Wolves lose to two injury time goals at Reading (another happy return for Mark McGhee).

Sunday 13 In the FA Cup Semis, Zola-Hughes plc beat Wimbledon 3-0 but don't yet know who'll they meet in the Final after one of the all-time great cup ties finishes with Chesterfield getting a last minute equaliser to draw 3-3 with Middlesbrough. Boro had gone two down and had defender Vladmir Kinder sent off before pulling level in normal time, then took the lead through Gianluca Festa before Jamie Hewitt levelled in the 119 minute. And that's not all – with the score at 2-1,Chesterfield should have been awarded a third when Howard's shot bounced over the line only for David Elleray to rule it out because he enjoys publicity, no, no, for an alleged infringement.

Wednesday 16
Leicester win the Hokey Cokey through a Steve Claridge goal in extra time. "I can hardly believe we are going to be in Europe next season," says Martin O'Neill. "The players have already got this out of their system," says Bryan Robson, more in hope than expectation. After the match the FA announce that Claridge, an avid gambler, has been ordered to drop a bet he'd made on Man Utd to win the title – Leicester play Utd on the penultimate weekend of the season. Liverpool are two points off the top after missing several chances in a bruising Merseyside derby at Goodison which ends in a 1-1 draw and the dismissal of Robbie Fowler and David Unsworth for fighting. "This might be the point that wins it for us," says Roy Evans, through gritted teeth.

Thursday 17 At a meeting in Geneva, UEFA concede that they were wrong to unequivocally back Germany as Europe's candidates to stage the 2006 World Cup. "All we want is a level playing field," says FA chairman Keith Wiseman. However, at next Summer's FIFA Congress, UEFA are expected to call for only one country to be nominated from each continent , with Germany likely to get Europe's vote.

Saturday 18 Vinnie Jones is to become the first player to take his club and the Premier League to court for restraint of trade. Under current regulations, English players can't move within the UK on a free transfer when their contracts are up. Wimbledon have threatened to hold on to Jones' registration when his contract expires in the Summer. Better off without him, we'd say.

Sunday 19 Look Back in Clanger says the News of the World as David James cocks up again, at fault for two of Man Utd's goals in a 3-1 win at Anfield. (Utd's share price accordingly rose by nine pence – buy, buy, hurry!). Gary Pallister heads the first two from corners, Andy Cole adds a third when James misses a cross. "You have to earn the right to be champions and we have come to the right place to do that," says Alex Ferguson. "Maybe David needs competition," says Roy Evans. Utd are now five points clear of Arsenal who concede a late equaliser to Blackburn from a corner won by Chris Sutton ("a very simple lad" – Tony Parkes) who had chased a throw in intended to give Arsenal possession after Patrick Vieira kicked the ball out so a teammate could get attention. "Fair play is an English phrase but it doesn't function here anymore," says Arsene Wenger with his pompous hat on. Crossest boss of the day, though, is Harry Redknapp after seeing Everton level in the last minute at Upton Park after Paul Kitson had put West Ham two up, then missed a penalty when given the chance to get his hat-trick by the team's nominated penalty taker John Hartson. "It's not some testimonial match when it doesn't matter," rasps his puce faced manager. Veteran escapologists Coventry also come back from two down to draw away at Southampton, while Middlesbrough's troubles worsen with a 1-0 home defeat by Sunderland.

Monday 20 Carlisle win the Auto Windscreens wingding, beating Colchester on penalties after a goalless draw. Port Vale's playoff hopes receive a setback with a 2-0 derby defeat at Stoke, who will soon be managerless if Lou Macari goes ahead with his declared intention to resign so he can pursue a case against his former club Celtic for unfair dismissal (Celtic fans will have a view on that).

Tuesday 21 Arsenal miss a chance to close the gap on Man Utd by drawing 1-1 at Coventry, who take an early lead through Dion Dublin before Ian Wright levels from the penalty spot. Wright is accused of making obscene gestures to Coventry fans after the final whistle and may face FA disciplinary action – and several more chatshow appearances no doubt.

Wednesday 22 Middlesbrough make a second Wembley appointment of the season after a 3-0 win over Chesterfield in their FA Cup Semi Final replay with goals from Beck, Fab and Emerson and a starring performance by Juninho. "It's clear you get better value for money buying in foreigners," says Bry sounding like a sweatshop magnate. In the League, Southampton take a big step toward safety by winning 1-0 at Sunderland and Blackburn lift themselves out of the danger zone, and dent Sheffield Wed's UEFA Cup hopes with a 4-1 win at Ewood Park. In Division One, promotion favourites Barnsley get the jitters losing 4-2 at Portsmouth. The dastardly Bill Archer is to step down as Brighton chairman in favour of Dick Knight whose consortium are to acquire a 49.5 % stake in the club, equal to that held by Archer, who says "With hindsight I would like to apologise for all the trauma I have caused". The club may be playing next season's matches at Hove greyhound stadium rather than at Gillingham. Kilmarnock are through to the Scottish Cup Final for the first time since 1960 after beating Dundee Utd 1-0 in their replayed Semi.

Thursday 23 An early Dortmund goal at Old Trafford and a series of missed chances end Man Utd's hopes of reaching the Champions Cup Final. "We do have to improve a bit to give us that extra push next year," says Alex Ferguson. Utd's share price falls by 20p (sell, sell, quick!). The points tally needed to stay in the Premiership edges upwards again after West Ham boost their hopes of survival with a 1-0 win at Leicester, who are still in danger themselves. Forest are all but down now after a draw at Derby. High excitement before the game, though, when a Derby fan spots that the club have named four non EC players, one more than the permitted limit, among their squad of 16, a mistake rectified just before kickoff. "It might have cost us a point which is not what we would have wanted," observes Jim Smith, sagely. On the floor below, Wolves fail to capitalise on Barnsley's latest slip-up by only drawing at home with struggling Grimsby. Celtic's miserable run of form continues with a 1-0 defeat against Falkirk in the Scottish Cup Semi Final. Tommy Burns will have gone straight home to pack his bags.

Friday 24 Nearly but not quite for Liverpool whose 2-0 win over Paris St Germain in the CWC Semi Final, via an early goal from Robbie Fowler and a late one from Mark Wright, isn't enough to overturn the first leg deficit. "I could not have asked for any more effort or passion," says Roy Evans. Apart from in the first leg anyway. Middlesbrough edge closer to the drop after losing 1-0 at Spurs, leaving Bryan Robson vexed by the League's refusal to put the game back by a day: "If we had been allowed to play on Friday instead that would have made a hell of a difference".

Sunday 26 Barnsley are promoted to the Premier League after beating Bradford City 2-0 at Oakwell. "There are old men crying down there and there is an old man crying up here too," says manager Danny Wilson. Southend, beaten at home by Huddersfield, are relegated. Bury are promoted from Division Two after winning at Watford (who are to get Elton John back as chairman next season), while Shrewsbury and Peterborough (and that noisy manager who gets too much attention) go down to the Third. Watched by 11,000, Brighton win their last ever match at the Goldstone Ground and will stay in the League if they draw at Hereford, now bottom, next week. Ken Bates is not best pleased at being accused by the FA of ripping off Chelsea fans by selling hospitality packages for the Cup Final for £500: "There's a need for this kind of service because you can't get a decent meal and VIP treatment at Wembley". So what does the Queen put up with, then? Kevin Keegan speaking on South African TV claims that he left Newcastle because he was presented with an ultimatum: either sign a new contract before the share flotation or leave. "If I was going at the end of the season I had to tell them because when you have a float document you can't tell lies to the City". Naive isn't he?

Monday 28 After Bury, there's the prospect of double derby embarassment for Man City next season as Stockport move out of the lower divisions for the first time in sixty years after Brett Angell's goal brings a 1-0 win at Chesterfield. "Wimbledon and Barnsley have shown the way and there's no reason why we can't follow," says David Jones. Peter Shilton is released by Leyton Orient because his goalkicks don't travel far enough: "You need a goalkeeper to kick it into your opponents box to make chances in this division," says Tommy Taylor. "I thought goalkeepers were supposed to be judged on their goalkeeping," Pete retorts. He's off to Hong Kong now just to show us. Lord Justice Taylor author of the post-Hillsborough Taylor Report that led to the creation of all-seater stadia had died aged 69. "The magnificent stadia which are springing up all the time will be his epitaph," says Graham Kelly.

Wednesday 30
England beat Georgia 2-0 at Wembley with goals at the end of either half from Sheringham and Shearer ('SAS' for the tabloids), the latter's goal a direct free kick from inside the area given for a backpass to the goalkeeper. Scotland lose 2-1 in Sweden but are still on course for a playoff place at least, as are the Republic of Ireland despite losing 1-0 in Romania where Roy Keane misses a penalty but later hits the target with a headbutt not spotted by the referee. Northern Ireland's slender hopes all but disappear after a goalless draw in Armenia.

From WSC 124 June 1997. What was happening this month