August 2001

Wednesday 1 Villa and Newcastle are both through to their respective “finals” in the Intertoto. John Gregory seems underwhelmed by his side’s away goals win over Rennes: “If we’ve got to play in the competition then qualifying for the UEFA Cup is what it’s all about.” Barry Town beat Porto 3-1 in the second leg of their Champions League tie. The Football League deny reports that Celtic and Rangers may be invited into this season’s Worthington Cup, although League chairman Keith Harris hopes to see them included next year: “They would help spice up the competition for our sponsors and improve its appeal to the television audience.” Celtic’s 4-3 win at Old Trafford in Ryan Giggs’s testimonial is enlivened by several near-fights, most featuring David Beckham. Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is the subject of the first-ever transfer deal between Fulham and Juventus, moving for £7 million. Portsmouth sign 1998 World Cup star Robert Prosinecki from Dinamo Zagreb.

Thursday 2 Wimbledon’s owners again claim they are preparing to move the club to a proposed 45,000 capacity stadium in Milton Keynes. “This is a unique solution to a unique situation as Wimbledon need stability after ten years without a home,” says chairman Charles Koppel. “The fans will not go to Milton Keynes in a million years,” says Lawrence Lowne of Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association. John Hartson joins Celtic for £6 million. An upset Coventry chairman Bryan Richardson waves him away: “I’m very disappointed that someone can change their mind about going and staying four times in a month.” Leicester’s Steve Guppy is also heading for Parkhead. Michael Ball’s £7 million move to Rangers will be delayed because he claims to be entitled to a “loyalty bonus” for not having asked for a transfer. Swindon replace the sacked Andy King with a new management team comprising Houllier’s ex, Roy Evans, and noisy geezer Neil Ruddock.

Saturday 4 Portsmouth goalkeeper Aaron Flahavan, 25, is killed in a car crash. The club say they won’t use their No 1 shirt this season. Howard Wilkinson threatens to sue David Batty over comments in his forthcoming autobiography in which the former Leeds manager is described as “boring, irritating and dictatorial”. Hold the back page: Rangers drop a point at home in a goalless draw with Livingston.

Monday 6 Maccabi Haifa, Liverpool’s prospective opponents in the Champions League qualifiers, are kicked out for fielding an unregistered player in the previous round against FC Haka of Finland, who will now take their place. Terry Venables cancels a meeting with the Greek FA to discuss being their national team coach supposedly because news “leaked out” – or possibly because he knew he wasn’t going to get it.

Tuesday 7 Away draws in the Intertoto for Newcastle, goalless in Troyes, and Villa, 1-1 at Basle. Wolves benefactor Sir Jack Hayward announces that he will withdraw his involvement with the club if they’re not promoted in 2002: “It’s getting very hard to explain to my friends in America that we’re still in the same division.” Chelsea defender Jon Harley is to join Fulham for £3.5 million.

Wednesday 8 Celtic seem to have Champions League qualification wrapped up after a 3-1 win at Ajax, whose coach Co Adriaanse says: “We were taught a football lesson.” Liverpool also hear the ker-ching of cash registers after winning 5-0 in Finland. Rangers have Michael Mols sent off in a 0-0 home draw with Fenerbahce.

Thursday 9 Coventry spend the Hartson money on Lee Hughes, whose contract with West Brom allowed him to consider a move if the offer exceeded £5 million, which it did by £1, coincidentally. Nigeria’s Finidi George joins Ipswich for £3 million. Villa are to buy Croatian striker Bosko Balaban, who’s taken advice from an international team-mate: “Alen Boksic told me that moving to England had given him a new perspective on life.” But was he laughing when he said it? Glentoran get the best result among the British clubs in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round, drawing 1-1 with Denmak’s Midtjylland. Kilmarnock get a last-minute winner at Glenavon.

Friday 10 Bayern’s Owen Hargreaves is included in the England squad for the friendly with Holland but Sol Campbell, believed to be distracted by his recent divorce, is left out. Neil Ruddock’s first task at Swindon is to find some shorts to fit him, after trying on 90 pairs without success. Emergency supplies are on their way from Egypt.

Saturday 11 Three thousand Wimbledon fans stage a sit-in demonstration against the proposed move to Milton Keynes after their 3-1 win over Birmingham. The Dons’ landlords, Crystal Palace, stage the day’s best comeback, winning 3-2 at Rotherham after being two down. Last season’s play-off finalists Preston are thrashed 5-0 at Gillingham, though David Moyes is not downcast: “It was just that nothing broke for us today.” Steve Claridge, with a shirt number to match his age, 35, scores the first in Millwall’s 4-0 win against Norwich; Bradford beat Barnsley by the same score. “We want that every week,” beams Little Kev as Eyal Berkovic and Stuart Pearce both score debut goals in Man City’s 3-0 win over Serie B’s Watford. In the Second, Bristol City’s Tony Thorpe get a first-half hat-trick in his side’s 3-0 win at Northampton and there are nine goals at Chesterfield, six of them for visitors Colchester. Rushden’s first League match ends in a 1-0 win at York courtesy of firmly-packed striker Warren Patmore, who says: “I had a weight problem but I’m down to 15 stone now and feeling the benefit.”

Sunday 12 Two-one to Liverpool in the Charity Shield, though Man Utd might have had a penalty for one of those Henchoz handballs that are invisible to officials. “I thought the referee was a bit too nervous,” says Sir Alex, while M Gérard accent­uates the positive: “It was a brilliant game.” Two Sheffield Wed fans try to attack Burnley players on the pitch after the latter’s second goal in a 2-0 win at Hillsborough.

Monday 13 A mild storm is stirred up by Jaap Stam’s autobiography, serialised in the Mirror, in which the player admits to discussing a transfer with Sir Alex before Man Utd made official contact with PSV Eindhoven. “This is against the rules and the spirit of world football,” harrumphs a PSV spokesman. Millwall and Man City are to ban away fans from their matches against each other this season claiming that “hooligans from several clubs would use the matches as a catalyst to cause trouble”.

Tuesday 14 David Ginola may take legal action against his nemesis John Gregory for alleged victimisation under new rules that allow players to claim “sporting just cause” for breaking contracts. England Under-21s beat their Dutch counterparts 4-0.

Wednesday 15 England 0 Holland 2, first-half goals from Van Bommel and Van Nistelrooy. Sven affects unconcern (“To worry about losing that game would be very stupid”) while that nice Michael Owen seems positively cross: “We didn’t pass and we didn’t defend.” David James is injured in a collision with Martin Keown and could be out for several months. Scotland’s next opponents, Croatia, draw 2-2 in Dublin. Brentford announce that fans will be let in free for their match with Peterborough in mid-October, the first time this has been ever done for a League game.

Thursday 16 The Football League board votes unanimously to reject Wimbledon’s proposed move to Milton Keynes. “To allow the move would have created a precedent at odds with the history of football in this country,” says League chief executive David Burns. The club say they will make a legal challenge to the ruling. Robbie Fowler is dropped from Liverpool’s first team squad for refusing to apologise over a bust-up with coach Phil Thompson. Gérard, a fan of old-style industrial relations, is adamant: “The players don’t rule here.”

Saturday 18 Leicester extend their poor form into the new season, crashing 5-0 at home to Bolton. “A few players got told a few things in the dressing room,” whispers Frank Sinclair. Arsenal score three in the last four minutes in a 4-0 win at Middlesbrough. “I will enjoy my spaghetti tonight,” says Fabrizio, toying with stereotypes after scoring in Derby’s 2-1 win over Blackburn. Leaders Bradford are one of four clubs with 100 per cent records after two games in the First Division. The police are investigating a claim that Paulo Wanchope assaulted a ballboy during Man City’s 2-0 defeat at Norwich. The Chester fans’ boycott takes effect with a crowd of just over 700 for their Conference match with Woking. Livingston draw with Celtic, who are nonetheless two points clear in the SPL, as Rangers are held at home by Hibs.

Sunday 19 Fulham twice take the lead at Old Trafford but finally lose 3-2, Ruud van Nistelrooy getting two on his debut. Sir Alex is unhappy: “We gave ourselves a fright and there’ll be more to come if we continue like that.” Jean Tigana is not thrilled with the officiating: “The referee is often under pressure when you play big teams and that happened today.” Fumbling keepers produce both goals in Newcastle’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea. More surprises in the First Division with Coventry losing 1-0 at home to Wolves and Millwall crashing 4-0 at Birmingham. Fight fans will be disappointed to learn that Robbie has apologised to Phil. “He has come to the right decision,” says Gérard.

Monday 20 Spurs survive having two players sent off to get a 1-1 draw at Everton. Both managers are unhappy with David Elleray, and Glenn hopes to get both red cards, for Gus Poyet and Gary Doherty, overturned. But Mauricio Taricco may be in trouble for an unpunished foul that hospitalised Thomas Gravesen. Bryan Robson, appar­ently lined up for some sort of role at Old Trafford, denies there was ever a drinking culture at Middlesbrough: “That’s an insult to the players. You’d get isolated incidents, but no more than at any other club.” Righto.

Tuesday 21 Villa qualify for the UEFA Cup with a 4-1 win over Basle in the Intertoto. John Gregory can’t resist another whinge: “I still don’t like this competition but we’ve come good in the end.” Newcastle recover from a three-goal deficit against Troyes but go out on away goals after a 4-4 draw: Shay Given has played better. Bolton stay on course for the championship, beating Middlesbrough 1-0. “I don’t think people up here watch the Nationwide,” says their jubilant manager. Highbury stages the latest taekwon-do bout between Arsenal and Leeds, which the visitors win 2-1 despite having two players dismissed. David O’Leary places the blame: “Some of the bookings were very harsh for both sides.” Fines can be expected. Finidi George scores twice on his home debut as Ipswich beat Derby 3-1 and is awarded his own song: “He comes from Africa, he drives a big tractor.” The eight clubs beaten by lower league opponents in the new one-match Worthington first round include Burnley and Huddersfield, at home to Rushden and Rochdale respectively. The FA announce plans to stage all four FA Cup quarter-finals consecutively on the same day so that each can be televised “We want as many people as possible to see these fixtures,” says a spokesman.

Wednesday 22 Rangers are booted off the gravy train at the last stop, losing 2-1 to Fenerbahce. “It’s wrong that a club as big as this is not going to be in the Champions League,” sighs defender Scott Wilson. Celtic go through despite losing 1-0 at home to Ajax. In the Premiership David Beckham scores for both sides as Man Utd draw 2-2 with Blackburn – “The chaos and slackness was unbelievable,” rages Sir Alex. Fulham beat Sunderland 2-0. Swindon win at Wolves in the Worthington Cup. Aberdeen apologise to fans for a hoax news announcement on the club’s official website claims they are about to sign Gabriel Batistuta.

Thursday 23 Man Utd get the best draw in the Champions League first round, with La Coruña likely to be their hardest opponents. Chief executive Peter Kenyon duly talks the talk: “The Champions League is a significant revenue stream for us. We are structured to operate at the top end of the game.” Liverpool have Dortmund, Kiev and Boavista, while Schalke, Real Mallorca and Panathinaikos are in Arsenal’s group, Juventus, Rosenborg and Porto with Celtic. Ipswich get the hardest looking tie in the UEFA Cup, at home to Torpedo Moscow. The first of many First Division south Yorkshire derbies this season ends in a 1-1 draw between Rotherham and Sheffield Utd. Fulham and Newcastle are both reportedly prepared to pay £10 million for Andy Cole. Kilmarnock beat Glenavon 1-0 in their UEFA Cup second leg, but all the other British and Irish sides go out.

Saturday 25 Everton take up temporary residence at the top after a 2-0 win over goalless Middlesbrough. Steve McClaren is unfazed: “We’re trying different systems and it’s not happening for us yet.” Leicester lose 4-0 at Arsenal where Patrick Vieira and Dennis Wise are sent off for rubbing foreheads. George Graham is said to have been approached to replace Peter Taylor. Southampton are pointless too, opening their new stadium with a 2-0 defeat by hitherto nervous travellers Chelsea. Derby players celebrate like they’ve won a cup after getting a goalless draw at Fulham. Stockport and Crewe, the latter beaten 5-2 at Maine Road, are the only teams without a point in the First Division, where Bradford and Burnley have maximum points. The two Bristol clubs keep their 100 per cent records in topping the Second and Third. Man Utd are to sell Jaap Stam to Lazio for £18 million. Sir Alex denies that it has anything to do with Stam’s autobiography in which he criticised team-mates: “It was a footballing decision, trust me.” UEFA secretary Gerhard Aigner says the European body has no objection in principle to Rangers and Celtic joining the Premiership.

Sunday 26 David Beckham limps out of Man Utd’s match at Villa and may miss the World Cup qualifier in Germany. The game ends 1-1 with an Alpay own goal rescuing the visitors in the last minute. An apoplectic Sir Alex claims there should have been “at least 14 minutes” of added time. The Tyne-Wear derby also ends 1-1, with Nobby Solano missing the home side’s best chances. “If he comes back from Peru having scored a hat-trick I will hang him,” says Bobby Robson, the old charmer.

Monday 27 Bolton are top of the Premiership, beating Liverpool 2-1 after Sander Westerveld fumbles a tame shot in the last minute. “I’m dejected and disgusted,” says Gérard, while Sam Allardyce is hurting but happy: “I’m black and blue from pinching myself.” “My strikers are on fire,” says Little Kev, whose Man City lead the First on goal difference after a 4-2 win at Burnley. Colchester and Brentford are joint leaders in the Second, Rochdale top the Third, replacing Bristol Rovers, beaten at Darlington. PSV insist they won’t sell nouveau Stam Kevin Hofland to Man Utd before the end of the season. Southampton are to report Spurs to the Premier League board for “unsettling” Dean Richards.
Tuesday 28 “I am desperate to play for Fulham,” says French inter­national striker Steve Marlet who signs from Lyon for a club record £11.5 million. Computer equipment worth £50,000 is stolen from FA headquarters, including David Davies’s very important laptop, but “sensitive information” about bids for the new national stadium had been backed up on to another disk. Phew. At the player’s rather mysterious insistence, Sunderland sell Don Hutchison to West Ham for £5 million. Spurs’ Gary Doherty has the red card he picked up on a night of heavy Elleray activity at Everton rescinded.

Friday 31 In a Westerveld-inspired panic, Liverpool buy Jerzy Dudek from Feyenoord and Coventry’s Chris Kirkland, the latter for a British goalkeeper’s record fee of £9 mil­lion. Tigana predecessor Paul Bracewell is sacked as Halifax manager.

From WSC 176 October 2001. What was happening this month