FoFcast 4 – Looking back to the HULL and Burton games
Dannyboi and Westcliff White were at again and produced their 4th FOFcast
Give a listen here…
Dannyboi and Westcliff White were at again and produced their 4th FOFcast
Give a listen here…
I’ve designed a couple of new ‘FREE’ Fulham desktop wallpapers for your PC…
these are available in various sizes:
you can find these and others on the Friends of Fulham wallpapers page…
In this FOF’erview Dannyboi speaks to TOOFIF founder David Lloyd, with interviews and editions spanning four decades there is plenty to ask. We hope you enjoy it.
Dannyboi Hi David, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. TOOFIF has become synonymous with the matchday experience at Craven Cottage…
David If by a “synonymous” presence you mean an “interminable” one, then I suppose you’re right! It’s almost 30 years now, which is remarkable as I’m still only, er, 39. Mind you, to be sure of getting to that 30-year mark I could do with a couple of extra helpers on matchdays to help flog the flipping thing! Anyone up for doing so will be handsomely rewarded (ie we do a good line in personal compliments) and you might get a beer voucher, too.
Dannyboi I suppose the best place to start is back in the latter part of 1987. What made you begin the process of creating TOOFIF, leading to Issue One appearing in March 1988?
David When Jimmy Hill returned to the Club in 1987 as FFC Chairman he decided to prune the number of volunteer programme contributors as they each received free entry to matches in return for their labours. I was one of those to be culled, even though I was playing rather than watching football on Saturday afternoons back then so wasn’t in need of tickets. I was also a Supporters’ Club committee member, and, with the long-running ground saga in its relative infancy, the committee were becoming increasingly active. In the wake of the proposed Fulham Park Rangers nightmare someone suggested starting up a fanzine with long-time FFC fan David Preston. I didn’t know what a fanzine was, or even who David P was come to that, but we locked horns and came up with “There’s Only One F In Fulham”. As a courtesy we wrote to the football club telling them of our intentions to “produce a regular, punchy magazine” that, while always supportive of the club, would offer an alternative view to the often bland, enforced PR-speak typically peddled by football clubs up and down the country. We weren’t looking much beyond frank terrace opinions and concerns intermingled with features such as silly names, crazy haircuts and tales of convoluted away trips. The club weren’t keen, which was understandable. But the main thrust of their response was odd: Why don’t we use our undoubted expertise for the benefit of the club? In those days, that could only mean contributing to the club programme, and I’d just been booted off that particular gig! Issue One hit the streets at Aldershot in March 1988.
Dannyboi So, looking back, despite the difficulties the club faced, 1988 ironically turned out to be a good year for Fulham as it’s the year I was born (lol!), as well as the year that brought us TOOFIF for the first time – a proud moment for you, I’m sure. Do you look back at that time and consider it a good or bad time for you bearing in mind the turmoil the club faced?
David As far as longevity goes, all the sensible money would’ve been placed on you – mini-Dan v the fledgling TOOFIF…? No contest, surely! We weren’t looking much beyond 1988. All the more so when David P decided his social life came first, and legged it after Issue 6. As for it being a proud moment when Issue 1 came out, I reckon ‘bewildered’ is a more accurate description.
Dannyboi It can’t be easy starting out – did anyone at the club play a big part in giving you your big break with TOOFIF?
David No. The mag has always been independent of the club.
Dannyboi Did you imagine TOOFIF would go onto be as successful as it has been and did you anticipate the longevity of its success?
David Actually, there was a “big break”. By the late 1980s, Fulham didn’t own Craven Cottage, property developers Cabra Estates did and they were intent on bringing in the bulldozers. The local council stepped in with the aim of securing the ground via a compulsory purchase order (CPO): this called for a government-sponsored public inquiry, arranged for January 1990. In the event, FFC did an 11th-hour deal with Cabra, taking a chunk of money and a three-year lease in return for dropping their support of the CPO. That controversial deal, however, did provide the fledgling TOOFIF with an unexpected bonus: within the small print lay a clause that barred any Fulham FC personnel from commenting on the deal via its own outlets, i.e. the programme and Clubcall. Remember, this was way before the internet, swish club magazines and the wall-to-wall media coverage offered these days. The independently run TOOFIF, though, was free to carry on unhindered and probably made its name in trying to keep the magnificent diehard supporters as fully in the picture as possible with regard to all the goings-on at the time. There was certainly no thought back then of still producing the fanzine in the 21st century – that was about as likely as Fulham playing in the top flight!
Dannyboi You’ve interviewed so many people over the years, so surely at some point something must have gone wrong in typical Fulhamish style?
David Micky Adams was eager to get several messages across to the fans when he took over from Ian Branfoot – not least that, while he was a big fan of his mentor, this was his time, and he was intent on doing things his way, but he needed the fans to be onside – so former club director Dave Gardner suggested he had a chat with the mag. I bought a new mini-tape recorder specially for the occasion and traipsed down to the BBC Sports Ground in Motspur Park to meet our new gaffer. It all went very well and, after rewinding the tape and listening to our opening exchanges, I headed home to transcribe the chat. On doing so, though, it turned out that I’d only taped the opening three or four minutes. “Oh yes, we had a faulty batch,” said the guy from Currys as he gave me a replacement (and chucked the offending machine into a big cardboard box full of other duff ones). Brilliant. I plucked up the courage to call Micky Adams who, while not best pleased, was gracious enough to agree to an action replay the following day after he’d finished taking a training session. It wasn’t an easy walk into the BBC Ground. All the players had been made aware of my cock-up and they made me very aware of it as I walked round the pavilion. “What a muppet!” and “You’re even worse than Ken Myers [who did Clubcall]!” were about the only two printable remarks. Micky Adams, who went on to give a cracking interview, thought the whole squirming episode was hilarious. Even his sidekick Alan Cork was smiling.
Another nightmare scenario came at Gary Brazil’s house in Epsom. He’d taken a load of stick from the terraces and via the mag, and had been invited to give his side of the story. Gary’s missus made us some coffee. “Enjoy a drink and some biscuits first and then I’ll make myself scarce so you can have a talk,” she said helpfully. It was a lovely warm afternoon and the French windows were open. Gary started to relax as we exchanged pleasantries while I was getting ever-more comfortable in their plush cream sofa. What could possibly go wrong? But it wasn’t just a welcome breeze that came in through the open window. No one noticed their cat enter from the garden and sneak behind the sofa. Out of nowhere, it leapt down onto my lap with its claws digging in as it landed. Even Gary Brazil jumped. Not nearly as much as me, though, and certainly not as much as my cup of coffee, which went everywhere. In the realms of how to make friends and influence people it doesn’t rank right up there. In how to disfigure a sofa, though, it was massive bonus points all round. Gary Brazil could hardly stop laughing and was still chuckling when we did the interview. Fair to say, Mrs Brazil wasn’t quite as cheery.
Dannyboi Who’s been your favourite interview for TOOFIF? You can name several if it’s impossible to have just the one.
David Ray Lewington gave a cracking interview in Issue 127 (Jan 2013). Ray has been Mr Fulham throughout TOOFIF’s lifetime (even more so than Simon Morgan), experiencing the monstrous lows at FFC before deservedly revelling in our top-flight success and that glorious European Tour. Lewy was wonderfully forthright in his chat with TOOFIF and was delighted for the staunch Fulham fans who’d stuck with the club during the tough times that they’d been rewarded with the huge upswing in the club’s fortunes. In the very next issue Chris Coleman tried to outdo Ray with a punchy offering of his own. Those two interviews were extremely well received. The two ex-managers of our club may be ‘Little and Large’ as far as stature is concerned, but both are giants in the club’s history. Both have done remarkably well in their careers but have certainly not forgotten their roots. Roy Hodgson, too, was top drawer company, as you’d expect. In fact, it’s been a genuine privilege to share some time with all the TOOFIF interviewees. Which is why Mark Cooper’s never made an appearance!
Dannyboi Is there anyone dead or alive that you haven’t interviewed that you would/ would have liked the opportunity to?
David I had an interview with George Best lined up before he got really ill. Bestie remains a Man Utd legend rather than a Fulham one, but he loved his time at the Cottage and gave plenty of outstanding displays in a Fulham shirt. I met him and Johnny Haynes during the Fulham 2000 business – both were patrons, and were good mates, full of respect for each other’s abilities. A chat with The Maestro would’ve been the ‘biggie’, but it never happened because I never got round to asking him. We celebrated his 70th birthday in the mag and I had hoped to talk to him when he subsequently came down to London (Johnny was based in Edinburgh), but it wasn’t to be. Jean Tigana, though, remains on the hopeful ‘to do’ list.
Dannyboi Football keeps on evolving. The Matchday Programme for all supporters across the country is becoming less and less of a necessity what with internet access everywhere. Have you ever considered going digital with TOOFIF as opposed to the charming paperback edition?
David “TOOFIF: Charming”! Love it. Going digital is an option but I’ve not figured how to make it work. Any advice on that score would be welcome.
Dannyboi Putting TOOFIF to one side for a second, let’s talk about David Lloyd the supporter. For starters why Fulham and when did your adventure begin?
David I was brought up in Wimbledon, near Dundonald Rec, which became my second home. My near neighbour Reg Stockham took me to a reserve game at the Cottage in the mid-’60s when his wife Joan, also a season-ticket holder, couldn’t make it. I was nine or ten and was totally hooked.
Dannyboi As you mention near the beginning, the club was in a bad place around the time TOOFIF was founded. Describe your feelings as a supporter, did you ever feel the unthinkable that our wonderful club would leave the Cottage or fold up completely?
David Things did get very bleak and it got to the point where the possibility of the club folding appeared on the horizon. Jimmy Hill and Bill Muddyman were instrumental in keeping the club afloat, but the Herculean rearguard action taken by the club’s hardcore support was every bit as important. In the ensuing years, so many fans gave their time and expertise freely for the benefit of the club. And we’re still here. And still at Craven Cottage.
Dannyboi Moving on to a more positive front, you’ve seen some wonderful teams, players and managers down the years. I suppose there’s no point asking anyone who’s seen the Maestro play who’s the ‘best’ player you’ve seen in the wonderful white shirt, so instead lets start off with who was your favourite ever player?
David I only saw Johnny Haynes in his twilight years, although his influence and extraordinary passing ability were all-too-evident. So, the best player I’ve seen in a Fulham shirt has to be Louis Saha – lightning fast, skilful, athletic; simply a brilliant striker in a brilliant team. Mousa Dembele was getting close to that mantle with a host of impressive midfield displays before he headed off to Spurs.
Dannyboi Who’s been your favourite manager?
David Roy Hodgson probably edges it from Jean Tigana and Mickey Adams. It took a while – and the Great Escape! – for Hodgson to get it together. It was a joy to see the players improve before our very eyes, individually and collectively and we became very hard to beat under Roy (and Ray!). Okay, it wasn’t all plain sailing as we never really cracked it as far as our top-flight away form was concerned and yet we grew into a team that could take on and beat anyone on our day and we not only consolidated ourselves as an established Premier League club but also got to a major European final. Adams did wonders on a shoestring to drag us upwards from the basement division in 1997, paving the way for Chairman Mo’s involvement, while Tigana’s French revolution had us rubbing our eyes with disbelief at the consistently brilliant displays for much of the 2000-01 campaign.
Dannyboi Thirdly, do you have a favourite match and/or specific moment that stands out for you personally – highs or lows?
David One of the lowest points was the Fulham hierarchy wasting a page in the Fulham programme in accusing me of snitching details of a private meeting chaired by CEO Brian Naysmith to the press (I’ve never done such a thing). It was basically a vicious character assassination. Now, if you run a fanzine you can’t expect to always have things going your way, there are bound to be one or two run-ins if you’re publishing something that’s contrary to the party line. Also, I’m not daft (believe it or not!); you can’t expect any football club to be overly keen on having to put up with a mag that carries strong opinions on its operations. But I’ve always tried to behave responsibly. And as to that article in the programme, there was never a retraction and certainly no apology – even though it soon became obvious who HAD contacted the paper in question (The Guardian, and not The Independent as suggested by the club). Was that person similarly castigated? No, he was made a director. As a footnote, a few years down the line Naysmith had the cheek to ask for a clutch of free back copies to help with a thesis he was putting together. That request fell into the “You couldn’t make it up” category.
At the other end of the scale, I’ve been fortunate to play in a number of fans’ games on the hallowed turf, even nabbing a goal or two along the way. These were all fantastic encounters, with former FFC players such as Jim Stannard, Simon Morgan, Ara Bedrossian, Jim Hicks and Ray Lewington involved in some of these, plus ex-Northern Ireland player Gerry Armstrong for some reason. Playing against Lewy was a revelation. He never stopped talking – cajoling, encouraging, assisting, coaching, directing; all this with a smile on his face in a low-key game that didn’t matter. The two sides included players of widely varying ages, standards and fitness. But it was a truly uplifting experience as Ray’s input in particular helped to ensure that everyone on the pitch felt involved.
Worst single football experience Fulham-wise was Derby away in 1983. Simply horrible and a cop out by the officials on the day (for ignoring the unfolding unfair circumstances) and then the football authorities for turning a blind eye to the whole fiasco. That game still hasn’t finished. Biggest gradual blow was our relegation from the top flight in 2014. In my view this was wholly avoidable and undid all the fantastic work of so many who not only got us there in the first place but who had transformed ‘little’ Fulham into an established Premier League outfit with a more-than-reasonable European pedigree.
Best Fulham day out was Carlisle away in 1997, complete with congas on (it seemed) every station platform between there and London Euston on the way back. Railway engineering works meant we didn’t get back into the Smoke until the early hours, so I was tired and emotional in more ways than one!
On a general note, it was hard not to get emotional when the transformed Craven Cottage site was unveiled following our two seasons at QPR. We were back!
Dannyboi As you’re someone who is very experienced with asking questions I have an unusual one to ask. I recently had a debate with someone about using the phrases ‘best’ and ‘greatest’ when referring to Fulham goals. So the initial question is do you interpret them as meaning different things and if so, what are…….
-Fulham’s greatest ever goal?
-Fulham’s best ever goal?
-Your favourite ever?
David A quick comparison of two noted Fulham goals backs up that point vividly. John Mitchell’s last-gasp effort against Birmingham in the FA Cup Final replay in April 1975 took us to our only FA Cup Final, but it was as scruffy a goal as anyone has ever scored. The ball just about bobbled over the line in the last minute of extra time so was every bit as dramatic as it was messy. But we didn’t give a damn that it wasn’t a ‘worldie’ (in any case, SuperMitch had scored a belter in the drawn game a few days earlier) – we were too busy celebrating getting to Wembley. Pajtim Kasami’s superlative goal at Crystal Palace in October 2013 was at the other end of the skills scale – a once-in-a-lifetime effort that ultimately counted for nothing. That chest control alone was phenomenal; to then volley the ball so emphatically into the net was the stuff of dreams (and made Steve Sidwell’s belter in the same game look decidedly powderpuff!) and yet the end result became the stuff of nightmares. That 4-1 win did more than anything to paper over the cracks of the crumbling Martin Jol era. The Dutchman was retained for far too long and it was the beginning of the end of our spell in the top flight, no question
In considering those two goals it occurred that we scored two very different goals in a game that did matter. Mick Conroy’s bundled effort at Carlisle in April 1997 brought us back into that ‘must-win’ encounter and was every bit as important as Rod McAree’s wonderfully struck winner.
Other memorable goals that spring to mind are:
* Viv Busby’s mazy dribble against Cardiff in the mid-seventies;
* Alan Mullery’s wonderstrike against Leicester that won BBC’s Goal of the Season in 1974;
* George Best’s majestic effort at Peterborough in September 1976;
* Gordon Davies finding the Putney End net from just in front of the Cottage against Chesterfield in January 1982;
* Roger Brown’s thumping header against Lincoln, May 1982;
* Simon Morgan’s header at Villa Park in January 1999;
* Sean Davis getting that late winner at Blackburn in April 2001 (cue Jean Tigana’s touchline sprint and Souness scowling more than ever!)
* Danny Murphy’s vital headed goal at Portsmouth in May 2008;
* Bobby Zamora’s right-footer against Shakhtar Donetsk, February 2010;
* Brilliant improvisation from Simon Davies to fashion a leveller against Hamburg in April 2010;
* and, for sheer drama, Tom Cairney’s last-gasp strike and ensuing celebrations against Leeds last season.
But you can’t discuss best/great/favourite Fulham goals without highlighting Clint Dempsey’s extraordinary chipped winner against Juventus. That one ticked all the boxes – it was spectacular, audacious, timely, and sealed a phenomenal and unlikely comeback against the mighty Juve. It might even have been a fluke! But who cares, it capped a wonderful night down by the Thames and the European Tour was back on track. Mind you, it would’ve counted for naught but for Dickson Etuhu nicking a precious away goal with that scruffy deflected effort in Turin!
Dannyboi What are your early expectations and predictions for next season?
David The signs and vibes are good as I put this nonsense together. The squad seem committed to not only stay together but to finish what they started last season. We’ll need a couple of astute signings (not least a proficient centre-forward) to bolster what is a decent squad if not strong in depth. We were very lucky last season not to suffer too many injuries, particularly to our middle three, Cairney, McDonald and Johansen, so crucial to our attacking intent. Given how Slavisa Jokanovic got us playing for latter two-thirds of last season, his biggest hindrance might be the great expectations of us lot, especially if we cough and splutter early on. Here’s a tip, Slav: your team’s attacking ways last season were compared to those of the great Jean Tigana squad of 2000-01. Why not calm all our nerves by masterminding a similar start to the campaign? Eleven straight wins should do it! Well, we can dream!
Dannyboi Do you have a FOF account? And if not WHY NOT!!!! Lol
David Yes, of course!
Dannyboi We’re coming to the end of our FOF’erview, So let’s move back towards TOOFIF for a second. Where do you see TOOFIF going in the future? It’s the same age as me so I know the 30th anniversary is coming up in 2018. Are there any special plans to mark the occasion? [I’m assuming I’ll be invited if there’s a big party lol]
David Surely the best way to celebrate 30 years of the mag would be by the club regaining its top-flight status (no pressure, Slav!). As for where I see the mag going in the future, I’d say the nearest paper recycling centre! Frankly, it’s getting harder to produce by the season, mainly because of increased family responsibilities. And, let’s face it, a fanzine should be produced by the vibrant younger generation not an old fart. So let’s see how this season goes. There ARE plans for a book to mark the three decades of the mag. Don’t worry, it definitely won’t be a “Best of…” as that would be an insult to the TOOFIF faithful! More a trawl through the Club’s remarkable highs and lows in that time, but from a fans’ and the fanzine’s perspective.
Dannyboi And finally, I’m afraid it’s a FOF tradition started by my colleague Darren Sonnet (Westcliffe White) to ask…….pie or pasty and which filling?
David Pie. Probably steak and kidney, as I had one last week and it really hit the mark. Incidentally, if you want find out how much a pie weighs, where would you do so? Answer: Somewhere Over The Rainbow. (Sing the first couple of lines…!) Okay, I’ll get my coat…
Dannyboi It’s been a wonderful FOFerview David, thank you so much for giving us your time. TOOFIF is a big part of the matchday experience for our fans and has that personal touch to it thanks to your talent and passion for Fulham, that’s what makes it so special. For further info about TOOFIF, including how to take out a subscription (the mag’s mailed out to addresses worldwide) or to get hold of some back copies, please contact David via firstname.lastname@example.org or message DLTOOFIF on Friends of Fulham.
On behalf of everyone at Friends of Fulham, good luck with the book and with the future of TOOFIF.
westcliff white & Dannyboi recorded their 3rd FoFcast where they discussed several issues, such as the recent results, the new boys, what we think we still need, a bit of a heated debate around formations and looking at some questions sent to them from some of the members of the Friends of Fulham forum.
Have a listen, hopefully you will like what they talk about even though you may not agree with one or both of them.
Have you ever wondered how Billy the Badger was created and came to be? Well lucky for us our very own Dannyboi just happens to be a mate of Kyle Jackson, the inspiration behind Billy the Badger, and recently he sat down to have just such a chat.
Dannyboi – What made you a Fulham fan? Did anyone influenced you in becoming a fan?
Kyle – I moved to the UK when I was 8 from South Africa. I didn’t know much about football, and first called myself an Arsenal fan! When I started to play football myself (and wised up), I was a goalkeeper. My mum’s family is Dutch and Van der Sar soon became my favorite player in the national team… So it was Edwin who got me in to Fulham!
Dannyboi – How long have you been supporting the club?
Kyle – I think the first season I could call myself a “real” fan was the 2003/2004 season. My favourite shirt is from that season!
Dannyboi – What has been your most favorite memory from being a Fulham fan?
Kyle – The European games must be up there. That season I was lucky enough to go to Basel, Turin, Hamburg (twice), Belfast, and Twente. Made some amazing memories and some great friends.
Dannyboi – What has been your worst memory from being a Fulham Fan?
Kyle – Obviously getting relegated wasn’t fun and the following couple years didn’t get much better. Those were the 3 seasons I gave up my season ticket as I moved out to Singapore so at least I didn’t experience too much of it. I have to say though, I think my worst memory was when we lost Dembele and Dempsey. We had such great potential that season.
Dannyboi – What led you and inspired you to create Billy tthe Badger?
Kyle – The club had an online competition. At the time, there was a viral video involving dancing badgers, mushrooms and a snake. Back then a friend of mine, who is a Cambridge fan, and I both would put our team shirts on. The team shirts said badger and we would wear them to play in a 6-a-side team called the Cambridge badgers. So, when I saw the competition I thought a badger would work well. So, I sent a picture in of a badger.
Dannyboi – How old were you when you did this?
Kyle – I think I was around 12 years old.
Dannyboi – Were there any other reasons for coming up with a badger, other than your experience in Cambridge?
Klye – When I sent the picture in of the badger, I included a brief reason of why the Fulham mascot should be a badger. Badgers are black and white and are traditionally British just like Fulham. Badgers also live in big families and Fulham is a big family.
Dannyboi – Do you have any drawings or sketches of your original design?
Kyle – Unfortunately I don’t. The club did send me some pictures but that laptop that I had them stored on died many years ago. I should really get in touch with the club and see if they have any in the archive. I also keep meaning to ask if I could have a costume!
Dannyboi – Did you get anything out of creating Billy from the club? An award or a plaque?
Kyle – I got 2 free tickets to see us play against Arsenal. That was my first game! We lost 4-0 in that match and Henry got a standing ovation. I also got a goodie bad that a had keychain, stickers, book, etc. Funny thing is I had to buy my own Billy the Badger toy when they first came out, ha-ha.
Dannyboi – Did the experience of creating Billy have any effect on your future choices for a career? What do you do now for a living?
Kyle – I actually went on to study marketing at university. Then I went on to running pubs where I did do a lot of design work and digital marketing. Since then though I’ve gone into more of a normal office job.
Dannyboi – What is your favorite memory of Billy?
Kyle – I love it when Billy gets into the spot light, especially during games. I remember things like Billy “Attacking” Avram Grant and being sent off for staying on the pitch break-dancing for too long.
Dannyboi – Have you heard of Sir Craven of Cottage and do you know what he looks like? If yes, would you be nervous for Billy if I told you I’ve heard he’s making a comeback.
Kyle Who? ……Just kidding. I’ve heard of and seen Sir Craven (not in the flesh). I wouldn’t be too nervous, he just looked very sun burnt. Didnt Dabs.com have a mascot? Was it a computer? ……now there’s a challenger haha!
Dannyboi – As you mentioned above Billy is not shy of getting into a confrontation like the Avram Grant spat. If given the opportunity to have a boxing match with one of these three, who would he pick? Chelsea’s Stamford the Lion, Brentford’s Buzz Bee or Qpr’s Ian Holloway?
Kyle Well I’m speaking on behalf of my “son”. I’m sure he’d be happy to take them all on. In case there are youngsters reading I won’t go into too much detail on how things would unfold [dannyboi pushing for him to pick one]……oh I guess it has to be Qpr’s Ian Holloway lol.
Dannyboi – What do you think Billy brings to Fulham and its fans?
Kyle – This is my favorite thing; the kids do really seem to love him and lots of friends tell me he is a real favorite of their kids.
FoF would like to think Mr. Kyle Jackson for his time in answering these questions. We would also like to thank Mr. Jackson for having the creativity to come up with our Club’s beloved Billy the Badger.
Sunday 11th May 2008 approx 2am
Couldn’t sleep, the air was muggy. Lying there with the sweat dripping off me as the noise of the Saturday night drunks passed my bedroom window adding to the disturbance. Staring at the ceiling thinking of any excuse as to why this night was proving to be a long unpleasant one.
But deep down I knew why…..of course I knew why! For in just a few hours I was to begin my 15min walk down to Waterloo Station to catch my train to Fratton, a trip I’d planned in my head several times already to ensure that nothing was going wrong today. The OCD worse than ever before as my mums OCD multiplies for the same reasons influencing my own mental state in the days building up to it. I’d never been to Pompey before, not that it mattered much. Reassuring myself that our fate was in our hands for survival thanks to the win against Brimingham last week but at this point…….it was doing little for my nerves.
I eventually dose off but it’s not long before the day begins. I’ve no appetite so I skip breakfast and we head out. There were many fellow supporters on the train and commuters that day would have experienced 3 kinds of Fulham fans. The vocal ones who would sing any song they could think of and really made a day of the occasion, the figgity ones who couldn’t sit still or get comfortable such was the magnitude of what was before us. And the ones like me, quiet. Not really knowing how to feel or what to say. This had never happened to me, I’d only remembered Fulham on the up since the days of Micky Adams. I have a poor attention span at the best of times but today there was no hope of a conversation out of me. My Mum, Dad and little sister chatting away whilst I was there in body yet my head a million miles away.
We go to the pub before the game and do all the usual rituals before any away game. And then it’s time to head to the ground. We walk up the road, houses either side of us. It was a narrow road, at least it was in my head although that could just be my imagination as it felt everything was closing in around me. You could see the ground in front of you, just like walking up Finlay Street to the Cottage I suppose.
At Fratton Park, the away fans walk down what I remember as a bit of an alleyway to the away end. A wall of art with pictures of ex Pompey players from beginning to end. Steve Stone, Linvoy Primus and the very unpopular Dejan Stefanovic to name but a few. I suppose you aren’t really interested in that are you? No neither was I but it was just another excuse not to think about the game as it was now about 2.30pm and kick-off getting closer & closer.
We made it into our seats, about 10 rows back perfectly in line with the top corner to our fans’ right hand side, a view unappreicated at this point but boy would that change……
It’s important for those that weren’t there that day that I make it very clear how hot it was. For every minute we got closer to knowing our fate, the sun seem to blaze over us that bit hotter. I don’t know how the players played 90mins in that heat under that pressure. I suppose we were lucky Portsmouth had bigger things on their mind like the FA cup final. It must have been the hottest day of the year and I remember it that way because I just can’t forget the intensity. This was the most torturing heatwave I’ve ever experienced at a football match.
I remember very little about the game itself. I don’t remember much goal mouth action, it was very much a game that you’d expect in degrees such as this. I didn’t know the Birmingham or Reading scores until half time, they wasn’t spoken of by the people around me, you would have thought no other matches were being played that day…. We all know that it wasn’t good news or was it? I don’t know if I’m alone but my nerves seem to ease once I know things aren’t going our way. I’m at my most nervous when we are hanging on.
The fans throughout were amazing and the atmosphere electric. As Kamara raced through only to be taken down for a free kick to my left hand side of the pitch just inside their half, we knew we had to score a goal. Reading & Birmingham were 4v0 and 4v1 up in their games, we were now desperate to score…….WE HAD TO SCORE!!!!!
It had been a torturing season. A rollercoaster that you queue up for terrified of but are forced on by your kids or friends. The long drawn out wait fearing the worst but doing it anyway. Th anger, you feel upset, tears, stress, sleepless nights, frustration, confusion, acceptance, you don’t care anymore….you do care…..but then comes the worst emotion of them all. The one that causes the most pain in the end………..HOPE! Multiply all those feelings by 100, add in the heat and the fact Reading & Birmingham were home and hosed but helpless if we win and you can almost imagine how it felt being in that seat adjacent to the top corner as Murphy rose highest and guided the ball towards me. I could have caught it if the net wasn’t in the way, I don’t think I would have though. For I had long left my seat and was in the stairwell running down to the front. Those in rows before me with the same idea beat me to it, our heroes in a pile on the pitch as McBride wrestles Murphy to the ground. Us fans piling on top of eachother behind the barrier. Men hugging eachother, crying, overjoyed! It was a minute of my life that will never leave me. I’ve seen the birth of all 4 of my beautiful children. I’m married to the woman of my dreams and although I won’t commit to saying they were inferior experiences, I could describe those feelings. But celebrating that goal……words just can’t describe the feeling. The release of tension just for a few seconds. It was and probably always will be the best moment I will ever have supporting Fulham.
Now comes the worst part, as mentioned above. My nerves eased when I knew Reading and Birminghams results weren’t going our way, almost resigned to the fact we were down. Now they are back, the heart pounding faster in sync with those of all Fulham fans around me. Loud enough to probably drown out the famous Pompey fan with the bell. But I can’t say I heard him that day, I can’t say I remember anything about that last 13 minutes or so.
The sheer joy when the final whistle went. Not as wild as when the goal went in. This was more relief that it was over. A celebration of 9 months of failure that was rescued in the most unlikely circumstances. Defying the odds and players transforming from ars*oles to heroes.
I know some will have the attitude that we have been relegated anyway some years later so it was pointless but it wasn’t. What we went onto achieve after that finishing 7th and getting to Hamburg will go down as the 2 greatest seasons in our history, why? Because on paper it’s a fact. That wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the great escape and whatever happens it’s an era I will cherish forever and tell my Grandkids about just like my Grandad did with me.
On the train home everyone was buzzing. At one point we thought we had got into Europe through the fair play league as Richard Dunne’s red card could have swayed it our way. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way in the end but it didn’t ruin the party back to London.
I read quite often people saying people shouldn’t worry or let Fulham’s poor form affect their daily lives. It’s just a ‘game’. Except it’s not is it? Football for many is much more than that. Fulham goes back in my family to the 40s, I went to my first match when I’d just turned two years old. Fulham is and always will be in my blood. Every club other than the obvious handful at the top are just one bad owner, a couple of relegations or a poor management of finances away from doing what Pompey did or in some cases worse. I can’t imagine life without Fulham, it’s what makes me who I am. It’s what makes me one of you, part of something.
Every fan has a reason for supporting Fulham. Mine was forced on me. I’d supported all my life but it really did feel like I’d come of age at Pompey. I was just turned 18 and something changed that day. I saw Fulham in a different light. I knew it wasn’t just my family tradition, my club…..it is our club and you are my family.
And all this from a supporter. Imagine the small people that nobody gets to meet or know. The ones who work in admin, commercial or in the Canteen. How do they feel knowing their fate lies in the hands of eleven men and a match in Portsmouth. When we were relegated, when all teams are relegated the amount of small people who lose their jobs is saddening. Cuts have to be made and it’s never the players who suffer most. People just doing a job to provide for their families, have done nothing wrong but are helpless as their fate is determined by others failing or not.
So please don’t tell me Football is just a game and don’t dare tell me this is just a football club. It’s not just a football club………..
WE ARE FULHAM!!!!