August 2004

Sunday 1 Mark Palios resigns, saying: “My action is essential to enable the Football Association to begin to return to normality.” Sven gossip-broker Colin Gibson is also reported to have offered to quit. At this rate Tord Grip will soon be answering the phones.

Monday 2 Back from his hols as bright as you please, David Davies is appointed FA caretaker chief executive and says: “It’s time for us to rally the staff. Our job is to come through this difficult time together.” Real Madrid make an offer for Patrick Vieira, but it’s only £16 million while Arsenal want double that, plus a pound.

Tuesday 3 “The meeting could not have gone better,” beams Sven after talks with the FA’s lawyers. Director of communications Colin Gibson has his resignation accepted by the FA board. Crystal Palace replica shirts have to be withdrawn from sale because their name on one of the crests is spelled “Chrystal”. Fulham may be barred from transfer dealings by FIFA if they fail to pay the £1.3m Metz are claiming as a sell-on fee for Louis Saha.

Thursday 5 Sven is to stay after the FA decide he has “no case to answer”. David Davies and Geoff Thompson escape without criticism, though a statement concedes that “deficiencies surrounding management procedures have been exposed”. Haven’t they, though? There will be more embarrassment, as Faria Alam agrees media deals for her story.

Friday 6 Arsenal are surprise bidders for West Ham’s Michael Carrick, previously expected to join Portsmouth. Wayne Rooney may sign a new Everton contract if there is an escape clause allowing him to talk to Man Utd, oops, any potential buyer, if they bid a certain amount. Mark Wright resigns at Chester.

Saturday 7 The first goal of the season comes in Leeds’ early kick-off with Derby, Frazer Richardson securing the points for the home team. Debutant Maheta Malongo scores after 19 seconds for Reading at Brighton, who equalise within a minute and go on to win 3-2. Among the five sendings-off are Dion Dublin after 17 minutes of his Leicester debut following a tussle with Rufus Brevett – who departs later himself – and Port Vale’s Billy Paynter, punished for going into the crowd for a manly hug after scoring in his side’s 3-2 defeat at Walsall (Vale boss Martin Foyle is also ordered off for protesting). Ken Bates will be smirking as Sheffield Wednesday suffer the day’s worst home defeat, Colchester’s three goals coming in the final six minutes. Milton Keynes Dons begin with a 1-1 home draw against Barnsley, which is fine with manager Stuart Murdoch: “We won our first game last season and look what happened to us then.” Here’s a peculiar thing – none of the 12 home teams in League Two managed a first-half goal, though five went on to win their matches, including Darlington, whose 1-0 defeat of Grimsby is their first first-day victory since 1982. Gretna record the day’s biggest score, 6-0 over Albion Rovers. Japan win the Asian Cup, beating hosts China 3-1.

Sunday 8 Arsenal take the Community Shield with a 3-1 win over Man Utd. Patrick Vieira misses the match but his manager still hopes he will stick around: “The club doesn’t want the money, the club doesn’t want him to go.” “We’re just glad to get through the game with no more injuries,” says Sir Alex, who will take a depleted squad to Bucharest for the Champions League qualifier. Remounting his hobby horse, Sepp Blatter says FIFA may force domestic leagues to be cut to 18 teams to help the “over-tired” Nike and Adidas stars avoid burnout.

Monday 9 Robert Pires implies that the Arsenal squad have already bought Patrick his big leaving card: “All the players wanted him to stay but he has made a choice and we respect that.” Martin O’Neill admits to an approach for Alan Shearer, believed to be brooding at Newcastle. Lee Hughes is jailed for six years after being found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving last November. Mateja Kezman has his three-match ban lifted after winning an appeal for wrongful dismissal against Roma.

Tuesday 10 Liverpool win 2-0 in Graz in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier. Michael Owen, linked with a move to Real Madrid after his interminable contract talks hit another snag, stays on the bench. Rangers lose 2-1 at CSKA Moscow. Having turned down a move to Spurs, Danny Murphy joins Charlton, as does ex-renard Francis Jeffers. Darren Anderton rejects a move back to Pompey in favour of a one-year deal at Birmingham. Stephen Carr is “very excited” at the prospect of joining Newcastle from Spurs for £2m. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be out for the season with a knee injury. The Football League announce that average crowds on the opening day were the highest in the three divisions since 1965-66. In the, sigh, Championship, Leeds lose 2-1 in their first league match at Gillingham. Teddy Sheringham scores the only goal on his home debut for West Ham, against Reading. Relegation favourites Macclesfield are among four clubs with two wins in their first two League Two games.

Wednesday 11 Man Utd are set up for the Champions League after coming from a goal down to win 2-1 against Dinamo in Bucharest. Sir Alex is especially pleased with one of his new boys: “From the moment he walked through the door, Alan Smith has been sensational.” Shelbourne draw 0-0 at home with Deportivo. In the Championship, Derby have no points from two games after losing 2-1 at home to Leicester. Luton’s 3-2 win at Swindon makes them one of four clubs with maximum points in League One. Portsmouth’s spiky owner Milan Mandaric criticises Arsenal after they withdraw from the Michael Carrick bidding race: “They have been arrogant. If you don’t want a player you should not declare an interest.” The Premier League turn down Newcastle’s request to postpone Saturday’s match at Middlesbrough because five of their players are ill with over-spending. No, it’s conjunctivitis. Paolo Di Canio returns home to Lazio.

Thursday 12 Zinedine Zidane retires from international football to spend more time with Paul Scholes. Spurs sign Nourredine Naybet from Deportivo. In their first European tie since 1969, Dunfermline come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Hafnafjordur of Iceland in the UEFA Cup.

Friday 13 Arsène is punching the air as Patrick Vieira’s move is called off, seemingly because Arsenal asked for more, though the player claims it was his decision. Michael Owen, however, is heading for the Bernabéu. “Real Madrid started talking with his agent and in the end it was an impossible situation to control,” says Rafa Benítez. Liverpool will get midfielder Antonio Nuñez (no, we don’t know either) in part exchange.

Saturday 14 Jay-Jay Okocha scores twice as Bolton thrash Charlton 4-1. “Anybody would have struggled to live with us,” says Sam Allardyce, while Alan Curbishley is pale with shock: “We were a shadow of any Charlton team I have ever put out.” Villa are the only other Premiership winners, beating Southampton 2-0 with debutant Carlton Cole getting the second. Djibril Cissé also scores on his debut in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Spurs, as does Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with a last-minute leveller for Boro in their 2-2 home draw with Newcastle, who omit the ever-charming Kieron Dyer after a row with Sir Bobby. Steve Bruce fumes over Portsmouth’s penalty in a 1-1 draw at Birmingham and the one he felt his side should have got late on: “I don’t want to bleat like a typical Premiership manager but I thought the referee got it the wrong way round.” Late drama in the Championship: Leeds draw 0-0 at Wolves thanks to Neil Sullivan’s 90th-minute penalty save; an 89th-minute goal in a 1-1 draw at Coventry earns Brighton a first point; QPR are denied a first win by an injury-time equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Sunderland – “The mistakes we’re making are criminal,” says Ian Holloway. It’s three wins in three for Luton and Colchester in League One while Colin Hendry’s point-free start at Blackpool continues with a 4-0 home defeat by Stockport. Macclesfield have the only 100 per cent record in League Two after a 1-0 victory over Swansea, with newly promoted Chester and Shrewsbury in the bottom two places. On the opening day of the Conference, more than 7,000 see Carlisle’s 0-0 draw with Canvey Island.

Sunday 15 José 1 Sir Alex 0 as Eidur Gudjohnsen scores the only goal at Stamford Bridge. “Sometimes football is beautiful because of competitiveness, effort, organisation and enthusiasm,” says the winning manager, who apparently shared a snifter with his arch nemesis afterwards. Arsenal thump Everton 4-1 to move within a match of the League record for staying unbeaten. Arsène thinks they could have done better: “You could see we are not all there physically because our level dropped a little bit at times,” while David Moyes knows he has a stiff task: “This is probably the toughest job in Premiership, but it’s a great challenge.” Wigan top the Championship after a 3-1 win at West Ham, where home fans chant local favourite “Brown Out!”.

Tuesday 17 Kieron Dyer’s agent tries some damage limitation “Rumours of him leaving are rubbish. He loves Newcastle and the Newcastle fans.” Rangers will contest a five-match ban imposed on Alex Rae for kicking the head of a CSKA Moscow player.

Wednesday 18 Shaun Wright-Phillips scores on his England debut in a 3-0 win over Ukraine. Sven is particularly pleased with his surrogate son, David, who scores the first: “You can’t expect him to be the best for England every time, but this was a very good answer.” Kieron Dyer is booed throughout by a section of the St James’ Park crowd. Scotland’s woeful friendlies record continues with a 3-0 loss to Hungary, their worst home defeat in 31 years. “We are capable of giving anyone in the world a good game,” says Mark Hughes after Wales win 2-0 in Latvia. The Republic of Ireland are held 1-1 at home by Bulgaria, while the North extend their unbeaten run to six, with one of their specialist 0-0 draws, this time in Switzerland.

Friday 20 Real Madrid’s sudden and surprising Anglophilia extends to, er, Jonathan Woodgate, for whom they pay £14m. “I didn’t want him to go but who could deny him this opportunity?” says Sir Bobby. Barcelona’s Luis Garcia becomes Liverpool’s third Spanish player. Preston’s Ricardo Fuller will join Portsmouth on a pay-for-play basis due to a dicky knee. Bradford City come out of administration. Everton chairman Bill Kenwright claims to have struck a deal with a Russian businessman who will invest £20m in the club for a 40 per cent stake.

Saturday 21 Chelsea are top after Joe Cole scores the only goal at Birmingham. José Mourinho is furious with “the blond player” (aka Robbie Savage) whose elbow on Mateja Kezman is not spotted by the referee. Even a half-time rap by Keith Allen and Mohamed Fayed can’t spoil Fulham’s return to Craven Cottage, where two Andy Cole goals beat Bolton. Alan Smith scores on his home debut, but Man Utd are made to sweat for a 2-1 home win over Norwich. Graeme Souness does his scornful expression as Blackburn lose 3-2 to James Beattie’s hotly contested late penalty at Southampton; Barry Ferguson is yellow-carded twice but not sent off by the singular Andy D’Urso. Harry Redknapp is ready for “a nice glass of arsenic” after a Shaka Hislop fumble three minutes from time gifts Charlton a 2-1 win. Plymouth’s 2-1 defeat of Sunderland takes them to their highest ever position, second on goal difference to Championship leaders Wigan, who beat bottom-placed Brighton 3-0. Stoke and Forest also remain unbeaten. “I’m upset, the players are upset and the fans are upset,” observes Micky Adams, whose Leicester side are booed off after letting in a 90th-minute winner at home to Watford. Luton are three points clear in League One after a fourth win, 1-0 against Torquay. Colchester debutant Paul Hunt is sent off ten seconds after coming on as a sub in their 2-1 defeat at Chesterfield. Scunthorpe’s last-minute 3-2 win over Lincoln takes them to the top of League Two, where Chester are now bottom though they did get a point in a 1-1 draw at Bury. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Alonso becomes the fifth Spaniard (Rafa included) at Anfield, while Diego Forlán leaves Man Utd for Villarreal.

Sunday 22 Arsenal equal Forest’s 42-match unbeaten run, coming from 3-1 down to beat Middlesbrough 5-3. “I don’t know how my team finds the mental reserves,” beams Arsène. “You are never safe from them,” whispers Steve McClaren, glancing around. “I’d like to say what I think but it’s too expensive,” says David O’Leary after an Olof Mellberg header appears to be cleared from behind the line during Villa’s 1-1 draw at West Brom.

Monday 23 Paul Sturrock leaves Southampton, with chairman Rupert Lowe obtusely blaming “a constant stream of negative media coverage” for the departure. Everton postpone a board meeting at which they were to discuss an investment offer involving one Anton Zingarevich, son of the world’s 67th richest wood pulp manufacturer. That blond player is charged for his elbow on Kezman and Andy D’Urso will also face an inquiry for his double booking. Former Brazil star Dunga is part of a consortium who may be taking a large stake in QPR.

Tuesday 24 Liverpool limp into the Champions League after a 1-0 home defeat by Graz. Rafa is perturbed: “Our problem is everyone’s problem. We need to work harder.” Shelbourne lose 3-0 in La Coruña. In the Carling Cup, four Championship clubs are knocked out by League Two opponents: Derby lose 3-1 at Lincoln and Gillingham go down 2-1 at home to Northampton. Grimsby beat Wigan and Plymouth are beaten 3-2 at Yeovil, where home boss Gary Johnson orders his team to allow their opponents to equalise after his son Lee accidentally scores while returning the ball after a team-mate has been injured. Newcastle offer £20m for Wayne Rooney, then threaten legal action over press claims of a phony bidding war that would eventually see the player moving to Man Utd while John O’Shea heads for St James’ Park. After a summer playing kiss chase with several managers, Michael Carrick finally signs for Spurs.

Wednesday 25 Arsenal set a new record for unbeaten league matches with a 3-0 win over Blackburn. Arsène proclaims: “We will not relax now. This record shows that we have become better from season to season.” Franny Jeffers finally raids the henhouse, scoring twice in Charlton’s 3-0 win over Villa. Norwich come from two down to draw 2-2 with Newcastle – one of whose scorers, Craig Bellamy, says he will “consider my position” if the club sign Wayne Rooney. Man Utd reach the Champions League group stage with a 3-0 win over Dinamo Bucharest. They also match Newcastle’s bid for the baby elephant. Rangers will get their kicks in the UEFA Cup after a 1-1 draw with CSKA Moscow. Real Madrid deny that Spurs have made a bid for Luis Figo. Tears on Teesside as Juninho joins Celtic.

Thursday 26 Everton turn down Man Utd’s Roonaldo opener and a larger bid of £23m from Newcastle. Wayne is also asked to put in a written transfer request to avoid that “loyalty bonus” malarkey. José is homeward bound as Chelsea’s Champions League group includes Porto, plus CSKA Moscow, whose shirts are sponsored by one of Roman’s companies (to the anxiety of UEFA). PSV and Lyon look to be the strongest opposition for Arsenal and Man Utd respectively. Liverpool get Deportivo and Monaco, Celtic have Barcelona and AC Milan. “I am shocked, embarrassed and angry,” says Dunfermline keeper Derek Stillie after they lose 2-1 at home to Hafnafjordur in the UEFA Cup.

Friday 27 Newcastle get Hapoel Sakhnin of Israel in the UEFA Cup. Millwall will entertain Ferencvaros’s Nazi bonehead following. Boro get Banik Ostrava. Rangers and Hearts draw Portuguese clubs Maritimo and Braga.

Saturday 28
Arsenal continue to pulverise all-comers, winning 4-1 at Norwich. “I almost applauded the second myself,” says Nigel Worthington. James Beattie scores after 12 seconds for Southampton at Chelsea but later contributes an own goal as the home side keep up their 100 per cent record with a 2-1 win. Man Utd pilfer an injury-time equaliser at Blackburn, with Louis Saha handling before Alan Smith scores – “Another decision the referee got wrong,” laughs Sir Alex. Controversy, too, at Villa, who are drawing two each with Newcastle (Patrick Kluivert, preferred to Alan Shearer, scores one) when Thomas Sorensen handles outside his area but is only booked. “We’ve got to come up with some answers,” says Alan Curbishley as Charlton are thrashed away again, 4-0 at Man City. Palace are anchored to the bottom after a third successive defeat, 2-1 at Middlesbrough. In the Championship, Stoke’s 1-0 win at Cardiff takes them joint top, level with Wigan, who draw at Sunderland. “I think I’ll go home and slash my wrists,” quips Joe Kinnear after winless Forest’s 4-1 home defeat by Coventry. Luton are three points clear in League One after a fifth successive win, 3-1 at Blackpool. Bristol Rovers lead League Two by two points. Paul Gascoigne, still blond and weirdly thin, makes his debut for Boston in a 1-0 defeat at Cheltenham. New Chester manager Ian Rush sees his team stay bottom after a 3-0 defeat by Darlington. Comeback of the day is by Dundee, 4-1 down at Hibs then scoring three to get a point.

Sunday 29 Craig Brown leaves Preston, currently fifth bottom and beaten at Brighton yesterday. Bolton go third with a 1-0 win over Liverpool. An Alan Thompson goal five minutes from time is enough to win the Old Firm match at Parkhead. Leeds’ shaky start continues with a 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Utd. Speaking through his ventriloquist, Mr Stretford, Wayne Rooney thinks that Everton have been briefing against him: “I’m disgusted. It’s clear that it is time for me to leave.” The Sunday newspapers seem to think that Sir Bobby is on his way, too.

From WSC 212 October 2004. What was happening this month