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25 Years


CFuller
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JUNE 2002

A football manager's job is never done - especially not in the lower leagues. While most of us spent the summer engrossed in the World Cup finals in East Asia, I was hard at work rebuilding my Dagenham & Redbridge team for next season.

 

After a stuttering start, my debut campaign with the Daggers had finished strongly - with six straight victories lifting us up into 3rd place. And of course, there was the small matter of us winning the FA Trophy at Highbury, adding a first piece of national silverware to the Victoria Road cabinet.

 

Thanks to all our Conference and FA Trophy prize money, our bank balance had swelled to over £300,000 - and I had a healthy £100,000 transfer budget to play with. That was surely more than enough to turn what was already a strong (if erratic) team into a fearsome unit capable of challenging for promotion into the Football League.

 

But before I discuss our new signings, we need to touch on those who have sadly left us. The defensive stability that captain Lee Matthews brought us would be sorely missed, as he - along with midfielder Steve Heffer - upped sticks to join a Bury side who had just been relegated to Division 3.

 

Another player who'd already agreed a move away from the Daggers to the Football League was Ashley Vickers. After three years at Victoria Road, the left-back made the long journey north to Hartlepool, where he'll hope to impress manager Ted McMinn... and a certain Jeff Stelling.

 

Division 3 football also beckoned for our creative attacking midfielder Danny Hill, who refused to renew his Daggers contract and instead headed west to Swansea. Hill produced two goals and seven assists last season, but he was very inconsistent, so I'm intrigued to see how the former Cardiff man will handle a return to south Wales.

 

We also said goodbye to two youngsters who failed to make the grade. 18-year-old striker Paul Piscopides was sold to Aldershot in the Isthmian League for £16,000, having scored just once in eight outings for the Daggers. That was still eight more than 20-year-old midfielder Steve Vaughan managed before his departure on a free transfer.

 

Right-back Craig Hinton and striker Steve Howard completed their loan spells and returned to Kidderminster and Luton respectively. Howard had two separate stints with us and scored 15 goals, 12 of which came in his second spell. If Steve's excellent form doesn't convince Joe F***ing Kinnear to give him a chance at Kenilworth Road, he will always be welcome to come back here permanently.

 

And finally, veteran forward Steve McGavin announced his retirement aged 33. Steve only spent one season with us, but what a season it was - 12 goals, 6 assists, and a cup winner's medal to boot. He will be missed, but also fondly remembered around these parts for years to come.

 

So, those are the outs. What about the new boys who've come in?

 

Let's start with a couple of free agent prospects. Local boy Richard Rose (17) is a strong, quick and tall centre-back who looks in great physical shape but is technically very raw. We've also signed Irish striker Michael O'Neill (18), who's full of energy and running - and looks like a decent finisher. I suspect he could break into the first-team picture pretty quickly.

 

With Matthews and Vickers gone, we wasted little time in adding more experience to our defence. Former Northwich right-back Mark Bailey (25) has fantastic crossing ability and should provide strong competition for Lee Goodwin. In the centre, we've been boosted by the arrival of Dave Bayliss (26) - a tough-tackling Liverpudlian who made nearly 200 league appearances for Rochdale.

 

And if you're wondering what happened to John Anderson after "Gladiators" was cancelled... he hung up his whistle and started playing football!

 

Alright, we haven't actually signed that John Anderson (who must be well into his 70s now), but this 29-year-old Scottish centre-back is as physically imposing and fearless as Wolf and co were. Frankly, I'm absolutely delighted that we've nabbed him on a free from Livingston, especially as has plenty of Scottish Premier League experience on his CV.

 

But now here's where the real spending starts. Replacing Vickers at left-back will be 28-year-old Gareth Hanmer, who arrives from Telford for £3,000. The diminutive Welshman previously spent four seasons at Shrewsbury, but after a year stuck in Telford's reserves, he'll be especially hungry to prove his worth.

 

Then we spent £5,000 on Swansea's defensive midfielder Damien Lacey. The 24-year-old is an expert ball-winner whose high determination and endless energy should hopefully make up for his somewhat limited passing abilities. He also has great leadership skills and will be battling Anderson for the honour of replacing Matthews as Daggers captain.

 

Our last signing - for the time being, anyway - has cost us a club-record £40,000. I needed a top-quality centre-forward who could fill the Howard role by scoring goals, creating them, and generally being an all-round nuisance for opposition defenders. Cheltenham's Julian Alsop fitted the bill perfectly.

 

If you thought Howard was big, you haven't seen Alsop yet. The 29-year-old - previously of Bristol Rovers and Swansea - is a gentle giant who's built like a brick house and could probably jump over the crossbar if he wanted to! But though he may look like he's eaten all the pies, Jules still has plenty of technical grace and can finish with great precision.

 

With Alsop's power, and Junior McDougald's pace, we have a fearsome strike partnership who could tear the Conference apart next season. I am excited, folks - VERY excited!

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ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • As Manchester United's three-year Premiership reign comes to an end, Sir Alex Ferguson decides to spend big money on an England centre-half. However, Leeds have no intention of selling Rio Ferdinand, so Fergie instead signs Middlesbrough's Ugo Ehiogu for £8.25million.
  • Newcastle's heartbreaking end to the season proves too much for Bobby Robson, who gracefully retires from management aged 69. The Magpies are now hoping that successor Javier Clemente can end their trophy drought when he arrives from Utrecht next month.
  • The World Cup kicks off in South Korea and Japan. It's a dream debut on the world stage for Slovenia, who defeat Spain and South Africa in their opening group matches to qualify for Round 2. Oskar Drobne - a little-known 27-year-old playing in Croatia for Varteks - scores four goals in the group phase and is in contention for the Golden Boot.
  • England are on the brink of a shock Group Stage exit until Steven Gerrard heads in a last-minute winner against Nigeria. This sets up a Round 2 meeting with Germany... which the Three Lions obviously lose on penalties, after Oliver Kahn saves spot-kicks from Robbie Fowler, David Beckham and Ashley Cole.
  • The Republic of Ireland also reach the knockout rounds, having survived the Group Stage unbeaten. Spirits in the Irish camp couldn't be higher as captain Roy Keane presents manager Mick McCarthy with a box of dog-shaped chocolates at their Saipan training base.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Queen Elizabeth II officially celebrates her Golden Jubilee with a weekend of events in London. One of the most memorable moments sees guitarist Brian May play "God Save the Queen" on the roof of Buckingham Palace. Apparently, John Lydon wasn't available.
  • Nearly 25 years after Elvis Presley's death, two kings of boxing walk into the ring in Memphis. Britain's Lennox Lewis knocks out 'Iron' Mike Tyson in the eighth round to successfully defend his world heavyweight championship belts.
  • Former South Africa cricket captain Hansie Cronje - who was banned for life in 2000 amid a match-fixing scandal - is killed in a plane crash. He was just 32 years old.
  • The final whistle blows for John Entwistle. The 57-year-old bassist of legendary British rock band The Who suffers a fatal heart attack in Nevada, one day before their American tour is due to start.
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SEASON REVIEW 2001/2002

ENGLAND

NOTE: All goals and assist records relate to league matches only.

 

PREMIERSHIP

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Arsenal                         38   13   1    5    28   16   13   5    1    30   15   84   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Liverpool                       38   15   2    2    39   9    10   3    6    29   22   80   
3rd     Newcastle                       38   15   1    3    38   17   9    5    5    29   26   78   
4th     Man Utd                         38   13   4    2    37   9    10   4    5    33   23   77   
5th     Chelsea                         38   12   5    2    38   16   9    3    7    25   24   71   
6th     Leeds                           38   13   3    3    41   19   6    3    10   32   41   63   
7th     Middlesbrough                   38   11   4    4    30   21   6    7    6    22   19   62   
8th     Tottenham                       38   11   2    6    39   20   6    6    7    17   21   59   
9th     Blackburn                       38   11   5    3    38   20   3    6    10   16   26   53   
10th    Sunderland                      38   12   4    3    42   26   2    3    14   14   40   49   
11th    Bolton                          38   8    1    10   30   30   6    5    8    25   35   48   
12th    Southampton                     38   10   3    6    33   25   4    0    15   14   36   45   
13th    Leicester                       38   8    4    7    25   20   4    3    12   20   35   43   
14th    Ipswich                         38   9    6    4    32   23   2    4    13   15   42   43   
15th    Fulham                          38   7    4    8    28   27   4    4    11   28   42   41   
16th    Everton                         38   8    3    8    27   27   4    2    13   19   36   41   
17th    Aston Villa                     38   6    6    7    29   24   3    2    14   18   37   35   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
18th R  Charlton                        38   5    8    6    19   25   1    6    12   18   40   32   
19th R  Derby                           38   6    6    7    29   31   1    3    15   15   38   30   
20th R  West Ham                        38   5    4    10   21   35   3    2    14   21   45   30   

 

Top Goalscorer - Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd): 20.

Most Assists - Bjarne Goldbæk (Fulham): 17.

Highest Average Rating - Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd): 8.05.

 

PFA Player of the Year - Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd).

PFA Young Player of the Year - Joe Cole (West Ham).

 

DIVISION 1

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Coventry                        46   17   2    4    43   25   10   6    7    37   25   89   
2nd  P  Man City                        46   15   8    0    58   29   8    5    10   40   45   82   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Watford                         46   15   3    5    43   25   8    8    7    33   31   80   
4th     Sheff Wed                       46   16   4    3    51   19   7    6    10   39   42   79   
5th  P  Wolves                          46   18   2    3    44   17   6    5    12   29   38   79   
6th     Preston                         46   16   2    5    47   29   8    3    12   30   43   77   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
7th     Bradford                        46   14   6    3    42   19   6    9    8    30   36   75   
8th     Birmingham                      46   15   5    3    44   28   5    10   8    36   42   75   
9th     Millwall                        46   13   3    7    41   27   9    4    10   34   42   73   
10th    W.B.A.                          46   13   5    5    44   30   8    4    11   36   34   72   
11th    Portsmouth                      46   12   6    5    42   28   8    4    11   40   38   70   
12th    Crystal Palace                  46   13   6    4    50   35   6    7    10   36   42   70   
13th    Grimsby                         46   15   4    4    55   34   5    4    14   25   48   68   
14th    Walsall                         46   14   3    6    42   20   5    5    13   23   44   65   
15th    Wimbledon                       46   12   5    6    46   34   6    4    13   36   58   63   
16th    Crewe                           46   14   3    6    48   38   3    4    16   20   51   58   
17th    Nottm Forest                    46   11   8    4    42   29   3    4    16   34   53   54   
18th    Burnley                         46   9    8    6    33   27   4    4    15   25   41   51   
19th    Barnsley                        46   11   4    8    35   25   2    7    14   21   37   50   
20th    Gillingham                      46   8    6    9    35   36   4    4    15   21   43   46   
21st    Norwich                         46   7    7    9    39   46   4    6    13   36   59   46   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
22nd R  Rotherham                       46   7    9    7    41   38   2    2    19   14   53   38   
23rd R  Stockport                       46   7    9    7    40   39   1    4    18   24   51   37   
24th R  Sheff Utd                       46   6    4    13   36   42   4    3    16   20   45   37   

 

DIVISION 2

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Chesterfield                    46   16   5    2    52   26   11   5    7    41   29   91   
2nd  P  Stoke                           46   14   5    4    49   24   10   6    7    42   33   83   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd  P  Port Vale                       46   13   5    5    48   36   12   3    8    43   36   83   
4th     Notts Co                        46   12   9    2    45   25   11   1    11   36   35   79   
5th     Cardiff                         46   15   2    6    45   23   9    5    9    29   31   79   
6th     Brentford                       46   17   4    2    50   28   5    9    9    33   41   79   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
7th     Blackpool                       46   14   4    5    56   39   9    4    10   34   40   77   
8th     Q.P.R.                          46   15   6    2    46   24   6    7    10   39   41   76   
9th     Wigan                           46   13   5    5    34   24   8    8    7    46   41   76   
10th    Bristol City                    46   16   4    3    46   18   5    6    12   23   37   73   
11th    Swindon                         46   12   5    6    42   30   6    8    9    36   40   67   
12th    Tranmere                        46   9    9    5    32   28   6    8    9    30   34   62   
13th    Wrexham                         46   12   4    7    38   29   6    3    14   28   37   61   
14th    Peterborough                    46   8    5    10   38   40   9    5    9    39   39   61   
15th    Cambridge Utd                   46   10   5    8    30   30   7    5    11   34   45   61   
16th    Bournemouth                     46   10   7    6    44   35   5    7    11   34   41   59   
17th    Reading                         46   9    6    8    37   30   6    7    10   36   48   58   
18th    Wycombe                         46   10   4    9    35   34   4    10   9    29   31   56   
19th    Brighton                        46   11   7    5    45   38   3    3    17   29   58   52   
20th    Huddersfield                    46   6    7    10   37   32   6    5    12   32   43   48   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
21st R  Colchester                      46   9    4    10   26   30   3    5    15   20   46   45   
22nd R  Bury                            46   6    4    13   31   46   4    5    14   21   46   39   
23rd R  Northampton                     46   8    7    8    41   44   2    1    20   12   49   38   
24th R  Oldham                          46   4    5    14   29   50   2    2    19   17   55   25   

 

DIVISION 3

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Luton                           46   17   4    2    33   15   16   3    4    41   19   106  
2nd  P  Darlington                      46   14   2    7    55   28   11   8    4    39   22   85   
3rd  P  Hull                            46   14   4    5    42   25   11   5    7    44   38   84   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Scunthorpe                      46   13   8    2    53   30   7    7    9    35   40   75   
5th     Bristol Rovers                  46   13   5    5    49   33   9    4    10   44   44   75   
6th  P  Carlisle                        46   11   6    6    45   33   10   3    10   38   39   72   
7th     Macclesfield                    46   11   5    7    47   42   10   4    9    41   38   72   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Oxford                          46   12   4    7    35   26   9    4    10   40   49   71   
9th     Lincoln                         46   11   4    8    38   28   8    9    6    28   28   70   
10th    Shrewsbury                      46   13   3    7    38   29   7    7    9    37   39   70   
11th    Leyton Orient                   46   12   5    6    41   33   7    6    10   28   33   68   
12th    Swansea                         46   12   3    8    52   40   7    7    9    39   37   67   
13th    Rochdale                        46   9    8    6    37   33   9    5    9    37   36   67   
14th    Cheltenham                      46   8    8    7    44   42   9    2    12   41   45   61   
15th    Rushden                         46   10   7    6    47   42   7    3    13   29   41   61   
16th    Hartlepool                      46   9    3    11   33   34   7    5    11   26   40   56   
17th    Halifax                         46   11   5    7    32   31   5    3    15   25   45   56   
18th    Mansfield                       46   7    6    10   48   47   7    7    9    42   37   55   
19th    Plymouth                        46   11   3    9    43   32   4    7    12   40   51   55   
20th    Kidderminster                   46   6    7    10   30   35   8    5    10   28   36   54   
21st    Exeter                          46   6    6    11   35   42   7    4    12   28   44   49   
22nd    Torquay                         46   8    7    8    37   41   5    1    17   27   53   47   
23rd    Southend                        46   8    2    13   23   31   3    7    13   28   47   42   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th R  York                            46   4    4    15   20   42   0    3    20   9    56   19   

 

CONFERENCE

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Doncaster                       42   18   3    0    48   13   10   6    5    45   37   93   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Northwich Vics                  42   14   5    2    44   25   12   5    4    46   33   88   
3rd     Dag & Red                       42   14   3    4    38   20   9    6    6    38   30   78   
4th     Farnborough                     42   13   3    5    40   22   10   4    7    36   27   76   
5th     Boston Utd                      42   12   7    2    39   21   10   3    8    35   27   76   
6th     Margate                         42   12   5    4    40   23   10   3    8    25   23   74   
7th     Southport                       42   10   7    4    34   27   10   3    8    30   31   70   
8th     Barnet                          42   14   2    5    44   28   5    4    12   33   42   63   
9th     Forest Green                    42   9    7    5    38   30   8    4    9    29   34   62   
10th    Hayes                           42   9    4    8    31   29   7    8    6    27   28   60   
11th    Telford                         42   7    9    5    28   26   6    7    8    21   27   55   
12th    Stalybridge                     42   7    7    7    29   28   7    3    11   32   38   52   
13th    Nuneaton Borough                42   9    3    9    35   39   6    3    12   30   39   51   
14th    Stevenage                       42   11   3    7    43   33   3    4    14   21   42   49   
15th    Yeovil                          42   6    7    8    25   33   7    3    11   23   30   49   
16th    Dover                           42   9    4    8    36   35   3    8    10   22   37   48   
17th    Scarborough                     42   8    3    10   27   36   5    5    11   23   30   47   
18th    Hereford                        42   5    9    7    22   26   6    4    11   34   40   46   
19th    Morecambe                       42   6    6    9    35   40   5    2    14   23   40   41   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th R  Chester                         42   8    2    11   29   30   3    5    13   21   37   40   
21st R  Leigh RMI                       42   6    3    12   23   33   1    8    12   22   45   32   
22nd R  Woking                          42   5    4    12   29   39   1    8    12   20   40   30   

 

Promoted to Conference: Blyth Spartans, Halesowen, Slough.

 

FA Cup: Leeds 2-1 Newcastle (aet).

League Cup: Man Utd 3-2 Liverpool.

Charity Shield: Man Utd 1-1 Liverpool (4-1 PSO).

Football League Trophy: Notts Co 4-1 QPR.

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OTHER LEAGUES

 

FRANCE

Division 1

Top Three: Marseille (1st), Auxerre (2nd), Lille (3rd).

Relegated: Metz (17th), Bastia (18th).

Promoted from Division 2: Le Havre (1st), Strasbourg (2nd), Nice (3rd), Nancy (4th).

 

Top Goalscorer - Salaheddine Bassir (Lille), Djibril Cissé (Auxerre), Sonny Anderson (Lyon): 17.

Most Assists - Khalilou Fadiga (Auxerre): 15.

Highest Average Rating - Hubert Fournier (Guingamp): 7.86.

 

Coupe de France: Monaco 2-0 Lens.

Coupe de la Ligue: Bordeaux 3-2 Rennes.

 

GERMANY

1. Bundesliga

Top Three: FC Bayern (1st), Schalke 04 (2nd), HSV (3rd).

Relegated: Wolfsburg (16th), Cottbus (17th), Rostock (18th).

Promoted from 2. Bundesliga: Bielefeld (1st), Bochum (2nd), Frankfurt (3rd).

 

Top Goalscorer - Ebbe Sand (Schalke 04): 24.

Most Assists - Bernd Schneider (Leverkusen), Zé Roberto (Leverkusen): 19.

Highest Average Rating - Ebbe Sand (Schalke 04): 8.09

 

DFB-Pokal: HSV 2-0 Hertha BSC.

DFB-Liga Pokal: Schalke 04 3-0 SC Freiburg.

 

HOLLAND

Eredivisie

Top Three: PSV (1st), Ajax (2nd), Feyenoord (3rd).

Relegated: Den Bosch (17th, via play-offs), Utrecht (18th).

Promoted from Eerste Divisie: Volendam (1st), ADO (3rd, via play-offs).

 

Top Goalscorer - Mateja Kezman (PSV): 27.

Most Assists - Andy van der Meyde (Ajax): 15.

Highest Average Rating - Mateja Kezman (PSV): 8.28.

 

KNVB Beker: PSV 2-1 Ajax.

 

ITALY

Serie A

Top Three: Lazio (1st), Milan (2nd), Roma (3rd).

Relegated: Brescia (15th, lost play-off), Fiorentina (16th), Venezia (17th), Piacenza (18th).

Promoted from Serie B: Genoa (1st), Reggina (2nd), Vicenza (3rd), Ancona (4th).

 

Top Goalscorer - Andriy Shevchenko (Milan): 20.

Most Assists - Cristiano Doni (Atalanta): 12.

Highest Average Rating - Gabriel Batistuta (Roma): 8.19.

 

Coppa Italia: Juventus 5-3 Chievo (aggregate, aet).

 

PORTUGAL

Primeira Liga

Top Three: Sporting (1st), Porto (2nd), Leiria (3rd).

Relegated: Alverca (16th), Farense (17th), Beira-Mar (18th).

Promoted from Segunda Liga: Académica (1st), Maia (2nd), Estrela Amadora (3rd).

 

Top Goalscorer - Gaúcho (Marítimo): 33.

Most Assists - Rui Borges (Alverca): 18.

Highest Average Rating - Jardel (Sporting): 8.15.

 

Taça de Portugal: Vitória Setúbal 2-1 Sporting.

 

SCOTLAND

Premier League

Top Three: Celtic (1st), Rangers (2nd), Motherwell (3rd).

Relegated: Dunfermline (12th).

Promoted from Division 1: Clyde (1st).

 

Top Goalscorer - Henrik Larsson (Celtic): 26.

Most Assists - Barry Ferguson (Rangers): 18.

Highest Average Rating - Henrik Larsson (Celtic): 8.27.

 

Scottish Cup: Rangers 2-1 St Mirren.

League Cup: Hearts 1-0 St Mirren.

 

SPAIN

La Liga

Top Three: Deportivo (1st), Valencia (2nd), Real Madrid (3rd).

Relegated: Valladolid (18th), Tenerife (19th), Osasuna (20th).

Promoted from Segunda División: Atlético Madrid (1st), Racing Santander (2nd), Oviedo (3rd).

 

Top Goalscorer - Diego Tristán (Deportivo): 30.

Most Assists - Constantin Galca (Villarreal): 18.

Highest Average Rating - Patrick Kluivert (Barcelona): 8.14.

 

Copa del Rey: Valencia 1-0 Betis.

 

CONTINENTAL & INTERNATIONAL

 

CLUB

Champions League: Lazio 1-0 Roma (aet) - in Glasgow.

UEFA Cup: Deportivo 2-1 Rosenborg (aet) - in Copenhagen.

Super Cup: Liverpool 1-0 FC Bayern.

 

Intercontinental Cup: Boca 1-0 FC Bayern (aet).

 

FIFA World Player of the Year - Claudio López (Lazio & Argentina).

World Footballer of the Year - Hernán Jorge Crespo (Lazio & Argentina).

African Player of the Year - Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal & Nigeria).

European Player of the Year - Patrick Kluivert (Barcelona & Holland).

South American Player of the Year - Romário (Vasco & Brazil).

Oceania Player of the Year - Mark Viduka (Leeds & Australia).

 

LEADING TRANSFERS (Premiership)

DATE       NAME                        POSITIONS     FROM                TO                  FEE
28/03/02   Christian Poulsen           DM RC         FC København        Leeds               £9.25M
14/01/02   Paulo Wanchope              F C           Man City            Blackburn           £9M
05/06/02   Ugo Ehiogu                  D C           Middlesbrough       Man Utd             £8.25M
20/11/01   Nolberto Solano             AM RLC        Newcastle           Leeds               £7.75M
25/09/01   Jesús Arellano              D/AM R        Monterrey           Sunderland          £6.75M
13/06/02   Colin Cameron               AM RC         Wolves              Middlesbrough       £5.25M
25/11/01   Michael Zewlakow            SW/D RLC      Mouscron            Blackburn           £4.9M
23/08/01   Stephen Carr                D R           Tottenham           Aston Villa         £4.8M
14/11/01   Gary Breen                  SW/D C        Coventry            Chelsea             £4.8M
10/11/01   Richard Johnson             DM C          Watford             Middlesbrough       £4.1M

 

LEADING TRANSFERS (not including Premiership)

DATE       NAME                        POSITIONS     FROM                TO                  FEE
13/08/01   Christian Vieri             S C           Inter               Real Madrid         £31.5M
15/12/01   Torsten Frings              D/DM RC       Werder Bremen       Deportivo           £11.75M
09/01/02   Levan Kobiashvili           DM LC         SC Freiburg         Schalke 04          £10M
15/12/01   Daniel Montenegro           AM RLC        Marseille           Zaragoza            £8.5M
05/01/02   Matias Jonson               AM/F RLC      Brøndby             Barcelona           £8.75M
09/12/01   Landon Donovan              F RLC         San Jose            Leverkusen          £8M
20/06/02   Araújo                      AM/F RLC      Goiás               Valencia            £7.75M
29/06/02   Chris Perry                 D C           Tottenham           Celtic              £7.5M
01/06/02   Ricardo Cabanas             AM C          Grasshopper         Fenerbahçe          £7.25M
15/12/01   Joaquín                     AM R          Betis               Mallorca            £6.5M

 

Edited by CFuller
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WORLD CUP REVIEW: SOUTH KOREA/JAPAN 2002

 

GROUP A

12 June [Tokyo, Japan]

France - 2 (David Trezeguet 15, Philippe Christanval 21)

Senegal - 0

 

12 June [Pusan, South Korea]

Denmark - 3 (Jon Dahl Tomasson 31, Dennis Rommedahl 49, Ebbe Sand 75)

Uruguay - 1 (Kléber Marcelo Romero 71)

 

18 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Senegal - 0

Denmark - 2 (Christian Poulsen 42, Jon Dahl Tomasson 81)

 

18 June [Daegu, South Korea]

Uruguay - 0

France - 0

 

25 June [Seoul, South Korea]

France - 3 (Florian Maurice 2, Zinedine Zidane 51,pen89)

Denmark - 1 (Jon Dahl Tomasson pen6, Martin Laursen s/off28, Thomas Sørensen s/off89)

 

25 June [Osaka, Japan]

Senegal - 2 (Souleymane Camara 66, Henri Camara 80)

Uruguay - 2 (Javier Ernesto Chevantón 33, Marcelo Otero 74)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  France                          3    2    1    0    5    1    7
2nd  Q  Denmark                         3    2    0    1    6    4    6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Uruguay                         3    0    2    1    3    5    2
4th     Senegal                         3    0    1    2    2    6    1

 

GROUP B

13 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Paraguay - 1 (Roque Santa Cruz 45)

South Africa - 2 (Bennedict McCarthy 77, Steven Pienaar 81)

 

13 June [Hiroshima, Japan]

Slovenia - 3 (Milenko Acimovic pen34, Oskar Drobne 37,52)

Spain - 1 (Luis Enrique 30, Joan Capdevila s/off51)

 

19 June [Osaka, Japan]

Spain - 2 (José Antonio Reyes 21, Javi Moreno 84)

Paraguay - 0

 

19 June [Pusan, South Korea]

South Africa - 1 (Siyabonga Nomvethe 45, Hans Vonk s/off60)

Slovenia - 4 (Oskar Drobne 39, Zoran Pavlovic 50, Zlatko Zahovic pen60, Sead Zilic 74)

 

25 June [Daegu, South Korea]

Paraguay - 1 (Franciso Javier Arce 29)

Slovenia - 1 (Oskar Drobne 6)

 

25 June [Tokyo, Japan]

South Africa - 0

Spain - 0 (Capi s/off67)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Slovenia                        3    2    1    0    8    3    7
2nd  Q  Spain                           3    1    1    1    3    3    4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     South Africa                    3    1    1    1    3    5    4
4th     Paraguay                        3    0    1    2    2    5    1

 

GROUP C

14 June [Kobe, Japan]

Costa Rica - 2 (Rónald Gómez 32, Paulo Wanchope 77)

China - 1 (Mingyu Ma 72)

 

14 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Brazil - 1 (Denílson 90)

Turkey - 0

 

20 June [Tokyo, Japan]

China - 1 (Chen Yang 65)

Brazil - 1 (Kaká 6)

 

20 June [Hiroshima, Japan]

Turkey - 0

Costa Rica - 3 (Paulo Wanchope 24, Winston Parks 35, Rónald Gómez 68)

 

26 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Turkey - 1 (Ergün Penbe 90)

China - 1 (Mingyu Ma 7)

 

26 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Brazil - 2 (Araújo 51, Rivaldo 65)

Costa Rica - 1 (Rónald Gómez pen50)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Brazil                          3    2    1    0    4    2    7
2nd  Q  Costa Rica                      3    2    0    1    6    3    6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     China                           3    0    2    1    3    4    2
4th     Turkey                          3    0    1    2    1    5    1

 

GROUP D

14 June [Pusan, South Korea]

United States - 1 (DaMarcus Beasley 45)

Portugal - 0

 

15 June [Daegu, South Korea]

Poland - 2 (Marcin Mieciel 45,74)

South Korea - 2 (Yong-Soo Choi 45,88)

 

22 June [Osaka, Japan]

Portugal - 0

Poland - 0

 

22 June [Yokohama, Japan]

South Korea - 0

United States - 4 (Joe-Max Moore 42, Landon Donovan 78, Josh Wolff 83, Clint Mathis 90)

 

26 June [Kobe, Japan]

Portugal - 1 (Pauleta 59)

South Korea - 2 (Litos og21, Young-Pyo Lee 62)

 

26 June [Hiroshima, Japan]

United States - 1 (Clint Mathis 49)

Poland - 1 (Emmanuel Olisadebe 86)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  United States                   3    2    1    0    6    1    7
2nd  Q  South Korea                     3    1    1    1    4    7    4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Poland                          3    0    3    0    3    3    3
4th     Portugal                        3    0    1    2    1    3    1

 

GROUP E

15 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Cameroon - 0

Republic of Ireland - 1 (Robbie Keane 90)

 

15 June [Tokyo, Japan]

Germany - 2 (Roy Präger 47,49)

Saudi Arabia - 0

 

22 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Saudi Arabia - 1 (Obaid Al-Dosari 89)

Cameroon - 1 (Joseph-Désiré Job 73)

 

22 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Republic of Ireland - 0

Germany - 0

 

27 June [Yokohama, Japan]

Germany - 3 (Miroslav Klose 15,45, Michael Ballack 73)

Cameroon - 0

 

27 June [Osaka, Japan]

Saudi Arabia - 1 (Obaid Al-Dosari 79)

Republic of Ireland - 1 (Mark Kinsella 63)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Germany                         3    2    1    0    5    0    7
2nd  Q  Republic of Ireland             3    1    2    0    2    1    5
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Saudi Arabia                    3    0    2    1    2    4    2
4th     Cameroon                        3    0    1    2    1    5    1

 

GROUP F

16 June [Osaka, Japan]

England - 1 (Rio Ferdinand 55)

Sweden - 1 (Fredrik Ljungberg 76)

 

17 June [Yokohama, Japan]

Nigeria - 0

Argentina - 4 (Hernán Jorge Crespo 1, Juan Sebastián Verón 38, Roberto Fabián Ayala 48, Gabriel Batistuta 59)

 

23 June [Kobe, Japan]

Sweden - 0

Nigeria - 1 (Joseph Yobo 14)

 

23 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Argentina - 1 (Hernán Jorge Crespo pen71)

England - 0

 

27 June [Pusan, South Korea]

England - 1 (Steven Gerrard 90)

Nigeria - 0

 

27 June [Daegu, South Korea]

Sweden - 0 (Mattias Asper s/off18)

Argentina - 3 (Hernán Jorge Crespo m/pen18, Marcelo Gallardo 45, Christian Bassedas 65, Eduardo Berizzo 87)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Argentina                       3    3    0    0    8    0    9
2nd  Q  England                         3    1    1    1    2    2    4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Nigeria                         3    1    0    2    1    5    3
4th     Sweden                          3    0    1    2    1    5    1

 

GROUP G

17 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Italy - 3 (Vincenzo Montella 17, Filippo Inzaghi 35,83)

Ecuador - 0

 

17 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Mexico - 1 (Alberto Rodríguez s/off20, Cuauhtémoc Blanco 48)

Croatia - 1 (Davor Vugrinec m/pen26, Robert Jarni 56)

 

24 June [Pusan, South Korea]

Ecuador - 0

Mexico - 2 (Luis Garcia 71,80)

 

24 June [Hiroshima, Japan]

Croatia - 1 (Mario Stanic 79)

Italy - 2 (Filippo Inzaghi 21, Damiano Tommasi 61)

 

28 June [Kobe, Japan]

Ecuador - 0

Croatia - 2 (Davor Vugrinec 20, Ivica Olic 26)

 

28 June [Tokyo, Japan]

Italy - 2 (Damiano Tommasi 34, Alessandro Del Piero 69)

Mexico - 0

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Italy                           3    3    0    0    7    1    9
2nd  Q  Croatia                         3    1    1    1    4    3    4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Mexico                          3    1    1    1    3    3    4
4th     Ecuador                         3    0    0    3    0    7    0

 

GROUP H

16 June [Hiroshima, Japan]

Russia - 3 (Alexandr Panov 9,18, Sergey Ignashevich 25)

Tunisia - 0 (Mounir Boukadida s/off7)

 

16 June [Kobe, Japan]

Belgium - 1 (Emile Mpenza 29)

Japan - 2 (Hidetoshi Nakata 47, Atsuhiro Miura 78)

 

22 June [Daegu, South Korea]

Tunisia - 0

Belgium - 3 (Wesley Sonck 21,25,29)

 

23 June [Yokohama, Japan]

Japan - 0

Russia - 0 (Viktor Onopko s/off38)

 

28 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Russia - 0

Belgium - 1 (Eric Deflandre 85)

 

28 June [Seoul, South Korea]

Tunisia - 1 (Alaeddine Yahia 7)

Japan - 2 (Naohiro Takahara 4,67)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Japan                           3    2    1    0    4    2    7
2nd  Q  Belgium                         3    2    0    1    5    2    6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Russia                          3    1    1    1    3    1    4
4th     Tunisia                         3    0    0    3    1    8    0

 

ROUND 2

29 June [Seoul, South Korea]

France - 0

Spain - 2 (Luis Enrique 76, David Albelda 85)

 

29 June [Yokohama, Japan]

United States - 0

Costa Rica - 1 (Paulo Wanchope 15)

 

30 June [Tokyo, Japan]

Japan - 1 (Tetsuya Okayama 81)

Croatia - 0

 

30 June [Kobe, Japan]

Germany - 1 (Miroslav Klose 84)

England - 1 (Michael Owen 45)

[after extra-time, Germany win 6-5 on penalties]

 

1 July [Osaka, Japan]

Brazil - 1 (Araújo 15)

South Korea - 2 (Sang-Chul Yoo 60, Yong-Soo Choi 68)

 

1 July [Pusan, South Korea]

Slovenia - 2 (Zlatko Zahovic 23, Oskar Drobne 40)

Denmark - 4 (Ebbe Sand 6, Jon Dahl Tomasson pen38,48,89)

 

2 July [Tokyo, Japan]

Italy - 3 (Alessandro Del Piero 11, Fabio Cannavaro 35, Fabio Liverani 90)

Belgium - 2 (Wesley Sonck 56, Gaëtan Englebert 57)

 

2 July [Seoul, South Korea]

Argentina - 0

Republic of Ireland - 2 (Matthew Holland 72, Robbie Keane 90)

 

QUARTER FINALS

5 July [Daegu, South Korea]

Germany - 3 (Oliver Bierhoff 13,44, Miroslav Klose 20)

Japan - 0

 

5 July [Tokyo, Japan]

Spain - 2 (Raúl 66, Capi 74)

Costa Rica - 1 (Paulo Wanchope 84)

 

6 July [Seoul, South Korea]

Republic of Ireland - 1 (Robbie Keane 28)

Italy - 2 (Mark Iuliano 19, Francesco Totti 80)

 

6 July [Seoul, South Korea]

Denmark - 2 (Jon Dahl Tomasson 7, Ebbe Sand 14, Christian Poulsen s/off37)

South Korea - 1 (Yong-Soo Choi 11)

 

SEMI FINALS

9 July [Seoul, South Korea]

Spain - 0

Germany - 2 (Roy Präger 48, Marko Rehmer 84)

 

10 July [Tokyo, Japan]

Denmark - 0

Italy - 2 (Jonathan Bachini 45, Andrea Pirlo 71)

 

3RD-PLACE PLAY-OFF

13 July [Yokohama, Japan]

Denmark - 0

Spain - 2 (Carles Puyol 27, Aitor Karanka 60)

 

FINAL

14 July [Tokyo, Japan]

Italy - 3 (Stefano Fiore pen9, Vincenzo Montella 29,76)

Germany - 2 (Torsten Frings 19,36)

ITALY (5-3-2 Defensive): Christian Abbiati; Fabio Cannavaro [C], Mark Iuliano (Marcello Castellini), Alessandro Nesta; Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Liverani, Fabio Grosso; Stefano Fiore, Francesco Totti (Andrea Pirlo); Filippo Inzaghi, Vincenzo Montella.

GERMANY (3-5-2 Attacking): Oliver Kahn [C]; Christian Wörns, Marko Rehmer, Thomas Linke (Frank Baumann); Bernd Schneider, Jörg Heinrich; Jens Jeremies, Torsten Frings; Roy Präger (Mehmet Scholl (Jörg Böhme)); Miroslav Klose, Oliver Bierhoff.

 

Top Goalscorer - Jon Dahl Tomasson (Denmark): 7.

Most Assists - Thomas Gravesen (Denmark): 4.

Highest Average Rating (at least 4 matches) - Fabio Cannavaro (Italy): 8.57.

Edited by CFuller
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  • 2 weeks later...

JULY 2002

It would be fair to say that Dagenham & Redbridge have undergone a bit of a transformation since I became manager 12 months ago. Half the squad has changed, and we've lost several long-time servants, including former captain Lee Matthews... but now we now have a shiny FA Trophy in the Victoria Road cabinet.

 

The trophy I really want, though, is the one you get for winning the Conference and securing promotion to the Football League. That's currently in Doncaster's possession, and I wish Steve Wignall and co the best of luck for the new season. Our aim for 2002/2003 is simple - to join them in Division 3.

 

We've already set out our stall by signing several players with League experience, including ex-Cheltenham target man Julian Alsop and the former Rochdale defenders Dave Bayliss and Mark Bailey. We've also brought in 'Big' John Anderson, who graced the Scottish Premier League last season and could be the perfect centre-half replacement for Matthews.

 

Two more new faces joined the Daggers as our pre-season kicked off. 20-year-old Nick Weekes is an energetic midfielder who caught our attention playing in the Isthmian League for Aldershot, whom we have paid £10,000 to sign him up.

 

Nick is actually a sporting all-rounder - away from football, he's also a county cricketer, by which I mean he's played in one limited-overs match for Sussex. I just hope he can bowl the rest of the Conference over this season.

 

Our other new boy - 16-year-old Ryan Carter - also plays in midfield and has great passing ability. That said, it might be a while before this promising trainee is ready for first-team action.

 

Our preparations for the new campaign started off with us journeying west, to the Rhondda valley. In the first of two friendlies against Welsh opposition, we took on non-league Ton Pentre.

 

20 JULY 2002: Ton Pentre vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Well... this wasn't the start we wanted. Ton Pentre winger Stephen Williams gave his team the lead after just eight minutes, quickly knocking us off our stride. Though Junior McDougald did pull us back level from a Julian Alsop flick-on in the 22nd minute, we failed to build on that and had to settle for a disappointing 1-1 draw. To make matters worse, Dave Bayliss suffered a groin strain, putting our new centre-half out for three weeks.

 

Ton Pentre - 1 (Williams 8)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McDougald 22)

Friendly, Attendance 744

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Bailey), Cole (Bayliss (Hayzelden)), Anderson, Hanmer; Janney (Grant), Lacey (Lyons), Terry (Weekes), M Jones; Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald (Shaw).

 

We looked to bounce back quickly against Port Talbot, who finished 15th in the Welsh Premier League last season under the management of former Republic of Ireland midfielder Ray Houghton. I certainly hoped we would feel more at home - after all, the Steelmen's home ground was also called Victoria Road!

 

24 JULY 2002: Port Talbot Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

At half-time, it looked like we were about to make amends, as teenage striker Michael O'Neill buried a through-ball from Julian Alsop to give us a 1-0 lead. However, Port Talbot came out firing after the break, and when centre-half Gary Davies headed in a 50th-minute corner, we were seriously rattled. The hosts grew in confidence as the match wore on, with right-back Ray Michael giving them the lead before striker Kevin Bartley doubled it. A shocking collapse meant we left this Victoria Road licking our wounds.

 

Port Talbot Town - 3 (Davies 50, Michael 71, Bartley 78)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (O'Neill 24)

Friendly, Attendance 503

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Gothard (Roberts); Goodwin (Bailey), Anderson, Rooney (Cole), Chaffey (Hanmer); Weekes (Weaver), Terry (Lacey), O'Donoghue (M Jones); Janney (Grant); Alsop, O'Neill (McDougald).

 

After two disappointing matches in Wales, we went back home to our own Victoria Road with a lot of soul-searching to do. I cancelled the contract of defensive midfielder Paul Lyons, who never found any consistency during his seven months at Dagenham, and then began scouring the loan market for fresh blood.

 

Meanwhile, we finished the month with our first home friendly this term. We would need quite a big step-up in quality to take anything away against Mansfield, who finished 18th in Division 3 last season under the management of Billy Dearden.

 

30 JULY 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Mansfield Town

One player who was still loving life at Victoria Road was defender Tim Cole, who headed us into a surprise 5th-minute lead. That was the only blip Mansfield goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington had all game long, as the former Manchester United star pulled off eight saves to stop us from scoring again.

 

At the other ends, the Stags showed why they were among the top scorers in Division 3 last season, despite their lowly league finish. Goals in either half from veteran forward Chris Kiwomya and his much younger strike partner Shayne Bradley turned the game around, and our winless run continued.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Cole 5)

Mansfield Town - 2 (Kiwomya 39, Bradley 55)

Friendly, Attendance 653

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts (Gothard); Bailey (Goodwin), Rooney (Anderson), Cole, Hanmer (Probets); Grant (Janney), Lacey (Terry), M Jones (Hayzelden); Weaver (Weekes); O'Neill, McDougald (Alsop).

 

Is it too early to fear the worst? Because if we put in performances like that when it really matters, we might have to worry a lot more about relegation than promotion!

 

No, I'm not panicking! YOU'RE panicking!

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ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Italy claim a record-equalling fourth World Cup after a thrilling 3-2 win over Germany in Tokyo. Torsten Frings twice pulls the Germans back from behind, but Roma hotshot Vincenzo Montella also scores two goals for the Azzurri and secures victory with a 76th-minute header.
  • It is also a successful World Cup for co-hosts Japan and South Korea, who each reach the Quarter Finals for the first time. The Koreans stun favourites Brazil in Round 2, with the Seleção being deprived of star striker Ronaldo when he suffers a nosebleed before boarding their flight to East Asia.
  • The inquest begins into England's early exit from the World Cup. Sven-Göran Eriksson narrowly keeps his job, as the tabloid press instead start a witch-hunt against TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson for 'distracting' the Three Lions manager. Meanwhile, penalty villain David Beckham signs yet another big sponsorship deal - with Pizza Hut.
  • European champions Lazio declare their intentions to start a Roman empire by luring Portuguese megastar Figo away from Real Madrid for £24.5million. Serie A rivals Juventus have their defence significantly weakened when Paolo Montero and Lilian Thuram defect to Bayern München and Manchester United respectively.
  • As Steve McManaman returns to Liverpool after three years at Real Madrid, another English wing wizard heads overseas. Following West Ham's relegation to Division 1, 20-year-old wonderkid Joe Cole is picked up by German giants Leverkusen for just £3.3million.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • 20-year-old Serena Williams defeats her 21-year-old sister Venus in straight sets to win the Wimbledon women's singles title for the first time. The men's singles title is won by Lleyton Hewitt, who celebrates by watching a football match at Lleyton Orientt.
  • The Commonwealth Games opens in Manchester, with the Queen receiving the baton from terminally-ill six-year-old Kirsty Howard and an unnamed pizza salesman. England's Paula Radcliffe wins gold in the 5,000 metres before asking officials where the nearest bathroom is.
  • Formula 1 is a simple sport. 20 men drive around a track for 90 minutes, and in the end, the German always wins. Just ask Michael Schumacher, who secures his fifth World Championship with SIX races to spare!
  • Kate Lawler wins the latest series of "Big Brother". It comes after an extraordinary two months in which one contestant breaks out of the house, and another accidentally declares East Anglia an independent state.
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Dagenham & Redbridge squad - Start of 2002/2003 season

 

GOALKEEPERS

Paul Gothard - GK, age 28, English

Gothard is an agile second-choice goalkeeper and a popular presence at the club. His match performances can be inconsistent, though.

 

Tony Roberts - GK, age 32, Welsh [2 caps]

There aren't many Conference keepers who are better than Roberts. The veteran Welshman is a great ball-handler and shot-stopper but does lose his temper occasionally.

 

DEFENDERS

John Anderson - D/M C, age 29, Scottish

Our new captain Anderson will be an imposing force in the centre of our defence. Formerly of Livingston, he's a fierce and determined battler who doesn't shirk challenges.

 

Mark Bailey - D/M R, age 25, English

Bailey is another new signing, having arrived from Northwich. His pinpoint crossing ability and energy make him a good backup option on the right.

 

Dave Bayliss - D C, age 26, English

Bayliss started his career at Rochdale but now finds himself in new surroundings. He's a strong energetic centre-half with great aerial ability.

 

Tim Cole - D RC, age 25, English

Cole makes up for his limited tackling skills with his versatility and his clever decision-making at the back. He has made over 150 appearances for the Daggers.

 

Lee Goodwin - D R, age 23, English

Despite his tender years, Goodwin is now regarded as a Daggers stalwart. The aggressive full-back surely has his best years ahead of him.

 

Gareth Hanmer - D/DM L, age 28, Welsh

I'm interested to see how Hanmer gets on after being discarded by Telford. With his set-piece prowess and strong tackling, their loss might be our gain.

 

Mark Rooney - SW/D RC, age 24, English

Rooney's a decent covering defender with great determination, but not much else. He's unlikely to ever be more than a backup option.

 

MIDFIELDERS

Martin Grant - AM R, age 20, Scottish

Ex-Coventry winger Grant works hard but has so far struggled to hold down a regular starting place. He's been made available for loan.

 

Danny Hayzelden - AM L, age 20, English

Hayzelden has plenty of pace and potential, but he has yet to fulfil most of the latter. With his contract expiring next summer, time is running out.

 

Mark Janney - M R, age 24, English

With his explosive pace and excellent dribbling, Janney is one of our most dangerous players. Though not the most natural finisher, he still scored 11 times last term.

 

Matt Jones - M L, age 31, English

Jones is a useful wide midfielder who has always given his all for the team. That said, his best displays only come in fits and starts.

 

Damien Lacey - DM C, age 24, English

Lacey is an imposing and intelligent workhorse who should give our defence a bit more protection. The ex-Swansea midfielder is also our new vice-captain.

 

Aodhan O'Donoghue - M C, age 20, Irish

O'Donoghue has the talent to go very far but hasn't really done much with it at senior level. The energetic youngster needs a loan spell to gain experience.

 

Paul Terry - M C, age 23, English

Terry was surprisingly prolific last season, banging in half a dozen goals from midfield. That's not a bad record for a hard-working ball-winner.

 

Nick Weekes - M C, age 20, English

Weekes has abandoned a promising cricket career to give full-time football a go. The ex-Aldershot trainee possesses plenty of technique and creative ability.

 

FORWARDS

Julian Alsop - S C, age 29, English

A veteran of nearly 200 Football League games, Alsop should get plenty of goals in the Conference. The burly target man is especially lethal in the air.

 

Junior McDougald - S C, age 27, American

McDougald is a 'fox in the box' who combines athleticism with cool and composed finishing. He was our 2001/2002 Player of the Year after hitting 24 goals.

 

Michael O'Neill - S C, age 18, Irish

O'Neill joins the Daggers as the youngest member of our senior squad. The pacey poacher is full of energy and has a bright future.

 

RESERVES

GOALKEEPER: Nick Baxter (19)

DEFENDERS: Lee Chaffey (18), James Jones (17), Ashley Probets (17), Richard Rose (17)

MIDFIELDERS: Ryan Carter (16), Bill Shaw (16), Mark Thomas (17), Jamie Weaver (17)

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AUGUST 2002

It had not been the best of starts to pre-season. Three games, two defeats, no clean sheets, and some glum faces at Victoria Road. All the optimism that had come from our FA Trophy win less than three months earlier had disappeared at the blink of an eye.

 

So... guess what happened when we hosted Shrewsbury, who finished a respectable 10th in Division 3 last season and were among the favourites to be promoted from their division?

 

3 AUGUST 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Shrewsbury Town

That's right - we ripped the Shrews apart in the first half! Junior McDougald spearheaded the rout, scoring two goals either side of a first senior strike from 16-year-old Bill Shaw - playing on the right side of a three-pronged attack. Julian Alsop was our only striker not to score but was a constant menace to the Shrewsbury defence. Kevin Ratcliffe's side played much better after the break, with teenage midfielder Karl Murray managing to pull one back, but we held on for a morale-boosting 3-1 victory.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 9,27, Shaw 13)

Shrewsbury Town - 1 (Murray 76)

Friendly, Attendance 788

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts (Gothard); Goodwin (Bailey), Cole, Anderson (Rooney), Hanmer (Chaffey); Lacey (Janney), Terry (O'Donoghue), Weekes (M Jones); Shaw, Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald (Hayzelden).

 

That performance will no doubt have impressed our newest signing - Preston striker Jonathan Macken, who had joined us on loan until December. The 24-year-old Republic of Ireland B international was a well-rounded lower-league frontman with a high work rate and excellent technical skill. His arrival at Victoria Road would surely give Junior McDougald and Julian Alsop a run for their money.

 

Three days after our first win of pre-season, we went to Cambridgeshire looking to fill our boots even more against non-league Histon.

 

6 AUGUST 2002: Histon vs Dagenham & Redbridge

It wasn't even close. Mark Janney kicked off a first-half Dagenham rout after a mistake from home keeper Dean Green in the 13th minute. Michael O'Neill then helped himself to a brace of goals, with new boy Jonathan Macken and even defender Mark Rooney also finding the net as we led 5-0 at the break!

 

Three more of our summer signings combined for another goal early in the second half, as left-back Gareth Hanmer's flick-on from right-back Mark Bailey's corner was fired home by midfielder Damien Lacey. That would be our sixth and final goal before Histon finally woke up. Their striker Danny Heywood scored from an Alex Healy free-kick in the 61st minute, ruining our clean sheet and dampening an otherwise impressive performance.

 

Histon - 1 (Heywood 61)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 6 (Janney 10, O'Neill 15,34, Macken 18, Rooney 30, Lacey 52)

Friendly, Attendance 740

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Gothard (Roberts); Bailey (Goodwin), Rooney (Anderson), Cole (Hanmer), Probets; Janney (Grant), O'Donoghue (Weekes), Lacey, M Jones (Hayzelden); Macken (Alsop), O'Neill (McDougald).

 

If that's the sign of things to come, we have a lot to be excited about with Macken!

 

Speaking of loanees, I managed to bring in another, with 22-year-old Keith Brown arriving from Division 1 Barnsley for the whole season! Brown actually spent last season playing for Colchester in Division 2 and did quite well for them, even though they were relegated. With that in mind, I'm sure the energetic Scotsman will thrive in the Conference.

 

Our last friendly of pre-season was a short trip to Billericay, where we looked to finish our preparations with a third straight win...

 

10 AUGUST 2002: Billericay vs Dagenham & Redbridge

...and Jonathan Macken put us on course for just that in the 24th minute, flicking home a cross from young winger Danny Hayzelden. Alas, Ricay equalised just before half-time through teenage frontman Chris Shiret, and despite having about a dozen shots at goal in the second period, we couldn't restore our lead. The match finished 1-1, and I was not a happy man after another disappointing result.

 

Billericay Town - 1 (Shiret 43)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Macken 24)

Friendly, Attendance 869

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Gothard (Roberts); Bailey (Goodwin), Anderson (Bayliss), Rooney, Hanmer (Brown); Grant (Janney), O'Donoghue (Weekes), Terry, Hayzelden (Lacey); Alsop (McDougald), Macken (O'Neill). BOOKED: Lacey.

 

Well... good luck trying to take anything from our pre-season, other than that we've forgotten how to defend!

 

Our opening match of the Conference campaign would give us a good idea of where we stood. We travelled to Church Road to face Terry Brown's Hayes, with whom we had shared six points and six goals last season. Right-back Lee Goodwin was unavailable, as he still had to serve a two-match suspension after his red card at Woking in our last league fixture in May.

 

17 AUGUST 2002: Hayes vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Now that Lee Matthews was gone, we needed our new captain to serve by example. John Anderson did not. After 13 minutes, the Scottish defender got into a heated scuffle with Michael Currie that led to him shoving the Hayes striker. The red card went straight out, and Ando was sent to an early bath.

 

Hayes made the most of their early advantage, with Currie's strike partner David Stevens scoring the opener just two minutes later. However, we then regained our composure and even managed to equalise just before half-time. On-loan left-back Keith Brown's cross into the box was met by the head of Julian Alsop, who got his Daggers career off to the best possible start.

 

Our hope that we would somehow save a point with 10 men disappeared early in the second half, when Brown limped off with a shin injury. In his absence, we almost completely fell apart, with left-winger Jason Brissett restoring Hayes' lead before Stevens scored again. Our defence was then breached for a fourth time by Alvin Hunter's 69th-minute volley, as we suffered a crushing opening-day defeat.

 

Hayes - 4 (Stevens 15,50, Brissett 48, Hunter 69)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Alsop 42)

Conference, Attendance 1,202 - POSITIONS: Hayes 2nd, Dag & Red 20th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Bailey, Cole, Anderson, Brown (Hanmer); Janney, Terry (Lacey), M Jones; Macken (Rooney); Alsop, McDougald. SENT OFF: Anderson.

 

John Anderson's tenure as Dagenham & Redbridge had lasted just 13 minutes. A one-match ban was already heading the Scot's way, but I also stripped him of the armband and dropped him from our next game - a rematch of the FA Trophy Final.

 

Holding midfielder Damien Lacey led the Daggers out at the Aimita Stadium against Alan Ball's Farnborough. The Hampshire side had won their season-opener against Yeovil and were looking for some revenge after our victory against them at Highbury three months earlier.

 

20 AUGUST 2002: Farnborough Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Farnborough pushed forward to try and get an early goal, but we floored them with a quick counter-attack. Julian Alsop's flick-on sent Junior McDougald through on goal, and there was never any doubt that the American would take his opportunity. Sadly, our lead only lasted eight minutes before Rocky Baptiste dealt a massive blow to get Boro back level.

 

What then followed was an hour of intense attacking football from both teams, though neither managed to break through again until the 67th minute. That was when Gareth Hanmer's free-kick found a wide-open Damien Lacey, who drove in the goal that restored our advantage. Now that's how a captain leads by example!

 

That made for a nervy final 25 minutes or so, but we needn't have worried. When substitute striker Jonathan Macken went down under a last-ditch challenge from Carl Emberson, he got the Farnborough goalkeeper sent off - and won us a penalty, which McDougald confidently buried. It wasn't quite a 4-1 to make up for the Hayes disaster, but I'd absolutely take a 3-1!

 

Farnborough Town - 1 (Baptiste 9)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 1,pen90, Lacey 67)

Conference, Attendance 1,805 - POSITIONS: Farnborough 12th, Dag & Red 14th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Rooney (Bailey), Cole, Bayliss, Hanmer; Janney (Shaw), Weekes, Lacey, M Jones; Alsop (Macken), McDougald.

 

Later that week, we welcomed several youngsters to our reserve team. Right-back Martin Briggs (19) isn't very good, but I've got slightly higher hopes for left-back Brett Gallagher (also 19), who is strong, brave and energetic. Right-winger Andy Scott (17) has plenty of technique but it's too early to tell if he'll make the grade.

 

Meanwhile, 20-year-old Irish midfielder Aodhan O'Donoghue was loaned out to non-league Clacton Town for the season. Another of our young signings from last season - Scottish winger Martin Grant - would spend the campaign playing for fellow part-timers Andover.

 

Our first league match at Victoria Road this season was a tricky one against Margate, who beat us twice last term and were serious contenders for promotion before running out of steam. They were clearly struggling to find their feet again, having lost their first two matches of this campaign.

 

24 AUGUST 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Margate

Margate were so low on confidence that they tried sitting back and defending deep in the first half. Julian Alsop showed them that it was a big mistake when a typically powerful shot in the 7th minute went in off the post. Barely a quarter-hour later, we compounded the visitors' misery with a second goal, as Junior McDougald headed home a Gareth Hanmer free-kick.

 

We continued to pepper shots at the Margate goal but somehow didn't add to our lead. Gate manager Chris Kinnear subbed off his goalkeeper - the hopeless Ian MacFarlane - just before half-time, and Paul Bastock proved to be an unbeatable replacement. The former Boston United goalie made save after save to keep the deficit down.

 

Meanwhile, it was a quiet afternoon for our goalkeeper Tony Roberts - and for right-back Lee Goodwin. Maybe it wasn't a coincidence that Goodwin's return from suspension had come at the same time as our first clean sheet.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 7, McDougald 24)

Margate - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,649 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 8th, Margate 20th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson, Hanmer; Janney, Lacey (Terry), M Jones; Macken (Rooney); Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald. BOOKED: Lacey.

 

Four days later, the Victoria Road faithful returned to see if we could make it back-to-back home wins. York had made an indifferent start to life in the Conference since dropping out of the Football League, but we had to be wary of the quality they possessed.

 

28 AUGUST 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs York City

York might have had the Football League experience, but we had an attacking line that everyone in the Conference had to be wary of. In the 14th minute, winger Mark Janney delivered a cool low cross to City's near post, where Julian Alsop headed in the opener. Six minutes later, Alsop turned provider for Jonathan Macken, who drove the ball home for his first competitive Daggers goals.

 

As for the last member of our front three, Junior McDougald also got in on the goals seven minutes before half-time, converting a clever through-ball from Macken. Junior even went one better than his colleagues, adding a second goal early in the second half after a lethal through-ball from Damien Lacey.

 

Alsop picked up a knock late in the first half, so he didn't return for the second - but teenager Michael O'Neill was still proving a pretty useful replacement. The Irishman created another goal for his compatriot Macken in the 53rd minute, completing a 5-0 whitewash over the miserable Minstermen! York manager Terry Dolan took the humiliation so well that, just two days later, he sold his goalkeeper and captain Alan Fettis to Oxford!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 5 (Alsop 14, Macken 20,53, McDougald 38,47)

York City - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,119 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 4th, York 19th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Bayliss (Rooney), Brown; Janney, Lacey, Terry; Macken; Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald.

 

After the match, we said farewell to goalkeeping coach Richard Hall. 'Moby' was offered scouting positions by 10 different clubs, and eventually decided to GO (Yeahhhhhhh...) to Stoke for £28,000 in compensation.

 

Fortunately, Hall's impending departure had already given me plenty of time to line up his replacement. 40-year-old Paul Kerr had arrived a week earlier from Dundela in Northern Ireland, where he had been working - ironically enough - as a scout!

 

We finished the month with a third home game - against Dover, who were in 7th place but still unbeaten. Julian Alsop had strained his wrist in training and was therefore given the day off, with Michael O'Neill enjoying a first league start in his place.

 

31 AUGUST 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Dover Athletic

Well... the first few minutes weren't that enjoyable. After six minutes, captain Damien Lacey gashed his leg and was forced to come off, with Tony Roberts taking the armband from him. (Reminder: John Anderson was serving a suspension.)

 

That didn't knock us off our stride too much, mind. We were all over Dover's defence in the first half, and our exploits were rewarded with two goals late on. Firstly, after 35 minutes, Michael O'Neill set up a shot that Jonathan Macken thundered in from just inside the penalty area. Then, two minutes later, Mark Janney stormed from midfield to open his account for the season.

 

The Whites just couldn't get their game going at all, and by the 79th minute, we had secured a resounding 3-0 win. Matt Jones pounced on a fantastic goal kick from Roberts and delivered it to O'Neill, who capped off a stunning full debut with the goal his performance deserved.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Macken 35, Janney 38, O'Neill 79)

Dover Athletic - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,654 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Dover 10th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Bayliss, Brown; Janney (Shaw), Lacey (Hanmer), M Jones; Macken (Terry); O'Neill, McDougald. BOOKED: Macken.

 

At the end of August 2001, we were 17th in the Conference, without a win in four games.

 

Fast forward one year, and we've won four matches on the spin, gone top of the table, and I've been named the Conference Manager of the Month for August! What a time to be a Daggers fan!

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of August 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       5    3    0    0    10   0    1    0    1    4    5    12   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Northwich Vics                  5    2    0    0    3    0    2    0    1    8    3    12   
3rd     Barnet                          5    2    0    0    7    3    1    2    0    9    8    11   
4th     Morecambe                       5    1    2    0    7    5    2    0    0    4    2    11   
5th     Scarborough                     5    3    0    0    8    2    0    1    1    2    3    10   
6th     Southport                       5    2    0    1    7    4    1    1    0    3    2    10   
7th     Stalybridge                     5    1    0    1    4    3    2    0    1    5    4    9    
8th     Farnborough                     5    1    0    1    3    4    2    0    1    5    2    9    
9th     Telford                         5    2    0    0    5    1    0    2    1    6    7    8    
10th    Dover                           5    1    1    0    5    2    1    1    1    3    5    8    
11th    Halesowen                       5    1    1    1    2    1    1    0    1    3    3    7    
12th    Hereford                        5    0    1    1    3    4    2    0    1    7    6    7    
13th    Slough                          5    1    0    1    3    3    1    1    1    3    4    7    
14th    Stevenage                       5    1    0    2    4    5    1    0    1    4    3    6    
15th    Hayes                           5    2    0    1    6    3    0    0    2    0    6    6    
16th    Blyth Spartans                  5    1    2    0    5    3    0    0    2    1    5    5    
17th    Yeovil                          5    1    0    2    4    6    0    1    1    4    7    4    
18th    York                            5    0    1    2    4    10   1    0    1    3    6    4    
19th    Nuneaton Borough                5    0    2    0    5    5    0    1    2    1    4    3    
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Margate                         5    1    0    2    5    6    0    0    2    0    3    3    
21st    Boston Utd                      5    1    0    1    2    2    0    0    3    0    7    3    
22nd    Forest Green                    5    0    0    2    2    4    0    0    3    1    9    0    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Premiership champions Arsenal start the year by beating Leeds 2-1 in the rebranded Community Shield. They then sign Real Madrid left-back and free-kick king Roberto Carlos for £17.25million, just so they have a decent backup to Ashley Cole.
  • Newcastle fans can't hold their excitement as Swedish wonderkid Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrives from Ajax for £9.5million. The 20-year-old scores twice on his Premiership debut at Blackburn and immediately proclaims himself the King of Tyneside. Jimmy Nail promptly sues him for damages.
  • The pressure is firmly on Chelsea boss Jean Tigana after the Blues lose their first three Premiership matches, including a 1-0 reverse at newly-promoted Wolves. Chairman Ken Bates hasn't laughed so much "since Ma caught her t*ts in the mangle".
  • Two of Manchester United's 1999 treble-winners move on to pastures new. Baby-faced assassin Ole Gunnar Solskjær gets tired of sitting on the bench and joins PSV for £6.25million. Meanwhile, former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel leaves Aston Villa to become the new manager of J-League side Tokyo Verdy.
  • Schalke 04 thump Kaiserslautern 8-0 in the Bundesliga, with Ebbe Sand and Julius Aghahowa each scoring hat-tricks. Kaiserslautern keeper Georg Koch is subbed after a nightmare start and his replacement Gintaras Stauce is later sent off, which means striker Peter Odemwingie has to go in goal for most of the second half. It doesn't end well.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • The BBC publishes a list of the 100 Greatest Britons in history, as voted for by the general public. Sir Winston Churchill finishes top of the poll, ahead of the likes of David Beckham, JK Rowling and Robbie Williams.
  • Former Arsenal goalkeeper turned TV presenter Bob Wilson hangs up his microphone after a 28-year broadcasting career. The 60-year-old will devote more time to the Willow Foundation - a cancer charity set up in memory of his daughter.
  • Canadian rock band Nickelback are pelted with rocks and bottles at a festival in Portugal. Lead singer Chad Kroeger says it's the best reception they have ever had.
  • Spanish girl group Las Ketchup release their debut album "Hijas del Tomate". Now, I'm not suggesting for one moment that they are one-trick ponies, but four of the 11 tracks on the album are different versions of "The Ketchup Song".
Edited by CFuller
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I don't know if it's just because the games based on CM 01/02, but this story reminds me the old days. It's also very good and if this was written in 2002, it would have been one of, if not the best stories that year - not that I can remember them all of course, but I just have that feeling.

Edited by Peacemaker7
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On 10/12/2021 at 13:12, Peacemaker7 said:

I don't know if it's just because the games based on CM 01/02, but this story reminds me the old days. It's also very good and if this was written in 2002, it would have been one of, if not the best stories that year - not that I can remember them all of course, but I just have that feeling.

Yeah, this story was very much inspired by a lot of the early CM stories I found here, including some of yours. I'm a bit of a sucker for early-2000s nostalgia, especially as someone who grew up around that time.

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SEPTEMBER 2002

Just two days after extending our winning streak to four straight Conference matches, we were back in action on Bank Holiday Monday. We travelled to 7th-placed Stalybridge without our injured captain Damien Lacey, which meant John Anderson would take the armband again. I hoped he would last more than 13 minutes this time...

 

2 SEPTEMBER 2002: Stalybridge Celtic vs Dagenham & Redbridge

John Anderson barely lasted 13 seconds. The Scottish hardman quickly complained that his head was hurting and that he couldn't play on, so we reluctantly took him off and brought Mark Rooney on instead. The armband was passed on to Tony Roberts, who had a relatively quiet first half in goal.

 

The same couldn't be said about Stalybridge's keeper. Ben Williams was in excellent shotstopping form, frustrating our Irish frontmen Jonathan Macken and Michael O'Neill in the first period. By half-time, I was still wondering how we hadn't broken the deadlock. To try and change that, I switched up formation from our usual 4-3-3 to a more direct 4-4-2...

 

...and the results were instant! Within five minutes of the restart, not only had Macken made the breakthrough, but our other loanee - left-back Keith Brown - had consolidated our advantage with a well-taken pot-shot. That quick double salvo was enough to give us a fifth consecutive victory and keep us top, though Celtic defender Oliver Selfe did pull one goal back for the hosts just before the end.

 

Stalybridge Celtic - 1 (Selfe 90)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Macken 47, Brown 50)

Conference, Attendance 3,044 - POSITIONS: Stalybridge 11th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson (Rooney), Brown; Janney (Shaw), Terry, M Jones; Macken; O'Neill, McDougald (Weekes). BOOKED: Macken, Brown.

 

Next up was a home game against those great entertainers from Barnet, who had already scored 16 goals and conceded 13 in their opening six fixtures. This marked striker Julian Alsop's return from a wrist injury, but Lacey was still nursing a gashed leg, and Anderson was lying down in a darkened room, so goalkeeper Tony Roberts would again take on captaincy duties.

 

6 SEPTEMBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Barnet

Jonathan Macken got us off to the perfect start after just two minutes. His header from Matt Jones' cross was parried by Barnet keeper Joel Armstrong, but the rebound was comfortably put away. It wasn't such a great time for his strike partner Julian Alsop, who headed a shot against the woodwork in the 34th minute and never looked comfortable.

 

Indeed, we never looked comfortable with our narrow lead. Midfielder Paul Terry in particular was struggling to win tackles when Barnet took the game to us in the second half. Tony Roberts' goal frame even had to save us a couple of times, but our luck finally ran out 11 minutes from time. Roberts' punt upfield was hoovered up by Bees striker Wayne Purser, who broke away and equalised.

 

The match ended on another low note for us, when left-back Keith Brown gashed his leg and had to come off. That meant a short and unexpected debut from the bench for 16-year-old midfielder Ryan Carter, who helped us see out a draw. A disappointing draw, but a draw all the same.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Macken 2)

Barnet - 1 (Purser 79)

Conference, Attendance 2,840 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 2nd, Barnet 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Bayliss, Cole, Brown (Carter); Janney, Weekes, Terry, M Jones (Hanmer); Macken, Alsop (McDougald).

 

Our five-match winning run was over, and so was our time at the top, with Northwich leapfrogging us on goal difference. But could I at least preserve my unbeaten record against Steve Evans when we travelled to Lincolnshire to face his Boston mob?

 

10 SEPTEMBER 2002: Boston United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Jonathan Macken loves an early goal, and he helped himself to another here, heading home a corner from left-back Gareth Hanmer after just five minutes. However, we had to be wary of a quick Boston backlash...

 

...and that was exactly what we would face. A rare blunder from Tony Roberts in the 20th minute proved costly, when he parried Tim Williams' shot invitingly to former Wimbledon midfielder Sebastian Favata, who finished it with ease. Six minutes, the Pilgrims completed the turnaround when striker David Town smashed in a cross from right-winger Karl Duguid.

 

Steve Evans instructed his Boston boys to sit deep and defend their lead in the second half. Unfortunately for them, no lead is safe against Macken, whose 49th-minute volley got us back on terms. Despite some promising attacks from both teams, the scoreline remained at 2-2.

 

Boston United - 2 (Favata 20, Town 26)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Macken 5,49)

Conference, Attendance 1,498 - POSITIONS: Boston Utd 15th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Anderson), Bayliss, Cole, Hanmer; Janney (Carter), Weekes, Terry, M Jones; Macken, McDougald. BOOKED: Goodwin, Janney.

 

A surprise 2-1 defeat for Northwich at home to Yeovil meant that we went back top by a single point. But having drawn back-to-back matches from winning positions, were we starting to feel jittery.

 

Our next match at Victoria Road was top against bottom. Nigel Spink's Forest Green had lost seven matches already, with their solitary win coming against Yeovil. Guess how this panned out...

 

14 SEPTEMBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Forest Green Rovers

The first half was barely even a contest. Our front two tore Forest Green apart in the 17th minute, when Julian Alsop's lay-off was finished by a clinical Junior McDougald. Alsop wreaked more havoc just before half-time, as the big man's shot slipped underneath Rovers keeper Andreas Nofz's hands and into the net. I guess Germany does produce some rubbish goalies after all...

 

By the second minute of the second half, Herr Nofz was probably wishing he'd stayed in Berlin. Jonathan Macken's free-kick deflected off the visitors' defensive wall and fell kindly to McDougald, who gobbled up his second goal - our third of the afternoon!

 

The goal rush ended at 3-0, and though Forest Green did try to grab a goal back late on, there was no getting past Tony Roberts. This match had gone exactly to the form book.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 17,47, Alsop 42)

Forest Green Rovers - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,980 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Forest Green 2nd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Bailey), Anderson, Cole, Hanmer; Janney, Terry, M Jones; Macken (Weeks); Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald. BOOKED: Cole.

 

As the good times continued to roll, 18-year-old left-back Lee Chaffey became the latest young Dagger to go out on loan. He would spend the rest of the campaign playing for Cambridgeshire side Eynesbury.

 

With no midweek fixtures, we had some time to catch our breath again before our first meeting with one of the newly-promoted teams. Slough had not looked out of place in the Conference so far, sitting in 14th place under the guidance of former Reading boss Alan Pardew.

 

21 SEPTEMBER 2002: Slough Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

While Slough's defence were still fairly new to the Conference, they found themselves up against a Daggers frontline that was frankly almost too good for this league. Jonathan Macken's rip-roaring form continued in the 26th minute, as his free-kick was headed home by Junior McDougald. Five minutes later, Junior finished a Mark Janney cross to claim his second brace in as many weeks... but this time, he wasn't happy to settle for two goals.

 

Slough suffered a major blow in the 61st minute, as substitute striker Chris Tate was forced off with a thigh injury. Five minutes later, things got even worse for the Rebels. McDougald hammered in his 10th goal already this season from long range, and then went straight off the pitch with the match ball safely in his possession. Our Texan ranger most certainly deserved his standing ovation as he was substituted.

 

Mercifully, that was the end of the hosts' suffering. My opposite Alan Pardew couldn't wait to get out of the stadium after we shook hands. Apparently, he was late for a wedding disco or something.

 

Slough Town - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 26,31,66)

Conference, Attendance 1,477 - POSITIONS: Slough 14th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Anderson, Cole, Brown (Hanmer); Janney, Lacey, M Jones; Macken (Terry); Alsop, McDougald (O'Neill).

 

Captain Damien Lacey came through 90 minutes on his comeback for injury, but I'm afraid it wasn't all good news. Jonathan Macken had twisted his ankle late in the first half, which meant the Irishman - whose first 10 games for us had produced 7 goals and 3 assists - would be sidelined for three weeks.

 

Macken's injury left us quite low on attacking midfield cover. I decided to try out 17-year-old debutant Jamie Weaver from the start when we hosted mid-table Nuneaton.

 

24 SEPTEMBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Nuneaton Borough

I'm afraid it was a case of "too much, too young" for Jamie Weaver. The young midfielder looked rather nervous on his debut, and after a shaky first half in which we produced hardly any chances, I decided to put him out of his misery. Surely Paul Terry could use his greater experience to swing the match in our favour?

 

Nope. In fact, it was Nuneaton who had the better of the second period. Had the likes of captain Steve Whitehall and winger Sean Parrish not been so wasteful with their chances, we would surely have lost our unbeaten home record. As it was, we would have to take a boring goalless draw.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Nuneaton Borough - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,747 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Nuneaton 12th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Brown), Anderson, Cole, Hanmer; Janney, Lacey, M Jones; Weaver (Terry); Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald.

 

Let's just quickly forget that ever happened and move on to our next match - a trip to Shropshire to face another mid-table team. Both our meetings with Telford last season ended in draws - 0-0 draws. Oh boy, this should be another thriller, then.

 

28 SEPTEMBER 2002: Telford United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

The first half finished 0-0. Did you really expect anything else? To be fair, we did show at least a bit more attacking endeavour than Jake King's stubborn Telford side, with Matt Jones and Julian Alsop each drawing strong saves out of goalkeeper Mark Clohessy.

 

Eventually, though, the Bucks' pragmatism would cost them dear. Junior McDougald intercepted a slack back-pass from United's right-winger Gary Rae and played it through to our captain Damien Lacey, who drove in the breakthrough goal. And once Alsop doubled our lead from McDougald's floated cross on the hour mark, another Daggers victory was in the bag!

 

Telford United - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Lacey 47, Alsop 61)

Conference, Attendance 1,650 - POSITIONS: Telford 14th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson, Brown; Janney (Shaw), Weekes, Lacey, M Jones; Alsop, McDougald (O'Neill). BOOKED: Weekes.

 

We finished the month with a two-point lead on Dover at the Conference summit. Whisper it quietly... but I have a sneaky feeling this could be our season.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of September 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       12   4    2    0    14   1    4    1    1    13   8    27   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Dover                           12   5    1    0    15   5    2    3    1    9    9    25   
3rd     Morecambe                       12   3    2    1    14   10   4    0    2    12   10   23   
4th     Hereford                        12   3    1    2    12   7    4    0    2    14   10   22   
5th     Scarborough                     12   5    1    0    16   6    1    3    2    8    12   22   
6th     Farnborough                     12   3    1    2    13   12   4    0    2    11   7    22   
7th     Northwich Vics                  12   2    2    2    5    5    4    0    2    17   7    20   
8th     Barnet                          12   3    0    2    10   8    2    5    0    14   12   20   
9th     Boston Utd                      12   4    1    1    12   4    2    0    4    8    11   19   
10th    Stalybridge                     12   3    1    2    12   8    3    0    3    10   12   19   
11th    Southport                       12   4    0    2    12   8    1    3    2    6    9    18   
12th    Halesowen                       12   4    1    2    9    4    1    1    3    6    12   17   
13th    Nuneaton Borough                12   2    4    0    14   10   1    3    2    4    5    16   
14th    Telford                         12   3    1    2    11   8    1    2    3    10   12   15   
15th    Slough                          12   2    1    3    10   14   2    2    2    5    7    15   
16th    Stevenage                       12   3    1    2    8    7    1    1    4    8    11   14   
17th    Margate                         12   2    1    3    8    10   2    0    4    5    8    13   
18th    Yeovil                          12   2    0    4    8    14   1    2    3    8    13   11   
19th    York                            12   2    2    2    10   14   1    0    5    9    18   11   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Hayes                           12   2    0    4    9    11   1    1    4    4    10   10   
21st    Forest Green                    12   1    2    3    8    10   0    0    6    4    17   5    
22nd    Blyth Spartans                  12   1    2    3    6    10   0    0    6    1    16   5    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Ruud van Nistelrooy scores 13 goals in his first 12 matches as an unbeatable Manchester United team storm to the top of the Premiership and their Champions League group. Manchester City are also unbeaten on their return to the top flight, winning two and drawing four games.
  • Chelsea still cannot get off the bottom of the Premiership after suffering late defeats to Middlesbrough and Leicester. Then again, Rati Aleksidze did score four goals against Dnipro in the UEFA Cup, so maybe their manager Jean Tigana isn't completely hopeless after all...
  • After a surprise 3-3 draw against Wales in their opening Euro 2004 qualifier, England get up and running by thrashing the Faroe Islands 5-0 - with Michael Owen scoring a hat-trick and David Beckham also finding the net. The Sun celebrates by hailing Beckham as a "pharaoh" and printing his face on the mask of Tutankhamun.
  • Lazio's defence of their Serie A crown is quickly derailed by a shock 2-1 loss against newly-promoted Reggina. The European champions then drop more points in their next three games to slip to 10th - eight points behind early frontrunners Parma and Roma.
  • After failing to win promotion from Division 2 last season, Bristol City strengthen their midfield by signing three established internationals - Don Hutchison, Klas Ingesson, and a 35-year-old Paul Gascoigne. It doesn't go to plan. The Robins are 23rd after 10 matches, and Gazza becomes addicted to Chinese takeaways.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • 'Pistol' Pete Sampras finishes his glorious career in style by beating Andre Agassi to win the US Open - a record 14th Grand Slam title. Never again will one man dominate tennis so emphatically.
  • American sprinter Tim Montgomery runs 100 metres in a new world record time of 9.78 seconds, surpassing compatriot Maurice Greene's previous record by 0.01 seconds. The United States Anti-Doping Agency is particularly interested in this latest development.
  • 20-year-old Kelly Clarkson from Texas wins the first season of "American Idol", and her debut single "A Moment Like This" soars to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Simon Cowell senses that there is A LOT of money to be made in TV talent shows.
  • Switzerland joins the United Nations. Nobody in the country has any strong feelings about this news one way or the other.
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OCTOBER 2002

October was a quiet month for us, but the three Conference matches we faced would all test our promotion credentials. Before meetings with 4th-placed Hereford and 5th-placed Scarborough, we prepared to welcome last year's runners-up to Victoria Road.

 

Northwich had enjoyed another strong start to their season, topping the table on a couple of occasions. Back-to-back defeats to Stevenage and Margate had seen Vics slip to 7th place, but if there was any team capable of ending our 11-match unbeaten run, it was Jimmy Quinn's side.

 

5 OCTOBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Northwich Victoria

And sure enough, Northwich came flying out of the traps in the first minute. Strikers Richard Mitchell and Gregg Blundell exchanged passes before the latter charged through and blasted in a rapid opener! Tony Roberts looked stunned in the Daggers goal!

 

Fortunately, our captain marvel Damien Lacey kept a cool head and led us through this difficult start. In the 13th minute, he lifted an excellent ball into the Vics box for left-back Keith Brown, whose knockdown was then half-volleyed home by Mark Janney. We then had several chances to take a 2-1 lead before a brilliant long-range drive from Lacey gave us just that eight minutes from half-time.

 

But of course, there was no counting out Northwich in the second half - especially when our defence was prone to lapses of concentration. In the 57th minute, former Crewe midfielder Steve Garvey was left woefully unmarked in our box, and after receiving a killer cross from namesake Steve Walsh, he was free to power in the equaliser.

 

Once again, though, it was Lacey to the rescue. With seven minutes left, youngster Nick Weekes threaded an excellent pass ahead of Damien, whose second goal looked like being the match-winner. Or at least that was the case until the 86th minute, when Northwich captain Mark Barnard broke our hearts by scoring their third goal - from their third shot on target. This was not our defence's finest hour.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Janney 13, Lacey 37,83)

Northwich Victoria - 3 (Blundell 1, Garvey 57, Barnard 86)

Conference, Attendance 2,736 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Northwich 8th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson, Brown; Terry, Lacey, M Jones (Weekes); Janney (O'Neill); Alsop, McDougald (Rooney).

 

Yes, it's Northwich. Yes, we still had the best defensive record in the Conference... but there's no excuse for us falling apart like that. It's also the third time already we've dropped points at home.

 

A week later, we were off to Edgar Street to meet Hereford, who would draw level on points with us if they won. A fit-again Jonathan Macken was determined not to make that happen as he lined up alongside 10-goal man Junior McDougald in the Daggers attack.

 

12 OCTOBER 2002: Hereford United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Unfortunately for us, Jonathan Macken was very rusty. The inspirational Irishman lasted barely an hour before picking up a knock. As I didn't want to risk a serious injury, I decided to take him off, along with defender John Anderson, who was also struggling.

 

The match itself was a total write-off. Both teams looked very reluctant to take risks, and even when they did, the quality of the shooting was diabolical. The only shot that even tested either goalkeeper came right at the end. Junior McDougald struck a decent half-volley from Keith Brown's left-wing cross, but Hereford custodian Scott Cooksey pushed it away to keep the deadlock intact.

 

Hereford United - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,649 - POSITIONS: Hereford 4th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson (Bailey), Brown; Terry, Lacey, M Jones (Weekes); Janney; Macken (Alsop), McDougald.

 

I make that three draws in our last four matches. It seems we've lost our ability to kill matches off.

 

Surprisingly, we had the following weekend off. The FA Cup Qualifying Round took place, but we had been given a bye to Round 1, where we were drawn at home to Dulwich Hamlet of the Isthmian League. That's not an easy tie by any means, though we should still be expected to win it...

 

...but that's for next month. We still had one more match to concentrate on before October was out - a home game against Scarborough.

 

26 OCTOBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Scarborough

At half-time, this felt like it would be another frustrating afternoon for us. Our midfielders and strikers completely bossed proceedings and had several chances to put us into a comfortable lead, but goalkeeper Elliot Jackson was keeping Scarborough in the game almost by himself.

 

Frankly, I wasn't surprised, because I remember Jackson having another blinder when his team last visited Victoria Road in March. On that occasion, Mark Janney eventually made the breakthrough for us. This time around, it was Jonathan Macken who rifled in a half-volley from Nick Weekes' chipped pass in the 61st minute to finally best Jackson. With the Seadogs' counter-attacking game all at sea, we retained our lead fairly comfortably to end the month on a winning note.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Macken 61)

Scarborough - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,244 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Scarborough 10th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson, Brown; Janney (Terry), Lacey, Weekes; Macken; Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald.

 

It's not been the most exciting month to be a Daggers supporter, but we're still top - and still undefeated since that opening-day capitulation at Hayes. It feels like things are just going our way...

 

...hold up. What's that, physio? Damien Lacey's twisted his ankle and is out for the next three weeks? Bugger.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of October 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       15   5    3    0    18   4    4    2    1    13   8    32   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Dover                           15   7    1    0    18   6    2    3    2    11   12   31   
3rd     Barnet                          15   6    0    2    16   10   2    5    0    14   12   29   
4th     Morecambe                       15   3    3    1    16   12   5    0    3    17   12   27   
5th     Southport                       15   5    0    2    14   9    3    3    2    8    9    27   
6th     Hereford                        15   3    2    2    12   7    5    0    3    16   12   26   
7th     Northwich Vics                  15   3    2    2    6    5    4    2    2    22   12   25   
8th     Stalybridge                     15   4    1    3    18   16   4    0    3    14   15   25   
9th     Farnborough                     15   3    2    3    17   17   4    0    3    12   9    23   
10th    Scarborough                     15   5    2    0    17   7    1    3    4    9    16   23   
11th    Stevenage                       15   5    1    2    13   9    2    1    4    11   12   23   
12th    Boston Utd                      15   5    1    1    14   5    2    0    6    9    14   22   
13th    Nuneaton Borough                15   2    5    0    15   11   2    3    3    10   13   20   
14th    Halesowen                       15   4    1    2    9    4    1    2    5    8    18   18   
15th    Slough                          15   3    1    4    15   18   2    2    3    6    9    18   
16th    Margate                         15   3    1    4    10   12   2    1    4    6    9    17   
17th    York                            15   4    2    2    15   15   1    0    6    9    20   17   
18th    Telford                         15   3    1    3    12   11   1    2    5    12   16   15   
19th    Yeovil                          15   3    0    5    10   15   1    3    3    9    14   15   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Hayes                           15   3    0    5    11   13   1    1    5    4    11   13   
21st    Forest Green                    15   2    2    3    11   12   1    0    7    9    19   11   
22nd    Blyth Spartans                  15   1    2    4    6    14   0    0    8    3    21   5    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Manchester United stay undefeated at the top of the Premiership, but Manchester City's unbeaten record is in ruins after a 6-1 humiliation at Leeds. City respond by thrashing Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Newcastle 5-1... and then losing at home to Division 3 Rochdale in the League Cup.
  • With Watford fighting relegation from Division 1, and manager Gianluca Vialli having scarpered off to Napoli, a desperate Elton John tries to coax Graham Taylor out of semi-retirement for a third stint at Vicarage Road. Taylor turns the offer down, so Sir Elton instead gives the job to... former Arsenal and England goalkeeper David Seaman.
  • Nearly a decade after Taylor was humiliated by Norway, another England manager suffers the same fate. Tore Andre Flo scores twice in a 3-0 home win in Oslo as Sven-Göran Eriksson's Three Lions endure their first defeat in the Euro 2004 qualifiers.
  • Newly-promoted minnows Le Havre win eight straight matches to go three points clear at the top of Ligue 1. Manager Raymond Domenech credits his team's unexpected success to astrology. French football pundits say that he is seeing stars.
  • No such surprises in Spain, as a resurgent Barcelona lead La Liga with a perfect record after six games under new manager Carlos Bianchi. His predecessor Carles Rexach now manages Málaga... who are bottom with one point.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • "Have I Got News For You?" Angus Deayton is sacked as presenter of the BBC panel show for being IN the news... and becoming an even bigger target of ridicule than many of his guests!
  • Less than two years after being formed on ITV talent show "Popstars", Hear'Say announce that they have split up. Ironically, Liberty X - a rival pop group set up by the show's LOSING finalists - have had more chart success than the winners!
  • Irish actor and singer Richard Harris - who played Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films - passes away aged 72. In other news, someone leaves a cake out in the rain.
  • Development issues delay the release of Sports Interactive's new game "Championship Manager 4", which is set to include (gasp!) a 2D match engine. Don't worry, folks. I'm sure it'll be worth the wait!
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NOVEMBER 2002

After a two-week break, Dagenham were back in Conference action as the league leaders travelled to newly-promoted Halesowen. The Black Country boys sat 14th after enjoying a somewhat steady start to life at this level. They would not be pushovers - and we would need vice-captain John Anderson to help us hold our nerve in the absence of our injured skipper Damien Lacey.

 

9 NOVEMBER 2002: Halesowen Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

It was nice weather for ducks, and the rainy conditions also seemed to suit the direct football Julian Alsop thrived under. Our big target man headed us into the lead from Jonathan Macken's cross after just five minutes.

 

However, Tony Roberts did not appreciate how the conditions made the ball much more difficult to keep hold of. Four minutes later, a header from Halesowen winger Nicky Thompson slipped through Roberts' fingers and fell to midfielder Peter Wild, whose finish sent the home fans wild. They were ecstatic when left-back Leslie Hines completed the fightback in the 19th minute.

 

Trailing 2-1 at half-time, I fired my players up during the break and instructed them to play more long balls towards Alsop. The strategy worked on the hour mark, when Matt Jones' cross found Jules, whose second headed goal of the afternoon got one point back. But although Halesowen were weakened by an injury to captain Lee Collins in the closing stages, we couldn't quite manage to get the other two.

 

Halesowen Town - 2 (Wild 9, Hines 19)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 5,60)

Conference, Attendance 1,577 - POSITIONS: Halesowen 16th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson, Brown (Hanmer); Janney, Terry, Weekes (M Jones); Macken; Alsop, McDougald (O'Neill). BOOKED: Weekes.

 

While we were battling for a hard-earned point, the draw for the opening round of the Football League Trophy took place. We will open our campaign at home to Division 2 mid-tablers Reading in December.

 

We then found out who we would face in Round 2 of the FA Trophy. Managerless Yeovil would await us at Huish Park later this month for the start of our cup defence.

 

However, it was now time to focus on the other cup competition we were involved in - the FA Cup. I decided to freshen up the team and do some squad rotation for Dulwich Hamlet's visit to Victoria Road, but could our fringe players avoid a Round 1 upset?

 

16 NOVEMBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Dulwich Hamlet

The first half was a real struggle. Despite getting a double a week earlier, Julian Alsop's shooting was all over the place, and 17-year-old Jamie Weaver once again looked like he wasn't ready to play a prominent attacking midfield role. Meanwhile, Dulwich's attackers gave us plenty of scares at the other end.

 

With the half-time scoreline still goalless, it was time to throw on the big boys - and they didn't come much bigger than Jonathan Macken, who duly powered us into the lead two minutes after the restart. However, Jon's cameo quickly turned sour seven minutes later. When Dulwich captain Peter Garland swung a free-kick into our box, Macken was beaten to the header by striker Marvin Blake, who drew the minnows level.

 

Another player who was struggling was left-back Gareth Hanmer, who was replaced midway through the half with 19-year-old debutant Brett Gallagher. As several more Daggers attacks came up empty, we slowly began to accept that this cup tie was heading to a replay... but Hamlet would not. An 88th-minute counter-attack ended with Matthew Rush driving home a late winner, which knocked us out of the FA Cup - and inflicted our first home defeat this season.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Macken 47)

Dulwich Hamlet - 2 (Blake 54, Rush 88)

FA Cup Round 1, Attendance 3,125

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Gothard; Bailey, Bayliss (Cole), Anderson, Hanmer (Gallagher); Janney, Terry, M Jones; Weaver (Macken); Alsop, O'Neill.

 

Well. I have to say we deserved that. We obviously shouldn't have taken Dulwich lightly.

 

Once bitten, twice shy. When we started our FA Trophy defence at Yeovil a week later, I made sure to select my strongest - which, thankfully, now included a fit-again Damien Lacey. Incidentally, this was the Glovers' first match under their new manager - my Dagenham predecessor Garry Hill!

 

23 NOVEMBER 2002: Yeovil Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

To nobody's surprise, considering their respective positions in the Conference table, Garry Hill's new team were comfortably outclassed by his old charges. Some brave goalkeeping from Yeovil's Jon Sheffield meant it took us 26 minutes to make the breakthrough, but once captain Damien Lacey found the net, we were always in control.

 

That being said, our second half got off to a mixed start. Striker Junior McDougald had to come off in the 55th minute after twisting his ankle. He was replaced with teenager Michael O'Neill, whose first shot a minute later was parried by Sheffield. Fortunately for us, Mark Janney was first to the loose ball, and the winger's third goal of the campaign doubled our advantage.

 

Those two were also at the heart of our next goalscoring attack, which killed the game off in the 76th minute. Janney took control of a Julian Alsop header and squared it from the right wing to O'Neill, who slipped past the Yeovil defence and stabbed in just his second competitive goal!

 

Yeovil Town - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Lacey 26, Janney 56, O'Neill 76)

FA Trophy Round 2, Attendance 1,471

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson (Rooney), Brown; Janney, Lacey (Terry), M Jones; Macken; Alsop, McDougald (O'Neill).

 

We were through to Round 3 without any real dramas. Our reward - a home tie against Isthmian League Hendon in the new year. After what happened in the FA Cup, though, we know now that we have to show our lower-league opponents respect.

 

Unfortunately, McDougald's ankle injury was as bad as we suspected. Our top scorer was out until Christmas. This was a real problem, especially our second-top scorer was about to leave the club.

 

Yes, I'm afraid Jonathan Macken's loan spell with the Daggers was almost up! After nine goals and four assists in just 15 matches, Macken would reluctantly return to Preston following our next Conference game against Southport. The Sandgrounders were 4th in the table, but they would draw level on points with us if they won.

 

30 NOVEMBER 2002: Southport vs Dagenham & Redbridge

The opening stages of this match were remarkably similar to our last league outing. A Julian Alsop header in the 4th-minute got us off to the perfect start, only for Southport to equalise within five minutes. Damien Lacey clumsily lost the ball to home midfielder Marek Szmid, who then put together a counter-attack which ended with him setting up Tony Sullivan for the equaliser.

 

After several unsuccessful Daggers attacks throughout the first half, things went from bad to worse on the stroke of half-time. After Tim Cole gave away a free-kick just outside our box, Southport right-back Matthew Black struck his set-piece against the Daggers wall. The ball deflected off vice-captain John Anderson, which unfortunately diverted it past Tony Roberts and into the net. 2-1 Southport.

 

And then, possibly for the last time in a Daggers jersey, Jonathan Macken came to the rescue. The Irish hotshot picked up a 53rd-minute delivery from Keith Brown to reach double figures and grab us another 2-2 draw.

 

Southport - 2 (Sullivan 9, Anderson og45)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 4, Macken 53)

Conference, Attendance 1,775 - POSITIONS: Southport 5th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Bailey), Cole, Anderson, Brown; Janney, Weekes (Terry), Lacey, M Jones; Alsop, Macken (O'Neill). BOOKED: Lacey.

 

The Dagenham team coach went back home without Macken, who said his goodbyes in the dressing room before making the short drive from Southport to Preston. I hope he we will get to bring him back for a second loan later in the season, like we did with Steve Howard last term, but I also get the feeling he's far too good for the Conference. At the very least, he deserves to be given another chance at Deepdale.

 

We also said goodbye to defender Mark Rooney, who joined Stalybridge on a free transfer after losing his first-team place. The 24-year-old had never really found any consistency at either right-back or centre-half.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of November 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       17   5    3    0    18   4    4    4    1    17   12   34   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Morecambe                       17   5    3    1    23   12   5    0    3    17   12   33   
3rd     Dover                           17   7    1    0    18   6    2    4    3    12   14   32   
4th     Northwich Vics                  17   5    2    2    10   7    4    2    2    22   12   31   
5th     Southport                       17   6    1    2    19   13   3    3    2    8    9    31   
6th     Barnet                          17   6    0    2    16   10   2    6    1    18   17   30   
7th     Stevenage                       18   5    2    2    14   10   4    1    4    16   15   30   
8th     Hereford                        17   4    2    3    17   10   5    0    3    16   12   29   
9th     Stalybridge                     17   4    1    3    18   16   5    0    4    17   19   28   
10th    Farnborough                     17   3    2    3    17   17   5    0    4    19   16   26   
11th    Scarborough                     17   5    3    1    20   11   1    3    4    9    16   24   
12th    Slough                          17   3    1    4    15   18   4    2    3    12   13   24   
13th    Boston Utd                      17   5    1    3    16   9    2    0    6    9    14   22   
14th    Nuneaton Borough                17   2    7    0    17   13   2    3    3    10   13   22   
15th    Margate                         17   3    1    4    10   12   3    1    5    9    15   20   
16th    York                            17   4    2    2    15   15   2    0    7    10   24   20   
17th    Halesowen                       17   4    2    3    12   8    1    2    5    8    18   19   
18th    Yeovil                          17   3    0    6    12   18   2    3    3    13   16   18   
19th    Telford                         17   3    1    5    17   19   1    2    5    12   16   15   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Forest Green                    17   3    2    3    15   12   1    1    7    9    19   15   
21st    Hayes                           17   3    0    5    11   13   1    1    7    5    17   13   
22nd    Blyth Spartans                  18   2    2    5    11   19   0    1    8    4    22   9    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • All's well that ends well for Chelsea boss Jean Tigana, as five straight Premiership victories take the Blues up from 20th place to 8th. Manchester United still lead the way, despite suffering their first defeat of the season at Southampton.
  • There is double turmoil in the north-east. Alan Shearer has a huge row with Newcastle manager Javier Clemente and asks to leave the mid-table Magpies. Meanwhile, Sunderland sack manager Peter Reid after plummeting to the bottom of the Premiership.
  • Motherwell's unlikely dream team of 'director of football' Pat Nevin, manager George Graham and coach Terry Venables are working wonders north of the border. The Fir Park side defeat Rangers in the UEFA Cup and go level on points with Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
  • Le Havre continue to shock French football by going five points clear at the top of Ligue 1. Raymond Domenech then speaks to a psychic, who convinces him to leave the Stade Jules-Deschaseaux and take over at 2nd-placed Lyon instead.
  • Bayern München stroll inexorably towards a record FIFTH consecutive Bundesliga title, winning six games in a row to go eight points ahead of Leverkusen. 33-year-old Brazilian forward Paulo Sérgio has taken the league by storm, with five goals and eight assists in just 12 matches.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • The latest James Bond film "Die Another Day" hits cinemas, with Pierce Brosnan making his final appearance as 007. Co-star Halle Berry delivers a captivating performance as Jinx Johnson, but Madonna's cameo... isn't as well-received.
  • Gunther von Hagens conducts the first public autopsy in Britain for over 170 years. It is even broadcast on Channel 4, who subsequently receive hundreds of complaints from viewers who believe the show isn't gruesome enough for Channel 4.
  • Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell is found not guilty of stealing from her estate, after it is revealed that he had told the Queen he would keep some of Diana's possessions. A few days later, Burrell sells his story to Piers Morgan and the Daily Mirror for £300,000.
  • Michael Jackson disqualifies himself from the 'Father of the Year' award by dangling his newborn son Blanket over the balcony of a hotel room in Berlin. Some people argue that he's done much worse.
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DECEMBER 2002

Though Dagenham & Redbridge were still top of the Conference, we had a bit of a striker dilemma heading into the final weeks of 2002. With loanee Jonathan Macken returning to Preston, and top scorer Junior McDougald nursing a twisted ankle, that left the somewhat inconsistent Julian Alsop and the inexperienced Michael O'Neill as our only real attacking options.

 

As we had no transfer funds available, I would likely have to raid the loan market again for another striker - ideally one who could also play as an attacking midfielder. In the meantime, I added some depth by signing 16-year-old Welsh rookie Chris Griffiths for our reserve team. Chris is quick, intelligent and a decent finisher, so perhaps he would get his chance soon.

 

Our first match of the month saw us play host to Blyth Spartans, who were bottom of the table with nine points - and just one point away from home. Oh, I don't like the look of this!

 

7 DECEMBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Blyth Spartans

Blyth didn't exactly fight like Spartans. They hardly retreated out of their own half in the first period, with their defence frustrating our attackers at every opportunity. With the deadlock still intact at half-time, I decided to abandon the 4-4-2 we'd started off with - and take the game to our opponents with the more offensive 4-3-1-2.

 

Eventually, in the 70th minute, the Spartans collapsed. Lee Goodwin's through-ball from right-back was expected to find Michael O'Neill, but it was instead picked up by midfielder Paul Terry, who drove in his first goal of the season! A late Julian Alsop half-volley then finished off Blyth, who hadn't even managed a single shot on goal against us. This truly was a one-sided contest.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Terry 70, Alsop 86)

Blyth Spartans - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,751 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Blyth Spartans 22nd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson (Brown), Hanmer; Janney (Weekes), Terry, Lacey, M Jones; O'Neill (Shaw), Alsop.

 

After defeating the worst team in our league, we now faced an altogether tougher test. We were at home to Division 2 mid-tablers Reading in Round 1 of the Football League Trophy, but with the Royals in good form under Gordon Strachan, an upset didn't look terribly likely.

 

10 DECEMBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Reading

As expected, Reading took the game to us early on, with midfielder James Harper hitting the woodwork in the 10th minute. Striker Martin Butler also went close midway later in the first half, forcing a difficult save out of Tony Roberts before his next effort also struck a post. At the other end, we were struggling to get involved, and it was all one-way traffic.

 

To further complicate matters for us, Julian Alsop was complaining of a knock at half-time. As I didn't want to risk us losing another key striker, I subbed him off for winger Matt Jones and switched to a 4-5-1, with Michael O'Neill up front on his own. The youngster looked overawed, but on the plus side, our midfield did get a firmer grip on the game to limit the Royals' scoring opportunities.

 

Nick Weekes had our best chance six minutes from full-time, when a fierce shot struck Reading's woodwork. But with neither team breaking the deadlock, the match headed to extra-time. With a shaky O'Neill making way for 16-year-old Chris Griffiths, our main attacking threats now came from midfield, with Damien Lacey giving Royals keeper Phil Whitehead his toughest test in the 103rd minute.

 

Both teams tired dramatically during the last 15 minutes of extra-time, and a penalty shoot-out looked inevitable. The referee was about to blow his final whistle when Paul Terry got into a heated confrontation with Reading defender Jon O'Connor. Things spilled over when Terry shoved his hands into O'Connor's chest, prompting a minor scuffle with both teams before the ref sent our midfielder off! If you really didn't want to take a penalty, Paul, why didn't you just tell me?

 

Losing Terry just before the shoot-out really upset our rhythm. Though Lacey comfortably put away his opening penalty for us, Matt Jones' was saved and Lee Goodwin's hit the woodwork as Reading moved 3-1 up. Though Wayne Gill missed the chance to secure victory for the Royals, that just made it even more painful when Mark Janney screwed his effort wide to seal our fate. Despite a brave effort, we had exited the Football League Trophy at the first hurdle.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Reading - 0

[after extra-time, Reading win 3-1 on penalties]

Football League Trophy South Round 1, Attendance 784

PENALTY SHOOT-OUT (Dag & Red, Reading): Rougier 0-1, Lacey 1-1, Whitbread 1-2, M Jones saved, Butler 1-3, Goodwin missed, Gill missed, Janney missed.

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson (Bayliss), Brown; Janney, Lacey, Terry; Weekes; Alsop (M Jones), O'Neill (Griffiths). SENT OFF: Terry.

 

After the match, Paul Terry was given a one-match ban (starting on 24 December) and fined a week's wages for violent conduct. However, he took offence to being fined, saying it was "unfair".

 

As great as Terry had been for us last season, he had quite frankly not been good enough this term. 20 matches, one goal, no assists, a 6.55 average rating - his performances don't justify his £1,000-per-week wages, and his attitude certainly doesn't either.

 

So that was the final straw for me. Terry was placed on the transfer list, banished to the reserves, and told in uncertain terms that he wouldn't play for the Daggers again while I was in charge.

 

With Terry banished, I decided to promote 17-year-old midfielder Ryan Carter to the senior squad ahead of our next match. Hayes might have inflicted our only Conference defeat so far this season on the opening day, but they'd won just three more fixtures since then and were only ahead of Blyth Spartans in the table.

 

14 DECEMBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Hayes

It had become a bit of a theme in recent games that we couldn't get going until the second half. That was true again here, as apart from a couple of speculative shots from captain Damien Lacey, we hardly threatened Hayes in the first period. But of course, that would soon change.

 

Introducing young Ryan Carter in Mark Janney's place for the second half changed the game. Two minutes after the restart, Carter nodded the ball down to Damien Lacey, who then threaded it through for Julian Alsop to blast in the opener. Jules was now on 10 goals for the season, but he wasn't finished yet.

 

Just after the hour mark, Alsop doubled his money, scoring from an impressive assist by his teenage strike partner Michael O'Neill. After completing his hat-trick with a header from Nick Weekes' free-kick, the big frontman was given a standing ovation at Victoria Road as he made way for league debutant Chris Griffiths. His day's work was done, and the hosts were victorious once again!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Alsop 47,61,73)

Hayes - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,197 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Hayes 21st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson (Bayliss), Brown; Janney (Carter), Lacey, M Jones; Weekes; Alsop (Griffiths), O'Neill.

 

I was a very happy man on Sunday morning. Not only were we now four points clear at the top of the Conference (albeit having played a game more than 2nd-placed Morecambe), but the headline on the Non-League Paper front page brought the widest smile to my face.

 

"BOSTON SACK EVANS"

 

It had been a rotten season for my old rival Steve Evans at York Street. Boston had gone from promotion contenders before the season began to being dragged into a relegation battle. They'd won just one of their last eight fixtures in all competitions (even losing to Dulwich in the FA Cup a round before us!), and a 2-1 home defeat against a woeful Telford side was the final straw for their ownership.

 

While Evans headed to the job centre, I prepared for the last of four consecutive home games. I named an unchanged starting XI when we welcomed 8th-placed Stevenage to Victoria Road, though McDougald did return to the substitutes' bench after his injury lay-off.

 

21 DECEMBER 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Stevenage Borough

There were no goals in the first half. Quelle surprise. Indeed, it was quite worrying to see Stevenage have the best chance, with Damian Spencer's 4th-minute header being saved by an alert Tony Roberts. As far as we were concerned, though, it was another forgettable 45 minutes.

 

The second half provided a bit more excitement, as we started to trouble Stevenage's defence more often. Boro started to crack in the 67th minute, when a shin injury brought right-winger Paul Armstrong's game to an end. A minute later, we exposed that weakened flank when Matt Jones crossed into the box. Stevenage keeper Richard Dean couldn't secure his catch, leaving Julian Alsop with an easy finish to open the scoring.

 

The floodgates were now wide open for Alsop's strike partner to get on the scoresheet. Junior McDougald enjoyed his return to action after replacing the disappointing Michael O'Neill at half-time, scoring twice in the space of four minutes and putting the game to bed!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Alsop 68, McDougald 77,80)

Stevenage Borough - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,206 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Stevenage 11th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson, Brown; Janney, Lacey, M Jones (Hanmer); Weekes (Carter); Alsop, O'Neill (McDougald).

 

Not bad, guys! Now if you could start scoring before half-time, that would be great!

 

Following a Merry Christmas, we looked to make it 20 league matches unbeaten when we headed west to Somerset on Boxing Day. We'd already knocked Yeovil out of the FA Trophy, but could we now inflict more pain on Garry Hill's struggling Glovers at Huish Park?

 

26 DECEMBER 2002: Yeovil Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Dagenham goalkeeper Tony Roberts didn't have his finest hour in the 24th minute. Despite standing firm to block a fierce shot from 17-year-old Yeovil striker Jonathan Wood, he was unable to keep out the rebound. 1-0 to the hosts.

 

Things got even worse for our Welsh custodian five minutes into the second period. Wood set up an effort for his strike partner Carl Alford, who doubled Yeovil's lead at the second attempt after Roberts had fumbled the initial half-volley.

 

Alford had actually been released by Yeovil last month, only to be quickly re-signed by new manager Garry Hill, and that was his fourth goal in five matches since then. Perhaps I might need to try that with Michael O'Neill, who'd played 19 games and only scored twice!

 

As for Tony's opposite number, it was a very different story. Jon Sheffield was the only reason we hadn't won that FA Trophy game by a rugby score, and the Yeovil goalkeeper was frustratingly excellent again. We had plenty of shots at goal, but Sheffield laid his glove(r)s on EIGHT of them to shut us out.

 

Yeovil Town - 2 (Wood 24, Alford 50)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,428 - POSITIONS: Yeovil 16th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Bayliss (Anderson), Brown; Janney, Lacey, M Jones; Carter (Weekes); Alsop, O'Neill (McDougald).

 

Our first defeat in 19 league games could be a very costly one. With Morecambe beating Dover 2-0, the Shrimps were now just one point behind us - with a game in hand.

 

We didn't have long to stew over that result. Just two days later, we were in York to take on a Minstermen side we had thumped 5-0 in August. Would this be a return to form, or had the shock Yeovil loss sowed some seeds of doubt into our minds?

 

28 DECEMBER 2002: York City vs Dagenham & Redbridge

I think Michael O'Neill heard my whispers about releasing and re-signing him! The Irish youngster burst out of the traps after just two minutes, firing in the opener following a fantastic dribble and cross from Mark Bailey. That said, we almost lost our lead within six minutes, as York midfielder Christian Fox hit the bar.

 

Bailey had so far struggled to make an impact at right-back since signing from Northwich, but perhaps the 26-year-old was more suited to a right-wing role. He got his second assist of the night after 21 minutes, rounding off a string of Daggers passes by crossing to an unmarked Damien Lacey for 2-0.

 

York's spirit was broken, and though they stopped us adding to our lead for the best part of an hour, they crumbled again in the closing stages. In the 80th minute, O'Neill got above Minstermen captain Chris Brass to head in Julian Alsop's flick-on and double his season goal tally in one match.

 

Three minutes later, Alsop took advantage of a mistake by teenage goalkeeper Lee Camp to grab his 14th goal of the campaign! In our two meetings this season, we had put NINE goals past York without reply!

 

York City - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (O'Neill 2,80, Lacey 21, Alsop 83)

Conference, Attendance 1,953 - POSITIONS: York 15th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Brown (Cole), Anderson, Hanmer; Bailey, Weekes (Carter), Lacey, M Jones; O'Neill, McDougald. BOOKED: Lacey.

 

Yeah, that's more like it!

 

December had been a month to remember for Alsop, whose six league goals saw him named as the Conference's Player of the Month. I also won my second Manager of the Month award this season, which probably would have irked Morecambe's Peter Jackson, considering that his side won all their matches.

 

I'm sure January will be a pivotal month in the title race, as we face five tricky league matches - none more so than on 8 January, when Jackson takes his Lancastrian hobbits to Victoria Road. I can't wait.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of December 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       22   8    3    0    26   4    5    4    2    21   14   46   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Morecambe                       21   7    3    1    27   12   7    0    3    23   15   45   
3rd     Barnet                          22   8    0    3    22   14   3    7    1    22   20   40   
4th     Hereford                        22   6    2    3    21   11   6    0    5    18   16   38   
5th     Farnborough                     21   5    2    3    25   22   7    0    4    23   17   38   
6th     Southport                       21   8    1    2    25   14   3    3    4    9    14   37   
7th     Northwich Vics                  22   5    3    3    11   9    5    2    4    24   17   35   
8th     Nuneaton Borough                23   4    7    1    22   15   4    3    4    13   16   34   
9th     Dover                           22   7    2    2    20   10   2    4    5    13   18   33   
10th    Stevenage                       23   6    2    3    17   12   4    1    7    18   22   33   
11th    Scarborough                     22   5    4    2    23   15   3    3    5    15   22   31   
12th    Stalybridge                     22   4    2    5    23   23   5    1    5    20   24   30   
13th    Yeovil                          22   5    0    6    16   19   4    3    4    21   23   30   
14th    Slough                          23   5    1    6    23   24   4    2    5    12   17   30   
15th    York                            22   5    2    3    16   19   4    0    8    17   29   29   
16th    Boston Utd                      22   6    1    5    20   13   3    0    7    11   16   28   
17th    Telford                         23   4    1    6    19   20   4    2    6    19   22   27   
18th    Halesowen                       22   4    2    5    13   12   2    4    5    12   21   24   
19th    Margate                         21   4    1    5    13   15   3    2    6    10   17   24   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Forest Green                    22   5    2    4    20   15   1    2    8    10   23   22   
21st    Hayes                           23   4    0    8    16   23   1    1    9    5    22   16   
22nd    Blyth Spartans                  23   2    4    5    14   22   1    1    10   7    27   14   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Manchester United build an imperious 10-point lead at the Premiership summit, thanks to another glut of goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy. The Dutch destroyer scores twice in a 4-0 Boxing Day thrashing of Manchester City, but things don't go so well for his team-mate Ryan Giggs, who comes off with a groin strain. Coincidentally, Giggs celebrated Christmas Day with his sister-in-law.
  • Newcastle fans are heartbroken when club legend Alan Shearer signs for Aston Villa for just £2.3million. He immediately scores four goals in his first two matches for Bruce Grobbelaar's Villans - against Chelsea and Manchester United.
  • 17-year-old Wayne Rooney scores his first Premiership goal as Everton battle to a draw against fellow mid-tablers Southampton. He is soon named the BBC's Young Sports Personality of the Year and is hailed as English football's most exciting wonderkid since Wayne Harrison.
  • Shortly after La Liga leaders Barcelona lose their unbeaten record against bottom side Rayo, their Dutch winger Marc Overmars joins champions Deportivo for £11.5million. Another big transfer in Spain sees Valencia secure the £12million signing of Atlético Mineiro's Brazilian defensive workhorse Gilberto Silva.
  • After a shaky start to their Serie A defence, Lazio hit form again to drag themselves into a five-way battle for the scudetto with Milan, Juventus, Roma and Inter - only two points separate the top teams. The Biancocelesti also thrash Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League, before thumping Cruzeiro 3-0 to win their first Intercontinental Cup.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • The latest series of ITV's "Popstars" finishes with two rival pop groups competing to top the UK Singles Chart at Christmas. Girls Aloud come out on top as "Sound of the Underground" hits Number 1, but if history tells us anything, that means One True Voice will be more successful in the long run... right?
  • Punk rock icon Joe Strummer - frontman and guitarist of The Clash - dies suddenly at his home in Somerset, aged just 50. The singer of hits such as "Rock The Casbah" and "London Calling" is later found to have had a congenital heart condition that caused a fatal cardiac arrest.
  • The space western drama "Firefly" - created by Joss Whedon and starring Nathan Fillion - is cancelled by Fox after just one season. It is immediately forgotten and never mentioned by anybody again.
  • Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere all star in this winter's big box-office hit "Chicago" - based on the 1970s musical of the same name. The film's release coincides with Chicago Fire winning the Major League Soccer championship game for the second time in five years.
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JANUARY 2003

Just before Christmas, I held a meeting with the Dagenham & Redbridge scouting team, where we considered several options to replace Matt Jones on the left side of midfield. That was when chief scout Mick Loughton alerted me to Jamie Victory, who had just been transfer-listed by Cheltenham.

 

I watched some tapes of Victory's performances and liked what I saw. He was incredibly quick, could play in defence or midfield, possessed sublime technique - not least when it comes to crossing - and had the knack for the unpredictable. Jamie was also a local boy from Hackney, and at the age of 27, he was just coming into his prime.

 

I wasted no time in phoning up Cheltenham's manager Steve Cotterill. We already knew each other quite well, as Steve had sold Julian Alsop to me back in July. Having scored 14 goals in 19 Conference matches, Big Jules had turned out to be quite a good signing for us!

 

Anyway, when I told Steve about our interest in signing Victory, he chirped in his broad West Country accent, "Funny you should say that, actually!" He then explained that he wanted sign our unwanted midfielder Paul Terry for his Robins team, who were flagging near the bottom of Division 3.

 

Before long, we'd thrashed out a straight swap deal that would see Terry sign for Cheltenham, with Victory moving the other way to Victoria Road! And at a cost of 'just' £550 per week, Jamie would be on barely half the wages Paul was earning with us. I'd call that shrewd business, at least from a financial sense!

 

Victory was set to make his Daggers debut in our first match of the new year - away at 19th-placed Margate. Also joining us on our trip to Hartsdown Park was Clive Platt - a pacey and clinical 24-year-old striker who arrived on loan from Rochdale for practically the rest of the season.

 

4 JANUARY 2003: Margate vs Dagenham & Redbridge

I'd recently moved Keith Brown from left-back to centre-half, where he was starting to form a solid partnership with fellow Scot John Anderson. Despite that, Brown had a difficult start to this match, deflecting a Dave Hunt volley into his own net to give Margate the lead after just 13 minutes.

 

Mind you, we did have a stroke of luck of our own in the 18th minute, when Junior McDougald's shot deflected past Margate keeper Ian MacFarlane to level the scores. Six minutes after that, we continued the turnaround when Anderson rose above Hunt to head home a corner from Nick Weekes. John's first Daggers goal had put us in the ascendancy!

 

Things got even better seven minutes into the second period, as another player broke his Dagenham duck. Jay Saunders' clumsy challenge on Weekes won us a free-kick, which left-back Gareth Hanmer hammered home from 20 yards out. 3-1 to the Daggers!

 

Margate were a team with plenty of fighting spirit, and when their midfield captain Jimmy Bullard unleashed a bullet into the top corner in the 68th minute, I was starting to fear the worst. Thankfully, Tony Roberts and his defence managed to weather a late storm, and we left Kent with all three points.

 

Margate - 2 (Brown og13, Bullard 68)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 18, Anderson 24, Hanmer 52)

Conference, Attendance 1,764 - POSITIONS: Margate 19th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Brown, Anderson (Cole), Hanmer; Bailey (Janney), Weekes, Lacey, M Jones; Alsop (Platt), McDougald. BOOKED: Bailey, Hanmer.

 

Morecambe had leapfrogged us into 1st place after beating Farnborough on New Year's Day. But this result - combined with the Shrimps' 2-2 draw at Forest Green - saw us regain our position at the summit on goal difference. That set things up very nicely for the biggest match of our season.

 

Four days later, we were back at Victoria Road, looking to preserve our unbeaten home league record against a Morecambe team who had the Conference's best away form. Who would be leading the way after this promotion six-pointer?

 

8 JANUARY 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Morecambe

The Victoria Road faithful were in for an early fright. Morecambe went on the attack after just six minutes, when captain Chris Lightfoot's delightful ball broke though our defences and was half-volleyed in by striker Ian Arnold.

 

Meanwhile, Clive Platt was having a rough full debut in attacking midfield for Dagenham. His being in an offside position resulted in striker Junior McDougald having a goal chalked off in the 22nd minute. We still trailed at half-time, so I switched from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-4-2, subbed Platt off for winger Mark Janney, and brought on our other new signing Jamie Victory at left wing.

 

11 minutes into the second period, McDougald found the net again. After receiving a cross from captain Damien Lacey, Junior jinked past Shrimps right-back Gary Lynn and then fired a low, hard shot beyond goalkeeper Matthew Murray. That equalising strike was the last real highlight in a competitive 1-1 draw.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McDougald 56)

Morecambe - 1 (Arnold 6)

Conference, Attendance 2,377 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Morecambe 2nd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Cole), Brown, Anderson, Hanmer; Weekes, Lacey, M Jones (Victory); Platt (Janney); Alsop, McDougald. BOOKED: Goodwin.

 

That was just the fourth Conference game where we'd dropped points at home this season. We had at least avoided a first defeat - but Stalybridge hoped to change that the following weekend. I rejigged my squad a fair bit for this match, with new boy Victory making his full debut at Victoria Road.

 

11 JANUARY 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Stalybridge Celtic

A pre-match downpour turned the Victoria Road into a proverbial quagmire, and heavy winds made it almost unplayable. Stalybridge's midfield general Steve Bushell almost got lucky when his 5th-minute free-kick was blown against the crossbar, but otherwise, both teams struggled to get to grips with the treacherous conditions.

 

Then, in injury time, we took control. Mark Janney managed to battle through the Celtic defence - and the winds - as he surged from right-wing to drive in a left-footed finish. Moments later, Clive Platt doubled our lead, heading in his first Daggers goal from a Nick Weekes cross.

 

To make matters worse for Stalybridge, Bushell had been forced off with a shin injury in between those goals. Bushell was their top scorer on 13 goals this season, but the next man on that list was striker Gerard Courtney, who headed home his 12th shortly after the break. That gave the visitors fresh hope of mounting a comeback... at least until their winger Richard Peacock broke his toe.

 

As Stalybridge boss Wes Saunders struggled to hold his team together with sticky-back plastic, we sealed victory 10 minutes from time. Mark Bailey's corner delivery was headed in by vice-captain John Anderson, who made it 3-1.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Janney 45, Platt 45, Anderson 80)

Stalybridge Celtic - 1 (Courtney 53)

Conference, Attendance 1,912 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Stalybridge 16th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole (Hanmer), Anderson, Brown; Janney (Bailey), Weekes, Lacey, Victory; Platt, McDougald (Alsop).

 

That result kept us just ahead of Morecambe, who had come from behind to defeat Hereford 2-1. The title race was turning into something of a two-way battle, with nearest challengers Farnborough now eight points adrift.

 

Next on the schedule: an FA Trophy Round 3 tie against Isthmian League minnows Hendon. Though I was still conscious about the fact we'd lost to Dulwich Hamlet in the FA Cup and couldn't take our opponents too lightly, I still decided to rest the likes of Tony Roberts, Lee Goodwin and Junior McDougald. After all, we would need them for our midweek league match at Dover.

 

18 JANUARY 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Hendon

Hendon might have been spared the full force of our attack, but they still had a big Brummie to contend with. Julian Alsop got us up and running by heading a couple of deliveries from right-back Mark Bailey in the 13th and 19th minute. Though the Dons later had the chance to peg one goal back when Paul Richardson went one-on-one with Daggers keeper Paul Gothard, he couldn't take it, and our lead remained 2-0 at the break.

 

Ten minutes into the second half, Alsop heaped more misery on Hendon goalkeeper Gary McCann. A clever midfield chip from Nick Weekes set up Jules, who completed his hat-trick and was then subbed off for Clive Platt. While we didn't add any more goals to our tally, we were still comfortably into another FA Trophy Quarter Final.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Alsop 13,19,55)

Hendon - 0

FA Trophy Round 3, Attendance 582

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Gothard; Bailey, Bayliss (Brown), Anderson, Hanmer; Janney, Weekes, Lacey (Carter), Victory; Alsop (Platt), O'Neill.

 

A much tougher test would await us in Round 4, that was for sure. We were drawn to face Barnet away on 8 February - exactly a week after our league meeting at Underhill. That should be a fun little double-header!

 

Meanwhile, we agreed a deal to sign Clive Platt permanently from Rochdale at the end of the season. Platt's contract at Spotland was expiring this summer, and though he'd only scored once in four games so far during his loan spell, I was still impressed enough to keep him here.

 

To show how much I appreciated Clive's effort, I started him up front alongside Alsop when we went to mid-table Dover a few days later. That's right, folks: Junior McDougald only made it onto the bench!

 

22 JANUARY 2003: Dover Athletic vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Dover enjoyed the better of the first half, with midfield captain Gavin Heeroo's long-range shooting proving particularly troublesome. We somehow survived intact and then started to push forward late in the period. With two minutes to go until half-time, Lee Goodwin's delivery from the right wing found Clive Platt, who turned his header in for a 1-0 away lead!

 

Chris Freestone wasted two great scoring opportunities for Dover in either half - but it was third time lucky as far as the former Middlesbrough forward was concerned. Freestone climbed above Daggers centre-back Keith Brown to meet Heeroo's long ball with a powerful header that Tony Roberts couldn't quite reach in time. One-all.

 

Eight minutes from the end, though, we sensed a chance to snatch victory - courtesy of Jamie Victory! Our new left-winger showcased his crossing ability with an excellent delivery to Junior McDougald, who fired it hard, low... and wide. Following that miss, we had to settle with a share of the points.

 

Dover Athletic - 1 (Freestone 72)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Platt 43)

Conference, Attendance 1,667 - POSITIONS: Dover 13th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Brown, Anderson, Hanmer; Bailey (Janney), Weekes (Carter), Lacey, Victory; Alsop (McDougald), Platt. BOOKED: Weekes.

 

Our frustration was tempered somewhat when we heard that Morecambe had also drawn their game, sharing four goals with Nuneaton. Meanwhile, Farnborough had slipped to 5th place - behind Hereford and Barnet - after being beaten at home by a resurgent Margate.

 

Farnborough's bid for promotion was losing momentum as they arrived at Victoria Road for our final game of the month. I had a chequered record against Alan Ball's Boro side, whose deadly attack posed a real threat to our unbeaten home record.

 

25 JANUARY 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Farnborough Town

Both our strikers found the going tough in the first period. Julian Alsop often found himself crowded out by members of Farnborough's five-man defence, while Clive Platt was booked in the 14th minute for angrily kicking the ball away after an offside call.

 

With the way things were going, we decided to focus our attacks on the flanks, where Boro were significantly weaker. This change of approach saw Mark Janney thrive on the right wing. Having broken the deadlock with a sublime solo goal in the 20th minute, Janney then doubled our lead six minutes later by powerfully finishing a cross from left-winger Matt Jones.

 

Unfortunately, we started to lose our way a bit in the second half. Farnborough adopted a more attacking approach, and their mazy runs put real pressure on our defence before Miguel De Souza eventually blasted in their first goal on 79 minutes. I even felt the need to throw on an extra defender in the closing stages, just to make sure they didn't get another.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Janney 20,26)

Farnborough Town - 1 (De Souza 79)

Conference, Attendance 2,283 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Farnborough 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Anderson, Brown; Janney (Carter), Weekes, Lacey, M Jones; Alsop (Hanmer), Platt (McDougald). BOOKED: Platt.

 

Morecambe matched our result with a 3-2 win over Boston United, meaning that they remain level on points with us after 27 games. With a little under a third of the season still to play, the Conference title race is still too close to call.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of January 2003)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       27   10   4    0    33   7    6    5    2    25   17   57   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Morecambe                       27   9    3    1    32   15   8    3    3    31   21   57   
3rd     Hereford                        27   8    2    3    25   12   8    0    6    22   19   50   
4th     Southport                       27   10   1    2    32   15   4    3    7    15   23   46   
5th     Northwich Vics                  27   7    3    3    17   9    6    3    5    30   23   45   
6th     Barnet                          27   9    1    4    28   17   3    8    2    24   23   45   
7th     Farnborough                     27   6    3    5    32   29   8    0    5    27   22   45   
8th     Stevenage                       27   8    2    3    22   14   5    2    7    23   25   43   
9th     Yeovil                          27   7    0    6    23   23   6    3    5    26   28   42   
10th    Boston Utd                      27   8    1    5    26   16   5    0    8    18   22   40   
11th    Nuneaton Borough                27   5    8    1    27   19   4    3    6    13   23   38   
12th    Margate                         27   6    2    6    20   19   5    2    6    15   18   37   
13th    Slough                          27   7    1    6    27   25   4    2    7    14   21   36   
14th    Dover                           27   7    3    4    25   18   2    4    7    13   22   34   
15th    Scarborough                     27   6    4    3    25   17   3    3    8    17   31   34   
16th    Halesowen                       27   6    2    5    19   12   2    5    7    15   26   31   
17th    Stalybridge                     27   4    3    7    26   28   5    1    7    21   29   31   
18th    Telford                         27   5    1    7    24   25   4    2    8    19   25   30   
19th    York                            27   5    2    6    20   28   4    0    10   18   34   29   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Forest Green                    27   5    4    5    25   21   1    2    10   13   32   24   
21st    Hayes                           27   5    1    8    18   24   2    2    9    9    25   24   
22nd    Blyth Spartans                  27   3    4    6    16   24   1    2    11   9    33   18   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler has a touchline row with Gérard Houllier after being substituted during the Reds' 1-0 home win over Tottenham. Tabloid rumours claim that Fowler was furious over Houllier's decision to sell playmaker Jari Litmanen to Newcastle... or that the French manager had refused to invest in his top scorer's property empire.
  • Goal machine Ruud van Nistelrooy springs a leak in Manchester United's shock FA Cup defeat to Walsall, being sent off after just 13 minutes for a two-footed lunge on Saddlers striker Kevin Lisbie. United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez then loses his head a fortnight later, as he tries to break Michael Owen's legs and misses the second half of a 2-0 loss at Anfield. Sir Alex Ferguson is furious... with the referees.
  • Steve McClaren's in-form Middlesbrough side climb to 5th in the Premiership and emerge as unlikely contenders for Champions League qualification. England Under-21s winger Matthew Etherington is such a huge success after his £2.3million move from Tottenham in August that Manchester United decide to pay £4.9millon for him just five months later!
  • With their La Liga title challenge coming under threat after a 3-1 defeat at Málaga, Barcelona beef up their defence. Director of football Lorenzo Serra Ferrer goes back to Málaga and gives them £8.25million to sign their centre-half and captain Litos. No, not the wrestler; that's Lita.
  • As Roma start to pull away at the top of Serie A, two of their main rivals make big January signings. Inter bring in Argentinian winger Kily González from Valencia for £7.75million, while bitter foes Milan splash out £7million on Fiorentina stopper Daniele Adani.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in San Diego to win Super Bowl XXXVII - their first NFL championship. After lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer wonders if he should invest in another sports team.
  • Surprise, surprise! There are a lorra, lorra tears when Cilla Black suddenly announces that she is quitting as presenter of ITV's "Blind Date" after 18 years. Our Graham is devastated.
  • Maurice Gibb - one-third of British pop legends the Bee Gees - dies from a cardiac arrest aged just 53 while awaiting emergency surgery. Brothers Barry and Robin intend to continue performing in his memory.
  • Jazz music's newest star Norah Jones wins six Grammy Awards, including three for her breakthrough single. Don't know why.
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FEBRUARY 2003

As our fierce battle with Morecambe for the Conference title heated up, we kicked off February with back-to-back away games against 6th-placed Barnet. Our first trip to Underhill was for a league match, and we were due to meet there again in an FA Trophy Quarter Final the following weekend.

 

1 FEBRUARY 2003: Barnet vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Alan Murray's Barnet side showed plenty of attacking endeavour early on, so it was no surprise when they broke the deadlock after 25 minutes. Tony Roberts tried his best to keep out a shot from Bees midfielder Danny Brown, but he could only parry it to the feet of Wayne Purser, who gladly put it away.

 

Two minutes later, when Brown nobbled Nick Weekes in the Barnet penalty area, we were given the chance to draw level straight away. Weekes decided to take the penalty as he sought to score his first Dagenham goal... but the young midfielder's effort was well saved by Joel Armstrong. Nick did have the last laugh, though, as barely a minute later, his exquisite chip was headed home by Julian Alsop for the equaliser.

 

I freshened up our attack for the second half, with Junior McDougald replacing a struggling Clive Platt as Alsop's strike partner. Junior made an impact within seven minutes of the restart, volleying in a long ball from vice-captain John Anderson to give us the advantage. And when McDougald scored his second goal midway through the half, courtesy of Mark Janney's pinpoint cross, a 3-1 away win looked to be in the bag...

 

...but then Barnet turned on the style again in the closing stages. Some fancy footwork from Stuart Niven saw the former Ipswich midfielder fool our defence and score the hosts' second goal nine minutes from time. We were showing worrying signs of nerves, and I began to wonder if our resolve would hold out.

 

Sure enough, just three minutes later, pacey substitute Ansah Owusu sauntered through a shaky Daggers defence to nick a point for the busy Bees. This was an especially painful moment for me, as I'd actually tried to sign Owusu on a free transfer from Wimbledon last summer, but he chose to move north rather than east.

 

Barnet - 3 (Purser 25, Niven 81, Owusu 87)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Alsop 28, McDougald 52,70)

Conference, Attendance 1,896 - POSITIONS: Barnet 7th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Hanmer), Cole, Anderson, Brown; Janney, Weekes, Lacey, M Jones (Victory); Alsop, Platt (McDougald).

 

Urgh, that could be costly. Morecambe could only manage a 2-2 draw at Northwich, so if we had held on, we would have been two points clear.

 

I now had to ask serious questions about my defence. Though we'd still conceded fewer goals than any other team in the Conference, we had now played six league matches this year without recording a single clean sheet. Unfortunately, we had already used up both our loan spots and our transfer budget was depleted, so our options for fresh blood were... let's just say very limited.

 

Anyway, we had to put that last collapse behind us, because we were back at Underhill again a week later. Could we get the job done again - and move within 180 minutes of another FA Trophy Final?

 

8 FEBRUARY 2003: Barnet vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Barnet went on the attack quickly, and just like the previous Saturday, they drew first blood. The Bees' midfield stung us in the 14th minute, when 17-year-old Dave Goodall knocked down an excellent long ball from Stuart Niven to striker Neil Midgley, who prevailed in his one-on-one with Paul Gothard.

 

Midgley almost got a second goal in the 37th minute, when his effort smashed the crossbar. Two minutes later, Daggers midfielder Nick Weekes found himself frustrated once again by Barnet keeper Joel Armstrong, who made one of several saves to keep us goalless.

 

By the 57th minute, though, Barnet were in total control. Jamie Victory's valiant goalline clearance from a Wayne Purser was in vain, as attacking midfielder Mark Gower converted the follow-up to double the hosts' lead. We then wasted several scoring chances in the final half-hour of our FA Trophy defence, which ended in a disappointing whimper rather than a bang.

 

Barnet - 2 (Midgley 14, Gower 57)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

FA Trophy Quarter Final, Attendance 582

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Gothard; Goodwin, Anderson (Victory), Brown, Hanmer (Cole); Janney, Weekes, Lacey, M Jones; Alsop, McDougald (O'Neill).

 

After such a poor goalkeeping performance, I decided that Paul Gothard would not play for the Daggers again. His contract was expiring in the summer, and I had no intention of giving him a new one, so I demoted him to the reserves and promoted youngster Nick Baxter to second-choice keeper.

 

Regular number 1 Tony Roberts went back between the posts when we returned to league action at home to Slough. Morecambe had gone top with a 2-0 victory over Telford, which put us under real pressure to get back to winning ways.

 

12 FEBRUARY 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Slough Town

The first half of this match was Slough's on-loan Portsmouth goalie Chris Adamson. He made SEVEN saves to keep our relentless attacks at bay. Julian Alsop was denied three times, leaving our burly target man wondering just what he had to do to break through this stubborn Rebels defence.

 

The answer ultimately came in the 52nd minute, shortly after Adamson had made yet another save - this time to thwart Clive Platt. Right-back Mark Bailey whipped in an excellent corner delivery, from which Alsop headed in the goal that at last broke the deadlock. Three minutes later, Jules was at it again, with a stunning volley delivering his 20th goal this season!

 

Slough did get themselves back in the game when a magnificent solo effort from left-winger James Lambert made it 2-1. Their manager Alan Pardew did a cheeky little jig afterwards, but that was the last time he'd be smiling. We shut up shop for the last half-hour to preserve what remained of our lead, and grind out a narrow win. Sometimes you just need to be pragmatic.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 52,55)

Slough Town - 1 (Lambert 57)

Conference, Attendance 2,223 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Slough 13th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Bailey), Bayliss, Cole, Brown; Janney, Lacey, M Jones (Victory); Platt (Weekes); Alsop, McDougald.

 

We were now eight games unbeaten in the league, but now the pressure was really starting to feel. I had to remind the players again that they needed to tighten up defensively. With Morecambe constantly nipping at our heels, we couldn't afford to lose focus, not even against second-from-bottom Forest Green on our visit to the New Lawn.

 

15 FEBRUARY 2003: Forest Green Rovers vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Our midfield captain Damien Lacey was enjoying a brilliant first season with the Daggers, though he had gone rather quiet on the scoring front lately. That all changed after just two minutes, when Lacey crashed a long-range shot in off the bar for an early lead.

 

Damien's rocket could have put us on track for a comfortable win, but Forest Green had other ideas. After an extended spell of pressure from the hosts, 35-year-old Tony Daley headed in a cross from left-back Bryan Small to show us that there was life in the old dog yet.

 

By the 26th minute, though, the Daggers were back on top. It was a big moment for 17-year-old attacking midfielder Ryan Carter, who marked his second senior start with a maiden assist. A sublime first-time ball sent Julian Alsop charging towards the goal, and after a nutmeg through FGR captain Rob Cousins, a cool finish restored our advantage.

 

Only the crossbar prevented centre-half Dave Bayliss from giving us a 3-1 lead just before half-time. That didn't matter in the end, as he and John Anderson had built a strong defensive partnership that kept the Forest Green attack quiet in the second half. While some of the travelling Dagenhamites would have liked a more flattering scoreline than 2-1, we were at least doing a better job of closing out matches than we had done at Barnet earlier in the month.

 

Forest Green Rovers - 1 (Daley 20)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Lacey 2, Alsop 26)

Conference, Attendance 1,421 - POSITIONS: Forest Green 21st, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Bailey, Bayliss, Anderson, Brown; Weekes, Lacey, M Jones (Victory); Carter; Alsop (Platt), McDougald).

 

After weeks of matching us result-for-result, Morecambe finally blinked, only managing to draw 2-2 with Scarborough! Mind you, they were 2-0 behind before Ian Arnold's brace got them back level, so we could have been three points ahead rather than just the two.

 

Next up was a home game against Boston, who'd fallen as low as 17th back in December. Since sacking Steve Evans and appointing former Macclesfield and Oldham boss Gil Prescott as his successor, the Pilgrims had found form again and surged to 7th, though it was perhaps too late for them to get back in the title race.

 

22 FEBRUARY 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Boston United

Boston had never beaten my Daggers while Steve Evans was at the helm... but the Pilgrims' progress under Gil Prescott would soon become apparent. They produced some impressive attacking football in the first half and got their reward after 25 minutes, when striker David Town outjumped our defender Keith Brown to head home the opener.

 

With our proud home record in real peril, we had no choice but to go back on the offensive. Five minutes before half-time, we restored parity, as rising star Ryan Carter assisted top scorer Julian Alsop for the second weekend in a row. Perhaps Carter was the creative attacking midfielder we needed to effectively run a 4-3-1-2?

 

Sadly, our fortunes did not improve in the second half, and wasteful shooting from Alsop and Mark Janney would eventually cost us. With three minutes remaining, Boston came at us again, and Scott Corbett's low cross to his fellow winger Jamie Cook was finished with aplomb. That was the goal which inflicted our first league defeat of the season.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Alsop 40)

Boston United - 2 (Town 25, Cook 87)

Conference, Attendance 2,158 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Boston Utd 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Bailey (Cole), Bayliss, Anderson, Brown; Janney, Lacey, Victory; Carter (Weekes); Alsop, Platt (McDougald). BOOKED: Lacey.

 

Victoria Road had been an impenetrable fortress for 27 consecutive league matches, since our last defeat to Hayes back in December 2001. I felt sickened that our record run had been ended by those Boston crooks, though it was a small crumb of comfort that a certain Scottish slimeball hadn't played any part in our downfall.

 

Another consolation was that Morecambe had also suffered a surprise home defeat. Southport becoming only the second Conference team to trump them at Christie Park this season (Northwich did it first, back in September). Our two-point lead over the Shrimps was still intact... but now a third title contender had come into the equation.

 

This had been a fabulous February for Hereford, who'd taken 10 points from four matches, conceding no goals in the process (how we could do with their defence right now!). They had now consolidated 3rd place and moved to within just four points of the lead.

 

And yes, Hereford are on the horizon for us next month, as they pay a visit to Victoria Road on 15 March. If we are to stay at the top of the Conference, we may have to tame a very angry Bull!

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of February 2003)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       31   11   4    1    36   10   7    6    2    30   21   64   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Morecambe                       31   10   3    2    34   17   8    5    3    35   25   62   
3rd     Hereford                        31   10   2    3    28   12   9    1    6    24   19   60   
4th     Farnborough                     31   7    4    5    36   31   10   0    5    34   24   55   
5th     Southport                       31   11   1    3    35   19   5    4    7    17   23   53   
6th     Northwich Vics                  31   8    4    3    21   12   7    3    6    32   27   52   
7th     Boston Utd                      31   9    2    5    30   19   7    0    8    21   23   50   
8th     Yeovil                          31   9    0    6    28   23   6    3    7    27   32   48   
9th     Barnet                          31   9    2    5    32   23   3    9    3    28   28   47   
10th    Margate                         31   7    3    6    24   22   7    2    6    19   18   47   
11th    Nuneaton Borough                31   7    8    1    31   20   5    3    7    15   26   47   
12th    Stevenage                       31   8    2    5    22   17   5    2    9    25   30   43   
13th    York                            31   6    3    6    25   31   6    0    10   24   37   39   
14th    Slough                          31   7    2    7    28   28   4    2    9    15   25   37   
15th    Dover                           31   7    4    5    28   24   2    5    8    14   25   36   
16th    Scarborough                     31   6    5    4    29   22   3    3    10   18   35   35   
17th    Stalybridge                     31   5    3    8    28   30   5    2    8    25   35   35   
18th    Halesowen                       31   7    2    6    22   14   2    5    9    15   28   34   
19th    Telford                         31   6    2    7    25   25   4    2    10   19   28   34   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Hayes                           31   6    1    9    21   26   2    4    9    12   28   29   
21st    Forest Green                    31   6    4    6    28   24   1    3    11   14   35   28   
22nd    Blyth Spartans                  31   4    5    6    17   24   1    2    13   10   36   22   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Liverpool smash their transfer record, bringing Juventus playmaker Pavel Nedved to Anfield for £17.25million. The Czech magician enjoys a magnificent Premiership debut, scoring one goal and setting up another for Emile Heskey in a 4-1 win over Southampton.
  • As Tottenham struggle in the middle of the Premiership table, Glenn Hoddle is finally told "you're fired"... but not by Alan Sugar, who sold Spurs in 2001. Just two weeks later, Hoddle is reincarnated as the manager of relegation-threatened Bolton, replacing 'Big' Sam Allardyce in the Trotters hotseat.
  • Despite being just outside the Division 3 play-off places, Bristol Rovers make it to the FA Cup Quarter Finals for only the second time in their history. A 41st-minute strike from teenager Dave Ingram secures a shock away win over Sheffield Wednesday for Glenn Roeder's Gasheads, who will host Blackburn in the last eight.
  • Bayern München remain unbeaten in the Bundesliga, but their record is in jeopardy when two goals from Joe Cole gives Leverkusen a 2-1 lead at the BayArena. The visitors narrowly avoid defeat in the 88th minute, when Mehmet Scholl scores an equalising penalty after Jens Jeremies is fouled in the area by Leverkusen keeper Hans-Jörg Butt.
  • A world-class Barcelona frontline that includes Patrick Kluivert, Rivaldo, Javier Saviola and Thomas Christiansen suddenly forgets how to score for three matches in a row. Athletic Bilbao take advantage and move three points clear at the top of La Liga, raising hopes of their first Spanish title win since 1984.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere after a two-week mission, killing all seven astronauts on board. It is the first fatal Space Shuttle accident since the Challenger disaster in 1986.
  • Yugoslavia is no more. Following a string of acrimonious breakaways and deadly ethnic wars throughout the 1990s, the Federal Republic formally changes its name to Serbia & Montenegro.
  • Martin Bashir's documentary "Living with Michael Jackson" is broadcast on ITV1. The programme raises some disturbing questions about the King of Pop's lifestyle - and his behaviour towards minors.
  • Serena Williams wins the Australian Open and becomes the third woman to hold all four tennis Grand Slam championships at the same time. Just like in the previous three major finals, she defeats her elder sister Venus to claim the trophy.
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MARCH 2003

After our first home league defeat of the season, we bade a sad farewell to another Dagenham & Redbridge stalwart. Chester had identified versatile defender Tim Cole as the man they needed to get back into the Conference and offered us £65,000 for his services. At this level, that was probably enough money to sign two decent players, so I took the cash.

 

Cole had been with us since 1997, making over 200 league appearances for the Daggers. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old's recent performances had been a little disappointing, and we needed more reliable players to plug the leaks in our defence and secure promotion to the Football League.

 

While looking for new defenders, I learned that our old friend Ashley Vickers was unsettled at Hartlepool and looking to leave, just eight months after signing for the Division 3 side on a free transfer. We agreed an £8,000 fee with the Pools to bring the left-back back... but then Ashley delivered a bombshell.

 

"Well, boss, I'm flattered that you want me back at Dagenham. But you do realise that I had a serious hip injury in January, right? I probably won't play again this season."

 

Okay... so, I guess we'll try again next season...

 

Before I could get back to the drawing board, we found ourselves back in league action. We knew that if we dropped points at mid-table Nuneaton in the early Saturday kick-off, it would give Morecambe the chance to leapfrog us by beating York later that afternoon.

 

1 MARCH 2003: Nuneaton Borough vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Nuneaton had only lost two league games at Manor Park this season, but after just 14 minutes, they were looking vulnerable. Boro captain Steve Whitehall got so wound up by Dave Bayliss that he eventually cracked and pushed the Daggers defender, earning a straight red card for his troubles!

 

Our own team leaders also got a bit heated, with John Anderson and Damien Lacey each picking up bookings either side of half-time. By the 57th minute, though, we were all fired up for a different reason. Mark Janney swung in a near-post cross to Julian Alsop, who rose high and headed in the opening goal.

 

Nine minutes later, Lacey returned to scoring ways and rubber-stamped the win. His first-time drive from a left-wing delivery by Matt Jones soared into the top corner. A week after that blip against Boston, the Daggers were victorious again - and we had even kept our first league clean sheet of 2003!

 

Nuneaton Borough - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 57, Lacey 66)

Conference, Attendance 2,313 - POSITIONS: Nuneaton 11th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Bayliss, Anderson, Brown; Janney, Weekes, Lacey (Carter), M Jones (Victory); Alsop (Platt), McDougald. BOOKED: Anderson, Lacey.

 

Boy did we need that win, as Morecambe won 4-2 over York to stay two points behind. Fortunately, 3rd-placed Hereford had been held to a goalless draw by Hayes and were now six adrift.

 

A few days later, we did bring in a new defender - Neil Moore from Telford for £26,000. The 30-year-old, who could play at centre-half or right-back, was a strong tackler with a high work ethic. Moore was in line to make his Daggers debut in our next home game, which was against... Telford.

 

8 MARCH 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Telford United

We immediately hit the front foot, with Clive Platt driving in his third goal of the season in the third minute. That was followed seven minutes later by yet another ferocious strike from Julian Alsop, who was now on 24 for the campaign.

 

With Telford hardly managing to get out of their own half, we looked very comfortable for an hour... and then Lee Goodwin lost his mind. An unprovoked headbutt on Bucks striker Dave Smith immediately drew a reaction from the referee, who sent Lee to the dressing room with a red card!

 

With only 10 men, we had to defend deep for the final half-hour, and even start putting men behind the ball as Telford cranked up the pressure. Wingers Gary Rae and David Jervis each came close to getting one goal back, after which another might have followed. Suffice to say, we were relieved to hear that final whistle while Tony Roberts' sheet was still clean - and even more so when we heard that Morecambe and Hereford had both lost, sending us five points clear!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Platt 3, Alsop 10)

Telford United - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,924 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Telford 19th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Bayliss, Anderson, Hanmer; Janney, Carter (Weekes), Lacey, Victory (M Jones); Alsop (Moore), Platt. SENT OFF: Goodwin.

 

What was Lee Goodwin thinking? His act of stupidity copped him a three-match ban (starting on 22 March) and a one-week fine - and his place as a regular starter was now in serious danger.

 

Indeed, I dropped Goodwin from the team for our midweek journey to Northwich. Mark Bailey got the nod at right-back instead, and this was his best chance to show that he could fill the role on a longer-term basis.

 

11 MARCH 2003: Northwich Victoria vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Jimmy Quinn's Vics have always given us problems, and this match was no different. A fearsome front three of Tim Greensill, Gregg Blundell and Ian Wilkinson enjoyed several chances in the first half, with Tony Roberts doing all he could to keep them at bay. At the other end, a wayward strike from left-winger Matt Jones was the best effort we could muster.

 

Northwich's attacking pressure eventually told three minutes into the second half. Blundell bamboozled our defence by swivelling on the ball and playing in Wilkinson, who then laid it off to Greensill for the deadlock-breaker. By the hour mark, Blundell had doubled the hosts' lead from Andrew Brownrigg's flick-on.

 

To our credit, we did finish the match strongly by showing glimpses of our attacking threat. An excellent solo goal from Damien Lacey moved our midfield captain just one away from double figures for the season, but it wasn't quite enough to avoid only our fourth league defeat.

 

Northwich Victoria - 2 (Greensill 48, Blundell 60)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Lacey 88)

Conference, Attendance 1,242 - POSITIONS: Northwich 6th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Bailey (Moore), Bayliss, Anderson, Brown (Hanmer); Janney, Weekes, Lacey, M Jones; Alsop, Platt (McDougald).

 

Our disappointment was somewhat tempered when we heard that Morecambe had drawn 0-0 with rock-bottom Blyth Spartans. The Shrimps had only cut our lead to four points, and they still had a large goal difference deficit to make up.

 

With Bailey failing to impress, Goodwin returned to right-back for one match before he served his ban... and it was a biggun. If 3rd-placed Hereford could emulate Boston by breaching Fortress Victoria Road, they would be just three points behind us - and the title race would be wide open.

 

15 MARCH 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Hereford United

This title tussle began brightly for the Victoria Road faithful. After 16 minutes, young midfielder Nick Weekes hit a fantastic killer ball into the Hereford area for Julian Alsop, who volleyed in his 25th goal of the season! Jules had now overtaken Junior McDougald's impressive haul from last season - and there were still a good few weeks to go!

 

Unfortunately, that goal would not be the decisive one. After going close to equalising for Hereford in the first half, on-loan Crewe striker John Grant made his team's breakthrough 13 minutes into the second period. Tony Roberts was caught off guard at just the wrong moment, as Grant's diving header from winger Paul Parry's cross just made its way past our Welsh custodian.

 

After Parry came close to making it 2-1 Hereford in the 62nd minute, we pushed hard for another goal to restore our lead in the closing stages. Weekes had a promising free-kick stopped by Bulls keeper Scott Cooksey, who made further saves in the next few minutes to keep Clive Platt and Mark Janney off the scoresheet. Despite a decent start and a strong finish, we still had to settle for only one point.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Alsop 16)

Hereford United - 1 (Grant 58)

Conference, Attendance 1,990 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Hereford 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Bayliss, Anderson, Hanmer; Janney, Weekes, Lacey, Victory (Carter); Alsop, McDougald (Platt).

 

We were feeling the heat... but not as much as Morecambe, whose 3-1 defeat at Halesowen saw them fall another point behind. That result meant the Shrimps conceded 2nd place to Farnborough, who had won six matches in a row to move within three points of the lead. Not bad, considering that Alan Ball had left Boro a fortnight earlier to manage Montrose in Scotland!

 

A week later, we made one of our longest away trips this season, to Scarborough in North Yorkshire. Returning from the McCain Stadium with anything other than three points would not be acceptable.

 

22 MARCH 2003: Scarborough vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Junior McDougald had been on a goal drought in recent weeks, last finding the net against Barnet at the start of February. The American-born marksman finally got on target again just over half an hour into this match. Scarborough keeper Lee Kendall made a parry to deny midfielder Nick Weekes a long-awaited first Daggers goal, but the rebound fell kindly to McDougald, who scored his 18th of the season.

 

McDougald had further chances either side of the interval, but one went wide and the other was met by a much stronger save from Kendall. Five minutes after that latter effort, and just before the 60-minute mark, Scarborough launched a rare attack. Winger Dominic Riley played a one-two with full-back Danny Brunton on the left wing and then crossed to the pacey Jason Burt, who escaped our defence and poked in an equaliser.

 

Just like the previous weekend, we had seen a first-half lead slip away. And also just like a week earlier, a late flurry of Daggers attacks failed to reinstate our advantage. Damien Lacey's 80th-minute drive just lacked the accuracy of recent strikes, while substitute striker Michael O'Neill sent a last-gasp header flying over the crossbar.

 

Scarborough - 1 (Burt 59)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McDougald 31)

Conference, Attendance 1,584 - POSITIONS: Scarborough 15th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Moore, Bayliss (Bailey), Anderson, Brown; Janney, Weekes, Lacey, M Jones (Victory); Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald.

 

It's matches like those that really make me question if we can see this through. Thankfully, Farnborough's defeat at Northwich saw them leapfrogged by both Morecambe and Hereford, but our lead was still only three points strong.

 

There was another reason for concern when our star winger Mark Janney suffered a chest injury in training. He would be absent from the team for our home game against Halesowen, who were close to securing Conference survival in their first season up.

 

29 MARCH 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Halesowen Town

Mark Bailey took his namesake Janney's place on the right wing, and after just five minutes, he was proving to be a wise pick. Bailey's low cross to the near post found Nick Weekes, whose long wait to pop his Dagenham cherry was further extended by a solid save from Marcus Law. Unfortunately for the Halesowen keeper, it wasn't quite solid enough to keep the ball away from John Anderson, who was ready to give us an early lead!

 

And then the match followed a frustratingly similar pattern. We had several opportunities to extend our lead in the first half, couldn't take them, and then we were punished early in the second. Barely a minute after the restart, an Anderson handball gave Halesowen a free-kick, which Michael Crawford sent into our penalty area for on-loan Swindon midfielder Nathan Edwards to score. Surely it wasn't happening AGAIN?

 

Thankfully, this match would have a happy ending for Dagenhamites. Julian Alsop put us back ahead within 10 minutes after a flowing attacking move from the Daggers, and we dug deep in the final half-hour to see the job through. The result wasn't as emphatic as I would've liked against weaker opposition... but after three games without a win, it was a huge relief to simply take maximum points again.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Anderson 5, Alsop 57)

Halesowen Town - 1 (Edwards 47)

Conference, Attendance 1,801 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Halesowen 15th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Moore, Bayliss (Brown), Anderson, Hanmer; Bailey, Weekes, Lacey, M Jones; Alsop, McDougald (Platt). BOOKED: Bayliss, Platt.

 

Can we at least try to make life a bit easier for ourselves, guys?

 

Eh, who cares! Morecambe dropped more points at Margate, allowing Farnborough to go back into 2nd place. With five games to go, our Conference lead stands at five points. Surely this is our time to shine?

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of March 2003)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       37   13   5    1    41   12   8    7    3    34   24   75   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Farnborough                     37   10   4    5    44   34   12   0    6    38   27   70   
3rd     Morecambe                       37   12   4    2    40   20   8    5    6    36   32   69   
4th     Hereford                        37   12   3    3    34   15   9    2    8    26   24   68   
5th     Northwich Vics                  37   11   4    3    27   14   8    4    7    34   29   65   
6th     Southport                       37   12   2    4    39   22   6    5    8    21   29   61   
7th     Yeovil                          37   11   0    6    35   24   8    3    9    35   39   60   
8th     Barnet                          37   10   4    5    36   26   5    10   3    35   33   59   
9th     Boston Utd                      37   10   3    6    32   21   8    1    9    25   26   58   
10th    Nuneaton Borough                37   7    8    4    33   26   8    3    7    22   28   56   
11th    Margate                         37   9    3    7    26   25   7    3    8    22   23   54   
12th    Stevenage                       37   9    3    6    27   21   5    3    11   27   35   48   
13th    Slough                          37   9    2    8    36   32   5    2    11   22   33   46   
14th    Scarborough                     37   7    7    4    32   24   5    3    11   24   42   46   
15th    Halesowen                       37   8    3    7    27   21   4    5    10   21   32   44   
16th    Stalybridge                     37   7    3    9    34   35   6    2    10   31   42   44   
17th    York                            37   7    4    7    32   37   6    1    12   28   46   44   
18th    Dover                           37   8    4    7    32   28   3    5    10   16   31   42   
19th    Telford                         37   6    4    8    29   30   4    3    12   21   34   37   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Forest Green                    37   7    4    9    34   33   1    4    12   15   38   32   
21st    Hayes                           37   6    1    12   23   31   2    7    9    14   30   32   
22nd    Blyth Spartans                  37   5    6    7    22   28   2    3    14   12   38   30   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Liverpool beat Arsenal 2-1 to win the League Cup, as Czech superstar Pavel Nedved justifies his £85,000-per-week wages with two fantastic assists for Michael Owen and Emile Heskey. Arsenal captain Tony Adams limps off injured after just 12 minutes, casting fresh doubts over the 36-year-old's future.
  • Despite reaching the FA Cup Semi Finals, Manchester City plunge to the bottom of the Premiership after picking up just one point from eight league games. City boss Brian Quinn is so desperate for goals that he asks defender Alf Inge Håland if his two-year-old son would like to try out for the team.
  • Spanish football fans rub their eyes in disbelief as Valencia and Deportivo both reach the Champions League Quarter Finals - but Barcelona and Real Madrid do not! Bayern München also crash out at the second group phase, but extend their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga. A dominant 2-0 win at 1860 München also leaves their city rivals mired in the relegation zone.
  • Normal service resumes in Italy, as champions Lazio go top of Serie A for the first time this season. They end the month three points clear of Roma with a game in hand. Tensions at Roma only grow when manager Fabio Capello accuses Gabriel Batistuta of being a softy... after the veteran striker tears his groin muscle against Deportivo in the Champions League.
  • England's bid to qualify for Euro 2004 takes another hit, as Joe Cole has to score an 81st-minute equaliser to save a 1-1 home draw against Wales. The Three Lions drop to 3rd in their group, behind Norway and Belgium. Faring even worse are Spain, who sit 4th in their pool after being overtaken by Northern Ireland!

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • The United States and its allies invade Iraq, as they set out to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein and disarm their "weapons of mass destruction". Yeah, about those 'weapons'...
  • There is fierce opposition to the Iraq War, with Texas country band The Dixie Chicks declaring at a concert in London that they were ashamed to be from the same state as President George W Bush. These remarks do not go down well with country music's traditionally conservative audience.
  • The World Health Organization issues a global alert after a coronavirus outbreak infects over 5,000 people in China and spreads to at least 20 other countries. French football referee Alain Sars is placed in quarantine.
  • "Who's the new President of China?" Hu's the new President. "Yes, that's what I'm asking." Seriously, Hu's the new President. That's literally his name - Hu Jintao. "Ah, and when's the next Chinese Premier being named?" Wen's the Premier. "Yes, when's the Premier being named?" He's already been named. His name is Wen Jiabao. "Who?" Hu's the President. "I don't know! OH, FORGET IT!"
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APRIL 2003

The battle to win the Conference had boiled down to the final five games. We were five points clear at the top with a very strong goal difference of +39, but Farnborough, Morecambe and Hereford were all looking to overtake us if we lost our way. Even Northwich in 5th place couldn't be completely discounted.

 

Our run-in began with a huge match at a rainy Christie Park, against 3rd-placed Morecambe. Peter Jackson's Shrimps would cut their gap to us by three points if they won.

 

5 APRIL 2003: Morecambe vs Dagenham & Redbridge

It was a dream start for us, as Julian Alsop headed home a Mark Bailey cross after just two minutes to silence the Christie Park crowd early. The big target man almost got a very similar second goal four minutes later, but this time, Jules' attempt from captain Damien Lacey's delivery grazed the crossbar.

 

Despite being given more than enough warnings about Alsop's aerial threat, though, Morecambe's defence didn't have any ideas how to handle him. When right-winger Bailey glided past Shrimps defender Richard Hope and put in another excellent cross for Alsop, the result was inevitable. We were 2-0 up at half-time and looking very comfortable.

 

But Peter Jackson's army were nothing if not resilient. They came back for the second half playing like a completely different team, and when striker Andy Wright volleyed into Tony Roberts' net in the 58th minute, all the momentum shifted their way. Two minutes later, our defence was at panic stations as midfielder Bobby Wilde curled in a cross for winger Danny Milford, whose header levelled the scores at 2-2!

 

Travelling Daggers fans must have feared the worst when Morecambe attacked again in the 73rd minute. Wright confidently had a pop from just outside the area, narrowly missing the target. That was as close as we came from turning a near-certain win into a devastating defeat... but despite a lifeless second-half performance, we somehow escaped Lancashire with a point.

 

Morecambe - 2 (Wright 58, Milford 60)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 2,38)

Conference, Attendance 3,154 - POSITIONS: Morecambe 4th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Moore (J Jones), Bayliss, Anderson (Hanmer), Brown; Bailey, Weekes, Lacey, M Jones; Alsop, McDougald (Platt).

 

We still held a five-point lead, but how costly would those two Morecambe goals be?

 

At any rate, this match pretty much confirmed what I suspected. If we were promoted to Division 3 next season, Tony Roberts would need to be replaced in goal. In his last five matches, he'd faced 14 shots on target and conceded 7 of them.

 

Then again, maybe I was being a bit too harsh on the 33-year-old Welshman. Tony was one of FOUR Daggers to be named in the Conference select XI - along with defender John Anderson, midfielder Damien Lacey, and 25-goal striker Julian Alsop - so surely he must have done something right.

 

Two days later, we played host to 7th-placed Southport in our Bank Holiday Monday fixture. With Roberts in poor form, I gave 20-year-old backup keeper Nick Baxter his first start of the season, while right-flankers Lee Goodwin and Mark Janney returned from suspension and injury respectively.

 

7 APRIL 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Southport

With Julian Alsop getting a well-earned rest, Michael O'Neill took his opportunity to prove his worth, powering in a Mark Janney cross to give us the advantage after 11 minutes. Five minutes later, though, Southport were back level, as Tony Sullivan's header slipped past a nervous Nick Baxter.

 

O'Neill came close to restoring our lead in the 43rd minute, when his fierce strike was pushed behind by Steve Dickinson for a corner. Gareth Hanmer curled it in... and he found 17-year-old midfielder Ryan Carter, who headed in his first senior goal to give us a 2-1 advantage at the break!

 

Southport went on the offensive again midway through the second half. Sullivan unleashed a fierce shot that struck the post and deflected to wing-back Matthew Black, who then found Simon Parke wide open in the box. Baxter looked helpless as Parke drove in the Sandgrounders' second goal, from their second shot on target.

 

I quickly realised I'd made a mistake throwing Baxter in at the deep end. I apologised to a disgruntled Tony Roberts on the bench and then threw him to replace Baxter for the last quarter of the match. Thankfully, Tony wouldn't have much work to do, as Southport's late attacks were not threatening at all.

 

As 2nd-placed Farnborough were defeating Telford in their game, our lead would be cut to just three points if the final score here remained 2-2. But there was one man at Victoria Road who was particularly determined to change that. In the 89th minute, Carter spotted a gap in the Southport defence and run through it to reach O'Neill's weighted pass, which he drove into the net to snatch a late Daggers winner!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (O'Neill 11, Carter 44,89)

Southport - 2 (Sullivan 16, Parke 64)

Conference, Attendance 1,955 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Southport 8th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Baxter (Roberts); Goodwin, Bayliss, Anderson, Hanmer (Brown); Janney (Bailey), Carter, Lacey, Victory; O'Neill, McDougald.

 

How on Earth did we get away with that? But it's moments like Ryan Carter's late winner that show why we should be champions.

 

Roberts went back in goal for our next match, though he was still furious that I'd dropped him in the first place. We were at Croft Park to play table-proppers Blyth Spartans, whose relegation back to the Northern Premier League would be confirmed if they lost.

 

12 APRIL 2003: Blyth Spartans vs Dagenham & Redbridge

With their safety on the line, Jimmy Nicholl's Blyth went for broke immediately - and after four minutes, the north-eastern underdogs found themselves in an unlikely lead. Their even unlikelier hero was right-back Carl Pepper, who skimmed a low shot past Tony Roberts for his first ever senior goal!

 

Blyth thought they should have had the chance to go 2-0 up in the 9th minute, when midfielder/captain Nicky Evans was brought down in the Daggers area by a crunching challenge from Mark Janney. The referee waved away their protests, and Evans was furious. His anger eventually spilled over in the 20th minute, when he clobbered Junior McDougald out of nowhere! Out came the red card, and the hosts were down to 10 men.

 

While Evans was having first dibs on the Croft Park soap, his team-mates were letting their advantage slip away. A sloppy goal kick from Papua New Guinea international Tapas Posman was intercepted by Ryan Carter, who drew us level with his third goal of the week! Another midfielder was on the scoresheet in the 39th minute, as Damien Lacey headed in a chip from defender Keith Brown and turned the match on its head.

 

The Spartans had looked vulnerable without their captain, and they were completely overrun in the second half. Brown got his second assist after 62 minutes to add another goal to Julian Alsop's impressive goal tally, which now stood at 31 for the season. Jules' strike partner Junior McDougald also netted in the 74th minute to make it 4-1.

 

Lacey hammered the final nail in Blyth's coffin in the 77th minute, confirming their relegation with a fifth Daggers goal. Though a late knee injury to left-back Gareth Hanmer saw us finish the match with only 10 players as well, we were still in tremendous spirits at the final whistle. Promotion was now within our reach!

 

Blyth Spartans - 1 (Pepper 4)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 5 (Carter 26, Lacey 39,77, Alsop 62, McDougald 74)

Conference, Attendance 2,303 - POSITIONS: Blyth Spartans 22nd, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Bailey), Anderson, Brown, Hanmer; Janney (Weekes), Lacey, M Jones; Carter; Alsop (O'Neill), McDougald. BOOKED: Brown, Goodwin.

 

That win put us out of the reach of both Hereford and Northwich, leaving Farnborough and Morecambe as the only teams who could deny us the title. They met at Christie Park on 16 April, both needing victories to stay in the hunt...

 

...and it was Farnborough who came out on top, winning 2-0 to eliminate the Shrimps! The Boro still needed to win their final two games against Halesowen and Blyth to have any chance of taking the Conference title away from us... but it was still a chance.

 

Meanwhile, we were squarely focussed on finishing the job in our final home game, against a Yeovil team who had nothing to play for. One more victory - that was all I asked of my boys.

 

26 APRIL 2003: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Yeovil Town

As Farnborough immediately set about dismantling Halesowen in a match they would eventually win 5-1, we made a much nervier start to our penultimate match. Garry Hill's Yeovil kept the ball well in the first half and put together some threatening attacks. Some fancy footwork from their strikers Carl Alford and Richard Tracey also drew a couple of fouls and bookings from our centre-backs Dave Bayliss and John Anderson.

 

After 30 minutes, though, we started to come out of our shell. The in-form Ryan Carter drew a couple of defenders in his way before playing in Junior McDougald, who then chipped the ball through to his strike partner Julian Alsop. Jules got up above the onrushing Yeovil keeper Jon Sheffield to head the ball into an open net and send Victoria Road into raptures! Was his 30th goal of the season the most important?

 

No - because he scored his 31st not long afterwards! Alsop broke free from his marker to finish Keith Brown's delivery and double our advantage to 2-0. Any lingering doubts we might have had were then crushed just before half-time, as Carter set up McDougald to make it a THREE-goal lead!

 

We took our feet off the accelerators in the second half and were happy to just see the game out. That was a risk, as Yeovil had become a free-scoring team under Hill's management... but they lacked the killer touch, only drawing a couple of saves out of Tony Roberts. The rest of the match was basically one long build up to the final whistle, which sparked wild celebrations at Victoria Road!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Alsop 30,41, McDougald 45)

Yeovil Town - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,250 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Yeovil 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Anderson (Victory), Bayliss (Moore), Brown; Janney, Lacey, M Jones; Carter (Weekes); Alsop, McDougald. BOOKED: Bayliss, Anderson.

 

Up to the Football League we go! Dagenham & Redbridge are your 2002/2003 Conference CHAMPIONS!!

 

A year after beating Farnborough to the FA Trophy, we had held off the Boro's late surge and claimed the league title with one game to spare. Captain Damien Lacey had the widest smile in all of north-east London as he collected the trophy on the Victoria Road turf and lifted it in front of his delirious team-mates.

 

This was the moment I'd been dreaming of since becoming Daggers manager in July 2001. Barely a decade after coming into existence, our little club would soon be joining the professional ranks.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of April 2003)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Dag & Red                       41   15   5    1    47   14   9    8    3    41   27   85   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Farnborough                     41   12   4    5    51   36   13   1    6    43   30   80   
3rd     Morecambe                       41   12   5    3    42   24   10   5    6    42   34   76   
4th     Hereford                        41   14   3    3    41   18   9    3    9    27   26   75   
5th     Northwich Vics                  41   12   5    3    30   16   9    4    8    36   32   72   
6th     Yeovil                          41   14   0    6    43   25   8    3    10   35   42   69   
7th     Barnet                          41   12   4    5    41   28   6    10   4    40   39   68   
8th     Southport                       41   13   3    4    40   22   7    5    9    26   33   68   
9th     Margate                         41   11   3    7    30   26   8    4    8    23   23   64   
10th    Nuneaton Borough                41   8    9    4    35   27   9    3    8    24   30   63   
11th    Boston Utd                      41   10   5    6    34   23   8    3    9    27   28   62   
12th    Stevenage                       41   9    4    7    27   22   5    5    11   28   36   51   
13th    Slough                          41   10   3    8    39   34   5    2    13   23   36   50   
14th    York                            41   8    4    8    35   40   7    1    13   29   49   50   
15th    Stalybridge                     41   8    3    10   36   38   6    4    10   34   45   49   
16th    Halesowen                       41   9    3    8    29   22   4    6    11   22   37   48   
17th    Scarborough                     41   7    9    4    37   29   5    3    13   27   47   48   
18th    Dover                           41   8    4    9    34   32   3    6    11   17   33   43   
19th    Telford                         41   6    5    9    31   33   4    3    14   23   38   38   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Forest Green                    41   8    4    9    36   33   1    5    14   17   44   36   
21st R  Hayes                           41   6    2    13   24   35   2    7    11   15   35   33   
22nd R  Blyth Spartans                  41   5    7    8    24   34   2    3    16   12   42   31   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • As Manchester United close in on the Premiership title, Ruud van Nistelrooy is named PFA Player of the Year for the second straight season. However, the Dutchman is set to miss out on the Golden Boot to Alan Shearer, who has netted 17 goals in 19 league games for Aston Villa. Newcastle boss Javier Clemente realises that selling Shearer and keeping Craig Bellamy might not have been a great idea...
  • Lazio knock Roma out of the Champions League Quarter Finals on away goals to set up a Semi Final with Manchester United. The Biancocelesti then heap more misery on their city rivals, beating Roma 3-0 at the Olimpico to effectively secure another Serie A scudetto.
  • Meanwhile, in the first leg of the Champions League Semis, Lazio's Argentine duo Hernán Jorge Crespo and Diego Pablo Simeone both see red in a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford, with their former team-mate Juan Sebastián Verón scoring the winner for United. The other Semi is also an Anglo-Italian affair, between Liverpool and Milan.
  • A week after securing a fifth consecutive Bundesliga title, Bayern München lose their proud unbeaten record in their 30th game. Ottmar Hitzfeld's giants are finally felled in a 2-1 loss at mid-table Freiburg, with Sebastian Kehl driving in the winner. Bayern immediately try to sign the 23-year-old Germany sweeper, but then find that he's already agreed to join Milan this summer.
  • Arsenal's legendary captain Tony Adams retires from playing at the age of 36. He goes straight into a new career in management, taking over at Barnsley as they battle for their Division 1 survival. Adams hopes to avoid the same fate as his former team-mate David Seaman, whose Watford side leave Elton John in tears after being relegated to Division 2.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • American forces seize control of Baghdad, and a statue of Saddam Hussein is toppled, effectively ending the Iraqi President's 24-year reign. However, his so-called weapons of mass destruction fail to materialise.
  • Apple open their iTunes Store, which allows music fans to download any song they like for 99 cents each. It's still unlikely sceptical customers will put away their vinyl records or Walkman cassette players any time soon.
  • After a record-breaking 15-season career in which he won six championships and five MVP awards, basketball legend Michael Jordan plays his final NBA match for the Washington Wizards. He receives a three-minute standing ovation after coming off court for the last time.
  • Jazz pianist, singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone dies from cancer at her home in France, aged 70. Best-known for tracks such as "Feeling Good" and "My Baby Just Cares For Me", she is regarded as a pioneer for African-American women in music.
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MAY 2003

Though there was still one match left in the 2002/2003 season, Dagenham & Redbridge had already achieved the one thing we'd set out to do when we first kicked a ball in anger. Promotion to the Football League as Conference champions was already in the bag.

 

We'd blitzed through April with three wins and one draw. Julian Alsop had once again been pivotal to our success, hitting five goals on his way to being named as the Conference Player of the Month. It had also been a fantastic few weeks for 17-year-old midfielder Ryan Carter, who won the Young Player of the Month award.

 

There would soon be recognition for yours truly as well. Once the dust had settled on the campaign, I would be named as the Conference's Manager of the Year, just ahead of Morecambe's Peter Jackson and Southport's Phil Wilson.

 

The man who won that award last season - Steve Wignall - went on to lead Doncaster to another league title this term, with Rovers securing back-to-back promotions to Division 2! I would love to follow in his footsteps and do the same with my Daggers... but let's not think too far ahead just yet!

 

Incidentally, that final game of the season was away to Stevenage, where there would still be one award up for grabs. Alsop was on 28 goals for the season, which put him one behind Farnborough's Rocky Baptiste, so he would be desperate to find the net again at Broadhall Way to take that Golden Boot.

 

3 MAY 2003: Stevenage Borough vs Dagenham & Redbridge

The Dagenham boys were probably feeling hungover after the previous week's celebrations, going by our start to this match. Stevenage had struck after just eight minutes, with striker Martin Williams unleashing a rocket that easily made its way past Tony Roberts. At the other end, Michael O'Neill was very wasteful with his chances, while Julian Alsop found himself frustrating shut out by the Boro defenders.

 

Though Stevenage lost their 39-year-old defender John Dreyer to an injury just before half-time, they went from strength to strength in the second half. Shortly after Roberts' goal kick was intercepted, our keeper was picking a Williams diving header out of his net, and we found ourselves 2-0 behind.

 

And it would get worse still. Winger Dean Martin swung in a third goal for Stevenage in the 65th minute, before midfielder Sam McMahon completed the rout seven minutes later. While the result never really mattered, our defence had still looked an utter shambles, with Lee Goodwin and Neil Moore in particular looking very off-colour. And the less said about Roberts, the better!

 

Stevenage Borough - 4 (Williams 8,48, Martin 65, McMahon 72)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 3,510 - POSITIONS: Stevenage 12th, Dag & Red 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Anderson, Moore, Victory (Gallagher); Janney, Lacey, Weekes (Shaw); Carter; Alsop, O'Neill (Griffiths).

 

Well, well, well. My worst defeat as Daggers manager. Just as well it came right at the end of the season when we'd already secured the title!

 

However, putting in such a pitiful performance against a mid-table team pretty much reinforced my main concerns as we head into the Football League. We HAD to strengthen our defence over the summer, otherwise we would face a real struggle to survive in Division 3.

 

The first casualty of the defensive rebuild was our goalkeeper, Tony Roberts. I fined him a week's wages for his performance against Stevenage and then told him that he wouldn't be our first-choice shotstopper next season. When the Welshman replied with an expletive-ridden rant, I decided he wouldn't be my second-choice either.

 

A few days later, we got an offer for Roberts... from a surprising source. The University of Portland - whose alumni included my former Millwall team-mate Kasey Keller - were prepared to give us £35,000 to sign Tony.

 

Honestly, I wasn't sure why an American college team wanted to sign a 33-year-old former Welsh international to play for them. If they were offering him a coaching role, I'd probably understand it more. But hey... 35 grand for a non-league goalkeeper who is way past his best is still decent money.

 

Our other senior goalie would also be leaving Victoria Road this summer. Backup Paul Gothard's contract had expired, and he'd accepted an offer to join Margate on a free transfer. Rest assured, signing two quality shotstoppers will be top of my transfer agenda this summer.

 

Reserve winger Danny Hayzelden's contract also ran out. Hayzelden made one senior appearance off the bench last season, and he didn't even get close to featuring in my plans this term. It probably goes without saying: he's not getting a new deal from us.

 

A more experienced wingman - Matt Jones - made an £8,000 move to Southend. That's Southend Manor of the Isthmian League, NOT Southend United (whom we'll be replacing in the Football League after they finished rock-bottom of Division 3).

 

The last two years have seen a mass turnover of players at Dagenham & Redbridge. Only three members of the team I inherited from Garry Hill in 2001 will still be here at the start of next season - right-back Lee Goodwin, winger Mark Janney and striker Junior McDougald. All three are still key players for us, so I'll be looking to keep them around for some time to come.

 

I'm also looking to bring back another of my originals. Though I called off my plans to re-sign left-back Ashley Vickers from Hartlepool a few months ago because of injury, I'm ready to make another move now that he's fit again. I'll have a chat with the Pools' player/manager Des Walker over the coming weeks to see if we can get something done.

 

Transfer funds probably won't be an issue for us. We made £110,000 in prize money after winning the Conference, and chairman Dave Andrews has seen fit to give me a generous transfer budget of £170,000. That should be enough to at least keep us clear of relegation.

 

That said, there may be a few bumps in the road as we get used to life in the Football League. Though nearly all of our players are on full-time contracts now, turning fully professional means that we will have to sign our remaining part-time players to new deals.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of 2002/2003 season)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Dag & Red                       42   15   5    1    47   14   9    8    4    41   31   85   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Farnborough                     42   12   4    5    51   36   14   1    6    45   31   83   
3rd     Morecambe                       42   13   5    3    45   25   10   5    6    42   34   79   
4th     Hereford                        42   14   3    4    42   20   9    3    9    27   26   75   
5th     Northwich Vics                  42   12   6    3    31   17   9    4    8    36   32   73   
6th     Yeovil                          42   15   0    6    45   25   8    3    10   35   42   72   
7th     Barnet                          42   12   4    5    41   28   6    11   4    41   40   69   
8th     Southport                       42   13   4    4    41   23   7    5    9    26   33   69   
9th     Nuneaton Borough                42   8    9    4    35   27   10   3    8    26   31   66   
10th    Margate                         42   11   3    7    30   26   8    4    9    23   25   64   
11th    Boston Utd                      42   10   5    6    34   23   8    4    9    28   29   63   
12th    Stevenage                       42   10   4    7    31   22   5    5    11   28   36   54   
13th    York                            42   9    4    8    36   40   7    1    13   29   49   53   
14th    Halesowen                       42   10   3    8    32   22   4    6    11   22   37   51   
15th    Scarborough                     42   8    9    4    39   29   5    3    13   27   47   51   
16th    Slough                          42   10   3    8    39   34   5    2    14   23   38   50   
17th    Stalybridge                     42   8    3    10   36   38   6    4    11   35   48   49   
18th    Dover                           42   8    4    9    34   32   3    6    12   17   36   43   
19th    Telford                         42   6    6    9    34   36   4    3    14   23   38   39   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th R  Forest Green                    42   8    4    9    36   33   1    6    14   20   47   37   
21st R  Hayes                           42   6    2    13   24   35   2    7    12   15   36   33   
22nd R  Blyth Spartans                  42   5    7    9    25   36   2    3    16   12   42   31   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Milan are blown away by Liverpool in the Champions League Semi Final, losing 3-0 at Anfield after a goalless draw at the San Siro. Rossoneri president Silvio Berlusconi is so shocked that he instantly sacks coach Fatih Terim... and sensationally lures Gérard Houllier away from Merseyside with the promise of untold riches and 'bunga-bunga' parties!
  • Facing the prospect of going to the Champions League Final without the manager who took them there, Liverpool frantically hire Belgium legend Eric Gerets just in time for their trip to Brussels. Serie A champions Lazio take advantage of their opponents' chaotic preparations, as a 116th-minute golden goal from Claudio López makes them the first team to successfully defend the European Cup for over a decade.
  • Manchester United regain the Premiership title, after scoring four goals in the final 15 minutes of a controversial match against 9-man Arsenal at Old Trafford. After the match, red-carded Gunners Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell are seen coming to blows with Mick Hucknall and Eric the Red.
  • Middlesbrough win the FA Cup for the first time, with two goals from Hamilton Ricard securing a famous 3-0 win over Manchester City. It caps off a season of heartbreak for the Citizens, who are also relegated from the Premiership alongside Fulham and Wolves.
  • Marseille dramatically defend their French league title on the final day, recording a nice 3-0 win over Nice to leapfrog both Lyon and Bordeaux. It's a galling end to the campaign for Lyon boss Raymond Domenech, whose previous club Le Havre fell from 1st to 10th after he jumped ship mid-season.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Turkey win the Eurovision Song Contest in Riga, Latvia... but the United Kingdom are the laughing stock of the continent after "Cry Baby" by Jemini scores nil points. In response, the BBC immediately threaten to send Cliff Richard to Istanbul next year.
  • In other music news, after nearly five years of UK chart domination, S Club 7 say goodbye with their imaginatively-named final single "Say Goodbye". It is kept off the Number 1 spot by "Ignition (Remix)" from... erm... let's not mention that guy.
  • A young clownfish goes missing in the Great Barrier Reef, and his father and an amnesic blue tang search high and wide across the Pacific Ocean for him. "Finding Nemo" becomes THE biggest box office hit of 2003 so far - even bigger than "The Matrix Reloaded"!
  • The world's first cloned horse - a Haflinger foal named Prometea - is born in Cremona in northern Italy. Ruud van Nistelrooy is unavailable for comment.

 

 

DAG & RED PLAYER STATISTICS (2002/2003)

Goalkeepers                    Apps     Con    Asts   Yel    Red    MoM    Av R
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
-   Baxter, Nick               1        2      0      0      0      0      5.00   
-   Gothard, Paul              3        4      0      0      0      0      6.33   
-   Roberts, Tony              43 (1)   43     0      0      0      0      7.18   

Outfield Players               Apps     Gls    Asts   Yel    Red    MoM    Av R
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
-   Alsop, Julian              40 (3)   31     5      0      0      12     7.81   
-   Anderson, John             40 (2)   3      1      4      1      5      7.43   
-   Bailey, Mark               11 (9)   0      9      1      0      0      6.65   
-   Bayliss, Dave              20 (2)   0      0      2      0      0      6.82   
-   Brown, Keith               34 (6)   1      7      2      0      1      6.85   
-   Carter, Ryan               8 (10)   3      3      0      0      0      6.61   
*   Cole, Tim                  27 (6)   0      1      1      0      1      6.97   
-   Gallagher, Brett           0 (2)    0      0      0      0      0      7.00   
-   Goodwin, Lee               37       0      2      3      1      0      6.92   
-   Griffiths, Chris           0 (3)    0      0      0      0      0      6.33   
-   Hanmer, Gareth             18 (11)  1      5      1      0      0      6.52   
-   Janney, Mark               40 (3)   6      9      1      0      3      7.05   
-   Jones, James               0 (1)    0      0      0      0      0      6.00   
-   Jones, Matt                35 (4)   0      11     0      0      0      6.67   
-   Lacey, Damien              40 (1)   11     5      6      0      4      7.37   
*   Macken, Jonathan           14 (2)   10     4      2      0      5      7.69   
-   McDougald, Junior          31 (8)   20     3      0      0      3      7.36   
-   Moore, Neil                4 (3)    0      0      0      0      0      6.57   
-   O'Neill, Michael           12 (14)  5      3      0      0      4      7.08   
-   Platt, Clive               9 (7)    3      1      2      0      0      6.88   
*   Rooney, Mark               1 (6)    0      0      0      0      0      6.00   
-   Shaw, Bill                 0 (6)    0      0      0      0      0      6.50   
*   Terry, Paul                12 (8)   1      0      0      1      0      6.55   
-   Victory, Jamie             8 (8)    0      0      0      0      0      6.63   
-   Weaver, Jamie              2        0      0      0      0      0      6.00   
-   Weekes, Nick               27 (11)  0      8      3      0      0      6.71   

* [Player not currently at club]

 

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On 28/01/2022 at 15:17, mark wilson27 said:

Congratulations on the Championship their sir....Good luck with the next season, hopefully it wont be too tough

Thanks. I think our squad will be fine, but our aim next season will be to stay clear of the drop.

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JUNE 2003

Now that Dagenham & Redbridge were entering the Football League, this was where the real hard work would begin. If we were to establish ourselves in Division 3, and not make an instant return to the Conference, we would need to make major improvements to our squad over the summer.

 

We'd already said goodbye to four senior players over the summer. Goalkeepers Tony Roberts and Paul Gothard had moved on to new challenges, as had winger Matt Jones. Left-back Keith Brown's loan spell had expired, and so he returned to a Barnsley side now under the management of Tony Adams.

 

Reserves Martin Briggs and Danny Hayzelden had also left us on a free transfer. But while left-back Lee Chaffey (18) and right-winger Martin Grant (21) would return to Dagenham after successful non-league loan spells at Eynesbury and Andover respectively, another loanee would not.

 

Irish midfielder Aodhan O'Donoghue had left us under a cloud in August, having fallen out of my first-team plans after failing to live up to his exceptional potential. The 21-year-old spent the season on loan at Clacton Town, and after getting 7 goals and 21 assists, I thought he deserved another chance. So I offered him a new long-term contract...

 

...which he immediately threw back into my face. I'd been prepared to mend bridges with Aodhan, but the ungrateful sod wouldn't reciprocate. I shrugged, "Fine, you can bugger off," and sold him to Chippenham in the Southern League for £12,000. O'Donoghue had the ability, but sadly not the attitude.

 

Another middleman was attracting interest, from much higher up the football food chain. Out of the blue, I received a phone call from Watford's chairman Elton John. I assumed he just wanted love... but it turned out he was much more interested in Damien Lacey, offering us £55,000 to take our captain to Vicarage Road.

 

I just laughed and said, "I'm sorry, Elton, mate. You could offer us £55million, your music rights AND your Donald Duck costume... and we STILL wouldn't sell Damien. Now I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind, that I put down the phone..."

 

There was some upheaval behind the scenes. Goalkeeping coach Paul Kerr was poached by Norwich's new manager Steve Coppell, so we hired 38-year-old Robert O'Connell from Irish club Salthill as his replacement. Rob will be working with two brand new goalkeepers next term, whom I'll introduce you to in a moment.

 

In the boardroom, our managing director PJ Ryan announced his retirement. He was replaced with 46-year-old John Hills.

 

In the first transfer of our new era as a Football League club, we turned Clive Platt's loan spell from Rochdale into a permanent deal on a four-year contract. The explosive forward had been a decent backup for us since arriving just after Christmas, bagging three goals in 16 games.

 

The next man through the door was Stephen Melton, on a free transfer from Brighton. The 24-year-old former Nottingham Forest trainee was an adventurous attacking midfielder with fine passing and dribbling abilities. He'd seen precious little football over the past two seasons but was eager to take on a new challenge.

 

I then looked to sign a new left-back - and as expected, I went back in for Ashley Vickers. We agreed to pay Hartlepool £7,000 - slightly less than the 8 grand we originally shook hands on back in March - but the transfer then hit another major sticking point. This time, the issue was cold feet, rather than a dodgy hip.

 

Basically, Ashley wasn't prepared to return to Victoria Road unless we guaranteed him key player status and started him in every game where possible. I couldn't give any concrete promises, so Vickers got up and walked out. The reunion was off.

 

Not to worry, though, as I was already in talks to sign another left-back who was younger than Vickers - and arguably better too. 25-year-old Duncan Spedding was a workhorse defender who'd made nearly 100 Football League appearances for Northampton. He was also a consistent performer who could play at centre-half if required.

 

In terms of signing a goalkeeper, I went for someone who was very experienced, tactically smart, and ideally at the peak of his abilities. And when it comes to Football League custodians, there aren't many who are as reliable as Ian Bennett.

 

Bennett had been Birmingham's number 1 for the best part of eight years until he lost his place to Gary McGlynn in 2001. Now aged 31, and with his contract at St Andrew's about to expire, Ian was prepared to drop down two divisions and take a huge wage cut just to play regular football again. A goalie with his agility, reflexes and shotstopping skills was surely too good for Division 3, so to bring him to Victoria Road was a huge coup!

 

His understudy isn't half bad either. 23-year-old Richard Knight completed a £12,000 transfer from Oxford after signing a three-year deal worth £950 per week - which was actually slightly higher than Bennett's salary. I guess time will tell if he's worth the outlay.

 

A trio of 17-year-old prospects joined our reserve team. Energetic right-back Jamie Cartwright came through the Daggers youth system, as did the strong Irish midfielder Kevin Sheridan, while the creative Scottish playmaker Alan McLean was a free transfer.

 

And finally, we come to our biggest signing so far, costing us a club-record £55,000. The last left-flanker we signed from Cheltenham turned out to be surprisingly mediocre (he was more Jamie Stalemate than Jamie Victory). So, naturally... I've signed another left-flanker from Cheltenham!

 

The third player in less than 12 months to swap Whaddon Road for Victoria Road was Kerry Mayo. The 25-year-old former Brighton stalwart signed for Cheltenham last November, but he never really settled in Gloucestershire and now wanted to move closer to his family. Capable of playing at either left-back or left-wing, Mayo is a strong and aggressive character with a mean long shot in his armoury.

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ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • After being pushed all the way by Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona hold onto their La Liga title by thrashing Celta 4-0 on the final day, with Patrick Kluivert's 36th goal of the season helping to seal the deal. They then seal a £32.5million deal for Arsenal's midfield general Patrick Vieira. His good friend Roy Keane is inconsolable.
  • Vieira is not the only Frenchman to swap Arsenal for Spain, as winger Robert Pires heads to Real Madrid for £14million. After searching high and low for other Gallic wingers named Robert, Gunners boss Arsène Wenger decides to spend £4.3million on Laurent Robert, who had been frozen out of Newcastle by Javier Clemente.
  • Liverpool proudly announce that they have signed one of the best defenders in world football - former Chelsea sweeper Frank Leboeuf, on a free transfer from Marseille. They also spent £11million on Valencia's Roberto Fabián Ayala.
  • Despite being top of their Euro 2004 qualifying group, Greece's hopes are dealt a huge blow when Otto Rehhagel suddenly quits. The 65-year-old German coach decides to retire after having horrible visions of making Portuguese teenagers cry with pragmatic direct football.
  • Former England and Arsenal defender Lee Dixon hangs up his boots aged 39 after his Stockport team are relegated from Division 2. Dixon says he wants to spend more time delivering monotonous punditry on the BBC.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • English county cricket enters an exciting new era, as the Twenty20 Cup begins with Hampshire defeating Sussex by 5 runs. The new-look competition (where teams only bat and bowl for 20 overs apiece) will run for about six weeks, which is still shorter than most Test matches.
  • The book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" is published. It discusses the Oakland Athletics and their general manager Billy Beane, who use 'sabermetric' statistics to build a successful Major League Baseball team on a small budget. Perhaps there are a few football managers who could learn a thing or two from this...
  • It's not a great month for 90s music icons. Folk songstress Jewel and indie-rocker Liz Phair turn into pop sell-outs, while heavy metal legends Metallica's new album sounds like a hyperactive toddler banging saucepans with a wooden spoon. And as for Simply Red...
  • Katharine Hepburn - one of the leading ladies of Hollywood's Golden Age - dies at the grand old age of 96. Her acting career spanned over 60 years, and she received a record four Best Actress Oscars for her roles in "Morning Glory", "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner", "The Lion In Winter" and "On Golden Pond".
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SEASON REVIEW 2002/2003

ENGLAND

NOTE: All goals and assist records relate to league matches only.

 

PREMIERSHIP

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Man Utd                         38   18   1    0    46   5    9    6    4    26   17   88   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Arsenal                         38   13   5    1    42   13   10   5    4    34   25   79   
3rd     Liverpool                       38   13   6    0    32   10   10   3    6    27   16   78   
4th     Leeds                           38   13   4    2    38   10   7    6    6    29   30   70   
5th     Middlesbrough                   38   12   3    4    37   16   5    8    6    17   22   62   
6th     Chelsea                         38   11   3    5    39   19   6    4    9    25   29   58   
7th     Everton                         38   12   6    1    41   20   1    9    9    20   33   54   
8th     Ipswich                         38   11   6    2    37   16   3    4    12   15   32   52   
9th     Newcastle                       38   11   5    3    33   16   2    6    11   13   35   50   
10th    Blackburn                       38   10   4    5    43   32   3    6    10   18   29   49   
11th    Aston Villa                     38   10   4    5    36   21   1    11   7    20   32   48   
12th    Coventry                        38   8    6    5    28   27   5    1    13   13   38   46   
13th    Leicester                       38   8    4    7    27   27   3    8    8    19   36   45   
14th    Sunderland                      38   9    5    5    38   25   2    2    15   16   38   40   
15th    Tottenham                       38   6    9    4    28   24   3    4    12   16   37   40   
16th    Southampton                     38   9    3    7    23   26   2    4    13   21   51   40   
17th    Bolton                          38   6    9    4    28   23   2    5    12   20   38   38   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
18th R  Fulham                          38   7    4    8    22   24   2    5    12   23   42   36   
19th R  Man City                        38   5    9    5    26   22   1    5    13   16   46   32   
20th R  Wolves                          38   5    8    6    22   29   2    2    15   17   40   31   

 

Top Goalscorer - Alan Shearer (Newcastle/Aston Villa), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd): 22.

Most Assists - Damien Duff (Blackburn): 17.

Highest Average Rating - Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd): 8.29.

 

PFA Player of the Year - Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd).

PFA Young Player of the Year - Joleon Lescott (Wolves).

 

DIVISION 1

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  W.B.A.                          46   19   2    2    59   20   12   5    6    29   22   100  
2nd  P  Stoke                           46   15   5    3    44   24   10   10   3    31   24   90   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     West Ham                        46   18   1    4    44   19   9    4    10   35   31   86   
4th     Sheff Wed                       46   15   3    5    34   19   9    6    8    35   33   81   
5th     Charlton                        46   14   1    8    42   25   11   3    9    40   35   79   
6th  P  Crewe                           46   16   5    2    57   31   7    4    12   37   45   78   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
7th     Portsmouth                      46   12   6    5    32   21   9    6    8    34   32   75   
8th     Bradford                        46   16   3    4    38   15   6    5    12   24   38   74   
9th     Walsall                         46   14   3    6    47   27   6    6    11   23   37   69   
10th    Burnley                         46   15   1    7    40   31   5    5    13   29   41   66   
11th    Grimsby                         46   12   5    6    44   34   7    3    13   28   41   65   
12th    Millwall                        46   14   3    6    38   25   5    3    15   28   47   63   
13th    Gillingham                      46   13   4    6    44   36   5    5    13   27   51   63   
14th    Derby                           46   13   4    6    50   28   5    3    15   27   47   61   
15th    Birmingham                      46   10   4    9    30   26   6    6    11   28   33   58   
16th    Norwich                         46   9    8    6    42   35   6    3    14   30   52   56   
17th    Preston                         46   9    6    8    31   31   6    4    13   24   41   55   
18th    Nottm Forest                    46   10   7    6    51   41   4    2    17   24   51   51   
19th    Crystal Palace                  46   9    7    7    44   38   3    7    13   31   46   50   
20th    Port Vale                       46   7    9    7    40   37   4    4    15   32   50   46   
21st    Barnsley                        46   7    7    9    29   35   3    9    11   22   37   46   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
22nd R  Wimbledon                       46   9    6    8    40   33   2    5    16   31   59   44   
23rd R  Watford                         46   5    13   5    33   35   4    3    16   25   48   43   
24th R  Chesterfield                    46   8    4    11   33   34   2    6    15   26   45   40   

 

DIVISION 2

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Sheff Utd                       46   17   3    3    48   21   7    5    11   31   42   80   
2nd  P  Q.P.R.                          46   14   4    5    52   32   8    7    8    43   45   77   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Luton                           46   14   4    5    34   19   8    6    9    29   29   76   
4th     Tranmere                        46   14   3    6    45   24   7    6    10   27   33   72   
5th  P  Brentford                       46   13   1    9    52   36   8    7    8    43   44   71   
6th     Wrexham                         46   13   6    4    37   21   7    5    11   37   40   71   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
7th     Notts Co                        46   13   3    7    52   37   7    6    10   38   45   69   
8th     Bournemouth                     46   15   3    5    51   37   5    5    13   36   55   68   
9th     Darlington                      46   11   5    7    33   32   9    1    13   32   35   66   
10th    Hull                            46   11   4    8    44   35   7    7    9    39   40   65   
11th    Bristol City                    46   11   8    4    48   36   4    12   7    36   41   65   
12th    Reading                         46   12   6    5    36   25   6    4    13   31   42   64   
13th    Carlisle                        46   12   3    8    41   33   6    6    11   27   34   63   
14th    Swindon                         46   12   7    4    47   32   5    5    13   28   46   63   
15th    Wigan                           46   10   7    6    41   33   6    7    10   34   42   62   
16th    Cambridge Utd                   46   11   7    5    45   32   5    7    11   29   44   62   
17th    Blackpool                       46   11   7    5    41   37   6    3    14   38   55   61   
18th    Huddersfield                    46   9    7    7    33   34   6    5    12   30   46   57   
19th    Cardiff                         46   9    10   4    36   28   5    4    14   27   44   56   
20th    Wycombe                         46   9    7    7    36   34   5    6    12   28   38   55   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
21st R  Peterborough                    46   10   7    6    44   38   6    0    17   28   45   55   
22nd R  Brighton                        46   9    7    7    48   44   3    9    11   30   45   52   
23rd R  Rotherham                       46   9    4    10   36   39   6    1    16   27   41   50   
24th R  Stockport                       46   12   4    7    37   29   2    3    18   20   46   49   

 

DIVISION 3

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Doncaster                       46   12   6    5    41   24   15   4    4    41   19   91   
2nd  P  Rochdale                        46   13   9    1    37   14   12   5    6    34   21   89   
3rd  P  Kidderminster                   46   14   7    2    42   18   11   6    6    41   31   88   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Northampton                     46   15   3    5    41   22   11   7    5    35   28   88   
5th     Bristol Rovers                  46   12   3    8    39   29   9    6    8    38   40   72   
6th  P  Bury                            46   12   5    6    37   22   8    6    9    18   26   71   
7th     Plymouth                        46   12   7    4    49   29   8    3    12   37   42   70   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Lincoln                         46   11   3    9    28   27   9    5    9    28   26   68   
9th     Oxford                          46   12   6    5    33   25   8    2    13   27   38   68   
10th    Hartlepool                      46   11   8    4    31   19   5    11   7    24   27   67   
11th    Shrewsbury                      46   11   5    7    33   25   8    3    12   29   37   65   
12th    Leyton Orient                   46   10   5    8    37   31   7    7    9    35   41   63   
13th    Scunthorpe                      46   12   5    6    47   34   4    8    11   43   53   61   
14th    Rushden                         46   12   4    7    46   29   4    8    11   30   49   60   
15th    Exeter                          46   10   5    8    39   30   7    4    12   24   36   60   
16th    Oldham                          46   8    7    8    26   28   6    8    9    26   32   57   
17th    Colchester                      46   9    6    8    26   28   5    5    13   20   34   53   
18th    Mansfield                       46   10   7    6    44   33   3    6    14   19   33   52   
19th    Macclesfield                    46   6    9    8    33   36   7    4    12   32   42   52   
20th    Swansea                         46   7    5    11   36   49   5    8    10   25   37   49   
21st    Torquay                         46   8    6    9    32   39   4    4    15   23   41   46   
22nd    Cheltenham                      46   7    4    12   32   35   5    5    13   30   47   45   
23rd    Halifax                         46   9    7    7    36   32   1    7    15   16   44   44   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th R  Southend                        46   5    9    9    27   35   1    9    13   18   48   36   

 

CONFERENCE

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Dag & Red                       42   15   5    1    47   14   9    8    4    41   31   85   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Farnborough                     42   12   4    5    51   36   14   1    6    45   31   83   
3rd     Morecambe                       42   13   5    3    45   25   10   5    6    42   34   79   
4th     Hereford                        42   14   3    4    42   20   9    3    9    27   26   75   
5th     Northwich Vics                  42   12   6    3    31   17   9    4    8    36   32   73   
6th     Yeovil                          42   15   0    6    45   25   8    3    10   35   42   72   
7th     Barnet                          42   12   4    5    41   28   6    11   4    41   40   69   
8th     Southport                       42   13   4    4    41   23   7    5    9    26   33   69   
9th     Nuneaton Borough                42   8    9    4    35   27   10   3    8    26   31   66   
10th    Margate                         42   11   3    7    30   26   8    4    9    23   25   64   
11th    Boston Utd                      42   10   5    6    34   23   8    4    9    28   29   63   
12th    Stevenage                       42   10   4    7    31   22   5    5    11   28   36   54   
13th    York                            42   9    4    8    36   40   7    1    13   29   49   53   
14th    Halesowen                       42   10   3    8    32   22   4    6    11   22   37   51   
15th    Scarborough                     42   8    9    4    39   29   5    3    13   27   47   51   
16th    Slough                          42   10   3    8    39   34   5    2    14   23   38   50   
17th    Stalybridge                     42   8    3    10   36   38   6    4    11   35   48   49   
18th    Dover                           42   8    4    9    34   32   3    6    12   17   36   43   
19th    Telford                         42   6    6    9    34   36   4    3    14   23   38   39   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th R  Forest Green                    42   8    4    9    36   33   1    6    14   20   47   37   
21st R  Hayes                           42   6    2    13   24   35   2    7    12   15   36   33   
22nd R  Blyth Spartans                  42   5    7    9    25   36   2    3    16   12   42   31   

 

Promoted to Conference: Bath City, Gateshead, Hitchin.

 

FA Cup: Middlesbrough 3-0 Man City.

League Cup: Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal.

Community Shield: Arsenal 2-1 Leeds.

Football League Trophy: Cardiff 1-0 Wigan.

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