December 2005

Thursday 1 Neil Warnock says no so Portsmouth want to talk to Harry Redknapp. Celestine Babayaro and Tim Cahill receive three-match bans for exchanging blows in last week’s Everton v Newcastle match.

Saturday 3 In the FA Cup, Tamworth again win away to League opponents, this time 2‑1 at Hartlepool. Stevenage draw 2‑2 with Northampton; police are to investigate a touchline fight involving the respective goalkeeping coaches. Forest’s dire cup form continues with a 3‑0 defeat at Chester. Chelsea hold a ten-point lead after a 1‑0 defeat of Middlesbrough. Man Utd’s 3‑0 win over Portsmouth keeps them second. Bells peal throughout the land as Peter Crouch scores his first Liverpool goal (or two) in the 3‑0 defeat of Wigan. Robbie Keane misses a penalty and scores with his hand in Spurs’ 3‑2 defeat of Sunderland; afterwards Martin Jol confirms that Keane and Edgar Davids had a training-ground punch-up. Andy Todd, an habitué of the early bath, is sent off for a first-half handball in Blackburn’s 2‑0 home defeat by Everton. Madcap Liam Ridgewell concedes a fourth penalty in five games as Villa draw 1‑1 at Newcastle; Gareth Barry misses an 88th-minute spot-kick. Arsenal slip to fifth after a 2‑0 defeat at the Reebok, which has Sam Allardyce praising his team’s physical effort: “The thing about us is our fitness. We got them dispirited.” United win the Sheffield derby 1‑0 to stay four points behind Championship leaders Reading, who beat Luton 3‑0. Millwall stay bottom after Palace grab a 93rd-minute equaliser. After Stoke’s 2‑1 home defeat by QPR, two home fans run on to attack visiting keeper Simon Royce. Harry Redknapp resigns as Southampton manager, saying: “I had some of the best times of my life with Portsmouth and I cannot think what possessed me to leave.” Swindon move off the bottom of League One with a 1‑0 defeat of Rotherham, for whom it’s a 16th match without a win.

Sunday 4 “That hurt me and I hope it hurt the players,” says Alan Curbishley as Charlton crash 5‑2 at home to Man City, a sixth loss in a row. Knocked off the top by Hearts’ win over Livingston yesterday, Celtic resume the SPL lead by beating Aberdeen 3‑1. David Beckham is sent off for the third time this season in Real Madrid’s match with Getafe, then has to be stopped from confronting opposition coach Bernd Schuster.

Monday 5 “I’m fed up of making excuses,” says Steve Bruce after Birmingham slump to a sixth defeat in seven home games, 2‑1 to West Ham. Paul Gascoigne is sacked by Kettering for being repeatedly drunk. “There have been 37 separate incidents since he became manager,” says chairman Imraan Ladak. Gascoigne is later arrested for allegedly assaulting a photographer (though no charges are pressed). Milan Mandaric claims that he has given up on appointing Harry Redknapp because Southampton want too much compensation. Instead, he is talking to Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez after the Irish FA back down on reporting Portsmouth over an illegal approach.

Tuesday 6 Alex McLeish may yet keep his job as Rangers draw 1-1 with Inter to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Chelsea and Liverpool play out a dreary goalless draw, the main talking point of which is a wild tackle by Michael Essien on Dietmar Hamann, missed by the referee. A 2‑0 win at Scunthorpe takes Swansea two points clear in League One, while rivals Huddersfield concede two in the last ten minutes to draw 2‑2 at MK Dons. José, Rafa and Arsène all rule themselves out of the running for the vacancy at Real Madrid created by the weekend dismissal of Vanderlei Luxemburgo. Joe Kinnear, possibly hoping to hurry Florentino Pérez into a decision, says he’s been asked to become Hearts’ director of football.

Wednesday 7 Man Utd take a sixth-minute lead in Lisbon but are out of Europe, a 2‑1 defeat to Benfica meaning they fail to make the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in ten years. Sir Alex intends to stick around: “I am in shock but we are rebuilding.” Arsenal miss a penalty for the fourth time this season in a 0‑0 draw with Ajax. Gawd help us, strike a light, Harry Redknapp’s only gone back to Portsmouth. “This saga had got to the stage of being an embarrassment for football as a whole,” says Rupert Lowe, speaking sense as ever. The FA are to investigate betting on the appointment, with £16 million having been wagered in the past fortnight.
Friday 9 England are drawn in a World Cup group with Sweden, Paraguay and Trinidad. “It is not an easy group, but it could have been worse,” says Sven, suffering from a severe case of understatement. Italy must face the United States, the Czech Republic and Ghana; Argentina get Serbia & Montenegro, Holland and Ivory Coast.

Saturday 10 Chelsea’s 1‑0 defeat of Wigan gives them a 12-point lead over second‑placed Liverpool, who keep a ninth consecutive clean sheet as two Fernando Morientes goals beat Middlesbrough. “If anyone wants me I’ll be in the pub for the next two days,” says Steve Bruce as Birmingham move up to 18th after finally winning at home, Nicky Butt getting the only goal against Fulham. Charlton end their losing streak with a 2‑0 victory against Sunderland, who have now lost nine in a row. Mick McCarthy is not planning a rethink: “We have to carry on scrapping. It’s the only way I know.” Juan Pablo Angel’s 88th-minute equaliser for Villa is only the second home goal Bolton have conceded. Gilberto Silva is sent off in Arsenal’s tempestuous 1‑0 defeat at Newcastle, where Alan Shearer rejects Arsène’s claim that the home side were too rough: “You have to be physical. I’ve never seen Vieira pulling out of challenges.” The Championship’s top two plough on: Dave Kitson scores a hat-trick in Reading’s 5‑1 defeat of Brighton while Sheffield Utd beat Burnley 3‑0. Leeds fans chant “Stand up if you hate Ridsdale” during their former chief executive’s return with his current club, Cardiff, but the visitors go on to win 1‑0. Bristol City end a run of nine defeats and move of the bottom of League One by beating second‑placed Huddersfield 2‑0. Mick Harford is sacked by Rotherham after a 2‑1 defeat by Yeovil that keeps them in the bottom four. League Two leaders Wycombe are four points clear after being the only team in the top six to win, 3‑0 against Rochdale. For the second match in a row 24th-placed Torquay come back from 3‑1 down to draw 3‑3, this time with Oxford, but are still three points from safety.

Sunday 11 Final-whistle boos at Old Trafford as Man Utd draw 1‑1 with Everton. Sir Alex saves a special jeer for the ref: “I thought we had a clear penalty claim but we weren’t going to get one off Rob Styles, no chance.” Steven Gerrard comes third in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award, won by Andrew Flintoff.

Monday 12 Portsmouth lose 3‑1 at Spurs, though they are drawing until a questionable penalty award six minutes from time. Pompey players later claim that Martin Jol was seen having a half-time conversation with referee Uriah Rennie, which Jol says is “total rubbish”. Sheffield Utd become the first British club to own an overseas side, buying Chenddu Five Bull of the Chinese second division. “Our transformation into a full football, property and leisure services business continues apace,” says executive chairman Kevin McCabe.
Tuesday 13 Sir Alex storms out of a press conference, claiming people are out to get his team: “Within sections of the media there is a hatred of Manchester United that has always been there.” Real Madrid appear to have pulled out of the running to sign Roy Keane.

Wednesday 14 A 1‑1 draw with Sevilla takes Bolton into the knockout stage of the UEFA Cup. Man Utd return to second place with a 4‑0 win over Wigan, the latter’s fifth successive defeat.

Thursday 15 The irrepressible Peter Crouch scores twice in the 3‑0 win over Deportivo Saprissa that takes Liverpool into the Club World Championship final. “I am a team player despite a lot of reports,” says Roy Keane on joining Celtic. Just over 9,000 at the Riverside watch Middlesbrough’s last UEFA group match, a 2‑0 win over Litex Lovech. Michael Essien gets a two-match ban for his tackle on Dietmar Hamann.

Friday 16 Arsenal will visit Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League last 16; fellow group winners Liverpool go to Benfica. Chelsea and Rangers will be in Spain in their second legs, at Barcelona and Villarreal. In the UEFA Cup, Bolton pull out Marseille and Boro get Stuttgart. In the Championship, a Preston v Sheffield Utd match finishes goalless for the first time in 97 years.

Saturday 17 Manchester United cut Chelsea’s lead to six points with a 2‑0 win at Villa. Henri Camara gets all Wigan’s goals as they break a five-match losing run with a 3‑0 defeat of Charlton; Michael Owen also gets a hat-trick, in Newcastle’s 4‑2 win at West Ham. Bolton have now scored as many goals at Goodison this season as Everton, whom they beat 4‑0. Portsmouth move to within three points of West Brom after beating them 1‑0 with Svetoslav Todorov’s first Premiership goal. Birmingham are second bottom after a particularly inept 4‑1 loss at Man City, who might have had ten. Reading’s Championship lead extends to six points, a 2‑0 win over Millwall being their 23rd league match without defeat. Steve Coppell refuses to think about promotion: “There are 22 matches to go and we still haven’t played every team in the division.” Dean Ashton, strongly linked with Wigan, scores a hat-trick in Norwich’s 3‑2 defeat of Southampton. Swansea have their League One lead cut to two points after a 2‑1 defeat at Doncaster; Brentford’s 4‑1 win at Tranmere takes them second. League Two Wycombe lose for the first time, 2‑1 at Bury, but stay four points clear, while Stockport, winless in seven games, are two points adrift at the bottom following a 2‑0 loss at Notts County.

Sunday 18 Plenty of needle in Chelsea’s 2‑0 win at Arsenal, who have what appears to be a good goal by Robin van Persie disallowed at 0‑0. Arsène will be helping the FA with their inquiries after saying: “I associate the referee and linesmen in the same team – the Chelsea team.” Liverpool lose 1‑0 to São Paulo in the Club World Championship final.

Tuesday 20 Wigan reach the Carling Cup semis, their first appearance in the last four of a major competition, with a 2‑0 defeat of Bolton, while Man Utd win 3‑1 at Birmingham, after which Steve Bruce apologises for waving to the travelling fans who were singing his name: “As soon as I put my hand up I thought to myself, ‘I shouldn’t really have done that’.” José says his cold war with Arsenal will continue because they questioned whether he’d written the conciliatory message contained in a Christmas card to Arsène. The latter’s mood will not be improved by referees’ boss Keith Hackett saying that Van Persie’s goal should have stood.

Wednesday 21 Agony for Doncaster, who lead Arsenal 2-1 in their Carling Cup quarter-final till Gilberto equalises in the last seconds; Arsenal win on penalties. “They appreciated that we didn’t try to bully them and played the right way,” says Rovers boss Dave Penney. A 90th-minute Blackburn goal beats Middlesbrough. Palace reject a West Ham bid of £5.5m for Andy Johnson.

Friday 23 George Burley is to be Southampton’s head coach with Sir Clive Woodward buffing up his clipboard as director of football. Departing caretaker Dave Bassett is not best pleased: “The players wanted Dennis Wise and myself to take over but the chairman decided not – that’s his prerogative.” Villa could have new owners in days, if Irish property developers Brian and Luke Comer can come to an agreement with Doug Ellis.

Monday 26 Chelsea lose a two-goal lead at home to Fulham, but win 3‑2. Michael Owen is jeered on his return to Anfield in Newcastle’s 2‑0 defeat, with Lee Bowyer sent off. Man Utd stay second, six points ahead of Liverpool, after a 3‑0 defeat of West Brom. Arsenal get a second away win, 1‑0 at Charlton. Wigan hang on for a 4‑3 victory over Man City, who pull two late goals back, to the annoyance of Paul Jewell: “We’d started playing ‘olé’ football.” Everton crash 4‑0 again, this time at Villa, with David Moyes reduced to harping on about Milan Baros having handled the ball before scoring the opener. To howls from an increasingly disgruntled support, Middlesbrough lose at home to Blackburn for the second time in five days, this time 2‑0. “We have stopped that run of ‘Ls’ alongside our name,” says Mick McCarthy as Sunderland pick up a sixth point with a goalless draw against Bolton, but Birmingham lose again, 2‑0 at fourth-placed Spurs. Reading close in on that dream fixture at Wigan after extending their Championship lead to nine points with a 2‑0 win at Wolves; Sheffield United go down 3‑1 at home to Norwich, though they’re a further nine points in front of Watford and Leeds. Brentford replace Swansea at the top of League One after beating them 2‑1. Stockport anchor themselves firmly to the foot of League Two with a 6‑0 defeat at Macclesfield, though striker Tes Bramble returns to his grooming products after only 17 minutes. At the other end, a 2‑2 draw at Torquay cuts Wycombe’s lead to two points, from Grimsby and Leyton Orient, 5‑1 winners over Rushden.

Wednesday 28 A late goal from Joe Cole is enough for Chelsea to beat Man City. José insists that team spirit, not money, is the key ingredient: “This is the power of a group of friends working together.” Liverpool are second after a ninth successive win, 3‑1 at Everton, who have two players sent off after all the scoring. Man Utd drop a place after Walter Pandiani’s second goal of the season forces a 2‑2 draw for Birmingham. West Brom move five points clear of the relegation area, beating Spurs with two Kanu goals, both of which he celebrates by lifting up startled ballboys. Third-bottom Portsmouth are thrashed 4‑0 at Arsenal, which doesn’t surprise Harry at all: “I had to put in some players I’ve not even see play before.” Villa equalise three times in their 3‑3 draw at Fulham. Ten wins in a row for Reading, this time 2‑0 against Leicester; Sheffield Utd remain comfortably second after a 1‑0 win at Southampton. With a big freeze causing postponements, Huddersfield squander a chance to lead League One, crashing 3‑0 at home to Port Vale.

Saturday 31 Chelsea pass the 100-point mark for 2005 with a 2‑0 canter against Birmingham. José marks the occasion by criticising Joe Cole for being too flash: “I told him one more match like that and he is out.” Man Utd mark Sir Alex’s 64th birthday with a 4‑1 win over Bolton. Peter Crouch’s fifth goal in five games beats West Brom, giving Liverpool their best run since 1982. Michael Owen breaks his foot in Newcastle’s 2‑0 defeat at Spurs and will be out until at least March. Sunderland fail to score at home for the sixth successive match, a 1‑0 defeat by Everton. Middlesbrough are only four points above the relegation area after a sixth winless match, a 0‑0 draw with Man City. Fulham succumb 1‑0 at Fortress Fratton as Portsmouth move to within two points of 17th spot. Crewe slip to the bottom of the Championship with a 4‑3 home defeat by QPR, while Millwall and Sheffield Wed both win away, the latter scoring for the first time in seven games in a 2‑1 victory at Burnley. Brentford drop to third in League One after a 2‑0 home defeat by Colchester; Swansea, who draw at Swindon, take over on goal difference. Wycombe, 2‑1 winners at Bristol Rovers, maintain their lead in League Two. Stockport are five points adrift and have sacked Chris Turner. Still, their fans are probably happier than those of Sunderland, whose year is rounded off by stories linking them with Kevin Keegan.

From WSC 228 February 2006. What was happening this month