August 1997

Friday 1 August Attilio Lombardo finally signs for Palace for £1.6 million, after lowering his personal terms – the penthouse suite overlooking Central Park has gone, but he'll still gets the go karts and the dolphinarium. Liverpool confirm that Robbie Fowler, injured in a pre-season match, will miss the opening fortnight of the season. Newcastle block Peter Beardsley's transfer to Bolton. "It's an opportunity for Peter to lengthen his career here," says Kenny, keeping a straight face as ever.

Sunday 3 Man Utd win the Charity Shield on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Chelsea. "United were more dangerous when we had the ball than when they had it," says Ruud. The Wim Jansen era at Celtic begins with their first defeat by Hibs since decimalisation. 

Thursday 7 Bruce Grobbelaar, John Fashanu and Hans Segers are cleared of match fixing in their re-trial at Winchester Crown Court, though Grobbelaar still faces one further charge of corruptly accepting £2,000 as a first payment to fix a match. "I was dragged into the storm three years ago. Since then the only words I've said were °Ænot guilty'," says John Fashanu. "I just want to go home and tell my two children their daddy is innocent," sobs Hans Segers, contemplating a new career in Country & Western. "I don't believe English football is corrupt but it would be naive to believe that referees and players are not being approached," says Gordon Taylor. The FA seem to agree as they are to appoint a former police commissioner, Sir John Smith, to head an investigation into football betting.

Friday 8 David Platt is mulling over an offer from Middlesbrough, who will pay him more than he was on at Highbury, up to £20,000 a week basic ."David can speak Italian and that will be a great help to me in explaining tactics to players from that country," says Bryan Robson. Seems a lot to pay for an interpreter, but the Boro are big time, baby. Graeme Le Saux returns to Chelsea from Blackburn for £5 million. Ruud probably think he's French. John Barnes is given a free transfer by Liverpool and says, "I'm not bitter. I just happen to think the manager is wrong." Bruce Grobbelaar is acquitted of the one remaining match fixing charge. "There's never been a game thrown in the past and there never will be in the future," he says, oblivious to the millions of shaking heads.

Saturday 9 Roasting: spectators collapse from heat stroke, players lose a stone each in the pre-match kick about. Coventry are top of the Premier League, and only forty points short of safety, after a Dion Dublin hat-trick (the hundredth by a Coventry player on the opening day) brings a 3-2 win over Chelsea, who lead with less than ten minutes to go then forget how to defend. A mixed day for the new kids: Barnsley lose at home to West Ham ("I'm just glad all the hype is out of the way," says Danny Wilson, prematurely), but Bolton and Palace win away. Attilio Lombardo gets a a goal and wins a penalty in the latter's 2-1 win at Everton and is stoutly defended by his new manager: "He's not a prima donna, he's not over here just to earn a few bob." Also on form are Tino Asprilla, with both Newcastle's goals in a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday, and child star Michael Owen, whose penalty earns a point for Liverpool at their least favourite ground, Anfield, hah, no, Selhurst Park. In Division One Middlesbrough fans will be delighted that Fabby stuck around (for this week at least) as he gets a 90th minute winner against Charlton. Wigan record the biggest win of the opening day, 5-2 v Wycombe.

Sunday 10 Manchester United barge Coventry off the top after a 2-0 win at Spurs. Home fans are in raptures after debutant Teddy Sheringham misses a penalty, but in the last ten minutes Nicky Butt and a Ramon Vega own goal wrap up the points for Utd. "Teddy expected to get some stick. It was a bit over the top but didn't compare with Paul Ince's return to West Ham," says Alex. Gerry Francis is third favourite to be the first sacked manager in the Premiership.

Monday 11 Bad news for the Cliff Bastin Appreciation Society – Ian Wright is now just two short of beating their man's Arsenal scoring record of 177 after getting both goals in a 2-0 win over Coventry. Mindful that the Second World War got in Cliff's way rather, Ian will be aiming to pile on another fifty or so in the interests of fairness. After months of trying Man Utd finally land an international centre back, Henning Berg signing from Blackburn ten years after his first trials at Old Trafford. "I didn't hear the crowd shouting Henning's name on Saturday when he was missing," mutters Roy Hodgson, unhappy about another departure in the wake of Graeme Le Saux. In the Hokey Cokey First Round, Doncaster have it all to do after an 8-0 first leg home defeat by Nottingham Forest. "I want to walk away but they owe me money on my contract and I won't go until that is settled," says manager Kerry Dixon. That's the spirit.

Tuesday 12 Barnsley bounce back with a 1-0 win at Palace, where Neil Redfearn gets the only goal. "You could see Lombardo's quality but sometimes he was a little ahead of our script," says Steve Coppell, probably not for the last time. Hokey Cokey surprises at Port Vale, who lose 2-1 to York, Mansfield, where the home side see off Stockport 4-1, and Loftus Road, where Wolves beat QPR 2-0. Marvellous news for tacky but expensive tailors in the North East as John Barnes, released by Liverpool, decides to join his old manager Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle after seeming to be set for West Ham. "It seems the picture changes when the big name clubs show an interest," says Harry Redknapp, like it had never occurred to him before. In the UEFA Cup Second Preliminary Round, Dundee Utd lose 1-0 away to Trabzonspor and Celtic are thankful for a late Alan Stubbs goal in Innsbruck which means they only (or perhaps that should be °Æonly') have to overcome a 2-1 deficit in the second leg.

Wednesday 13 A narrow squeak for Newcastle, 2-1 home winners against Croatia Zagreb, John Beresford's winner being preceded by an Asprilla foul on the Zagreb keeper which the referee doesn't spot. "Sometimes you get more than you really deserve," says Kenny. Reverse fortune for Rangers, who crash 3-0 in Gothenburg. The home side's second goal may not have crossed the line before being scooped out by Andy Goram. "All these goals were down to basic errors which you don't expect at this level," says Walter Smith, who can't have watched many British performances in Europe lately. "It's not a dream start I want but a dream ending," says Roy Hodgson after Blackburn thrash Villa 4-0 away. Man Utd and West Ham both keep up their 100% records with home wins over Spurs and Southampton. A late Paul Ince goal on his home debut can't save Liverpool who lose 2-1 at home to Leicester, thanks to goals by Matt Elliott and Graham Fenton. "We have to take this as a major kick up the backside," says Roy Evans, continuing where he left off last season. Derby's first home match at Pride Park ends in floodlight failure with the home side 2-1 up against Wimbledon. The power comes on again two minutes after the referee decides to abandon the match. "A lot of pressure was put on the ref and it came from Wimbledon," says Derby vice chairman Peter Gadsby, a view described as "rubbish" by Joe Kinnear.

Thursday 14 Liverpool accept an offer of £12 million from Barcelona for Steve McManaman, but the deal breaks down, supposedly over the player's wage demands. "I'm sure the fans would have been unhappy about my moving and that would have been an important consideration," says Steve, a view that might not be backed by a poll of Anfield regulars. Cup Winners' Cup anxiety night for Kilmarnock fans, with only a 90th minute goal securing a 2-1 first leg lead over Shelbourne of Ireland.

Friday 15
A crowd of over 38,000 sees Sunderland's League debut at the Stadium of, hem hem, Light, a 3-1 win over Man City. Forest go top of Division One after a 4-1 win over Norwich. Jokes aplenty as Newcastle's new status as a retirement home is boosted by the arrival of Ian Rush on a free transfer from Leeds. "It's give me a new lease of life – I feel like a 40-year-old," chuckles Ian, "We're developing our youth policy," roars Kenny, clutching his sides.

Saturday 16 A second successive defeat for Celtic, 2-1 at home to Dunfermline, means they are already three points behind Rangers having played a game more. Still, there's always the cups. Hereford make an unhappy return to non-League football, losing 2-1 at home to Welling United in the Conference. Ruud Gullit is to take a Dutch FA coaching course, fuelling speculation that he may be offered the national team job after the 1998 World Cup Finals. His contract with Chelsea expires at the end of this season. Eric Cantona claims Man Utd owe him money, possibly as much as £750,000, from sales of merchandising carrying his name and may sue. "I think it is a misunderstanding. There is a difference in copyright law between France and Britain," says Martin Edwards, perspiring slightly.

Monday 18 Peter Beardsley finally moves to Bolton for £500,00. "He has a football brain which you never lose," says Colin Todd. Lucky, that. "I am hurt, angry and confused," says Alanis Mor… no, hold on, it's Tomas Brolin, about to be fined again by Leeds for saying of George Graham: "He has said just two words to me in six months °Æ °Æyou're fined'." So, quite a neat symmetry.

Tuesday 19 Celtic win a match! St Johnstone succumb to a Simon Donnelly penalty in extra time in the clubs' Scottish Coke Cup Third Round tie. Well done Wim, well done everyone. Man Utd refuse to pay the royalties claimed by Eric Cantona, who is not now expected to turn up for next month's championship celebration at Old Trafford.

Wednesday 20 A night of World Cup qualifiers throughout Europe. Northern Ireland look set to continue their good run against Germany when Michael Hughes puts them ahead in the second half, but then substitute Oliver Bierhoff gets a hat trick in seven minutes, 3-1 the final score. The Republic struggle at home again, held to a goalless draw by Lithuania. "We bombed them, laid a siege, but the winner wouldn't come," says Ray Houghton after missing from two yards out late on. No-one, you feel, will be enjoying Mick McCarthy's tenure as national manager more than Jack Charlton. Yet another fraught night for Wales who go two down inside ten minutes against Turkey, come back to lead 3-2 before half-time and finally lose 6-4. " ," says Bobby Gould (speechless, bless him). At one point BBC Wales' commentator says, "The defence doesn't have a clue," at which John Toshack quips, "Neither does Bobby Gould." One of Bobby's other predecessors, Terry Yorath is a happy man – his current employers, Lebanon, are now above Wales in the FIFA rankings. Stirling Albion's 6-2 thrashing of Kilmarnock is the surprise of the night in the Scottish Coke.

Saturday 23 Four clubs are on seven points at the top of the Premiership, led by Blackburn who get a draw at home to Liverpool thanks to a late equalizer by Martin Dahlin. Arsenal are next after a 3-1 win at Southampton followed by Leicester and Man Utd who share a goalless draw at Filbert Street where United hit the post three times and Teddy misses from a yard out (isn't that Andy Cole's job?). "Confidence is the thing," says Brian Little as Villa stay bottom after a third successive defeat, 1-0 at Newcastle. The First Division is led by Forest, 1-0 winners at Oxford, and propped up by Norwich, beaten by the same score at home to Crewe (they should have kept the green shorts). Lower down, Notts County face disciplinary action after a fan runs onto the pitch to attack the referee shortly after visitors Lincoln score a winning goal (which they mark by one of those gormless °Ærowing' celebrations – maybe that's what he was angry about). Doncaster, managerless following the departure of Kerry Dixon, lose again, 3-1 at leaders Macclesfield, but they are kept off the bottom of the League by the equally pointless Hull City, where Mark Hateley has yet to find the ropes never mind learn them. "All goals are beautiful," says Paolo Negri paternally after scoring five for Rangers against Dundee Utd. Two more and he would have matched the number of Albion Rovers players left on the pitch at the end of their lively 5-1 defeat by Queens Park.

Sunday 24 An ominous day for Barnsley, beaten 6-0 at home by Chelsea, for whom Gianluca Vialli scores four, then says, "Last season I had a problem on and off the pitch but I like to think that's all behind me now." "The players we have make it difficult for the opposition to know what to expect," says Ruud, possibly with half a mind on his four goalkeepers. "Our fans were magnificent throughout – if they can be like that all season we're in with a chance," says Danny Wilson, hinting at unorthodox team selections to come. Oh, and we thought that Leicester City's new French trialist deserves a mention: he's called Pegguy Arphexad.

Monday 25 There are four goals in the first ten minutes at Ewood Park as Blackburn extend their lead at the top by thrashing Sheffield Wednesday 7-2. Benito Carbone, scorer of both Wednesday's goals is sent off after half time. Blackburn then lose goalkeeper John Filan with a broken arm after a collision with Wayne Collins which angers Roy Hodgson: "I like to think that players used to hop over keepers and not kick a man when he's down. It totally colours my view of what otherwise would have been an excellent night." "Blackburn riddled us," says David Pleat, understating nicely.

Tuesday 26 A first win of the season for Liverpool, who inflict Leeds' second 2-0 home defeat in four days. Steve McManaman and Karlheinz Riedle get the goals, but man of the match is David James, prompting Roy Evans to say: "We think he has improved and improved but he had a bad spell last season and he was criticized for that." Was he? In the Coke First Round second leg, Man City lose on penalties to Blackpool and Norwich go out to Barnet after a 3-1 away defeat -"I've no idea how that happened," says Mike Walker unwisely. In the UEFA Cup madcap Celtic score twice in the last three minutes to beat Innsbruck 6-3 on the night and 7-6 on aggregate (what will Wim conjure up next?), but Dundee Utd are out after a home draw with Trabzonspor.

Wednesday 27
Newcastle use up their nine lives in one night in Zagreb where a Temur Ketsbaia goal in the last minute of extra time secures a 2-2 and passage through to the Champions League on a 4-3 aggregate. The home team, down to ten men in the first half after Juric is sent off for conceding a debatable penalty, scored by Asprilla, had come back to level the tie in the last minute of normal time. Rangers miss out on at least £10 million in revenue after a 1-1 home draw with Gothenburg. Still, there's always the UEFA Cup. Man Utd rejoin Blackburn at the top of the Premiership after a 2-0 win at Everton. Arsenal would be up there too had they not let in two injury time goals at Leicester, who are 2-1 down in the 90th minute when Matt Elliott equalizes. Dennis Bergkamp completes a brilliant hat trick to put Arsenal 3-2, ahead only for Steve Walsh to equalize again in the sixth minute of injury time. A barney ensues at the final whistle ,with the ref's time-keeping the main talking point. Aston Villa's fourth successive defeat, 3-2 at Spurs, means they've made their worst ever start to a season.

Thursday 28
After Ronaldo and Rivaldo, Denilson becomes the third Brazilian player in a month to beat the world transfer record, with a £24 million move to Real Betis of Spain. He won't be joining his new club until after the 1998 World Cup, however, so Middlesbrough and Everton have still got time to launch counter bids. Brighton's application to groundshare with Millwall is turned down in the wake of opposition from police and local residents. They may now try to move in with Fulham.

Friday 29 Man Utd face Juventus again in the Champions League, with Feyenoord and Kosice from Slovakia also in their group. Newcastle have to play Barcelona, PSV and Dinamo Kiev. Prepare for a barrage of calls for the creation of a British League in the wake of the UEFA Cup First Round tie between Celtic and Liverpool. In the same competition, Leicester play Atletico Madrid (who knocked them out in their last European appearance in 1961), Aston Villa are away to Bordeaux and Arsenal travel to PAOK Salonika in Greece. Rangers' second attempt at a having a good European season begins with a trip to Strasbourg. The Argentine FA confirm that Diego Maradona has failed a drug test taken after his comeback match for Boca Juniors last week in which he scored in a 4-2 win. If secondary test also proves positive he faces a five-year ban.

Saturday 30
Blackburn stay top after a 2-1 win at Palace, just ahead of Man Utd who get their customary home win over Coventry, 3-0, though two goals come late. "We played like a team who thought they could win when they wanted to," says Alex, with his stern face on. Good news for the Bastinistas – Ian Wright again fails to score the goal that would equal that record as Arsenal are held to a goalless draw by Spurs, who have Justin Edinburgh sent off before half time. "They didn't try to play but I suppose they played how they could," says Arsène sniffily. Aston Villa get their first points of the season with a 1-0 win over Leeds, who seem to have peaked already. And Mark Hateley's cracked it: Hull City, bottom of the League and goalless, go berserk, getting seven at home to Swansea, who can only manage four in reply, the dullards.

From WSC 128 October 1997. What was happening this month