August 2003

Friday 1 Manchester United are fined £1.6 million by the Office of Fair Trading for price-fixing replica shirts. One of the other ten businesses to be charged are… the FA who will have to pay £158,000 for selling overpriced England shirts on the internet in 2000-01. Tangled web-weaver John Fashanu says he has resigned as chairman of Barry Town, though there is some doubt whether he ever really held such a position. Jody Craddock leaves Sunderland for Wolves, who are also to sign Senegalese striker Henri Camara and Spurs’ Steffen Iversen.

Saturday 2 Lee Hendrie is to be questioned by police  after kicking a ball at Villa fans who barracked him during a friendly at Walsall. Thomas Sorensen’s move from Sunderland to Villa is held up by a dispute over  severance pay. After nine months of red-tape wrangling, Macedonian corner ace Artim Sakiri finally joins  West Brom.

Sunday 3 Mark Bosnich, currently between jobs, is revealed to be the mystery player offered money by John Fashanu to fix a football match. “Fashanu needs to be investigated,” he tells the News of the World. “There is a lot of history between England and Turkey,” observes M Gérard as Steven Gerrard and Neil Mellor are sent off during Liverpool’s handbags-heavy 2-1 defeat against Galatasaray in Amsterdam.

Monday 4 Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond threatens legal action over the way television rights are controlled by the “cartel” of BBC, ITV and Sky. As is traditional in August, he also calls for his club and Rangers to be allowed to join the Premierszzzz. Freddie Kanouté reveals modest ambitions on joining Spurs for £4.5m (with Matthew Etherington moving in part exchange): “I want to be in the first part of the table, but we can only do this step by step.”

Tuesday 5 Dundee dismiss a suggestion made by controversial businessman and would-be board member Giovanni di Stefano that the team should be picked by a fans’ phone poll: “Look at what happened in Pop Idol – people get really swept up.” Chris Sutton is advised to stay away from Celtic’s opening match of the season at Dunfermline by the latter’s chairman John Yorkston. Sutton accused Dunfermline of “lying down” in their May defeat at Ibrox that clinched the title for Rangers. Huddersfield come out of administration after being bought by Ken Davy, chairman of the local rugby league club. Liverpool’s match at Aberdeen is interrupted by a rocket flare fired from outside the ground. M Gérard’s initial reaction – “Was it an Al Qaeda attack?” – proves unfounded. Church bells peal across the land as David Beckham scores his first goal for Real Madrid in a 3-0 win on their Far East tour.

Wednesday 6 “I think Verón is the best midfielder in the world,” says Claudio Ranieri of his £15m signing. Chelsea also get Joe Cole, “to bring a lot of fantasy to the team”, for £6m. Celtic progress to the final qualifying round of the Champions League with a 5-0 aggregate win over FBK Kaunas of Lithuania. The Football League give Notts County a month to find a new buyer after the collapse of a takeover bid.

Friday 8 Sky will have exclusive rights to the Premiership under the new TV agreement starting in 2004-05. It will involve kick-offs at 1.15pm and 5.15pm on Saturdays as well as games on Sundays and Mondays, with some matches available only on pay-per-view. The BBC win back the rights to a Saturday evening highlight package – so expect some especially smug jokes from Gary Lineker on the first night. Paolo Di Canio is linked with a move to Charlton though Alan Curbishley is playing it cool: “We’re probably as near to his house as West Ham was, so we’ll see.”

Saturday 9 A goal torrent in furnace temperatures with QPR and Bristol City winning 5-0, against Blackpool and Notts County respectively. West Brom make the worst start among the relegated teams, crashing 4-1 at Walsall, for whom debutant Paul Merson gets two and is impressed with his team-mates: “It was approaching total football.” Sunderland drop two players who overslept and lose 2-0 at Forest, taking their pointless run under Mick McCarthy to ten games, 16 in all. Turf Moor remains the place to go for big fun, Palace surviving two dismissals in a 3-2 victory. “Never have I been so angry,” says Alan Pardew after Reading concede a questionable injury-time penalty through which Ipswich get a 1-1 draw. Hartlepool stage the comeback of the day, from two down to win 4-3 at Peterborough. Yeovil mark their arrival in the League with a 3-1 win at Rochdale. Doncaster follow suit at Leyton Orient. Celtic drop two points in a 0-0 draw at Dunfermline while Rangers beat Kilmarnock 4-0. Watford’s match with Coventry is called off after the death in a car crash of Jimmy Davis, 21, recently loaned from Man Utd. Ray Harford, title-winning coach at Blackburn and manager of several clubs, dies aged 58. Chelsea spend £17m on Parma’s Romania striker Adrian Mutu.

Sunday 10 New keeper Tim Howard is the hero of Man Utd’s penalty shoot-out victory over Arsenal in the Community Shield, saving the decisive kick from Robert Pires. In the preceding, bad tempered 1-1 draw, Franny Jeffers is sent off for kicking out at Phil Neville, though Arsène stresses the positive: “In the last two years we have really improved our discipline.” The crowd of 59,293 is the smallest at the fixture for eight years.

Tuesday 12 “I had offers from other clubs but they were not Manchester United,” says Kleberson who has signed for around £6m. He’ll be joined by 18-year-old Sporting Lisbon striker Cristiano Ronaldo (named partly after Ronald Reagan, apparently) for a further £12m. Sol Campbell could face a three-match ban after referee Steve Bennett reports him to the FA for kicking Eric Djemba-Djemba during the Community Clog. Arsène is fit to bust: “It seems to me that we are living in farci-land.” In the first round of the Carling (by Worthington out of League) Cup, Oxford Utd, 1-0 winners at Millwall, join Northampton, Huddersfield and Darlington in knocking out First Division opponents.  “I have to show that I can add something to what looks a perfect group of players,” says Paolo Di Canio on joining Brazil’s 1958 World Cup team. Actually, no, he’s moved
to Charlton.

Wednesday 13 There’s more talk of the (sigh) New Roman Empire after Chelsea all but wrap up qualification for the Champions League with a 2-0 win in Slovakia. Newcastle look comfortably set, too, after winning 1-0 away to Partizan in Belgrade where Jonathan Woodgate impresses his manager: “He was a lighthouse for us.” Martin O’Neill may be reining in the celebratory leaps after banging his head on the dugout following Celtic’s first goal in their 4-0 thumping of MTK in Budapest. Rangers still have a job on after a 1-1 home draw with FC Copenhagen. After plenty of umming and not a little aaahing, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires sign new contracts with Arsenal. Hartlepool spring a cheeky surprise on former manager Chris Turner, beating his Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the Carling Cup. Former European Golden Boot winner Mário Jardel is to leave Sporting Lisbon for Bolton, pending one of those pesky work permits.

Thursday 14 Good performances in the UEFA Cup by Coleraine, who beat Portugal’s União Leiria 2-1, and Dundee, 2-0 away winners against Vlaznia of Albania. Pharoahs of Fair Play, Man City, take a five-goal lead into their second leg against Total Network Solutions. Kevin Phillips accepts a 50 per cent pay cut to sign for Southampton where he will be on £15,000 a week basic (well, he’ll just have to take in lodgers). Everton and Middlesbrough agree to make identical offers for Fulham’s Sean Davis who will be asked to choose between them – possibly by way of a general knowledge quiz. “I want to make the Portsmouth fans love me,” says Sebastien Schemmel on signing from West Ham.

Saturday 16 Wolves get a rude introduction to the Premiership, crashing 5-1 at Blackburn, though David Jones spots what went wrong: “At times we tried to be too clever.” Man Utd overcome their Bolton jinx with a 4-0 win at Old Trafford where substitute Cristiano Ronaldo makes a big impression, “almost unbelievable” according to his manager. Sol Campbell may be able to put his feet up for most of September after being sent off in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Everton. Thierry Henry is reported by the referee after his kiss-blowing celebrations in front of away fans after scoring the first goal prompts a hail of (paper and plastic) missiles. Debutants Teddy Sheringham and Patrik Berger score in Portsmouth’s 2-1 over Villa. Kevin Phillips gets a goal, too, as Southampton come back from two down to draw at Leicester, where there is general bafflement at the decision to award the spot-kick from which the home team took the lead: “When 30,000 people are going, ‘What’s happening?’ I think you know there’s something up,” say Gordon Strachan. Glenn Hoddle, meanwhile, thinks the controversial penalty by which Spurs lost at Birmingham came about because referee Rob Styles was making amends for dismissing Kenny Cunningham in a pre-season game. “The last place he should be officiating on the first day of the season is St Andrews and that is why we lost.” “We are still 44 points from safety,” says Stoke’s Tony Pulis after a second successive win, 2-1 against Wimbledon, puts them top of the First. They are joined on maximum points by Palace and Millwall, the latter after a 1-0 win at Sunderland, now just two matches short of setting a League record for consecutive defeats (Mick McCarthy admits to having “harsh words”). West Ham fans protest against their board throughout the 0-0 home draw with Sheffield Utd. Luton, with Iron Mick Harford now back as director of football, shrug off their trying summer to top the Second ahead of equally unfancied Port Vale. Yeovil and Doncaster lead the Third, where Swansea stage the comeback of the day from two down to win 4-3 at Cheltenham, prompting Bobby Gould into ominous talk of “learning curves”.

Sunday 17 Watched by their bashful new owner, Chelsea start with a 2-1 victory at Liverpool, Jimmy Floyd getting the winner in the 87 minute. Claudio Ranieri hopes to keep adding to his squad: “I’d like 22 champions because when I have some problems I have another champion to put into the side.” In keeping with the weekend’s general theme, Alan Curbishley is hopping mad about the penalty that opened the score for Man City in a 3-0 win at Charlton: “It was a disastrous decision. We’ve had the same referee before and not been very happy with him.” Newcastle need a late equaliser from Alan Shearer to salvage a draw at Leeds where Peter Reid sets a daunting target: “They have got to do this week in and week out.” West Brom record their first home win since November, beating have-a-go Burnley 4-1.

Tuesday 19 At a meeting with FA officials yesterday, seething Sol Campbell apparently threatened to quit the England team over what he sees as a “disciplinary  witch-hunt” against him (his hearing over the Solskjaer elbow incident will take place on a ducking stool over a pond). The Rep of Ireland come from behind to win their friendly against Australia 2-1 but Robbie Keane is injured and may be out for a month. “I think there’s a bit of skullduggery going on here,” says Steve Bruce through narrowed eyes as FIFA investigate the transfer of Birmingham’s new striker Luciano Figueroa, who had allegedly already signed for Spanish club Osasuna.

Wednesday 20 Wales are not yet certain of  second place in their Euro 2004 group after a 1-0 defeat in Serbia. England use 21 players in getting one of those flattering friendly wins, 3-1 over Croatia. “Our problem was just that instead of keeping the ball, we played long balls,” says Sven, as though surprised. An FA spokesman describes as “nonsense” Patrick Vieira’s claim that the charge against Sol Campbell proves that Arsenal are being victimised by the football authorities.

Thursday 21 “I know little, but I like what I have found out,” says Gaizka Mendieta, who’s about to sign for Middlesbrough on a one-season loan from Lazio. News of Hammamopolis – Cardiff receive planning permission for a 60,000 seat stadium opposite Ninian Park.

Saturday 23 With his next strike partner, Hernan Crespo, watching, Adrian Mutu scores on his Chelsea debut in a  2-1 home win over Leicester. Claudio Ranieri declines to get excited: “I don’t know how long it will take for us to play as a team.” Man Utd have also won two out of two, coming from behind to beat Newcastle 2-1. Sir Alex is sent off for turning the air blue after Andy O’Brien escapes punishment for hauling down a goal-bound Ryan Giggs. Portsmouth are a minute away from winning the first competitive match at the City of Manchester Stadium before David Sommeil equalises for the home team. Sam Allardyce is fuming after Bolton concede  a  late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Blackburn: “It makes you wonder where we are going to go, because we can’t defend.” “What we need now is team spirit, ” says Paul Ince, after Wolves’ 4-0 home defeat by Charlton. Palace lead the First after a third successive victory, 3-1 “away” at Wimbledon. Loss leaders Sunderland declare at 17, winning  2-0 at Preston. West Ham’s 1-0 defeat at Rotherham is preceded by their refusal to change in the away dressing room, alleged to be too small for their egos. Home wins for Port Vale and Swansea make them the only teams with maximum points in their respective divisions.

Sunday 24 “There is no feeling in the dressing room  that the world is against us,” says Arsène, as a fired-up Arsenal race to a three-goal lead in 20 minutes at Middlesbrough en route to a 4-0 win. Liverpool’s goalless draw at Villa Park is enlivened by some freestyle finger  jabbing between David O’Leary and Phil Thompson.  With impeccable mistiming, the West Ham board decide that this is the moment to part company with Glenn Roeder. Over to you, Trevor.

Wednesday 27 “We’re devastated,” says Sir Bobby, shouting above the sound of a bank manager’s sobs, after Newcastle lose their Champions League qualifier to Partizan Belgrade on penalties after a 1-0 home defeat. Rangers qualify, though, with a 2-1 win away to FC Copenhagen. Arsenal players losing their rag today are Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, whose “war of words” with Olof Mellberg during Villa’s 2-0 defeat at Highbury includes a half-time dust up in the tunnel. Wolves keep Man Utd down to one goal at Old Trafford and might even have won. Chelsea’s new Russian signing Alexei Smertin is to join Portsmouth on a season’s loan, putting paid to rumours that he’d been bought to tell Roman what the players were saying.

Thursday 28 We’re all very excited by the news that Man Utd and Rangers will be the same Champions League group (imagine that as a Premiership fixture!) together with Panathinaikos and VfB Stuttgart. Arsenal don’t appear to sense a UEFA witch-hunt against them after getting Inter, Lokomotiv Moscow and Dinamo Kiev. Chelsea meet Nazio plus Besiktas and Sparta Prague. Martin O’Neill will be jumping up and down on the touchlines of Bayern Munich, Lyon and Anderlecht.

Saturday 30 Michael Owen scores twice in Liverpool’s biggest League win against Everton since 1983 – 3-0 at Goodison. Wolves get their first point in a goalless draw with Portsmouth, during which Harry Redknapp is sent off: “I just questioned the referee’s overall performance.” “My God, we had enough chances there to win three games,” says Steve McClaren, as Middlesbrough drop to joint bottom after losing 3-2 to Leeds. Sir Bobby knows what needs to be fixed after Newcastle’s third home defeat in a week, 1-0 to Birmingham: “We’ve lost getting behind people.” West Brom go top of the First after a 1-0 win at bottom-placed Derby. Trevor Brooking is once more urged to take the West Ham job permanently after their 2-1 win at Ipswich. “He knows how we all feel,” says Christian Dailly. Port Vale’s 1-0 win over Brentford takes them top of the Second ahead of Barnsley, who become the first team this season to drop a point to Notts County. Swansea return to the top of the Third by beating Mansfield 4-1 while previous leaders York crash 3-0 at Lincoln.

Sunday 31 “There was nothing very inspirational out there,” says Sir Alex, after Man Utd once again stumble at Southampton, James Beattie scoring the only goal two minutes from time. Arsenal go behind away to Man City but recover to win 2-1 for a 100 per cent record after four games. Kev defends the just-completed signing of Steve McManaman: “I know he is hungry and has given up quite a lot to come here.”

From WSC 200 October 2003. What was happening this month