2003–04 in English Football - Diary of The Season

Diary of The Season

  • 26 June 2003: Marc-Vivien Foé, who scored 9 goals in 35 games on loan at Manchester City, collapses and dies during a FIFA Confederations Cup tie for Cameroon.
  • 1 July 2003: Liverpool sign defender Steve Finnan from Fulham for £3.6million.
  • 2 July 2003: David Beckham completes his £25million move from Manchester United to Real Madrid.
  • 3 July 2003: Birmingham City pay a club record £5.5million for Blackburn Rovers midfielder David Dunn.
  • 9 July 2003: Liverpool sign Leeds United's Harry Kewell for £5million.
  • 15 July 2003: Manchester United sign American goalkeeper Tim Howard from MetroStars for £2.3million, while Chelsea pay £6million for 19-year-old West Ham United defender Glen Johnson.
  • 16 July 2003: Chelsea sign Cameroon midfielder Geremi from Real Madrid for £7million.
  • 21 July 2003: Chelsea sign Southampton defender Wayne Bridge for £7million and Blackburn Rovers winger Damien Duff for a club record £17million.
  • 30 July 2003: The Premier League is officially declared the richest football league in Europe.
  • 4 August 2003: The Premier League rules out the possibility of Rangers and Celtic gaining membership.
  • 6 August 2003: Chelsea sign Juan Sebastian Veron from Manchester United for £15million and Joe Cole from West Ham United for £6.6million.
  • 12 August 2003: Manchester United sign 18-year-old Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo for £12.24million from Sporting Lisbon and Brazil's World Cup winning midfielder José Kleberson for £5.93million from Atlético Paranaense.
  • 14 August 2003: Chelsea sign Romanian striker Adrian Mutu from Parma for £15.8million.
  • 25 August 2003: Chelsea sign Russian midfielder Alexei Smertin from Bordeaux for £3.45million and immediately loan him to Portsmouth for the season.
  • 26 August 2003: Chelsea sign Argentine striker Hernan Crespo from Inter Milan for £16.8million.
  • 29 August 2003: Blackburn Rovers pay £7.5million for Rangers and Scotland midfielder Barry Ferguson.
  • 31 August 2003: The first month of the league season draws to an end with Arsenal and Manchester United leading the way with three wins from their first three Premier League games, while their nearest challengers are Portsmouth (newly promoted), Manchester City and Chelsea. Meanwhile, Wolverhampton Wanderers have lost the first three games of their first top flight campaign for 20 years, while Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough complete the bottom three. The race to get into the Premier League is headed by West Bromwich Albion, who are a point ahead of their nearest rivals Reading and Sheffield United at the top of Division One. Wigan Athletic, Crystal Palace and West Ham United complete the top six.
  • 1 September 2003: Chelsea sign Real Madrid and France midfielder Claude Makélélé for £16.6million.
  • 21 September 2003: Tottenham Hotspur sack Glenn Hoddle after two-and-a-half years as manager. Director of football David Pleat takes temporary charge.
  • 27 September 2003: Wimbledon relocated to Milton Keynes where they will play at the National Hockey Stadium, but this is very much a temporary measure as there are plans to build a new 25,000-seat stadium at Denbigh North that is expected to be completed in either 2006 or 2007.
  • 30 September 2003: September draws to a close with Arsenal leading the Premier League, but their nearest challengers Chelsea and Manchester United are just a point behind. Meanwhile, surprise title contenders Birmingham City and Southampton complete the top five, but there is widespread doubt as to whether they can continue their good form and make a serious challenge to record their first-ever top division titles. Meanwhile, Wolverhampton Wanderers are still bottom and looking for their first win of the season, while Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur complete the bottom three. Sheffield United now lead the way in Division One, a point ahead of former leaders West Bromwich Albion. Wigan Athletic, Norwich City, Sunderland and West Ham United occupy the playoff zone.
  • 31 October 2003: October draws to a close with Chelsea ahead of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League with equal goal difference but more goals scored, while Manchester United are a point behind in third place. Birmingham City remain fourth, while Fulham have edged into the top five at the expense of Southampton. Leicester City and Middlesbrough now prop up the Premier League after an upturn in fortunes for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur, while Leeds United have slipped into the relegation zone as the mass sale of players to help pay off mounting debts has taken its toll on the field. Newcastle United, meanwhile, have surged to eighth place after their terrible first two month of the season. West Bromwich Albion are back on top of Division One, where Wigan Athletic are playing for the first time in their history but looking good bets to reach further new territory as they stand one place behind the midlanders. Norwich City, Sheffield United, Sunderland and West Ham United complete the top six. Ipswich Town are a single goal short of the playoff places.
  • 8 November 2003: Senior executives from the 20 Premier League clubs back plans for clubs to be deducted 10 points if they enter receivership.
  • 10 November 2003: Peter Reid is sacked after eight months as manager of Leeds United, bottom of the Premier League after losing eight of their opening 12 games. Long-serving coach and former manager Eddie Gray takes over on a temporary basis.
  • 30 November 2003: Chelsea lead the Premier League as November draws to a close, one point ahead of Arsenal and four points ahead of Manchester United. The nearest, though distant, threat is from surprise top-five clubs Fulham and Charlton Athletic. Debt-ridden Leeds United now prop up the top flight, joined in the relegation zone by Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton. West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City lead the way in Division One. Sheffield United, Ipswich Town, Wigan Athletic and Reading complete the top six.
  • 19 December 2003: Rio Ferdinand receives an eight-month ban from football as well as a £50,000 fine as penalty for missing a drugs test on 22 September. The ban commences on 19 January, though Ferdinand is intent on appealing against it.
  • 31 December 2003: 2003 draws to a close with Manchester United as the Premier League's new leaders, while their nearest contenders Arsenal (unbeaten) and Chelsea are four points behind. Thriving Charlton Athletic and Fulham complete the top five once more, though Liverpool and Newcastle United are closing in on them. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leeds United continue to prop up the table, while Everton have climbed comfortably clear of the bottom three at the expense of Tottenham Hotspur. Norwich City have a six-point lead over West Bromwich Albion at the top of Division One. Sheffield United, Sunderland, Ipswich Town and Wigan Athletic complete the top six.
  • 9 January 2004: Gordon Strachan announces that he will not renew his contract as Southampton manager when it expires at the end of the season, amid speculation that he will return to his old club Leeds United as their new manager.
  • 14 January 2004: Manchester City sign goalkeeper David James from West Ham United for £2million, prompting the retirement of 40-year-old David Seaman.
  • 23 January 2004: Manchester United sign Fulham striker Louis Saha for £12.8million.
  • 28 January 2004: Arsenal sign Sevilla striker José Antonio Reyes for £10.5million.
  • 30 January 2004: Chelsea sign Charlton Athletic midfielder Scott Parker for £10million.
  • 31 January 2004: January ends with Manchester United still top of the Premier League, but with unbeaten Arsenal now a point behind with a game in hand, while Chelsea's bid for the title has taken a major setback as they are now third place with a seven-point gap between them and the top spot. Charlton Athletic and Liverpool complete the top five. Leeds United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City occupy the bottom three places. Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion are still leading the way at the top of Division One. Sheffield United, Sunderland, Ipswich Town and Wigan Athletic continue to occupy the playoff zone.
  • 2 February 2004: Tottenham Hotspur pay £7million for West Ham United striker Jermain Defoe.
  • 29 February 2004: Middlesbrough win their first ever trophy as a professional club by beating Bolton Wanderers in the League Cup final. On the Premier League scene, Arsenal are still unbeaten and are now top of the league with a nine-point advantage over Chelsea and Manchester United. Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic complete the top five, with Liverpool and a resurgent Aston Villa cranking up the pressure on them. Leeds United and Leicester City remain in the bottom three, but Wolverhampton Wanderers have climbed out of the drop zone at the expense of Portsmouth. Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion continue to duel at the top of Division One, while West Ham United have edged Sheffield United out of an otherwise unchanged playoff zone.
  • 2 March 2004: Gordon Strachan, who was due to depart as Southampton manager at the end of the season, resigns from the club with immediate effect.
  • 4 March 2004: Paul Sturrock departs from Division Two leaders Plymouth Argyle to become Southampton's new manager.
  • 5 March 2004: Three Leicester City players, Paul Dickov, Keith Gillespie and Frank Sinclair, are charged with sexual assault while on a training camp in La Manga, Spain.
  • 31 March 2004: Arsenal, the first team to complete 30 matches unbeaten at the start of a league season, now lead Chelsea by seven points and Manchester United by 12 points as March draws to a close. They are also in contention for the European Cup and FA Cup. Liverpool and Newcastle United now complete the top five as Charlton Athletic's bid for a European place is fading fast and the competition is now coming from Birmingham City and Aston Villa. At the other end of the table, time is running out fast for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leeds United, while Leicester City are still giving the rest of the bottom 10 a good run for their money. Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion are now equal on points at the top of Division One. The playoff zone remains unchanged from last month, except from Millwall having edged Wigan Athletic out of the top six.
  • 10 April 2004: Arsenal's double hopes are ended when they lose 1-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final.
  • 25 April 2004: Arsenal clinch the Premier League title, and are still unbeaten, after a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion have had their promotion from Division One confirmed. The playoff places are still being contested between seven clubs - Sunderland, Ipswich Town, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Sheffield United, Reading and a resurgent Crystal Palace side who have climbed from 19th to seventh since the appointment of Iain Dowie as manager four months ago.
  • 30 April 2004: Arsenal finish April as Premier League champions while Chelsea and Manchester United fight closely for second place. Liverpool and Aston Villa complete the top five, though the seven teams below them still stand a chance of a top-five finish and European qualification. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City now need something little short of a miracle to avoid relegation, while Leeds United are still giving most of the rest of the bottom 10 a run for their money.
  • 1 May 2004: Leicester City's relegation from the Premier League is confirmed just one season after promotion, while Wolverhampton Wanderers now need to win both of their remaining games by a huge margin and hope that Manchester City suffer heavy defeats in both of theirs to survive, despite beating Everton. Leeds United will have to manage at least a draw against Bolton Wanderers tomorrow to stand any reasonable possibility of survival. At the other end of the spectrum, Chelsea now look all set for second place while Manchester United look certain to have to settled for third place, with Liverpool and Newcastle United completing the top five.
  • 2 May 2004: Leeds United lose 4-1 to Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium, leaving them needing a similar almost impossible survival act to that needed by Wolverhampton Wanderers to avoid relegation at the expense of Manchester City.
  • 15 May 2004: Arsenal complete the Premier League season unbeaten with a 2-1 win over Leicester City, only the third time since the formation of the Football League in 1888 that a team has gone a whole season unbeaten in the league. Joining them in next season's Champions League are Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool (occupying second, third and fourth place respectively), while fifth-placed Newcastle United go into the UEFA Cup with League Cup winners Middlesbrough.
  • 16 May 2004: Arsenal signs Dutch winger Robin Van Persie from Feyenoord for £2.75million.
  • 17 May 2004: Goalkeeper Paul Robinson leaves relegated Leeds United in a £1.5million move to Tottenham Hotspur.
  • 20 May 2004: Birmingham City pay a club record £6.25million for Liverpool striker Emile Heskey.
  • 22 May 2004: Manchester United beat Millwall 3-0 to clinch the FA Cup for the 11th time in their history, while the losers have played their first-ever major cup final. However, Manchester United's participation in the Champions League means that Millwall (who have played their first major cup final) will be competing in the UEFA Cup next season, the first time they have ever played in European competition.
  • 24 May 2004: Gérard Houllier is sacked after six years as manager of Liverpool.
  • 27 May 2004: Telford United, who reached the FA Cup fourth round this season, are liquidated and removed from the Conference as a result. Leeds United sell striker Alan Smith to Manchester United for £7million.
  • 29 May 2004: Crystal Palace, who were 19th in Division One when Iain Dowie became manager on 22 December, win promotion to the Premier League with a 1-0 win over West Ham United in the play-off final. Neil Shipperley scores the only goal of the game. Ironically, Dowie is a former player of both of these clubs.
  • 1 June 2004: Chelsea sign Rennes and Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Čech for £7million.
  • 2 June 2004: José Mourinho takes over as manager of Chelsea, replacing the sacked Claudio Ranieri.
  • 11 June 2004: Manchester United sign Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze from Paris St Germain for £6.9million.
  • 13 June 2004: England's Euro 2004 campaign begins with a 2-1 defeat by France.
  • 16 June 2004: Rafael Benítez takes over as manager of Liverpool.
  • 17 June 2004: England confirm their quarter-final qualification with a 3-0 win over Switzerland at Euro 2004.
  • 21 June 2004: Wimbledon announce that they will change their name to Milton Keynes Dons, reflecting its highly controversial move from South London to Milton Keynes. England's Euro 2004 group stage campaign finishes with a 4-2 win over Croatia.
  • 24 June 2004: England lose on penalties to Euro 2004 hosts Portugal after a 2-2 draw, with penalty misses from David Beckham and Darius Vassell ending their chances of progressing to the semi-finals.

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