April 1998

Wednesday 1 The start of Real Madrid's Champions League semi with Borussia Dortmund is held up for seventy-five minutes after one of the goalposts is damaged by Real fans jumping on the adjacent perimeter fencing. Dortmund lose the match 2-0 but may lodge an official complaint with UEFA that could lead to the tie being replayed. In the other game, Juventus beat Monaco 4-1.

Thursday 2 Chelsea are lucky to escape with a 1-0 defeat at Vicenza in the first leg of their Cup-Winners Cup semi final. "We can blame a bit of tiredness. You are never at your best five days after a cup final," says Gianluca loftily. Wembley Stadium has been bought by the English National Stadium Trust backed by the FA. Rebuilding work will start after the 1999 FA Cup Final and might even include proper toilets.

Saturday 4 The Big Five relegation clash at White Hart Lane finishes 1-1, Chris Armstrong equalising Mickael Madar's opener for Everton. Barnsley fail to capitalise with Adie Moses's late own goal sending them to a 2-1 defeat at Leeds. Bolton go above them on goal difference after a draw with Wimbledon. In the First Division there's further proof that lesser teams raise their game for a derby, with Man City moving out of the bottom three after a 4-1 win over Stockport. Hearts get another chance to end their decades-long trophy drought by reaching the Scottish Cup Final after a 3-1 win over Falkirk.

Sunday 5 Sir John Hall's only been back a couple of weeks and already Newcastle are heading for Europe: they reach the FA Cup Final after 1-0 win over Sheffield Utd and will play Arsenal who beat Wolves by the same score. Newcastle will play in the Cup-Winners Cup even if they don't win the FA Cup providing Arsenal finish first or second in the Premiership. Rangers get to the Scottish Cup Final by beating Celtic 2-1 at Parkhead.

Monday 6 Man Utd stretch their lead to six points by coming from behind to win 3-1 at Blackburn. "We could have been slaughtered in the first half. I just hope Blackburn play like that against Arsenal," says Alex. Sir John Hall commits a big PR gaffe by dedicating Newcastle's Cup semi-final to their disgraced directors, saying: "Freddie and Douglas, you are part of this success and in so many ways you are the architects." "It's shoddy to praise their names in the club's finest hour," says Newcastle ISA secretary John Regan.

Wednesday 8 Leeds improve their UEFA Cup hopes with a 3-1 win over a Chelsea team featuring seven changes from their last match. It's their fifth league defeat in seven games since Gianluca Vialli took over. Celtic take a three point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier after a 2-1 win at Kilmarnock; Hearts stay third after drawing at home with Motherwell. Chris Kamara leaves Stoke, who had won just once in 14 games since he took charge and are now rooted to the bottom of the First Division. "It has been a nightmare for all concerned," says the Stoke vice-chairman, clearly not expecting to have to give Chris a reference.

Friday 10 "Arsenal can only lose it now," says Alex as Man Utd are held to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford by Liverpool, who are down to ten men for the entire second half after Michael Owen, of all people, is sent off for two reckless tackles. "There was more going on out there than meets the eye but there was probably a bit of over-enthusiasm," says Uncle Roy. "It's easy to blame other people," says Alex, who might know. Bristol City are promoted from the Second Division after third-placed Grimsby lose at Wycombe.

Saturday 11
Arsenal move to within four points of the top after a 3-1 win over Newcastle. "Losing 3-1 to the potential champions is not necessarily a bad result," chirps Kenny. "We are going to disappoint a lot of people by staying in the top flight," says Colin Todd, as a late goal from on-loan Bob Taylor gives Bolton a 2-1 win over Blackburn, who have now lost six of their last eight. Barnsley still have hopes of escape after beating Sheffield Wed 2-1 at Oakwell, while Everton benefit from the early dismissal of Lucas Radebe to defeat Leeds 2-0. Palace, however, are on target for the worst-ever Premiership points total after a 3-0 home defeat by Leicester (they still need two points to beat Ipswich's record low). "Hartson's got more previous than Jack the Ripper," groans Harry Redknapp in despair at his centre forward's first-half dismissal during a bad-tempered goalless draw with fellow Euro hopefuls Derby, who also have Stefano Eranio sent off. Doncaster are finally put out of their misery, being relegated from the Third Division after losing 2-1 at Chester.

Sunday 12
Rangers move back to the top of the Scottish Premier on goal difference after a 2-0 win over Celtic. "I don't see this as a psychological boost," lies Walter Smith. "I just want to go to the World Cup with a Manchester United shirt and contract in my bag," says PSV Eindhoven defender Jaap Stam, so keen to move to Old Trafford that he is prepared to take legal action to force his club to release him.

Monday 13 Arsenal are a point behind Man Utd after a 4-1 win over Blackburn at Ewood Park, where they were three up after a quarter of an hour. Alan Fettis in the home goal has had better matches."The players are happy but they are not going crazy. United have a much easier run-in," says Ars®®ne, doing the psychology number. Newcastle are five points clear of the relegation zone after an Alan Shearer goal four minutes from time brings a 2-1 win over Barnsley. "If the players have to sacrifice their beliefs and I have to sacrifice what I believe then we must do that if it keeps us up," says Kenny, clean forgetting that the team have been failing to entertain for a good while already. Spurs are still in trouble after letting in a late Coventry equaliser at White Hart Lane and their next match looks crucial: "We are going to Barnsley to win," says Christian. "Football can kick you in the teeth and it has done that today," mutters Colin Todd as Bolton's survival hopes take a battering at Derby where they lose 4-0. Palace are virtually down after losing 2-1 at Liverpool. Watford are promoted from the Second Division after a 1-1 draw at Bristol City.

Wednesday 15
"I don't envisage anyone pulling out. If they do they will be foolish," says Glenn sternly, announcing a squad of 34 and a faith healer for the friendly v Portugal, plus a B team for a game with Russia. Matt Le Tissier is only in the B squad, Chris Sutton and Dennis Wise are left out altogether. Ian Wright is in though, as is the uncapped Ray Parlour. There are no new faces in Scotland's senior squad of 23 for the game with Finland, though Ally McCoist is dropped to the B team.

Thursday 16 Chelsea reach the Cup-Winners Cup Final as a Mark Hughes goal after 75 minutes ensures a 3-1 win on the night against Vicenza, who had taken a first-half lead. "I remember scoring and then I was in the dressing room," says Hughes, who is knocked unconscious just before the final whistle. VfB Stuttgart await in the final having seen off WSC's favourites Lokomotiv Moscow. A report into players' wages by accountants Deloitte and Touche reveals that Premiership pay grew by 35 per cent in 1996-97 though only two clubs, Man Utd and Liverpool, made significant profits. If Man Utd's figures are excluded, the 20 Premiership clubs made a pre-tax loss of £37.1 million. "You wonder how long it can go on. What goes up must come down," says Gordon Taylor.

Friday 17 Barry Hearn did promise a new approach to football administration when he took over at Leyton Orient and he's been true to his word. The club's play-off hopes are effectively ended by their having three points deducted for fielding three suspended players in league matches earlier this season. The Football League Commission's decision overrides an earlier ruling by an FA Disciplinary Committee, which had imposed a £20,000 fine. Middlesbrough move up to second in the First Division after beating Man City 1-0 at the Riverside, despite having Steve Vickers sent off before half-time.

Saturday 18 With Man Utd held to a 1-1 home draw by Newcastle, Arsenal go top after thrashing Wimbledon 5-0. "It's a squad success and not down to individual quality," says Ars®®ne. "My lads did everything they could but they were outclassed in every department," says Joe Kinnear, who had been unbeaten in six previous trips to Highbury with Wimbledon. "We're running up a steep hill now," says Alex. Derby suffer the indignity of being the first team to lose at Palace this season, 3-1, after which Attilio Lombardo announces that he will step down as manager but wants to stay on as a player. Bolton have an injury-time goal disallowed in a 3-2 home defeat by Leeds and Barnsley fail to capitalise on Ramon Vega's dismissal midway through the second half at Oakwell, drawing 1-1 with Spurs. Despite his contract specifying that he can't be dropped, J®πrgen Klinsmann is taken off at the interval. "When luck is going against you decisions have to be made," says his manager. Sunderland and Charlton both win to stay level on points with Middlesbrough, six points behind First Division leaders Forest. Stoke's home win over Norwich pushes Man City back into the bottom three, so Macclesfield and Wigan may yet get their dream derby. Conference leaders Halifax return to the Football League after a five-year absence following a 2-0 win at Kidderminster. Celtic restore their three point lead in the Scottish Premier by beating Motherwell 4-1.

Sunday 19
Liverpool stay third after a 1-1 draw at Coventry and Chelsea move up to fourth after beating Sheffield Wed 1-0 with a spot-kick, the award of which stuns Big Ron into reviving an old northern saying: "If that was a penalty I'll plait sawdust." Next week he'll be going to the foot of our stairs. Celtic's title chances get a major boost as erratic Rangers cock up once again, losing 1-0 at struggling Aberdeen. Terry Venables claims he has agreed to take over as Palace manager in the summer – "I am as excited about the prospect as I was when I went to work with Malcolm Allison in the Seventies," he tells the News of the World. Ron Noades, however, is believed to have lined up jovial Gerry Francis as an alternative if Mark Goldberg fails to meet the deadline for taking control.

Tuesday 21 "I don't think I have done myself any harm," says Matt Le Tissier after getting a hat-trick for England B, who beat Russia 4-1. Scotland B lose 2-1 at home to Norway. Accused by Ken Bates in the latest Chelsea programme of being a "part-time playboy manager", Ruud Gullit, back in London to plug his °Æautobiography', says: "I don't really have anything against him, but I think he has something against me. He has been misinformed by people who did not want me to be there."

Wednesday 22 Following the first public airing of the official England World Cup song featuring the Spice Girls and the desperate Ian McCullough, Alan Shearer scores twice as Portugal are beaten 3-0. Most notable performer on the night is the referee, Sr Diaz Vega, who sets up the second goal for Teddy Sheringham with a neat backheel, disallows a perfectly good Tony Adams header, refuses a clear penalty for a foul on Michael Owen and dismisses a Portuguese player for spitting in an ungentlemanly fashion. After the match Paul Ince is punched outside Wembley, seemingly by a disgruntled West Ham fan. Scotland's first international in Edinburgh for 60 years ends in a 1-1 draw with Finland. Northern Ireland beat Switzerland 1-0 in Belfast, the Republic lose 2-0 at home to Argentina. The 6,000 extra tickets made available for England's World Cup matches sell out within a couple of hours as an estimated four million calls are made from the UK to the ticket hotline. Most of the 110,000 tickets available still go to callers from France. The tabloids get all lathered up about the injustice of it all and Tony Blair is apparently demanding an inquiry. Such a busy man.

Saturday 25
Arsenal are four points clear after winning 2-0 at Barnsley. "I had a tenner on them at the start of the season and it looks as though I have been proved right," says Danny Wilson, who can expect a call from the FA's betting police. Bolton's chances of avoiding the drop are boosted by a 3-1 win at Villa Park while Everton lose by the same score at home to Sheffield Wed. "Naturally everybody is feeling a little low but no one is feeling down," says Howard Kendall, a subtle distinction that may escape some. Peter Johnson may find that a prior engagement will prevent him attending Goodison's last fixture of the season. Spurs are almost in the clear after beating Newcastle 2-0. Chelsea move into third place after thrashing Liverpool 4-1 – "I'll bring in new players if I have to," says Uncle Roy, putting on his tough voice. In the First Division Portsmouth move out of the bottom three after beating Huddersfield, but Man City slip to second bottom after a home draw with QPR which is preceded by a dust-up in the tunnel involving Georgi Kinkladze and, amazingly, Vinnie Jones. Carlisle and Southend are relegated from the Second Division. Macclesfield are promoted from the Third after a home win over Chester. Third-placed Torquay will join them if they get a point from their last match. In Scotland, Rangers' 3-0 win at Hearts takes them to within a point of Celtic who are held to a goalless draw by Hibs.

Sunday 26 Derby's European hopes are all but ended after they suffer another bizarre collapse at home, going down 4-0 to Leicester, with all the goals coming in the first 15 minutes. "Horrendous," says Jim Smith. Reading are relegated from the First Division after losing 1-0 at Forest.

Tuesday 28 Sunderland seem destined for the play-offs after losing 2-0 at Ipswich – and you wouldn't want to have been in the dressing room with Peter Reid after that (or any time, actually). Their defeat means Forest are promoted. Sheffield Utd are still on course for sixth place after scoring in the last minute in a 3-3 draw at Tranmere. Burnley let a two-goal lead slip in another 3-3 draw, at Oldham, which means they remain in the relegation places in the Second Division. VfB Stuttgart have returned 11,000 tickets from their allocation for the Cup-Winners Cup final, most of which are expected to reach Chelsea fans via touts. Chelsea had been trying to make their fans buy expensive travel packages in order to get tickets. Hull City owner David Lloyd claims to have had talks with Wimbledon officials about moving their club to a new stadium in Hull which they would share with City and the Sharks rugby league club. "If we had a team in Hull that was winning the support would be fanatical," he says, as though born yesterday.

Wednesday 29 Arsenal are three points away from the title after an Emmanuel Petit goal secures a ninth successive win, a Premiership record, against Derby at Highbury. Dennis Bergkamp has a penalty saved by Derby's Mart Poom, then goes off with a hamstring injury that may keep him out of the Cup final. Newcastle are almost safe after a goalless draw at Leicester, though Alan Shearer appears to be lucky not to get sent off after kicking Leicester's Neil Lennon. "I don't care if you are Alan Shearer or the Pope, you don't do that kind of thing," says Martin O'Neill. Middlesbrough fail to capitalise on Sunderland's defeat the previous day, being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Wolves.

Thursday 30
Sheffield Utd miss a chance to secure the final play-off spot in the First Division after losing 2-1 at Crewe, and so stay one point ahead of challengers Birmingham City with one game to play. Mike Walker leaves Norwich City, supposedly by mutual consent, though his parting comment – "I feel devastated" – suggests otherwise.

From WSC 136 June 1998. What was happening this month