June 2003

Monday 2 Manchester City get a UEFA Cup place via that silly Fair Play League. Nicky Butt is helping police with their enquiries into an alleged scuffle in a Manchester nightclub. Alan Buckley is the new manager of Rochdale.

Tuesday 3 A Joe Cole free-kick gives England a 2-1 win over Serbia & Montenegro, during which they use 21 players and have four captains. Sven doesn’t see a problem: “Managers think friendlies should be like this and the public like it.” Northern Ireland lose 2-0 in Italy. Luton’s new owners allegedly offer to reinstate Joe Kinnear and Mick Harford, who were sacked last week.

Wednesday 4 Garrulous Gillingham chairman Paul Scally threatens to resign if fans continue to protest over the team’s shirts being changed from blue to white to please their sponsors. “I can play an important part in helping Man City turn itself into a contender for trophies,” says new signing David Seaman. York City appoint 27-year-old Chris Brass as manager.

Thursday 5 The Football League decides against expanding the play-offs to six teams in each division after resistance to the idea from the FA and Premier League, but it will be discussed again in September, as will the proposal to deduct points from clubs in administration. And there is super news from chairman Brian Mawhinney, who will be appointing a marketing manager for the First Division to offer “professional advice to convey the excitement, quality and potential of the league”.

Friday 6 Wimbledon go into administration with debts of £3.5 million, jeopardising their move to Milton Keynes hockey stadium for next season. “We are absolutely sure this is the right course,” says chairman Charles Koppel, ignoring the nation’s guffaws. In a move that may reduce overseas imports, Premiership chairmen agree to allow transfer payments to be spread over the length of a player’s contract, as happens in most European countries. The FA are to investigate allegations that Brad-ford City manager Nick Law has been encouraging young players to sign with a particular agent.

Saturday 7 In Euro 2004 qualifiers, Scotland draw 1-1 with Germany. The Republic of Ireland need a 92nd-minute own goal to beat Albania 2-1. Wales are all but guaranteed at least a play-off place after Serbia & Montenegro lose 3-0 in Finland. Today’s exciting news from Beckham World is that their boy is down for an OBE in the next honour’s list. The consortium about to take over at Notts County are to appoint controversial ex-Bradford City chairman Geoffrey Richmond as the club’s new chief executive.

Monday 9 Luton’s acting chief executive John Gurney claims they would consider buying Wimbledon, wrongly assuming that this would be a “back-door promotion into the First Division”. Former chairman Mike Watson-Challis is now the only person left on the club’s board after the resignation of the remaining directors, one one of whom, fans’ representative Yvonne Fletcher, describes recent events as “a complete nightmare, kind of Kafkaesque”.

Tuesday 10 Man Utd accept a bid of  £30m for David Beckham from Barcelona, though it is subject to Joan Laporta winning the club’s presidential election this coming weekend. David’s PR machine whirs into action in response, saying he is “surprised and disappointed” by the news. Oldham manager Iain Dowie claims that the club could fold soon if a new buyer is not found to replace departing owner Chris Moore.

Wednesday 11 “You don’t appreciate Michael Owen, you are very spoiled to have him in this country,” says Sven as England’s stand-in captain scores twice, one from a dubious penalty, to rescue a 2-1 win against Slovakia who led at half-time in their Euro 2004 qualifier. Turkey also come from behind to beat Macedonia 3-2. UEFA are to investigate incidents at the game in Istanbul in which opposition players were struck by missiles thrown from the crowd. The Republic of Ireland stay on course for at least a play-off spot after a 2-0 win over Georgia. Northern Ireland get their best result in years, a 0-0 home draw with Spain. Carlton Palmer says Stockport are in talks to sign Paul Gascoigne: “He has a great presence and would murder the Second Division.” Gérard Houllier and Arsène Wenger are to be given honorary OBEs while Shaun Goater gets an MBE for promoting football in his native Bermuda.

Friday 13 England Under-20s’ 8-0 thrashing by Argentina in the annual Toulon tournament is believed to be the worst defeat suffered by an English international team. Former Leeds can-carrier Peter Ridsdale leads a consortium that’s set to take over at Barnsley.

Sunday 15 Beckhamite Joan Laporta wins the Barcelona presidential election but Man Utd officials have allegedly begun transfer talks with Real Madrid, whose officials also met Dave before he embarked on his, er, promotional tour of the US. Matt Holland leaves Ipswich for Charlton.

Monday 16 After an initial phone poll rejected six other candidates, Luton’s fans are being asked to vote for their new manager from a shortlist of three: Joe Kinnear, Mike Newell and Steve Cotterill. The Football League has requested a meeting with the club’s new owners, possibly with psychiatrists present. Harry Kewell is set to move to Arsenal after rejecting a new contract with Leeds worth £48,000 a week. Everton keeper Richard Wright will miss the start of next season after damaging his shoulder while falling out of a loft. The stuff he was looking for was in the shed anyway.

Tuesday 17 The David Beckham brand will join Real Madrid for £25m, saying: “I would always regret it later in life if I turned down the chance to play at another great club.” “We believe this is a good deal for the club,” says Man Utd chief executive Peter Kenyon, while a spokesman for supporters’ pressure group Shareholders United says that the board have “taken leave of their senses”. Blackburn say they will let Damien Duff go, but only for £17m, a valuation that was put into his contract last season.

Wednesday 18 Pierre van Hooijdonk is to sue Nottingham Forest for money supposedly owed, including a “loyalty bonus”, from his transfer to Vitesse Arnhem four years ago. Forest may counter-sue, claiming that his decision to go on strike affected his transfer value. Hibs and Hearts are to hold discussions about sharing a new stadium in Edinburgh.

Thursday 19 The Football League give Luton’s new owners a deadline of July 10 by which to “clarify a number of outstanding issues” relating to their takeover of the club. Chief executive and man of a thousand ideas John Gurney claims that Joe Kinnear has been persuaded to return as manager. The Premier League announce that, under the terms of the proposed new television contracts, 138 matches will be shown live each season – 20 per cent more than now – from 2004-05, with 62 live on Saturdays at 1pm and 5.15pm on pay-per-view channels. The rights have been split into three packages and there is also a contract for highlights to be shown on mobile phones, for God’s sake, a few minutes after matches have ended. Chief executive Peter Scudamore is keeping it real: “The hyper-inflationary times are over – and it’s good they’re gone.”

Friday 20 Sensing an opportunity for mischief, Arsène offers his take on the Beckham transfer: “One of the things that made Manchester great is going. It is the beginning of a break-up for that group. For me, it was a surprise.” Celtic will play either Lithuanian or Faroese opponents in the Champions League second round qualifiers while Man City face a daunting trip to the Welsh border where Total Network Solutions await in the UEFA Cup preliminary round.

Sunday 22 The FA Council votes in favour of proposals to restructure non-League football, which include the Conference getting two regionalised second divisions from the start of 2004-05. Two of those who voted at the meeting, noted non-League experts Ken Bates and David Dein, announce a truce in their long standing feud. “We’ve only had one row,” says Dein. “Trouble is, it’s been going on for 19 years.”

Monday 23 Mike Newell is to be the new manager of Luton after surprisingly winning the club’s unique phone poll, though all the players voted for Joe Kinnear.  Man Utd coach Carlos Queiroz is a candidate to replace Vicente del Bosque, scandalously sacked by Real Madrid for looking like a normal person. Man Utd may soon have more transfer income to spend, as Seba (he prefers us to call him that) Verón is getting itchy feet: “I think I will be playing in Serie A next season.” A group of “Far-east speculators” are allegedly about to pay £25m for a 25 per cent stake in Chelsea Village, the club’s holding company.

Tuesday 24 Man Utd are back on the Vieira trail again and said to be preparing a £22m bid – though it may just be more of that psychological warfare we’re all so captivated by. Portsmouth will make Teddy Sheringham their fourth signing of the summer, but have been prevented from buying Wimbledon’s Nigel Reo-Coker and Jobi McAnuff by the club’s administrators who claim to be talking to a prospective buyer – he’ll catch it from his parents when the next phone bill comes in. Carling take over from Worthington as sponsors of the League Cup.

Wednesday 25 Tottenham are to sign 20-year-old Porto striker Helder Postiga. “When he was ten he used to dream of playing for them,” says his agent, so it’s all worked out lovely. Fergie begins the search for a new sidekick (Bryan Robson is available) as Carlos Queiroz agrees to join Real Madrid, leaving Old Trafford with a tribute to his old boss: “Alex is football itself. No, that’s wrong, he is more than football.”

Thursday 26 Marc-Vivien Foé collapses and dies of a suspected heart attack during Cameroon’s Confederations Cup semi-final win over Colombia. FIFA announces that Sunday’s final against hosts France will still go ahead. Leeds agree to sell Paul Robinson to Villa for a basic fee of £2.75m rising on appearances, though the player himself is said to be hanging on for a bid from north London (not Barnet). Former Ross County manager Neale Cooper takes over at Hartlepool.

Friday 27 Falkirk lose their appeal against being denied promotion to the Scottish Premier League, though may now take their case to the Office of Fair Trading. Barnsley owner Peter Doyle agrees to sell the club to  an Icelandic consortium, which also includes David Moyes’ agent brother Kenny, rather than the group fronted by the high-rolling Peter Ridsdale. Peter Jackson returns to manage Huddersfield four years after the club sacked him, when they were two divisions higher.

Saturday 28 Crystal Palace say they won’t be inviting homeless Wimbledon to become tenants again next season and Watford have also turned them down. Luton, who else, may step in. Fox on the bench Francis Jeffers is pining for home: “I have not got any problems and Arsène Wenger is a great manager, but I would love a move back to Everton.” David Beckham is in trouble for wearing an England shirt with an unauthorised Castrol logo on one of his promotional forays in the Far East. “The England shirt is sacrosanct and will never be used for commercial deals,” says a spokesman for the FA sponsored by Axa. Arbroath release captain Paul Browne for making a hoax call that convinced team-mate Eddie Forest to reject a new contract in favour of a supposed deal with Raith.

Sunday 29 France win the Confederations Cup with a “golden goal” from Thierry Henry. FIFA decide against increasing the World Cup to 36 teams and instead take away the automatic qualifying place given to Oceania last December. “It’s unethical, it’s immoral, call it what you like,” says the confederation’s president Basil Scarsella. We may see the end of messages thanking God or Nike as it is decided that players will be booked for removing their shirts to celebrate a goal.

Monday 30 Liverpool are said to have reached an agreement with Harry Kewell, who will cost them  £7m, plus parity with Michael Owen on £60,000 a week. Britain’s most furious man, Neil Warnock, is to face two charges of misconduct for outbursts against referees, Graham Poll and Steve Bennett at the FA Cup semi-final and First Division play-off final respectively. Gudjon Thordarsson is to be the new manager of Barnsley. Australia and New Zealand are to ask FIFA to disband the Oceania confederation and allow them to join Asia instead.

From WSC 198 August 2003. What was happening this month