February 1999

Monday 1 Glenn Hoddle refuses to step down as England coach, but Tony Blair and, more importantly, the Nationwide building society come out against him. "He has a responsibility to ensure that his personal views shouldn't be confused with those of the England team, the FA or its sponsors," says Mike Lazenby, Nationwide's marketing director. "I'm not some crackpot who comes out with stupid remarks to cause controversy," Hoddle insists, despite all evidence to the contrary. John Hartson is fined £20,000 and given a three-match ban by the FA for his training-ground attack on Eyal Berkovic. "I have to control my aggression," Hartson says, which will be unwelcome news to his manager.

Tuesday 2 Glenn Hoddle's contract is terminated by the FA, who appoint Howard Wilkinson to take his place on a temporary basis. At a chaotic press conference, Hoddle's announcement that he is leaving because of "a serious error of judgment" is interrupted by a protester demanding that he leave. Neither Hoddle nor David Davies accepts questions about the decision since Hoddle has an exclusive deal with the Mirror. Well, it's only the England manager's job. "I don't feel angry to the FA because there's no point feeling anger at a time like this, either internally or externally," Hoddle says, clear and concise to the last. Tottenham finally get a result in their Wimbledon saga, winning 3-0 in the FA Cup replay, but only 24,000 can face it for a fourth time. David Platt resigns after three draws and three defeats in charge of Sampdoria. "I will continue my preparation for management back in the UK," says David, with stage one of his cunning masterplan successfully completed.

Wednesday 3 Chelsea put Oxford out of the FA Cup, winning their fourth round replay 4-2. Seventeen-year-old Finn Mikael Forssell scores twice, but Dennis Wise handballs twice and is sent off for the fourth time this season. "Dennis is unique," says Gianluca. No sniggering at the back. Huddersfield beat Wrexham 2-1 to make it five Yorkshire teams in the last 16. Man Utd go four points clear at the top of the league with a 1-0 win over Derby, a game brought forward to clear the decks for United's European Cup semi-final, they hope.

Thursday 4 "I'm joining a massive club which is on a high at the moment," says Tim Sherwood, possibly delirious after completing his £4 million move from Blackburn to Tottenham. Ron Noades threatens to leave Brentford unless fans stop barracking the players. Newcastle sign Silvio Maric from Croatia Zagreb for £3.3 million. "My favourite bird is a magpie," warbles Maric, who also likes strong, dark beer and can't make up his mind whether black or white is the nicest colour.

Friday 5 Derby's Steve McClaren is named as Alex Ferguson's new assistant. "I'm in a bit of whirl and can hardly think straight," says Steve, not inspiring instant confidence. Lawrie Sanchez breezes in as the new manager of Wycombe. "It's a lovely stadium and a well-run club – just in a bit of bother right now." Leicester delve into Bolton's bottomless pit of Nordic talent and come up with Arnar Gunnlaugsson, a snip at £2 million.

Saturday 6 Man Utd score the biggest away win in Premiership history – and the third biggest ever in the top division – beating Forest 8-1 at the City Ground, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer getting four in the last ten minutes after coming on as a substitute. "You don't think we're going to get carried away with that, do you?" sniffs Alex, while his predecessor as United manager unwisely falls back on the gags – "I said it was going to be a nine-goal thriller". Chelsea stay second after scraping a 1-0 home win against Southampton, Arsenal are third after a 4-0 win at their lucky ground, Upton Park, overtaking Aston Villa, who become the first team this season to lose at home to Blackburn, with the help of a thumping own goal from that nice Gareth Southgate. Man City's 3-0 win over Millwall is marred by a repeat of the crowd trouble seen at the teams' previous meeting in the autumn. Down in the basement, Hull City move off the bottom following a 2-0 win at Brentford, to be replaced, possibly for the remainder of the season, by Scarborough, beaten 5-1 at home by Cambridge United. Germany suffer probably their worst ever international result, losing 3-0 to the USA in a Florida friendly. "I am not going to make a big deal of it," says US coach Bruce Arena. "For the first time since 1954 we have a generation problem," says the ubiquitous Franz Beckenbauer, half way towards blaming the parents.

Monday 8 "I do not condone violence and wholeheartedly support the current peace process in Northern Ireland," says Motherwell and former Scotland keeper Andy Goram, who is to take legal action against the tabloid papers that printed a photograph of him holding a flag of the banned Ulster Volunteer Force.

Tuesday 9 Howard Wilkinson's first England team will include four members of Arsenal's defence. Lee Dixon, recalled after five years, says ,"When I told my kids I was in the England team they burst out crying." (No, we'll resist it.)

Wednesday 10 England 0 France 2, Nicolas Anelka striking twice in the second half. "I can't really get beyond the image of us giving the ball away," says Howard. "The atmosphere is not what it used to be. Perhaps the myth of Wembley is disappearing," says French coach Roger Lemerre, though the crowd roused themselves sufficiently to boo the home team off. Among other games, Paraguay's first trip to Dublin ends in a 2-0 defeat.

Thursday 11 Four men are arrested and charged with plotting to sabotage the floodlights during Charlton's match with Liverpool on Saturday. They are believed to be linked to a betting ring in south-east Asia, where the results of abandoned games count for gambling purposes, provided the second half has started. The FA have given police a list of floodlight failures at other Premiership matches."The integrity of the game is crucial to us all," says acting chief executive David Davies, the man who ghosted Glenn Hoddle: My World Cup Diary.

Saturday 13 History at Highbury, where Arsenal offer to replay their FA Cup tie with Sheffield Utd after scoring a controversial second goal in a 2-1 win, when Nwankwo Kanu collects a ball that had been kicked out of play so a United player could receive treatment, and crosses for Marc Overmars to score. During prolonged protests United manager Steve Bruce appears to be calling his team off, and says later, "It was the most bitter moment of my career. We felt cheated." Immediately after the match, the FA announce that the game will be restaged at Highbury. In other matches, Everton score more than once at home for the first time this season, beating Coventry 2-1, Chelsea get a late winner at Sheffield Wed through Roberto Di Matteo, who should have been booked at least for bleaching his hair (ungentlemanly conduct) and George Graham gets the "Judas!" treatment from supporters of another of his former clubs before Spurs draw 1-1 at Leeds. In the league, Charlton win again, 1-0 at home to Liverpool, with Gerard Houllier hopping mad at Jamie Carragher's dismissal by that man Mike Reed: "The referee will not speak to me about his decision. I don't know why. I have never hit anyone." Bristol City chairman Scott Davidson is equally cross, having to be escorted from the pitch after protesting about the penalty that brought Sunderland a last-minute winner at Ashton Gate, while Man City manager Joe Royle strides about in his sarky boots after two of his players are dismissed at Bournemouth. "There must have been a rule change I missed. We had one player booked for aggressive walking."

Sunday 14 Missed chances cost Fulham dear at Old Trafford where Man Utd squeak through to the last eight of the Cup with a deflected shot from Andy Cole. "Maybe we could have passed it better, but hey, we're playing Man Utd and we're in the Second Division," says Kev, before turning his attention to another matter: "At this moment in time I haven't had a phone call. Judging by what's happening, I should be getting one." In the other tie, Newcastle and Blackburn draw 0-0. Premier League refs' spokesman Philip Don protests at the FA's decision to replay the Arsenal-Sheffield United match: "A very dangerous precedent has been set. Under the laws of the game the referee did exactly what he had to do. Nobody seems to be talking about the conduct of the players."

Monday 15 Little Kev seems set to be named as England manager after holding talks with FA officials, the main sticking point being that he wants to honour his contract with Fulham, which runs until 2000. "He will bring enthusiasm and knowledge to the international scene. I am sure he will unite the whole country," says acting FA chairman Geoff Thompson, neglecting to add that the country in question is Scotland. Portsmouth chairman Lee Parris, who took over only three months ago, is one of 15 staff sacked by the club's adminstrators, who are attempting to reduce losses of £35,000 a week. Arsenal's recent purchase of 15-year-old Jeremie Aladiere is to prompt a new law in France which will prevent players under the age of 18 being sold to foreign clubs. "If we want to stop this traffic in children we must legislate without delay," says the French sports minister.

Tuesday 16 Spurs reach the Worthington Cup final after a Steffen Iversen goal finally sees off Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. "I thought it would take a year to 18 months to inject a bit of character into the team, but I realised when I came that there were some outstanding players lying dormant," says George, blowing his own trumpet for all he's worth.

Wednesday 17 Kevin Keegan is to be England manager, but only for four matches until June. "I'm committed to Fulham, but I can do a job for England as well," he says. "We have the nation's choice leading the country in some crucial matches," insists David Davies, as though discussing Pedigree Chum. Leicester reach the Worthington Cup final after a 1-1 second leg draw with Sunderland. In the Premiership, Man Utd miss a penalty and go a goal down to Arsenal before rescuing a point through Andy Cole. "I thought we were the better side, but we do it the hard way," sighs Alex. "We won't talk about the title until Easter," says Arsene. Chelsea also miss from the spot in a nasty 1-1 draw with Blackburn during which Gianluca Vialli and Marlon Broomes are sent off, the former limping off at pace in a valiant attempt to substitute himself before the ref can pull his card out. Stan Collymore drops by from the clinic for his first match in a month but Villa slump to their third successive defeat, 2-1 at home to Leeds. Everton go mad and nearly treble their home goals tally in one night, thrashing Middlesbrough 5-0 at Goodison Park. Bryan Robson is still third favourite for the England job at 8-1. Dear God.

Friday 19 Chelsea coach Graham Rix faces a prison sentence after pleading guilty to sexual offences against an under-age girl. If Rix is jailed, Ray Wilkins seems to be in line to take his job spearheading Chelsea's title push – and when did you last see that phrase in February?

Saturday 20 Ryan Giggs scores the late goal that keeps Man Utd four points clear and sends their opponents Coventry into the bottom three. Chelsea stay second with a 3-1 win at Forest – "Are we going down? Did they ask the captain of the Titanic that?" says Big Ron, laughing from the edge of the abyss – one point ahead of Arsenal, for whom Nicolas Anelka scores a hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Leicester. "I must have been in a mad dream to think about qualifying for Europe through the league," says a glum Martin O'Neill. Charlton's third successive win, 2-0 at Derby, takes them up to fifth from bottom, one place above Blackburn, who crash 4-1 at home to ever-unpredictable Sheffield Wed. West Brom's home game with Bristol City is held up for 15 minutes at the start of the second half by fighting between rival fans. The game ends 2-2. A rare win for Scarborough takes them to within three points of Hull City at the bottom of the Third Division.

Sunday 21 "We'll keep grinding on," grunts John Gregory as Villa lose more gound with a goalless draw at Wimbledon. That's something to look forward to then. Celtic's Henrik Larsson scores his third hat-trick in four games in a 7-1 win at Motherwell. Bolton's goalless draw at Birmingham leaves them two points clear in second place in the First Division.

Monday 22 Two days after announcing that they would review the FA's decision to permit Arsenal and Sheffield Utd to replay their FA Cup tie, FIFA anounce that it can go ahead after all. "At no time had the laws of the game been deliberately infringed by the referee or players involved in the game," says a spokesman. Before the ruling Arsene had said that Arsenal might pull out of the competition if the replay was blocked, bless him.

Tuesday 23 Arsenal beat Sheffield Utd in their replay, Marc Overmars, booed throughout by the away fans, scoring the first goal in a 2-1 win. "Our chance went ten days ago with that incident," says Steve Bruce. Leeds are refusing to relase eight of their players wanted by England and the Republic of Ireland for the World Youth Cup in Nigeria. "We are not happy with the assurances we have been given over health and safety," says chairman Peter Ridsdale. Colin Addison, the only man to have managed both Atletico Madrid and Hereford Utd, takes charge at Scarborough.

Wednesday 24 After meeting UEFA's executive committee, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announces that his plan for a biennial World Cup will not now be voted on for at least another 18 months. "The majority of European nations are still against it but we have years to discuss it before it becomes a reality," says UEFA's Lennart Johansson, chalking one up to himself. Newcastle win 1-0 at Blackburn in their FA Cup fifth round tie with a goal from on-loan French striker Louis Saha. In other matches Derby beat Huddersfield 3-1 and Spurs knock out Leeds at White Hart Lane with spectacular goals from Darren Anderton and David Ginola. "There is still a lot more quality and flair to come from us," says George Graham's nice twin brother (how did they work the switch?). Hartlepool, six points off the bottom of the Third Division, appoint former goalkeeper Chris Turner as their new manager. John Toshack returns to Real Madrid as caretaker coach until the end of the season. Kevin Campbell is set to leave his Turkish team, Trabzonspor, after being referred to as "a cannibal" by the club president. Liverpool claim to have no knowledge of a rumoured £26 million bid from Lazio for Michael Owen. "Half of his bad leg is worth more than that," says Gerard Houllier, with a nervous laugh.

Saturday 27 Man Utd, seemingly taking it easy with Wednesday in mind, struggle to overcome Southampton, who hold out until the last ten minutes at Old Trafford before losing 2-1. "I'll have a beer with Alex Ferguson and ask if we can replay this one," says David Jones. Chelsea keep up the chase, beating Liverpool 2-1. "Manchester United look unstoppable at the moment but our players have experience and sometimes that is more important than skill in these situations," says Gianluca. "We are collapsing in every department," sighs John Gregory, as Villa slump to their first ever home league defeat by Coventry, 4-1. Blackburn lose again, 2-0 at West Ham. Charlton miss a chance to climb further away from danger, being held to a home draw by Forest, for whom keeper Mark Crossley, with his silly beard, has an outstanding game on his return from limbo. The first pay-per-view match doesn't look to be worth £7.95 of anyone's money, Oxford and Sunderland failing to find a goal. Bob Taylor equals a divisional record by scoring all five Gillingham goals in their win at Burnley.

Sunday 28 Arsenal drop points in a 1-1 draw at Newcastle, who get a late equaliser through Dieter Hamann. "I would give a slight advantage to Chelsea now," says Arsene, dipping into the Ferguson manual of kidology. "Manchester United are much more involved in the European Cup, which is something special in everyone's mind". Isn't it though?

From WSC 146 April 1999. What was happening this month