February 2001

Saturday 3 Man Utd don’t manage a shot on target at home to Everton but still win with a deflected goal. Robbie Fowler’s revival continues with two in a 3-0 win over West Ham to take Liverpool up to third behind Arsenal, who win 1-0 at Coventry. Derby’s surprise 1-0 win over Sunderland takes them four points clear of the relegation zone, though they have three players booked in five minutes for disputing offside calls. Man City’s improved form continues with a 1-1 draw at the Riverside, though Joe Royle is furious that a Danny Tiatto goal is disallowed for offside: “The TV replay should embarrass the ref for the rest of his career.” Spurs’ goalless draw with Charlton is their fourth in a row: “We’ll just have to keep grinding our results until we get our strikers fit,” says George Graham with something approaching relish. In the First, Sheff Wed get another turn at the bottom after losing to Watford. “We have it all to do,” predicts Paul Jewell. Joe Kinnear moves one place up the Second Division table by becoming an “adviser” to second-bottom Luton.

Tuesday 6 Man Utd launch a marketing agreement with the New York Yankees which will involve selling each other’s licensed merchandise and jointly negotiating future TV rights. “This is about two sporting icons coming together,” says United’s chief executive Peter Kenyon, whizzing a curve ball past Sir Bobby Charlton’s ear. Hull City are locked out their ground by former chairman and major creditor David Lloyd, who says: “My action is the only way to get all the various parties around the table.” Referee Paul Taylor is cleared of using insulting language to Sean Farrell of Notts County in a match last October on the grounds of insufficient evidence. “There is no question that this incident took place,” says County’s deputy chairman Peter Storrie.

Wednesday 7 While their manager jigs along the touchline in baffled delight, Spurs win their delayed FA Cup fourth round tie 4-2 at Charlton, who had held a two-goal lead. “Our confidence is growing,” says George, before remembering to add a note of caution: “However, I don’t believe in omens about years ending in one.” The two replays end in away victories, Bristol City getting a late winner at Kingstonian (“Now we have 20 cup ties to avoid getting relegated” says Geoff Chapple) and Blackburn thrashing Derby 5-2. Three players are red-carded, Claudio Reyna twice, as Celtic get to the Scottish League Cup final with a 3-1 win over Rangers.

Thursday 8 Ken Bates resigns as vice-chairman of Wembley National Stadium Ltd. To general amazement, he declines to go quietly, referring to “a sustained press campaign to undermine both the project itself and my credibility” and claiming he had been required to work with “a number of people whom I neither trust nor respect”. The FA’s controversial disciplinary panel gives Patrick Vieira the lightest possible ban, one match, after an investigation into the violence during November’s Leeds v Arsenal match. Hull City will be able to use Boothferry Park for their next home match but club chairman Nick Buchanan agrees to step down.

Saturday 10 A 1-1 draw for Man Utd at Chelsea, so Arsenal close the gap to 14 points by beating Ipswich 1-0. Jari Litmanen’s late penalty, dubiously awarded, rescues a point for Liverpool, who stay third ahead of their opponents Sunderland. Peter Reid is baffled that referee Graham Barber intends to report three players for going into the crowd to celebrate their goal: “I find that staggering and small-minded.” At the rough end, Derby draw at Leeds, the returning Ugo Ehiogu gets an equaliser for Boro at Villa and Man City become the first Premiership team to lose at home to Spurs this season, Sergi Rebrov’s winner coming in the 89th minute after Darren Huckerby had an earlier goal mysteriously chalked off. “The more people write us off the better we like it,” says a belligerent Joe Royle. In the First Division QPR suffer their worst defeat of the season, 5-0 at Preston, from which Gerry Francis can find no silver lining: “It was very embarrassing.” They stay one off the bottom, above only Sheffield Wed, who lose 4-1 at Wimbledon. Bristol Rovers’ inability to win at home, where Notts County are the eighth team to draw this season, sees them slip into the relegation zone in the Second. In the Third, Cardiff are beaten 1-0 by second-placed Brighton but their nearest challengers Leyton Orient can’t take advantage, losing by the same score at benighted Hull, whose crowd of nearly 9,000 is more than double their average.

Sunday 11 Newcastle’s 25th game in London without a win, a 2-0 defeat at Charlton, incurs the deep wrath of their manager: “In the first half we were pathetic. I’m as angry as I’ve ever been with them.” Celtic go 12 points clear by beating Rangers 1-0. “It gives us a cushion,” says Martin O’Neill, making a commendable effort to stay calm. Valencia’s Miguel Angulo claims his side arranged a convenient draw with Man Utd in their last Champions League group match last season (“It was in our mutual benefit to go easy”). UEFA may investigate. Or not.

Monday 12 Debutant John Hartson has a goal disallowed in Coventry’s 1-1 draw at West Ham, though a point is salvaged by a last-minute own goal from Christian Dailly. Paul Jewell is sacked by Sheff Wed, saying: “I never saw it coming, but if we still had last season’s team I’d have held up my hands and walked.” Crown prince of caretakers, Peter Shreeves, is in charge for now.

Tuesday 13 A Thierry Henry goal at Lyon takes Arsenal up into second in their Champions League group. Arsène pays tribute to star performer David Seaman in man-in-a-pub style: “I have always said that he is still England’s No 1.” Lee Bowyer scores a late winner as Leeds beat Anderlecht 2-1. “We’re a team of nobodies trying to mess up the system,” says David O’Leary, as though he’d never seen a cheque book in his life. Wimbledon, wearing their away kit as a ploy to overcome poor home form, hand Terry Venables his first defeat as Middlesbrough coach, 3-1 in their Cup replay. Tranmere are the first victims of the Shreeves effect, a 1-0 defeat dropping them into the First Division relegation zone, while Wednesday move out.

Wednesday 14 Man Utd stay two points clear in their Champions League group with a goalless draw in Valencia, marred by the racist booing of Andy Cole from a section of the crowd. Dennis Bergkamp complains about being left out of Arsenal’s squad for the game in Lyon due to his fear of flying: “Mr Wenger knows I have no problem with trains. This is a soap opera and I am sick of it.”

Thursday 15 Roma 0 Liverpool 2 in the UEFA Cup, Michael Owen getting both goals and saying, again: “Maybe there was a need for me to shut a few people up.” M Gérard plays it cool: “We mustn’t get carried away but we defended with discipline and scored at the right moment.” Several Liverpool fans are hospitalised with stab wounds before the game. The FA respond to Ken Bates’s recent criticism: “The board express total support for the individuals attacked by Mr Bates in his resignation letter.” Bates’s position as the Premier League’s representative on the board comes up for renewal in June. Gerry Francis is to step down as QPR manager but will remain at the club until a replacement is found. Steve Archibald is removed as manager of Airdrie by the club’s liquidators, after failing to pay an outstanding bill of £30,000. The club will also have to withdraw from the Scottish Cup, giving scheduled opponents Peterhead a bye into the quarter-finals.

Saturday 17 In the Cup, Frédéric Kanouté scores the only goal in West Ham’s win at Sunderland, Wycombe come back from two down to force a replay with Wimbledon, Blackburn get a draw at Bolton despite having Gary Flitcroft dismissed inside ten minutes. Tranmere get a goalless draw at Fortress Dell, but also slip to the bottom of the First after QPR’s win over Barnsley. Millwall, who won last night, now have a six-point lead in the Second after Wigan and Walsall are both held to draws. Luton’s third win in succession under Joe Kinnear, 5-3 against Swansea, moves them ahead of their opponents and just one point from safety. Suddenly there’s a race on at the bottom of the Third, with York now propping up the division after a 3-0 home defeat by Exeter and only five points covering the bottom seven clubs.

Sunday 18 Cup holders Chelsea are out, beaten 3-1 at Arsenal. Amazingly, no one is sent off despite the efforts of players on both sides. “We got two yellow cards to Arsenal’s one, so we should have won on points,” says Claudio Ranieri, who also suggests that the unbooked Patrick Vieira is “treated like God” by referees. Arsène will have views on that. Joe Royle declines to keep his own counsel after Liverpool beat Man City 4-2 with the aid of a doubtful penalty. “You can’t give Liverpool a goal start. We didn’t, but they got one anyway.”

Tuesday 20 A night of late comebacks, including one of the best in the history of the FA Cup at Prenton Park, where Tranmere recover from three down at half-time to beat Southampton 4-3. John Aldridge suggests a reason for the revival: “I was disgusted at half-time and I told them.” Glenn is downcast: “We have gone down in history for the wrong reasons.” In the other replay, Wycombe get an equaliser in the last minute of extra time at Wimbledon and finally win 8-7 on penalties. “Sometimes fate conspires against you,” sighs Terry Burton, whose side also miss a penalty in the last minute of normal time. In the Champions League, a Wes Brown own goal two minutes from time salvages a draw for Valencia. In the First Division a Fulham defeat, 2-1 at Burnley, is still rare enough to be news. QPR’s second win since Gerry Francis announced he was leaving lifts them out of the relegation places and prompts a rethink: “I’m certainly in no mood to say goodbye to these players.” Carlisle are the new occupants of bottom spot in the Third, despite a draw at leaders Chesterfield. They replace York who move up three places after winning at Rochdale with only their third goal in 11 games.

Wednesday 21 Leeds march into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 4-1 win at Anderlecht. “We shoved it up some people tonight,” beams David O’Leary, remembering to add: “We won’t win this cup”. Arsenal concede a late equaliser in a home draw with Lyon, giving Arsène a chance to complain about the fixture list: “We play too many games and we looked tired.” Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan offers to refund anyone who travelled to see last night’s 1-0 defeat at Barnsley. “I have a responsibility to ensure our fans get respect, commitment and value for money and they most certainly did not.”

Thursday 22 Pandemonium at Anfield, where Liverpool stagger into the last eight of the UEFA Cup after losing 1-0 to Roma, who appear to be awarded a late penalty for handball before the befuddled referee changes his mind. Fabio Capello is seething: “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Gérard appears to agree, admitting: “We were a bit lucky.” Chesterfield are charged with several breaches of Football League rules including making irregular payments to players and the under-reporting of gate receipts. They could face relegation if found guilty.

Friday 23 Sven-Goran Eriksson names a squad of 31 for next week’s friendly against Spain, including Michael Ball, Ashley Cole, Ugo Ehiogu, Gavin McCann and Chris Powell. “I am nervous about meeting so many new people,” Sven says. “It is like when you go out with a woman for a first time. You are bound to wonder how it will end up.”

Saturday 24 A Shaun Goater goal brings Man City their first win at Newcastle since they were League champions in 1968. “People have written us off but we have dangerous players,” says Joe Royle. They are are only four adrift of fourth-bottom Middlesbrough, beaten 1-0 at home by Southampton (“We have stopped the bleeding from Prenton Park,” says Glenn). A John Hartson goal on his home debut rescues a point for Coventry against Charlton. Steve Claridge’s last match in charge of Portsmouth before Graham Rix takes over ends in defeat at West Brom and a hint that he won’t hanging around: “I did other people a favour, now all I want is what’s best for me.” “You’ve heard of A Bridge Too Far, well that was a game too far,” says Gerry Francis of what was apparently his farewell as QPR manager, a 5-0 defeat at Wimbledon. In the Second, the bunting is out in Bristol as Rovers register their first home win of the season, 2-1 against Cambridge. Rochdale’s play-off hopes in the Third are knocked back when their hitherto miserly defence collapses in a 7-1 home defeat by Shrewsbury.

Sunday 25 Liverpool win the Worthington Cup in a shoot-out at the Millennium Stadium after a last-minute penalty earns Birmingham a 1-1 draw and David Elleray turns down a strong shout for a second spot-kick in extra time. “My team is beginning to reach a new dimension,” says a jubilant M Gérard from inside his space suit. “Losing finalists tend to be forgotten but I don’t think we will be,” says a weepy Trevor Francis, manager of whoever it was. Man Utd crush Arsenal 6-1, scoring five in the first half including a hat-trick from Dwight Yorke, and are now 16 points clear. “It would be silly to talk about us winning the league,” says Sir Alex.

Monday 26 Ian Holloway is named as the new manager of QPR, with Gerry Francis moving upstairs to become, wait for it, director of football. “I’ve always been an eternal optimist,” Holloway says. Roberto Mancini, recently on loan at Leicester, manages to tear himself away from Filbert Street to become coach of Fiorentina.

Tuesday 27 All change: Roy McFarland is sacked by Cambridge, who’ve lost four in a row; Phil Stant clears his desk at Lincoln, precariously placed one point off the bottom of the League; and Bruce Rioch leaves Wigan, who claim he resigned. Huddersfield drop to the bottom of the First Division after a 2-0 defeat at Tranmere. UEFA reject Roma’s request to have their match with Liverpool replayed and all Italian championships to be retrospectively awarded to them. Celestine Babayaro is to be charged with an alleged stamping during Chelsea’s FA Cup match at Arsenal. England Under-21s suffer their worst ever home defeat, 4-0 against Spain.

Wednesday 28 England 3 Spain 0, goals for Barmby, Heskey and Ehiogu. Nigel Martyn saves a late penalty. “I hope England fans don’t expect that in every game,” beams the new coach, flushed and dishevelled after his first date. Among the 18 players used is Chris Powell, who says: “I would never have got a chance if an Englishman was in charge.” Neil Lennon, making his first appearance for Northern Ireland since joining Celtic, is booed by part of the home crowd during the 4-0 defeat by Norway.

From WSC 170 April 2001. What was happening this month