To be honest, we were torn. Lily Allen or Roger Meloy to preview this Sunday’s game at Fulham, Steve Bruce’s latest attempt to prove to the world that Sunderland can perform on the road. Turning up at all would be an encouraging start. Anyway, Salut! Sunderland is not a site to be easily impressed by stardom so Lily was out (a choice made easier by an instant brush-off from her supPress Office). So, you’ll have to make do with her 2010 calendar, a sample from a recently published Observer interview about her football passion** – and, all the way from the USA, the thoughts of Roger*, the Cincinnati Kid and member of the Fuham Exiles fan site …
Salut! Sunderland: Comfortable last season, some good results so far but a little inconsistent. A fair summary of Fulham?
A fair summary. Getting into the Europa League was a major achievement for Fulham, but with our small squad this could come back and bite us later on in the season as we’ve played a midweek game virtually every week. Our biggest problem is still our away form. We have trouble picking up points from poor teams, such as losing at Wolves and Birmingham, drawing at Wigan and West Ham. Although, the 2-2 at Man. City was a good result considering we were 0-2 down.
Are you happy overall with how things have gone under Fayed or should you have more to show for it – or indeed more from him?
I would say ecstatic rather than happy. Considering Fulham’s league position when he took over, the rise through the divisions and establishment as a Premier League club has been remarkable. 12 years ago, no one even in their wildest dreams would have thought we would be playing in the Premier League and Europe. Al Fayed has also listened to the fans and renovated Craven Cottage. After years of mis-management, I think Fulham is one of the best run clubs in the league.
Where will you and Sunderland finish this season?
Last year we finished 7th. Contributing to that position was the fact that we could play virtually the same players every week. We had very few injuries or suspensions. I’d be happy with a mid-table finish. I really think Sunderland could be one of the surprise teams this year. You have an experienced manager and built on a solid squad with the acquisitions of Bent and Turner. If you can improve your away form and avoid a 2nd half melt down, I can see you finishing 6th or 7th.
Name the teams to finish top four, in order
Chel$ki (I hate to say it)
And the bottom three
Johnny Haynes. What does that name mean to you?
The Maestro. I was lucky enough to see Haynes play for Fulham, although it was at the end of his career. My father was a huge Haynes fan and growing up he continually talked about him. Besides being a great player, I don’t think we will ever again see someone spend their entire career, from a schoolboy to retirement, at a single club. He had lucrative offers to join Spurs and play in Italy, but stayed at Fulham. With the money involved in today’s game, the role of agents, loyalty to a club is a thing of the past. I’m glad that Fulham have recognized him with a bronze statue outside the ground.
Who else figures among your Fulham greats?
George Cohen, Alan Mullery, Sir Bobby Robson, John Mitchell and the rest of the 1975 FA Cup Final team, Gordon ‘Ivor’ Davies, Simon Morgan. My childhood hero was Allen Clarke. He left Fulham when we were relegated in 1968 and went to Leicester, after that he really made his name at Leeds.
How does Fulham/Chelsea rivalry compare with Sunderland/Newcastle?
One of the good things about being back in the Premier is that we can legitimately renew our rivalry with Chel$ki. After all, we are the closest (geographically) two clubs in English football. Arrogantly, the new “glory hunter” Chel$ki fans don’t see us as rivals, it’s more Arsenal. Also, for some of the younger Fulham fans, because we were in the lower divisions for so long, they consider QPR and Brentford as rivals. I guess that’s one difference between us, as I don’t see you thinking of Hartlepool as rivals! For the older Fulham fans, me included, there is only one rival. Any points we take from Chel$ki are golden, worth more to Fulham fans than regular points.
Do you have strong memories of past games vs Sunderland?
Not really. We haven’t played you many times over the past 10 years, and certainly the recent games haven’t been memorable from either side. Probably the best memory, and this goes back a long way, was the FA Cup 3rd round tie at Roker Park, January 1969. Sunderland was riding high in the old first division and Fulham were bottom of the second. Brendan Mullen made his debut for Fulham and scored twice in a shock 4-1 victory. He only played two league games before going to Millwall later that year. I do have one bad memory. A Sunderland fan nicked my scarf at the Cottage when I was about 14!
The Eduardo/Ngog/Henry question: you need 3 points from last game of season to stay up or win a place in Europe. You get a last second penalty when Murphy makes what everyone in the ground except the referee sees as a blatant dive. He picks himself up and scores. You take it gladly, you take it guiltily, or you’re so ashamed you almost wish you’d only drawn?
I don’t think Murphy would do that, perhaps AJ! Anyway, Murphy never gets in the box when we’re attacking, but I take your point. I think most Fulham supporters would take it guiltily. I know at Portsmouth, two years ago during the “Great Escape,” we would have taken anything. But, I think you’ll find most Fulham fans will give an honest opinion about the game, and if we were lucky or get a break we’ll admit it.
Name one measure that the authorities or clubs should do to make things better for football or the supporters.
There are a lot of things that could be done for supporters, such as bring back standing, lower prices, to name two. But one thing I would like to see to improve the game is to eradicate diving. It’s impossible for a ref to make a split second decision as to whether a played dived, but just as the FA retroactively apply punishments for incidents the ref misses, I would instigate 3 match ban and 50,000 fine for diving. I would have a panel consisting of two ex-refs and one ex-pro player. They would review video evidence after a game and their decision would be final. No appeals. Not only would that cut out diving, but encourage players to stay on their feet instead of going down as if they’d been shot by a sniper, every time they get touched.
Will you be there on Sunday? If not how will you follow the game? And what will be the score?
A bit of a long way to go as I live in the USA! I will be going back to England for Christmas and I’ve got tickets for the Fulham v Manchester United game. In recent years due to the popularity of football (Yanks call it soccer) over here, we’ve now got a dedicated football channel, Fox Soccer Channel, that splits games with Setanta. This year, we’ve started to get a few games on ESPN as well. If the game is televised I’d watch it, otherwise it’s in the Fulham Exiles chat room while listening to Gentleman Jim’s commentary. This week however, I’ll be in Florida visiting another Fulham fan. The game is on live on Setanta so we will be in front of a TV somewhere.
Sunderland and Fulham are similar regarding home and away form. Good at home, poor away. I know this sounds like an excuse, but this could be your best chance of an away win. Fulham never play well after a midweek European game and we’re missing strikers Andy Johnson and Kamara. But even taking that into account, I can see a 2-1 win for the Whites.
* Roger Meloy on Roger Meloy: Supporting Fulham since the mid-1960s, I left England in 1993 and currently reside in Cincinnati, USA. Luckily, I missed some of Fulham’s worst seasons in the lower divisions and became reinvigorated during the Mickey Adams promotion season, followed by the takeover by Al Fayed.
I’m one of the early members of the Fulham Exiles. As the name suggests we’re a group of Fulham fans that for one reason or another now live aboard. The largest concentration is in the USA, although we have reasonable contingent down under. Most of our communication is through the Exiles message board or chat room, but for the past 11 years we’ve met in Las Vegas for a couple of beers and a curry!
** Lily Allen on Fulham beating Man United in March:
Q: Were you there?
A: No! I was really angry. I went to every Man United game, home and away, until two years ago, and we hadn’t beat them since 1945 or something. I was on the f***** Ant and Dec show. My dad and grandad were there and I was sitting in my dressing room watching it. Even though obviously I wanted them to win I was like, “No! It’s not fair.” And they f****** won. I was so furious.