Football’s back; we play Fulham on Saturday and urgently need a win. They need one, too. And where would you go to find the co-founder of the fan site that claims to be Fulham’s biggest? You guessed it: an island in the Baltic Sea. Nick Bylund* helped to create www.hammyend.com. He is also chairman of the Swedish branch of the Fulham supporters’ association. And he turns out to have deep knowledge of his adopted club, qualified admiration for al Fayed, tainted affection for Steeeeeeeeed and, well, lots more to say for himself … he predicts another draw
Salut! Sunderland: Fulham and Sunderland find themselves at the wrong end of the table. Is it too early for either club to worry or is this an indication of a tough second half of the season to come?
I personally think it is way too early to worry, at least for Fulham. My insight and knowledge about the Mackems this season is too limited to really pass any judgment. As for Fulham we have a quite small, but very vocal group that I like to refer to as the “anti-Jol-brigade”, but most of us see improvements under Jol and are willing to give him quite a lot of time still.
We’ve played well in many games, were we have deserved a lot more than we got from them. The second half’s versus Everton, Man C and Spurs were all fantastic and we played them off the pitch. Still, we only got one point from those three games so it is quite worrying that we can play so well, create so many chances but still fail to score.
In conclusion, I think we’ll turn this around sooner rather than later.
What is the story behind your support from far away for a relatively unfashionable London club?
Unfashionable?! Say what? Nah, I know what you mean and it is a question I get a lot, especially from the hordes of glory hunters we have over here. Been following Fulham since the mid-90s just before the al Fayed era started and the main reason I fell for Fulham was Craven Cottage, this magical place for football.
At the time I was doing my management internship with Hilton, in Portsmouth (of all places) and went to all Pompey games home and away. Still, they never felt like my team but I obviously needed my football fix. Can’t remember the exact game but I think Pompey was bound to play Reading away at old Elm Park. The game got called off due to a blizzard, but someone realized that Craven Cottage had under-soil heating and suggested that we’d go there. About 400 of us agreed and we went towards London. When walking through Bishops Park, seeing the floodlights through the blizzard and finally the façade of the Stevenage Road stand (today the Johnny Haynes stand) I thought to myself that this is the way I want to watch my football.
The rest is, as they say, history!
You have had a number of managers in recent times, Is Martin Jol, despite your current position in the Premier, the man to take you forward or do you wish you still had one of the six other bosses – Bracewell, Tigana, Coleman, Sanchez, Hodgson or Hughes – who have been in charge since 2000?
I sometimes miss Hodgson for what he achived and his perfect manners and I finally warmed to Hughes after a rocky start last season but the way he left us shows what kind of person he is. Furthermore I also miss the football we played under Tigana. But do I want them back? NO!
I wanted Jol to take charge already last year when Ajax blocked his move to us, and is still really pleased we got him when Hughes walked out. Looking at the signings so far and the way he wants the game to be played I’m convinced he’s the man for us!
What is your assessment of Mohamed al Fayed’s role – and money – at the club?
The man is a true legend! He comes across as a mad man sometimes but he’s OUR mad man and most fans really like him and appreciate what he’s done for us. The only time he’s really f***ed up was when he decided that Craven Cottage was a good place for a statue to someone who had been accused (and cleared – ed) of paedophilia.
In terms of his money, we haven’t really seen much of it since we got promoted to the top flight, he did however gave us huge funds during our rise through the leagues in the late 90s and we still have a huge depts. to him, interest free mind you.
Sometimes I worry what will happen when he’s no longer with us, he’s not getting any younger.
So you weren’t too impressed by his decision to erect a Michael Jackson statue at Craven Cottage, telling fans they could “go to hell” if they disapproved?
That was outrageous and truly p***ed many of us off. I still think the idea of painting the statue in a Chelsea replica top and let him “swim with the fishes” in the Thames is a great idea.
Do you have any thoughts on the various players and staff linked with both of our clubs: Bracewell, Lee Clark, Andy Melville, Dickson Etuhu, David Healy and in particular Steed Malbranque (I am sure to have overlooked other key names)?
Lee Clark is one of my all-time favorites at Fulham, and from what I understand he’s well liked in the north east as well. With regards to Bracewell I, funnily enough, don’t have an opinion about the man except that he might have been coaching the most boring to watch Fulham sides during my time following the club.
Melville and Etuhu are the same breed. Likeable guys, but with below par footballing skills for the premiership, on a good day they can/could both be fantastic though.
David Healy, poor fella! After doing amazing things for Northern Ireland I think the expectations we had on him were too great and in a sense unfair. Always enjoyed seeing him play as no matter how poor game he was having he just kept on running his socks off.
Steeeeeeeeeeeeed! Loved the player he used to be, one of the best midfielders I’ve seen at the club, but his personality and the way he behaved before leaving for Spurs tainted my image of him.
Do you have any memories – good, bad or amusing – of previous games between Sunderland and Fulham?
None come to mind sadly, but that might have to do with the fact that I’ve only seen us play on telly so far. Out of all team in the Premiership Sunderland and Norwich are the only two clubs I’ve never seen play against us.
What does the name Johnny Haynes mean to you and which players are the finest you have seen – or wished you had seen – in Fulham colours?
I’m a bit too young for having any memories from his playing career, but based on what I’ve been told, have read and seen on old footage he was truly an amazing footballer and a true gentleman. I’m of course proud that such a player will always be remembered closely with our club and the looking up at the statue of him on my walks to the Hammersmith End makes me feel good.
The finest/best player I’ve seen play for the Whites must be one of our current players – Brede Hangeland!
The one I wish to have seen at the club is, being Swedish and all, a player you most likely never heard of. Mr. Sten-Ove “Putte” Ramberg. My boyhood hero!
Can you think of anyone who should never have been allowed to wear those colours?
Not really! Of course we’ve had our fair numbers of donkeys at Fulham, but haven’t really disliked many players on a personal level.
Living far away, do you feel part of the rivalries with neighboring London clubs, Chelsea or of course QPR?
I do! Not maybe in the sense of the lads who grew up locally and went to school with both sets of fans. I do hate the arrogance shown by many QP-hahas and the Dark Side up the road, but also appreciate the fact that the rivalry is “good” thing as it creates amazing games and build ups.
Last year on my way to Stamford Bridge I actually got hit by a middle aged Chelsea fan so I have first had experience of feelings going overboard on a SW6 derby day.
Name this season’s top four, in order. Who will go down?
Relegation; Wigan, Bolton and Wolves (I hope).
If Sunderland and/or Fulham appear in neither list, where will each club finish?
I’d say both clubs will finish 8-12, and hopefully we get the lesser number!
This was the Eduardo Question, after his dive vs Celtic, and became the Walcott Question after he publicly admitted diving and apologised for it. It is now the Barton Question (think back to Newcastle v Arsenal). That covers diving and feigning injury; what form of cheating most annoys you and what would you do to stamp it out?
All cheating p***es me off; it is supposed to be a gentleman’s game played by gentlemen (supported by thugs?). I’d like to see the FA reviewing all games and punish any broken rule in retrospect. It would probably mean that we’d have loads of suspended players initially, but over time it would force all players to watch their behavior, no matter if the ref is watching. This will of course never happen as FA are clueless in all matters football!
What single step should football authorities, internationally or nationally or at club level, take to improve the game or the supporters’ experience of it?
The first thing is to add a ref, or change the job description for the 4th official to be watching the games from the stands and be able to rewind the tape to swiftly give the ref accurate information. As Fifa/Uefa refuse to try out goal line technology we need a way to make sure all decisions around the goal mouth are correct!
How will you follow the Sunderland v Fulham game and what will be the result?
As all games from the EPL are televised over here I’ll either watch it at home or down the pub. I think we’ll see a draw, let’s say two all.
Niclas Bylund on Niclas Bylund : I’m a football mad guy in my very late 30s of Swedish decent. Having lived all over Europe, including about five years in the UK, but now based back in Sweden again at the beautiful island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Been following Fulham since the mid-90s and was a founding member of the supporters club FFC Sweden, currently the president of FFC Sweden.
I’m also the co-founder of the largest Fulham blog on the web www.HammyEnd.com
Interview: Colin Randall