August 1996

Thursday 1 The US win the women's football tournament at the Olympics, beating China… Patrik Berger finally signs for Liverpool after weeks of negotiations, the sticking point being whether he would be contractually obliged to go nightclubbing with Robbie 'n' Jamie 'n' Macca every Saturday. Terry Venables declines an offer to become joint owner of Portsmouth, saying that the club will need to clear their debts before he is prepared to get involved. There's a joke in there somewhere.

Friday 2 Blackburn deny that they are about to spend a hefty wedge of the Shearer money on Ajax's Patrick Kluivert. So a deal must be imminent. Celtic are fined £42,000 for dealing with an unlicensed agent, Bruce Rioch's brother, Neil, when buying Alan Stubbs from Bolton, and Stubbs is also fined. Hove Council vote against Brighton's plans to build a new stadium and shopping complex at, ahem, Toad's Hole Valley. Brighton chairman Bill Archer says that a groundshare with Portsmouth now seems likely for 1997-98 (assuming, of course that Portsmouth are still in existence).

Saturday 3 Nigeria become the first African team to win an Olympic gold, beating Argentina 3-2 with a goal from Emmanuel Amunike in the last minute. Brazil have to make do with the bronze after a 5-0 win over Portugal.

Tuesday 6 A crowd of 15,000 gathers outside St James' Park to listen to a Tannoy broadcast of Alan Shearer's press conference held inside the stadium, at which he says: "We just need that trophy and this place will be alive. If we get them no one will understand how much it means more than me." Kev, meanwhile, addresses the fans: "This is your day. You've put the money in and I've invested it." The PFA could use a bit of cash, too – they're about to send out strike ballots after the breakdown of talks with the Football League over the allocation of money from the new Sky deal. "I cannot see any daylight. Strike action seems inevitable," says Gordon Taylor. In the UEFA Cup, Celtic draw 0-0 in Slovakia with Kosice, who miss a penalty, Aberdeen win 4-1 in Lithuania and Barry Town lose 3-1 in Hungary.

Wednesday 7 Rangers beat Vladikavkaz 3-1 in their Champions League preliminary round tie at Ibrox. Vladikavkaz take a first half lead, and also miss a penalty towards the end. More problems for Arsenal – fans protest against the board at a triangular tournament in Italy, where the team lose both their matches, and the Daily Mirror alleges that the Inland Revenue is investigating tax irregularities in overseas transfers conducted by Arsenal, including those of Dennis Bergkamp and David Platt. Also in hot water are West Ham, who have outraged supporters by announcing that club shareholders can henceforth only sell their shares in blocks of 100 or more, a move which will preventing ordinary fans from buying or trading small amounts of shares. With Alan Shearer having bagged the number 9 shirt for Newcastle, Les Ferdinand says he wants to wear a number 99 next season. Blackburn, with a bob or two to spend, deny reports that they are about to put in a bid for Jurgen Klinsmann.

Thursday 8
In Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round matches, Welsh village team Llansantffraid draw 1-1 at home with the Poles Ruch Chorzow, and Hearts hold Red Star to a goalless draw in Belgrade. Speaking at the Rothmans launch, Gordon Taylor suggests that the Premier League are supporting the Football League in their refusal to pay the PFA what they want from the new TV deal because they anticipate a similar row when the next Sky Premiership contract comes into force next year. "I'm not confident of the future when the game's like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, squabbling for money, when there's no reason we can't work together," he says.

Saturday 10
Alan Stubbs is sent off on his Scottish League debut for Celtic, who snatch a last-minute equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Aberdeen. Rangers begin with a 1-0 home win over Raith. Lee Sharpe, demoted to about seventh choice after Man Utd's summer buys, is to join Leeds for £4 million. Terry Venables is to become director of football at up-for-sale Portsmouth, believed to be losing in excess of £50,000 per week. "When you talk of a sleeping giant, Portsmouth is it," he says. Coventry demonstrate the perils of playing a top European side pre-season – they are beaten 7-2 at home by Benfica. "At least it has given us good practice at kicking off," says Big Ron, but you can bet he was cross really.

Sunday 11 £15 million could have bought a new defence. Man Utd beat Newcastle 4-0 in the Charity Shield. "The only plus point was that we kept it down to four," says Alan Shearer. "At least we can't be that bad again," says Kev. Alex Ferguson takes time off from celebrating to stoke up the Shearer transfer row: "I had a gut feeling that it wouldn't happen simply because Jack Walker hates Manchester United. If their intention is to qualify for Europe, they would have been better off selling Shearer to us and keeping in touch with Newcastle." Wooooh, get you.

Monday 12 The only Premiership manager with a side parting is sacked. Bruce Rioch's year-long reign at Arsenal had been dogged by disputes over the signing of new players, the board having taken over transfer dealings after the dismissal of George Graham. In the frame to succeed him are Johan Cruyff and Glenn's pal, Arsène Wenger, the former Monaco coach lately tipped to become the FA's Director of Coaching. Ivano Bonetti, now with Tranmere, is to sue Grimsby manager Brian Laws over the dressing room fight that led to the player needing surgery on a broken cheekbone.

Wednesday 14 QPR turn down a £5 million offer from Leeds for Trevor Sinclair and seem to be unhappy about the way negotiations are being conducted by Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby: "He seems to be carrying this on through the media and not directly with the club," says new QPR owner Clive Berlin. Premier League Motherwell are knocked out of the Scottish Coca Cola Cup on penalties by Third Division Alloa. And Arsenal's chucklesome pre-season run continues with a 3-1 defeat at Northampton.

Thursday 15 The date set for Arsenal's announcement of a new manager passes without confirmation that Arsène Wenger is to take over. However, the arrival at Highbury of two French players, Patrick Vieira, from AC Milan, and Remi Garde, is a hint, as is the latter's comment: "I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Arsène Wenger." The first Arsène About headline can be expected before the end of September. Man Utd want to add an eighth foreigner to their squad, offering £4 million for Barcelona defender Miguel Nadal, the Steve Bruce of Catalonia.

Friday 16 England are one of eight countries whose league runners-up will enter the Champions League at the qualifying round stage from next season. All the champions from the smallest/poorest countries, currently shoved into the UEFA Cup, will play in preliminary ties with 24 teams going onto the squillion-pounds-apiece group stage. Ray Clemence leaves Barnet to join Glenn Hoddle's England Hotspur staff as full-time goalkeeping coach. The PFA strike ballot is to be put on hold pending further talks. Man Utd decide they don't want Nadal after all, as he couldn't be signed in time for the European deadline.

Saturday 17 Fabrizio Ravanelli might be as good as Tony Cottee. His hat trick of equalizers on his debut for Middlesbrough, who draw 3-3 with Liverpool, is the first by a player on his debut for a new club in the top division since Tone for Everton in 1988. Kevin Campbell, who scored five in the whole of last season, also gets three, Forest's 3-0 win at Coventry surprisingly being the equal biggest League win of the day. Man Utd's 3-0 victory at Wimbledon includes a chip from inside his own half by David Beckham. "You have seen the goal of the season already," says Alex Ferguson. Newcastle lose 2-0 at Everton, where Alan Shearer has a goal disallowed. "Where were the cute one-twos that strikers thrive on?" says Kev, which would have sounded sarky coming from anyone else. The Venables era at Portsmouth gets off to a lively start – they have two dismissed as Bradford come back from behind to win 3-1. Most surprised manager of the day is Sammy Chung of Doncaster, sacked in favour of Kerry Dixon (the very same) on arriving for the team's match at Carlisle.

Sunday 18
Southampton hold out for a 0-0 draw with Chelsea. They're at home but seem happy with the point. It's going to be a lively season at The Dell. Graeme Souness is impressed with Vialli – "as the game went on he grew more and more fox-like" – possibly less so with Le Tissier – "Matt is Matt". Proof for the theory that having a great name can help a player to attract attention: Sheffield Wednesday are about to sign Feyenoord midfielder Orlando Trustfull and Man City are keen on German-based Yugoslav Elvis Brajkovic.

Monday 19
Arsenal lose to two Steve McManaman goals at Anfield, but Stewart Houston remains chipper: "We showed again that we are together and that there is nothing wrong with the spirit in the dressing room." On the pitch, though, it might be a different matter. Injury-hit Leeds are taking Mark Hateley on loan from QPR, where he has apparently escaped a 'hate mob'. "He should get on well with Ian Rush. They are the same age and have played at the highest level," says Howard, as though trying to convince himself.

Tuesday 20 Sheffield Wednesday go top for a day after winning 2-0 at Leeds. Another forty points and they'll be safe. Barry Town march on in the UEFA Cup, beating Budapest VSC on penalties after a 3-1 win in the second leg. "Newcastle would suit us fine next," says their manager. Celtic squeak through, Jorge Cadete getting the only goal of the tie against Kosice with two minutes left, and Aberdeen have a fright too, beaten 3-1 at home by Zalgiris having won 4-1 away. Surprise of the night in the Coca Cola Cup First Round comes at Southend, beaten 2-0 by Fulham.

Wednesday 21 Man Utd's thirty-game unbeaten home record nearly falls to Everton, who lead 2-0 before conceding two late on, the second an own goal. At the end Alex Ferguson has to be restrained from attacking the referee for not allowing injury time to continue until United won. Alan Shearer gets his first goal for Newcastle, 2-0 winners over Wimbledon, one of two clubs without a point. The other, Blackburn, lose at Villa and are to part company with their Director of Golf, Kenny Dalglish, who has quit "by mutual consent". Rangers reach the Champions League group stage with surprising ease, beating Vladikavkaz 7-2, the best performance by a British team away to opponents from a region adjacent to one being attacked by Russian troops, we think.

Thursday 22 Speaking about Kenny Dalglish's departure, Blackburn chairman Robert Coar says, "Dalglish's influence ended when he stepped down a year ago. He effectively left us then." "If no-one asked I never opened my mouth. I have stayed out of the way and let them get on with the job," says Dalglish, now being linked with Leeds, natch. Hearts are out of the Cup Winners' Cup on away goals after a 1-1 home draw with Red Star Belgrade.

Saturday 24 Alan Shearer scores, from the penalty spot, but Newcastle lose again, this time 2-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday, now the only Premiership team with maximum points after three games. "I think anyone would have the right to suggest there is a crisis," says Kev, adding, "I'm the captain of this ship, I'll go down with these players," which he may not have meant quite the way it came out. Chelsea are second after a 2-0 win over Coventry, who have Liam Daish sent off for protesting about a handball leading up to the first goal. "The linesman appeared to put his flag up. I certainly know where I'd like to put his flag," says you-know-who. A bad day for Alan Ball, barracked by Man City fans after their 2-1 defeat at Stoke ("compared with being slagged off by 134,000 at Hampden this was nothing"); a worse one for John Beck, arrested before Lincoln City's match for alleged involvement in smuggling duty free booze.

Sunday 25
Man Utd again come back from behind to get a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, this time against Blackburn, the second of their two equalizers coming from Norwegian substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who says. "I wasn't nervous at all. The only frightening moment was when Eric Cantona raced towards me to celebrate the goal."

Monday 26 A Lee Sharpe goal is enough for Leeds to beat Wimbledon, without a point after three games and once again rumoured to be heading for Dublin. A consortium of Dublin businessmen including U2's manager are said to have shaken on a deal with Sam Hammam, pending approval from the FA of Ireland (plus FIFA, the English FA, and the Football League, in the event of Wimbledon being relegated this season).

Tuesday 27 Alan Ball resigns as Man City manager. "It's just one of those things and we're all a bit hacked off about it," says Francis Lee, who also provides an insight into what makes Alan special: "He's got more guts in his big toe than some people have in their whole body." Yeuuchh. George Graham says on the radio that he'd be interested in the job. Steve McManaman and Darren Anderton pull out of the England squad for the game in Moldova and there are late call-ups for the uncapped Mark Draper of Aston Villa and Everton's Andy Hinchcliffe, owner of the biggest jaw in the Premier League.

Wednesday 28 Frannie and George are talking numbers, but no deal yet. It could just be that George will hang on for a call from elsewhere in the North West, beginning with 'B', nine letters, not Blackpool. No sign of second-favourite Bruce Rioch house-hunting in Cheshire, either. More managers bite the dust: Andy King is sacked by Mansfield and Jimmy Thompson resigns at Raith after declining a cheeky offer of demotion to youth team manager.

Thursday 29 George Graham turns down Man City's offer. "It leaves me completely baffled," says Frannie. Brian Horton might fancy a new challenge, though. Having failed to lure Gabriel Batistuta, Blackburn have turned their attentions to another Argentine striker, Claudio Caniggia, currently with Boca Juniors, who might have been tempted by a swap deal if only Mike Newell hadn't been sold.

Saturday 31 Barnsley, not playing due to international call-ups, are now the only Nationwide League team with a 100% record. Stoke lose theirs in a draw at Reading but still go top of Division One. Individual performance of the day comes from Brentford's Carl Asaba, who scores a first-half hat-trick in seven minutes against Shrewsbury. Easy World Cup wins for Wales and the Rep of Ireland against San Marino and Liechtenstein, a draw for Scotland in Vienna, and a defeat for Northern Ireland, 0-1 v Ukraine.

From WSC 116 October 1996. What was happening this month