Monday 1 “It would be really embarrassing for us to lose it now,” frets Sir Alex as Man Utd’s lead widens to 11 points after their 3-1 win over West Ham, while Arsenal lose 1-0 at Charlton. Quite a day for goalkeeping mistakes, with pride of place going to David James, whose mishit clearance goes straight to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for the only goal of the game at Stamford Bridge. “I gather it was pretty horrific,” says an unsighted John Gregory. Nicky Weaver is beaten from very long range for Coventry’s equaliser against Man City and Tim Flowers lets a shot through his legs during Leicester’s 2-1 home defeat by Bradford. A rare defeat for Fulham – 2-0 at Stockport – allows Bolton, who win by the same score at Preston, to get to within seven points of the top of the First. Cardiff move into the promotion places in the Third with a 6-1 win over second-bottom Exeter, who will be glancing over their shoulders at Carlisle, six points behind but now with three games in hand.
Tuesday 2 Ten-man Spurs beat nine-man Newcastle 4-2. Bobby Robson might have gone too after an exchange with the referee, who says: “Obviously he was frustrated and he put his views across.” Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium will stage the next three FA Cup and Worthington Cup finals, and League play-offs. Fulham’s Chris Coleman is seriously injured in a car crash.
Wednesday 3 David Jones becomes the new manager of Wolves and says: “I have no bitterness against my accusers. But don’t let them step in front of my car at night.” Wimbledon are said to be considering a move to a planned 40,000 stadium in Milton Keynes. A supporters association spokesman is dismayed: “It’s unacceptable. We are a south west London club.” Tony Pulis, on leave at Portsmouth while disputing his dismissal by Gillingham, has his contract terminated for “misconduct”. Robbie Fowler is attacked outside a Liverpool nightclub.
Thursday 4 Liverpool sign Barcelona’s Jari Litmanen but insist Fowler is not for sale. Carlisle owner Michael Knighton appears to have sold his stake in the club. The new owners are an investment company in Gilbraltar…
Saturday 6 Low crowds and few shocks in the FA Cup third round. Honourable exceptions are provided by Kingstonian, 1-0 winners at Southend, and Dagenham & Redbridge, four minutes away from knocking out Charlton when John Salako equalises. “They just didn’t look to have any weaknesses,” whispers a pale Alan Curbishley. An unpunished foul on Patrick Vieira triggers a punch-up during Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Carlisle and nearly brings Arsène on to the pitch: “It was horrendous. I am scared there are people who go out and try to do that to him.” Spurs nick a late winner at Orient, as do Everton at Watford. “It was pretty much what we expected,” says Morecambe boss Jim Harvey after their 3-0 defeat by Ipswich.
Sunday 7 “We were given a torrid time,” says Sir Alex as Man Utd escape from Craven Cottage with a 2-1 win thanks to a late goal by Teddy Sheringham, tipped to be a Fulham player himself next season. David Jones starts his Wolves career with a win, 1-0 at Forest.
Monday 8 Another low cup crowd of just over 7,000 sees Middlesbrough’s unbeaten run continue with a 1-0 win at Bradford. Jim Jefferies explains his decision to release Petrescu, Collymore and Carbone: “We have players coming back from injury who are better suited to getting us safe.” “I thought it was time to get a proper job,” says Nigel Spackman on becoming the new Barnsley manager.
Tuesday 9 Sven-Goran Eriksson takes up his new job sooner than expected after resigning from Lazio, beaten again at the weekend. “I am absolutely delighted that the uncertainty is at an end,” says Adam Crozier. A Marcus Stewart penalty gives Ipswich a narrow lead to take to Birmingham for the second leg of their Worthington semi. Trev is fuming, with reason in this case: “If a ball hits a player’s chest, it can’t be handball.”
Wednesday 10 Palace 2 Liverpool 1, the home team taking a two-goal lead before Vladimir Smicer pulls one back. “The lads talk about playing in the Premiership but I hope they take me with them,” says Alan Smith. “Our finishing could have better,” mutters Gérard, reflecting on misses by Owen and Heskey. Diego Maradona is to be paid £250,000 to play in a friendly at Dundee.
Friday 12 After an immense amount of faffing about, Villa sign Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel for £9.5 million. But they still slip in a £12 million bid for Robbie Fowler which is swiftly rejected, by the player. M Gerard, however, seems ambivalent: “If any one of our four strikers doesn’t want to knuckle down they know what they can do.” Dan Petrescu leaves Bradford for Southampton.
Saturday 13 Bradford hold the leaders for 75 minutes before a miscue by Gary Walsh lets in Teddy Sheringham for the first of Man Utd’s three goals. Sven sees Sunderland go second with a 2-0 win at West Ham. “It wasn’t spectacular,” concedes Peter Reid. Middlesbrough beat Derby 4-0 but Paul Ince still finds something to be cross about: “It annoys me that Bryan Robson is ignored when the plaudits are handed out.” Coventry lose at Newcastle and remain third bottom, one place above Man City, who crash 4-0 at home to Leeds. Joe Royle requests some perspective: “I’m not as low as when defeat to York left us 12th in the Second Division two years ago.” In the First, Fulham stay seven points clear after a 2-0 win over Norwich, while the bottom six are now separated by only one point. Millwall’s victory over Wigan in the top of the table match in the Second Division keeps them four points clear – “I’m getting as big a buzz as I’ve ever had,” says the fully rehabilitated Mark McGhee. Last weekend’s Cup heroes Dagenham are beaten at home by Weymouth in the FA Trophy.
Sunday 14 Sven completes his weekend’s viewing with a trip to Portman Road, where Leicester are beaten 2-0. Peter Taylor’s compliments to the scorer of the second goal – “Marcus Stewart’s brain is very quick” – lead some to wonder whether he may be a surprise call-up for England’s forthcoming friendly with Spain.
Tuesday 16 UEFA threaten to pull out of FIFA in a row over the revamp of the transfer system, FIFA having submitted proposals to the European Commission without the consent of the big European leagues. “If FIFA doesn’t understand the interests of European football, we have to make sure we can defend ourselves,” says UEFA chief executive Gerhard Aigner, tapping his breastplate. Wycombe reach the fourth round of the Cup for the first time after winning their replayed tie at Grimsby.
Wednesday 17 “I’m not telling Eriksson who to pick in his team,” says Peter Reid, before going on to heap expletive-free praise on Kevin Phillips, who scores twice in Sunderland’s 4-2 Cup replay win at Palace. QPR are a minute away from losing at home to Luton but eventually win 2-1 in extra time. Villa beat Newcastle with a rebound off Darius Vassell’s thigh. Asked when he decided to leave out David Ginola, John Gregory replies: “At 3.45 on Saturday. No, I tell a lie, it was about 3.20 actually.” “I will play for Leicester for fun,” says Roberto Mancini, signed from Lazio until the end of the season. Seven clubs announce they are to resign from the Scottish First Division with a view to setting up a second tier of the SPL. “We are not destroying Scottish football, we are the people who are being destroyed,” says Livingston chairman Dominic Keane.
Thursday 18 Sir Alex Ferguson bids a fond adieu to Chelsea-bound Mark Bosnich: “It doesn’t bother me where he’s gone.” Coventry’s bid for John Hartson founders over Cédric Roussel’s refusal to join Wimbledon in part exchange.
Friday 19 John Gregory launches another attack on David Ginola, insisting, possibly too late, that he will not allow “another Collymore situation” to develop. “I am not going to let any individual’s workrate upset the whole team,” he says. “Against Newcastle we got back to scrapping and fighting and doing what we do best.”
Saturday 20 Man Utd’s nearest “challengers” on show today fail to come up with a goal, Arsenal and Liverpool drawing 0-0 with Leicester and Middlesbrough respectively, while Villa go down 2-0 at Old Trafford. “We only missed winning the game by one yard,” says a frustrated Arsène. Coventry are second from bottom after conceding three goals in the first half-hour in a 3-1 home defeat by Everton. Wee Gordon rates their display “an embarrassment to myself, the coaching staff and the players – even the ones who didn’t play”. In the First Division Sheff Wed slip further with a 3-0 home defeat to Bolton. Peter Shreeves says of manager Paul Jewell: “He’s finding it tough. But he’s a tough cookie.”
Sunday 21 Bradford get a 0-0 draw at second placed Sunderland, in front of an unimpressed Sven. The altitude seems to be getting to Peter Reid, who says: “At the end of the day we weren’t good enough today – I sound like a football manager.” Tony Adams won’t play for England again, having “listened to his body”. It’s making a funny knocking noise when he goes round corners.
Monday 22 A late equaliser from Paolo Di Canio prevents Charlton from moving into the top eight – “A win and we would have been thinking of Europe,” sighs Alan Curbishley. David O’Leary is back to his raging best (“This is typical of the season we’ve been having”) as Rio Ferdinand injures his knee while resting his legs on a coffee table, possibly an expensive one.
Tuesday 23 Jack Charlton criticises Tony Adams’s decision to retire from international football – “He is quitting just when his country needs him most” – but mercifully stops short of mentioning, you know, the war. Scunthorpe knock Burnley out of the Cup 2-1 in their third round replay. Beaten manager Stan Ternent is highly vexed with the referee, however: “A lot of us have had a bellyful of amateur people running a professional game.” Jermain Defoe equals a postwar record by scoring in his tenth consecutive League match in Bournemouth’s 2-0 win at Cambridge.
Wednesday 24 Liverpool 5 Palace 0. Robbie Fowler, scorer of the fifth goal and the only survivor of his club’s last League Cup final appearance in 1995, seems reasonably pleased: “A final is a final, whether it’s Wembley or Cardiff.” Villa’s mini-slump continues with a 2-1 home defeat by Leeds. Man City are to sign Andrei Kanchelskis on loan: “He’s what I would call a real impact player,” says Joe Royle, who may not have seen Rangers play for a while.
Thursday 25 Chesterfield’s offices are raided by FA investigators looking into allegations of financial skullduggery. The club could be expelled from the League if charges are made. Chelsea’s new shirt sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines will be worth £24 million over the next four years. “The 1990s belonged to Manchester United but perhaps this will be the decade of Chelsea,” says the short, bearded man.
Friday 26 Kevin Keegan wins £150,000 in libel damages and costs from the News of the World, over their claims that he encouraged gambling among the England squad. Asked if he has any plans to return to football, Kev replies: “Don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.” Look forward to it.
Saturday 27 Tranmere provide the biggest Cup shock, rolling over Everton 3-0 at Goodison. “I couldn’t believe how easy it was at times,” says Paul Rideout. Dagenham & Redbridge take Charlton to extra time in the third round replay before losing 1-0, while Kingstonian lead 1-0 at Bristol City in the fourth round until injury time, when Tony Thorpe equalises. “I will tell them to get their heads off the floor,” says romantic Kingstonian manager Geoff Chapple. “After all, we are only in the FA Cup for the revenue.” Wycombe put out Wolves 2-1 and there is more trouble for floundering heavyweights Aston Villa (2-1 losers to Leicester) and Leeds (beaten 2-0 at home by Liverpool). “We are suffering at the moment and we have got to get a stranglehold on things,” says a disillusioned Rio Ferdinand, who came here to win things.
Sunday 28 Manchester United are out of the Cup after West Ham win 1-0 at Old Trafford with a Di Canio goal. Sir Alex blames everything from his own directors, who allowed rugby league to be played on the ground in November (“an absolute disgrace”) to the referee Paul Durkin, who only added on four minutes of injury time. One person he doesn’t mention is Fabien Barthez, who stands appealing for offside while Di Canio scores. Chelsea get a fright as Gillingham reduce their 3-0 half-time lead to 3-2, but add another in injury time. “Everything I have heard about the FA Cup was true,” says two-goal Jesper Gronkjaer. Bolton put out Scunthorpe 5-1.
Monday 29 Manchester City put Paulo Wanchope on the transfer list after he reacted angrily to being substituted in Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Coventry. Joe Royle is in no mood to compromise. “Nobody is bigger than this club, not even me,” he says. The news comes just too late for Spurs fans, whose yearning for artistry is unlikely to be satisfied by the loan signing of Andy Booth. He, as David Pleat admits, has been “stuck in the Sheffield Wednesday syndrome for three or four years”. Ian Holloway is sacked by Bristol Rovers.
Wednesday 31 Birmingham City reach their first major final in 38 years with a 4-1 extra-time win over Ipswich in the Worthington semi. “I have been a supporter of this club since 1969 and this is a big moment for me,” says Trevor Francis. George Burley is downcast: “Trevor has apologised for the state of the pitch but we can’t blame that.” Ladbrokes are to pay out on Man Utd winning the league as they stretch their lead to 15 points with a 1-0 win at Sunderland. The home side have Michael Gray and Alex Rae dismissed, the latter for locking heads with Andy Cole, who’s also sent off. Robbie Keane scores Leeds’ winner against his former club – “We have to sell players like Robbie, Leeds can afford to buy them,” sighs Gordon. After four months of no doubt useful advice, Joe Kinnear leaves Oxford.
From WSC 169 March 2001. What was happening this month