Especially for those outraged by our lapse from republican values, to the extent of running a spoof wedding vows item, it’s straight back to normal business. Late, almost too late, came this gem: a second Fulham “Who are You?”, this time from David Lloyd, editor of the fan site There’s Only One F In Fulham …
Salut! Sunderland: You drew against one relegation struggler at the weekend, we finally won against another. A good time or bad time for us to have you up at the Stadium of Light?
We played well at Wolves but were suckered by them scoring with their first attack of note (after 20 minutes) and needed a late leveller having had several chances. Against Bolton in midweek we should have scored five or six (we won 3-0) and were brilliant going forward. If we play to that tempo you could be in trouble!
What, then is the legacy of Roy Hodgson, the Fulham view of him now and the verdict on Mark Hughes so far?
Roy Hodgson was immense for Fulham. Having him as manager was the perfect fit – and how ironic that the subsequent Liverpool/Hodgson fit could only be described as imperfect. Every player improved under Hodgson before our eyes – even if our away record didn’t! So great respect but he’s gone now and we’ve moved on. Mark Hughes has been unlucky. We started in storming fashion this season with Hodgson’s organisation still very much in evidence but backed up with a more positive approach. Then Bobby Zamora met the full force of a Karl Henry tackle…
What were your minimm and maximum expectations when the season began and how do you feel about the way things have gone, with the season just a few games away from being over?
Unlike some clubs round our way, world domination isn’t on our agenda. But that doesn’t mean we’re not ambitious. Last season’s glorious run in the Europa League was the stuff of dreams and, as the season finally came to a close, I think most of us hoped that the momentum would be maintained in some way. Possibly a decent domestic cup run and a steady improvement in the League. Roy Hodgson’s departure then the subsequent delay in getting in a replacement (remember Martin Jol?) meant that Mark Hughes had little time or opportunity to change or add to the squad. So, rather than galvanise our healthy standing it’s proved to be something of a damp squib of a season. Our recent form, now that the squad is in excellent shape, has hinted at what might have been.
What is your assessment of the money, commitment and impact of Mohamed al Fayed? And what did you make of the Michael Jackson tribute and the challenge thrown down to any supporters who might disapprove?
The chairman has been magnificent. Sure he’s backed his various managers with money from time to time, but those other words you’ve used – ‘commitment’ and ‘impact’ – are so spot on. We were in desperate shape when he arrived. Micky Adams had helped to turn to the fortunes of the club around by leading to promotion from the bottom division but there was still the problem of Craven Cottage being dilapidated and a complete lack of infrastructure. ‘Chairman Mo’ put that right by getting s essentials like a training ground and a football academy in place before turning his attentions to the team. Seeing a revamped Craven Cottage rocking to the Euro beat last season was a joy to behold for us, ahem, older fans who suffered throughout the bad times of the ‘80s and ‘90s. In that context, if the chairman wants to put up a statue of a musical genius in a dim and distant corner of the ground, then who are we to grumble? [The fact is, the statue was commissioned for Harrods which was then sold, so he had to put it somewhere!]
Sunderland/Fulham links abound: Lee Clark, Paul Bracewell, Steed Malbranque, Andy Melville, Kevin Ball … the brain is tired but I know there are plenty I’ve overlooked. Any special memories of or thoughts on any of them?
All excellent players. Clarky was a brilliant midfield dynamo while Steeeeed was a star with his tricks and flicks – and both scored in our 3-1 with at Old Trafford (the other score was Junichi Inamoto). Paul Bracewell was a top player too, but was criticised for his tendency for passing sideways too much. His spell as manager was similarly ineffective. Andy Melville was a top stopper and very underrated. Vic Halom springs to mind, too from days of yore…
And what about past SAFC v Fulham encounters, home or away. Do any stick especially in the mind and were you there for the game abandoned in the snow?
No I wasn’t there for the snowy game. But I used to attend Fulham-Sunderland games with my Uncle George – a huge Sunderland fan. In fact my dad came along once, the only time he’s been with me to a football match (he’s never been a sports fan). I remember the (very boring!) 0-0 in April 1972 which saved us from relegation from the old Division Two. And there was a decent 3-3 draw in November 1977 when George Best was the scoresheet, along with John Mitchell and Teddy Maybank. More recently, I’m obliged to mention our 3-0 win at your place in September 2002 (Inamoto, Barry Hayles, Steve Marlet). In our last five games though, we’ve only shared two goals…
What was the European cup competition experience like for you and how much of it were you able to follow?
Extraordinary. Having followed Fulham everywhere over the years, would you believe it that I was out of work for much of 2010, so couldn’t afford to do the overseas games (which is why, now being in employment again, I’m hoping we’ll sneak a back-door route into next year’s competititon via the Fair Play league). But I did make the final thanks to my dad. It was a truly surreal experience.
Maybe that was one of thje highs of your history as a supporter but describe any others, and the lows
The biggest low has to be seeing your club going down the plughole. We were that close to going out of business in the 1990s. Our ground was owned by property developers set to put up luxury apartment and the team was worse that a Sunday parks outfit. Thankfully, the small knot of fans who still bothered to turn up week in, week out, home and away, were sufficiently up for the task of fighting a rearguard action. As I said above, this makes our surge up the divisions and recent success al the sweeter. It also means that we don’t forget our roots and, while you cannot live in the past, it helps to appreciate the good times that much more.
Who are the best players you’ve seen in Fulham colours and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
This is worth a chapter on its own. Fulham have fielded a whole host of truly rank ‘players’ – some of whom were forced to play because of our desperate plight. Others were simply crap! On the other hand we’ve had some of the world’s best players in Fulham colours – even if they’ve been past their peak in some cases.
The maestro, of course, is former England captain and pass-master Johnny Haynes. A top man in all respects. Then, in so special order, we’ve also had George Cohen, England World-Cup winner, Bobby Robson, Jimmy Hill (actually, he might be in the wrong list!) Bobby Moore, Alan Mullery, Allan Clarke, Graham Leggat, Ray Houghton, Paul Parker, Tony Gale, Gerry Peyton, Edwin van der Sar, Brian McBride, Simon Morgan, Gordon Davies, Malcolm Macdonald, Louis Saha. And I’m sure a few others who’ve slipped my mind!
At the other end of the scale have been Jim Hicks (lovely bloke!), Martin Ferney, Paul Kelly, Gary Cobb, Michael Mison…
Is there anyone in the Sunderland squad you’d like at Craven Cottage?
Steeeeed, perhaps. And Jordan Henderson.
Is Chelsea as fierce a rivalry for you as Newcastle is for us?
It’s a great rivalry, but nowhere near as fierce. The generation before mine used to go to Fulham one week and Chelsea the next. Can’t imagine that happening up there!
* David Lloyd on David Lloyd: I’m David Lloyd, editor of There’s Only One F in Fulham, and have been a Fulham supporter since the mid 60s. Of the two photos, one was taken earlier this season showing me selling the mag and one is me playing – in blue – for a fanzine team against a matchday programme team at Craven Cottage when I was marked pretty much out of the game by Ray Lewington!)
Interview; Colin Randall