February 1998

Wednesday 4 High drama at Barnsley who beat Spurs 3-1 in their replayed Cup tie. With the game scoreless, Stephen Clemence is sent off after collecting a second booking for a dive in the area. (Gerald Ashby is later described by Les Ferdinand as giving "the worst refereeing display I have ever seen".) Late in the game Jurgen Klinsmann is taken off with a suspected broken jaw. Two goals from Alan Shearer prove just about enough to see off Stevenage at St James' Park, 2-1 the final score, though Kenny is still up for a whinge: "Off the pitch they left a lot to be desired. They need to learn a lot about manners". (The crash you can hear is stones being thrown in a glass house).

Saturday 7 A very odd day with Man Utd the only one of the leading clubs to manage a point, Andy Cole getting a late equaliser against Bolton at Old Trafford where the match was preceded by wreath-laying in memory of the Munich air crash. Liverpool miss a chance to close the gap, losing 3-2 at home to Southampton – "It's nice for a bluenose to come here and win. I'm going to have a pint now and a gloat," says David Jones – and Blackburn come badly unstuck against Spurs at Ewood Park where the visitors score twice in the last minute in a 3-0 win. If the papers are right, this saves Christian's job, with Jurgen supposedly about to take over as manager had the match been lost (he'd be in no position to shout instructions for a while, though). The three clubs promoted last season are now in the bottom three places though Barnsley are now level with Bolton after a 2-2 draw with Everton. Newcastle give home debuts to three new signings, including Gary Speed who cost £5.5 million from Everton, but still lose to a Stan Lazaridis goal for West Ham. In Division One the three clubs relegated last season hold the top three places, with Sunderland moving up to third after winning at Wolves. Forest stay top after a 1-0 win at Portsmouth where the Vince Wolanin consortium is poised to make another takeover bid. In Scotland Rangers slip up again, conceding a last-minute equaliser at home to Dunfermline.

Sunday 8 Chelsea miss a chance to close the gap on Man Utd, losing 2-0 at Arsenal. Ruud fumes over the referee's failure to dismiss Steve Bould for fouling Gianluca Vialli when he was in on goal. "Bould absolutely should have been sent off. In any other country he would have been." Hearts and Celtic are level on points with Rangers after a 1-1 draw at Tynecastle. And an appreciative round please for Sporting Gijon of Spain who win their first match of the season at the 24th attempt. They're still twenty points from safety but it's a start.

Monday 9 Landlords 0 Tenants 3 as Palace crash at home to Wimbledon for whom the famously non-scoring Carl Leaburn gets two. "If the chairman wants someone he thinks can do the job better then fair enough," says Steve Coppell, not looking too hard for the silver lining.

Tuesday 10 England B, a strange blend of uncapped under 21s plus Paul Merson and, er, Kevin Pressman, lose 2-1 to Chile, Emile Heskey scoring the goal in injury time. The US beat Brazil for the first time ever, 1-0 in the semi finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Sasa Curcic's transfer to Palace from Villa has been delayed because he is recovering from surgery for a nose reduction (Sas, love, was it worth it?).

Wednesday 11 Michael Owen becomes the youngest England player this century in a comfortable Wembley win, for Chile, who score twice without reply through Marcelo Salas. Like every England manager before him Glenn says "We were reduced to playing too many long balls". But, he goes on, "It's not been a bad thing to take a little expectancy from the nation," so it might all have been a dastardly plan. He's a deep one. Lawrie McMenemy's spell as the Big Jack of Belfast begins with Northern Ireland B beating their Republic of Ireland counterparts 1-0 in Dublin. Graham Roberts is sacked as manager of Yeovil following a row over a fax he allegedly sent to Newcastle wishing them luck against Stevenage in their FA Cup tie.

Thursday 12 Ruud Gullit leaves Chelsea, with Gianluca Vialli taking over as player-manager. According to the club, Gullit's departure followed the breakdown of talks over a new contract, after he had asked for £4 million to re-sign. Gullit, however, claims to have been "astounded" to discover that he had been replaced by Vialli, adding "How can they sack me? It's not fair". "We went through this three years ago when another manager mucked us about. We had to make a decision," says Ken Bates, decisively.

Saturday 14 Steel yourselves for tidal waves, earthquakes and other acts of God: the natural order has been disturbed – Coventry get their first ever win at Villa Park, where they have failed 25 times before, Viorel Moldovan scoring the only goal in their FA Cup fifth round tie. Blackburn recover to draw 2-2 at West Ham after Kevin Gallacher is sent off in the first half for supposedly elbowing Eyal Berkovic. "I didn't see any blood," mutters Roy Hodgson. Alan Shearer's fourth headed goal in the Cup is enough for Newcastle to beat Tranmere. Wolves get a draw at Wimbledon. In the League, a Michael Owen hat-trick brings Liverpool back from two down to draw 3-3 at Sheffield Wednesday. Duncan Ferguson's reformed personality fails to turn up for Everton's home game with Derby and is replaced by his old self who gets sent off after 15 minutes for elbowing Paulo Wanchope. Everton drop back into the worry zone with a 2-1 defeat. Man City director Chris Makin is to launch a takeover bid for the club, who slump into the bottom three in Division One following a 1-0 home defeat by Bury. The Fans United day draws a crowd of over 6,000 to Priestfield where Brighton and Doncaster share a goalless draw. In the Scottish Cup, holders Kilmarnock lose a local derby 2-0 at Ayr, Dundee Utd are held by Inverness Caley and Rangers, who are to be managed next season by PSV's Dick Advocaat, need a late equaliser at Motherwell.

Sunday 15 Arsenal and Man Utd draw at home with Palace and Barnsley respectively. The latter might even have had a late penalty when Andy Liddell appeared to be brought down by Gary Neville. Afterwards Alex takes issue with Andy Gray's view that it would have been given at the other end: "We have had 11 penalties here in nine years and I don't know how he can make a comment like that". "I cannot be held responsible for what members of my family get up to," says Tony Adams, denying knowledge of a World Cup scam by a company run by his sisters who are allegedly selling unauthorised tickets for England's matches.

Tuesday 17 Forest go back to the top of the First Division after a 3-0 home win over Huddersfield and Sunderland close in on second place Sunderland after a 4-1 victory over Reading watched by the biggest crowd in the division this season, 40,579. Portsmouth, who have just announced annual losses of £2 million, get their first win under Alan Ball, 1-0 over Stockport, but remain three points adrift at the bottom. Rangers beat Motherwell 3-0 in their Scottish Cup replay.

Wednesday 18 Chelsea reach the Coke Cup Final by beating Arsenal 3-1 at Stamford Bridge where loony ref Graham Poll shows ten yellow cards and sends off Patrick Vieira early in the second half. "We are at Wembley because of Ruud. We have got to continue what he has done so far," says Vialli, who will presumably be dropping himself for the next match. Last year's runners-up Middlesbrough are in the final too after scoring in the second and third minutes to beat Liverpool 3-2 on aggregate. "We had a game plan and it was out of the window in four minutes," groans that nice Uncle Roy. In the Premier League Man Utd go seven points clear after scoring twice in the last ten minutes to see off Villa whose best player is°≠ Savo Milosevic, getting in a bit of match practice for the World Cup. Frank Clark's off and Joe Royle is the new manager of Man City, saying "Whatever it takes for this massive club to be in the right division next season we will do". Not the best of starts though as City lose to a last-minute goal at home to Ipswich. In Scotland Dundee Utd are taken to extra time by Inverness Caley before winning their fourth round replay 3-2. Former Wales midfielder Robbie James dies, aged 40, while playing for non-League Llanelli. He had played 782 League games, a record bettered by only three others. Home Secretary Jack Straw vetoes a new inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster after a report comissioned by the government, while critical of the police for their handling of the match, claimed not to find sufficient new evidence to justify re-opening the inquiry.

Saturday 21 Premiership strugglers Man Utd win for a change, 2-0 against Derby, and go nine points clear. Arsenal move up to second after beating Palace 1-0 ("we are just no sort of threat going forwards," says Steve Coppell) while Blackburn and Chelsea wave ta-ta to their title hopes by losing at Southampton and Leicester respectively ("I am depressed but I am not going to cry," says Gianluca). All of which won't have improved Ken Bates' mood – he has threatened to sue fellow grump Ars®®ne Wenger for alleging that Chelsea players conned the ref by diving during their midweek Coke Cup semi. In the cellar, Barnsley lose to a last- minute penalty at Coventry (no complaints from Gordon Strachan this time), Bolton draw with West Ham, Spurs lose 1-0 at Sheffield Wed ("My job is to bring back belief," says Christian) and Villa are beaten 2-1 at Wimbledon. Middlesbrough win the big match in Div One, beating Sunderland 3-1 at the Riverside, and close the gap on Forest who draw at Stoke. Man City, apparently open to offers for Georgi Kinkladze, win away at Swindon, 3-1, but stay in the bottom three. Celtic's Norwegian striker Harald Brattbakk gets all the goals in their 4-0 win over Kilmarnock but Rangers stay top after a late winner at Hibs. (Who was the last Harold in the English League? We think it was Harold Jarman of Bristol Rovers, before you were born.)

Monday 23 Everton stretch their unbeaten run in Mersey derbies to eight games after a 1-1 draw at Anfield, Paul Ince equalising an opening goal from Duncan Ferguson. °ÆWe can still win it," says Uncle Roy of the League title, "If we can't win it from our position, who can?" Answers on a postcard. Robbie Fowler is injured at the end of the match and will be out for at least six months.

Tuesday 24 Brian Little resigns as Villa boss in mysterious circumstances. "We are in the process of securing another manager," says Doug Ellis, whittling another notch on his gun barrel. Bruce Rioch is hotly tipped though a couple of newspapers seem to think that Terry Venables and David Platt would form a "dream team". Dermot Gallagher is suspended from refereeing for one match following criticism of his performance in the Arsenal v Chelsea League game. Computer millionaire Mark Goldberg has reached agreement with Ron Noades that will allow him to take control of Palace before the end of the year. Goldberg, who has denied reports linking him to a company selling unauthorised World Cup tickets, is known to want El Terrible as manager and hopes to tempt him with shares when the club is floated on the stock exchange. Tears, it'll end in.

Wednesday 25 This season's treble goes west as Barnsley knock Man Utd out of the Cup,with reserve defender Scott Jones scoring twice in a 3-2 win, though United felt the first was offside. "After the hullabaloo over the penalty Barnsley didn't get at Old Trafford we expected them to get most of the decisions this time," chuckles Alex. In other replays West Ham beat Blackburn on pens , Arsenal win 2-1 at Palace and Wolves beat Wimbledon by the same score. Celtic go top in Scotland with Hearts second after both win home matches. John Gregory leaves Wycombe to become manager of his former club, Aston Villa. Brian Little finally speaks about his departure, saying obscurely: "There were certain things going on behind the scenes affecting my position". Steve Gritt is sacked by Brighton who have won only four games this season. One-time club captain Brian Horton, the man with the manic stare, is to take over.

Thursday 26 FIFA announce that England fans are to receive a total of 9,128 tickets for their three World Cup group matches. Scotland fare slightly better with up to 5,000 tickets likely to be available for their opener against Brazil."It leaves open an awful lot of questions, the main one being who is getting all the tickets? It all stacks up to a black market," says Tony Banks, just beginning to get the hang of this football thing.

Saturday 28 Man Utd stay a furlong ahead with a 1-0 win at Chelsea, courtesy of Phil Neville's first-ever League goal: "I didn't know how to celebrate but David Beckham was coming over so I just ran." Blackburn move up to second after a 5-3 win over Leicester which includes a hat-trick from England refusenik Chris Sutton but Liverpool drop to fourth after another angry young man, Stan Collymore, scores twice for Villa in a 2-1 win and exchanges kicks with former team- mates in the process. Barnsley are off the bottom for the first time in four months after beating Wimbledon 2-1 while Palace, who print the First Division table in their programme, crash at home again, this time 3-0 to Coventry whose seventh successive win is a club record. In Scotland Celtic are two points clear after winning at Hibs while Rangers and Hearts draw with each other.

From WSC 134 April 1998. What was happening this month