2013/14: Barclays Premier League – Manchester City v Fulham

Saturday 22 March 2014 (11:00)

It’s almost ten years to the day since I last watched Fulham at Manchester City. Back then, on 27 March 2004, it was a very different scenario to the one today. With eight games to play, Fulham still harboured ambitions of a getting into one of the European spots, while City were only 4 points off the relegation zone. How times have changed. However for all that was riding on the game, the Fulham website summarised the subsequent 0 – 0 draw as, “a game sparse of quality”. At the end of that 2003/04 season City finished 16th in the Premier League with 41 points, whilst Fulham ended seven places higher and with 11 more points. The teams that day were:

Manchester City: D. James, Sun Jihai, S. Distin, R.Dunne, M. Tarnat, S. Wright-Phillips, A. Sibierski, P. Bosvelt, C. Reyna, N. Anelka, R. Fowler. Substitutes: A. Arason, T. Sinclair, J. Barton, J. Macken, P. Wanchope.

Fulham: E. van der Sar, M. Volz, C. Bocanegra, Z. Knight, A. Goma, M. Djetou, S. Malbranque, L. Boa Morte,  S. Davis, M. Pembridge, B. Hayles. Substitutes: D. Beasant, Z. Rehman, J. Inamoto, F Sava, B McBride.

Today, as ten years ago, the fixture is important for both teams, but for very different reasons. City are looking to maintain their challenge for the title, whilst bottom of the table Fulham are hoping to build on their 1 – 0 win at the Cottage against Newcastle United last Saturday. Would I settle for a 0 – 0 today? Of course. But how realistic is that? Can the miracle of the ‘Great Escape’ of 2007/08 be repeated? WE STILL BELIEVE

Saturday (22:30)

The fact is that nothing was going to be decided today, in that win, lose or draw, Fulham would still be in a relegation battle. However, another battering in conceding five goals does nothing for the morale of the players or the fans.

cityHowever, when you are struggling, nothing goes your way and so it proved today. As expected City dominated the opening period of the first-half, but Fulham coped fairly comfortably. Then on twenty six minutes a long ball by James Milner saw Negredo get beyond the Fulham centre-back Amorebieta. As the defender stretched to reach the ball, there was contact with the City forward, who theatrically went down. After consulting with his assistant, referee Moss pointed to the spot and booked Amorebieta. Yaya Toure converted leaving Fulham feeling that the ‘big’ club tag of City had earned them a most dubious penalty. That was enough to give City the lead at the break, but how different would the game have been had it remained at 0 – 0? Would City have got frustrated and could Fulham have nicked a goal on the break? We’ll never know.

Into the second-half, the game was effectively over on fifty three minutes. This time even from the away section of the ground, there was no doubting the decision, as Amorebieta crudely brought Silva down. The Venezuelan defender was shown a red card and Yaya Toure did the rest from the penalty spot. Following this, Fulham reshuffled as Kacaniklic and Richardson were replaced by Roberts and Holtby. However, the substitutions were merely attempts at damage limitation.

Nonetheless, it didn’t stop Yaya Toure completing his hat-trick, as on sixty five minutes he was left with time and space to curl in a brilliant third goal for City. With the Manchester ‘derby’ on Tuesday, City manager Pellegrini looked to rest some of his players as Silva, Yaya Toure and Nasri were replaced as the game entered the last twenty minutes. City went in search of further goals and they came up with two more on eight four and eighty eight minutes. Fernandinho scored City’s fourth, after cutting into the box and firing home, with Demichelis getting his first goal – a tap-in – to complete the 5 – 0 rout.

The Manchester grey skies and the torrential rain that had been a persistent backdrop to this game made for a weary and draining exit for the Fulham faithful from the Etihad Stadium. The joy and the sunshine of the victory last week over Newcastle seemed a lifetime away. Thankfully results meant that the gap of four points to safety was unchanged and as Fulham boss still maintains, avoiding relegation is all about winning the home games. Everton visit Craven Cottage next Sunday, and anything less than a win surely means that Fulham’s thirteen years in the Premier League will be at an end.

Book Review: A Fulhamish Coming of Age (Fulham in Europe 1973–2003) by Alex Ferguson – The Traveller

Alex Ferguson started watching Fulham in the 1950s and did so through the many ‘ups and downs’ the club endured, until his untimely death in 2006. Alex became one of the most recognised, if not the most renowned fan of the club, following the ‘Lilywhites’ wherever and whoever they played. No matter if it was the first-team, the reserves, the youth team, Fulham Ladies – league, cup, testimonial, friendly; Alex was there. He also watched England at all levels with the same enthusiasm and fanaticism and his journeys with both club and country earned him the moniker of ‘The Traveller’.

Alex recorded the details of his years watching his footballing loves and these gave rise to two books published by Ashwater Press. The first in 2003 titled, ‘Pandora’s Fulhamish Box’ and the second in 2006 called, ‘A Fulhamish Coming of Age – Fulham in Europe 1973–2003’ which is reviewed here.

The book begins with an introduction from ‘The Traveller’ which tells the reader that this volume, “…chronicles thirty years spent watching Fulham Football Club competing in recognised UEFA competitions in Europe…comprising Anglo-Italian Tournament, Intertoto, UEFA Cup and Women’s UEFA Cup fixtures…” This equates to twenty three games, with each having their own chapter in the book.

In terms of style, the writing has the intimacy of a diary and therefore a language that is personal and in Alex’s case, a wit and quirkiness that requires the reader to think on their feet as they read. Each game is captured in terms of the facts of time, date, venue, line-ups, substitutions and goals. However, this book is not about page after page of match reports, instead the chapters are more anecdotal, as Alex shares details of the travel, the location, the atmosphere and his observations. The intuitive writing is complemented by a range of pictures, which show programme covers, tickets, posters, press cuttings and team sheets, giving a ‘scrapbook’ feel alongside the diary content. It is an immensely enjoyable read, with the contrast of the first European games in the early 70s and those thirty years later an interesting point of comparison. If I have a criticism and it is entirely a personal view, it is that I would have preferred a chronological lay-out of the chapters, so offering the flow of time and progression through the respective tournaments.

It is interesting to reflect on how the Intertoto fixtures in 2002/03 were written about by Alex as Fulham left the Cottage for their spell at Loftus Road. Thankfully by the time the book was published in 2005, ‘The Traveller’ was still around to see his beloved ‘Lilywhites’ return to the ancestral home by The Thames. Sadly just a year later, Alex died and it begs the question as to what he would have made of the European adventure that lead to the Europa League Cup Final in 2009/2010 and the disappointment of the campaign in 2011/12? Unfortunately we will never know…luckily though, we will always have this book as part of the legacy of ‘The Traveller’ who was there when it all began in 1973.


This book and other Ashwater Press titles can be purchased by visiting the following website: 


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Book Review: A Fulhamish Tale – by David Hamilton

A Fulhamish Tale by David Hamilton is the latest offering from Ashwater Press. It is written by the broadcaster nicknamed “Diddy” and charts his life story in terms of his association with the club from Craven Cottage.

In terms of the physical appearance of the book, it is all that you expect from an Ashwater Press publication, in that it is the usual combination of wonderful pictures and excellent presentation (format and layout). The content is 168 pages set over 33 Chapters and essentially follows his Fulham story in chronological order. The chapters dedicated to certain aspects of the various season’s Hamilton followed the club, are interspersed with tales about his time with the Showbiz XI and various ex-players (including Les Strong, Les Barrett and George Cohen) and people who through their Fulham connections have made an impression on Hamilton and become life-long friends.

The opening three Chapters detail amongst other things, Hamilton growing up in Fulham and his first game at the Cottage in October 1949, as well as his first journalistic efforts as a teenager for the Soccer Star magazine and his time as Station Manager of the British Forces Network radio in Cologne. In Chapter 3, the early stages of his life are all covered at a pace and after finishing his National Service and returning to the UK in 1960, Hamilton work as an announcer and programme presenter in Newcastle and Manchester. The Chapter ends with his return to London in 1968 to work for Thames TV and his reconnection with Fulham FC.

Chapter 4 takes up the story of the 1970/71 season and how in Fulhamish style, in the last game of the season needing a point to clinch the title, the Whites lost to Preston who went up and took the title instead. Chapters 8 and 9 focus on the 1974/75 season and the incredible run to the 1975 FA Cup Final and Hamilton shows how he is a fan at heart, expressing the joy and disappointment of all Fulham fans during that marathon journey.

Where this book really comes to life for me is from Chapter 12 onwards, as Hamilton details his own role during a very difficult period for the club. Here Hamilton looks at the 1976/77 season and the Fulham team that had the names of Moore, Best and Marsh in the line-up. Yes there were some magic moments on the pitch, but Hamilton nicely offsets this with the turmoil behind the scenes as Alec Stock and Tommy Trinder leave the club. Hamilton is persuaded to become a director at the start of the 1978/79 as concerns about the intentions of then chairman Ernie Clay are played out. However, Hamilton resigns midway through the 1979/80 season.

There is a positive spell on the pitch in 1981/82 as a return to the (old) Second Division is secured and a second promotion is snatched away in controversial circumstances at Derby at the end of 1982/83. Hamilton then in Chapter 21 picks up the story with the dark days of the ground sale to Marler Estates and the intended plan to merge with QPR and the light at the end of the tunnel with the emergence of people like Bill Muddyman and Jimmy Hill who looked to take the club forward from a perilous position. One of the most telling images is on page 97 of the book, and is a reminder to those who have only known Fulham in the ‘good-times’ what life was like before the Premier League. The caption reads, “…Spot the spectator – Fulham v Bradford City, May 1992. As the weeds grow on the terraces, two lonely fans try to find something to be cheerful about…” The book is worth buying for this image alone.

Hamilton moves onto his involvement and the main protagonists behind Fulham 2000 and Crusade for Craven Cottage campaigns. From Chapter 24, the story is of the resurgent Fulham and Hamilton as in December 1996, he hosts the half-time entertainment at the Cottage. As Hamilton moves into the role of match-day announcer, so Mohamed Al Fayed become Chairman. Hamilton provides his personal view of how the club changes under Al Fayed, including the various managers and players. However, there is a blip in the personal story of Hamilton as prior to the return to a revamped Craven Cottage he is removed from his match-day duties. However, it doesn’t last long and is restored after a meeting with the Chairman at Harrods, which makes interesting reading. As the book reaches its closure, the Hodgson years (‘the Great Escape’ and the Europa League Final) are all detailed from Hamilton’s unique position as an insider, but also as a fan down on the pitch. The final chapter is one of reflection, of how the club has changed through his years supporting the club and is a thank-you to so many Fulham characters, whether players, fans, and officials etc who have made the club what it is today. By the end it is clear David Hamilton is a genuine fan, who just happens to be famous and has through his time been a director and has been fortunate to have witnessed some of the club’s greatest moments as MC pitch-side.

For any potential reader one thing to be aware of is that this book isn’t to be considered a biography of David Hamilton and what it is about is how Fulham FC has intertwined with Hamilton’s life, the various characters and anecdotes from his years following the Whites. Personally the second half of the book is stronger than the opening, as there is more ‘meat on the bone’ in the events detailed by Hamilton. A good book for the summer as all Fulham fans await the 2012/13 season.

This book and other Ashwater Press titles can be purchased by visiting the following website:


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Book Review: When Fulham Went To Wembley (Four Remarkable Months in 1975) by Martin Plumb and Ken Coton

When the 2011/12 FA Cup Fourth Round begins on Friday night there will be two fixtures taking place. The first of these will see Watford take on Spurs at Vicarage Road. The other will see Fulham travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. For fans of a certain age this fixture will bring back memories of the Fifth Round tie that took place back in February 1975. A game which pitched then Second Division Fulham against the First Division leaders. It was to be an epic game that was part of an incredible journey by the men from Craven Cottage that took them to the 1975 FA Cup Final against West Ham United.

The story of that Cup run is captured within the pages of When Fulham Went to Wembley (Four Remarkable Months in 1975) by Martin Plumb and Ken Coton. The book took me back to that season and my memories as a 12 year old Fulham fan. Back then I played football for the school on a Saturday morning and then would go off to Craven Cottage in the afternoon. However, when Fulham were away, my dad would invariably take me to other games in London. During that Cup run, we made it to all the home fixtures, the Semi-Final Hillsborough and the Final itself. In a strange piece of football fate, back in 1975 when the Fourth Round tie at the Cottage against Nottingham Forest was called off, we ventured to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea take on Birmingham City. The next time we saw City, well was the Semi-Final against Fulham at Hillsborough – it’s a funny old game. Even more strange is that I’m off to a Fourth Round tie this Saturday, guess who it involves? Sheffield United v Birmingham City. An omen perhaps?

In terms of format of the book, the reader gets a brief Introduction, before a list of the matches from January 1975 which started with the 3rd Round home tie with Hull City and ended with the FA Cup Final in the first week of May against West Ham United. Including all the League fixtures, this amounted to 30 games in 120 days – an incredibly punishing schedule. There is then a brief piece about the manager that season, Alec Stock and a Prologue which sets the scene of the season prior to the FA Cup 3rd Round.

The major body of the text is taken up with detailing each of the FA Cup games in chronological order, but does also summarise the League fixtures in between Rounds. In a nice little touch, the pages for the League games are coloured differently, providing a clear division between the Cup reports. I was glad that the authors decided to go with the full review of all the fixtures in that four month period, since it conveys how busy the period was and provides continuity to the story of the journey. In terms of the FA Cup it’s all here, the three games to get past Hull City in the Third Round, the four games needed to see off Nottingham Forest in the Fourth Round, the Fifth Round victory over Everton, the Quarter Final in which keeper Peter Mellor single-handled keep The Whites in the Cup against Carlisle United and the two games needed in the Semi-Final to get past Birmingham City.

As you would expect there are a generous number of pages dedicated to the build-up to the Cup Final itself. A wonderful little glimpse back to 1975 was the use on Page 145 of the book, of a replica of a “Cup Final Voucher”. I remember cutting them out and sending them off for my ticket in 1975! There are some great pictures of the streets around Fulham decorated for Cup Final day and I remember my dad driving me around to see them on the Friday before the Cup Final.

Cup Final day itself is covered in glorious detail both in words and images, from the players being in the hotel in the morning, the journey to the Wembley, the pre-match build-up and the game itself. Of course, history tells us that there was no fairytale for Mullery and Moore and that feeling of deflation, almost anti-climax, after the game is something I can still remember. The book then closes with typical Ashwater Press attention to detail, as the story of 1975 is placed in context. There are memories from both Martin Plumb and Ken Coton of that incredible four months, as well as David Hamilton. A postscript and epilogue detail how just three years after the Cup Final only Les Strong remained at the club and the part a 20th Anniversary ‘replay’ between Fulham and West Ham had in raising much needed funds during the dark days of the mid-nineties. The ‘Where are they now?’ section is a joy as the reader discovers what happened to those heroes of 1975, but is tinged with sadness as ‘In Memoriam’ reminds us of those no longer with us who were involved in that incredible journey – Chappie D’Amato, Bill Taylor, Tommy Trinder, Bobby Moore, Ted Drake, Alec Stock and Roy Woolnough.

This publication is a wonderful reminder that the FA Cup was a very different beast back in the mid-seventies. At that time, there were unlimited replays, with even the Final open to a replay if required. In fact replays took play in the following week, just three or four days after the original tie. Semi-Finals took place at neutral venues around the country and not Wembley. Teams didn’t rotate their squads and all-in-all there was a real magic about the Cup.

Just as modern day fans have the memories of the quite incredible series of games that lead to Fulham reaching the Europa League Final in Hamburg in 2010, the story of the journey to Wembley in 1975 showed that Fulham just never do things the easy way. Yes it belongs to a different era for the club, but it is part of the history and fabric of Fulham Football Club and is as relevant as all the current journey that is The Whites in the Premier League – we should never forget where we came from.

Ultimately, this is another impressive book from the Ashwater Press stable. It combines as ever the excellent research and words of Martin Plumb and the atmospheric photographs of Ken Coton. The contributions from players and Fulham staff of the time provide a genuine insight to the team and the club during this period. This combined with the attention to detail and love that goes into their books makes this another must for Fulham fans of all generations.

As for the Everton fixture this Friday – well despite their terrible League record at Goodison, Fulham have never lost to Everton in the FA Cup. Anyone for the book titled, “When Fulham returned to Wembley”?

To buy this book or view other Ashwater Press publications click here


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Book Review: Johnny Haynes (The Maestro) by Martin Plumb and Ken Coton

As a football fan, there are games and players from the past that you wish you had been able to see. For me attempting to pick just one Fulham fixture where I wish I could have attended is a mightily difficult task. However, when it comes to the player I most wish I could have seen, well that it a different matter – quite simply, John Norman (Johnny) Haynes. The Maestro played his last first team game at Craven Cottage on Saturday 17 January 1970 against Stockport County. It wasn’t until two years later that I made my first visit to The Cottage, by which time Johnny was gracing the football fields of South Africa. Therefore in reading and reviewing this book I make no apology that I have done so as very much a Fulham fan and with an eagerness to discover so much more about this legend.

The first thing to say about this book, in its physical sense, is that it is an object of beauty. This A4 sized tome, rather like Haynes’ himself exudes class. The portrait of Johnny on the cover is classic in its simplicity, whilst inside the reader is treated to a layout, text and paper quality that is a joy to behold. I fell in love with the book even before reading a word; as an object it is in itself a quality item.

So does the content live up to the aesthetic qualities of this publication? Before the main chapters of the book, there are usual forewords, acknowledgments, and contents pages. However, there is also a Notes to the text page, which I found invaluable. The reason being is that it puts into context what football was like during the 1950’s and 60’s; an incredibly different beast both domestically and internationally to that which current fans watch and understand. The main body of book itself is split over thirty-two chapters, which apart from the first three follow Haynes’ life chronologically. The first three chapters each take a different perspective of aspects of Johnny Haynes the player and person. So within the opening part of this publication the reader is given a summary of the footballing attributes, the all-round sporting ability and a look at Haynes’ overall character. Indeed, the authors of the book (Martin Plumb and Ken Coton) ensure that this volume isn’t simply a sycophantic view of the Fulham favourite, as in chapter three, A Jekyll and Hyde character? they explore and acknowledge that, “…like all exceptional talents his (Haynes’) greatness came as part of a complete package alongside his faults and frailties…”

Chapters four, five and six, look at Johnny as a boy and his progression through school and district teams to England Schoolboy Honours and his eventual signing of professional forms for Fulham. Chapter seven begins a season by season (and game by game) analysis of Johnny Haynes’ career, starting with the 1952/53 season and his debut on Boxing Day 1952 against Southampton at The Cottage. The year on year approach allows the reader to see each season progress and Haynes’ part in it. Therefore we see each significant milestone in its timeline. Over the coming seasons, whilst Fulham continue to battle for promotion from Division Two, Johnny goes from strength to strength as England B, Under 23 and Full Honours are attained, as well as playing for the Football League Representative team and taking part in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup for the London XI. His development is such, that by the 1956/57 season at the age of 21 Johnny Haynes is made Fulham captain.

The following campaign in 1957/58 was a case of near, yet so far. Fulham ultimately missed out on promotion and were beaten in the FA Cup Semi-Final after a replay, to a Manchester United team emerging from the shadows of the Munich air disaster. That summer Johnny Haynes played for England in the 1958 World Cup Finals in Sweden. After the near miss of the previous year, in 1958/59 Haynes leads Fulham to promotion in Bedford Jezzard’s first season as manager.

It is interesting to reflect that with Fulham having been promoted to the First Division and Haynes made England captain during the 1959/60 season that all seemed right with the world. However, it could be seen as the start of a period of struggle for Fulham which obviously had an impact on its captain and focal point. From this season onwards each year The Cottagers battled relegation from the top flight until in 1967/68 they ran out of luck. During that time much happened to Johnny Haynes. In terms of his England career, his finest hour came on April 15 1961 when he led England to an astonishing 9-3 victory over Scotland at Wembley. He then experienced his second World Cup Finals tournament in Chile in 1962. However, England departed at the Quarter Final stage 3-1 to Brazil. He very much split  the football critics of the time, with opinion divided on whether Haynes was the right man around which England should play.

For Fulham, Haynes famously became the first £100 a week player in 1960/61, against a background of transfer speculation and another failed FA Cup Semi-Final. At the start of the 1962/63 season Haynes was involved in a serious car accident in which he broke bones in both legs and damaged a cruciate ligament in his right knee. Whilst he did recover to continue his playing career, in later life Haynes observed, “…it was the cruciate ligament in the right knee that did for me. They used to stitch them together, but it didn’t work like the operations today. For me it was a big struggle and I was, more or less, playing on one leg…”

This was obviously a turning point in the career of Johnny Haynes and as a reader I felt a sadness as he struggled with the injury, the loss of his England career (and ultimately any chance of selection for the 1966 World Cup winning squad) and the constant battle to keep Fulham in the top flight. Rumours surfaced again during these years of a transfer away from The Cottage and Haynes endured testing years during the management reign of Vic Buckingham. As if the relegation in 1967/68 of Fulham was bad enough, the following season offered no respite in Division Two. The Cottagers would ultimately suffer a second successive relegation. They were indeed desperate times down by The Thames. The madness and sadness of it all is summed up in the following episode from the game against Carlisle United in February 1969. Fulham were playing poorly and manager Bill Dodgin was about to replace Malcolm Macdonald with Jimmy Conway. However, “…Johnny Haynes suddenly walked off the pitch with a shrug of the shoulders and disappeared into the tunnel…the truth was that Haynes was totally fed up with the whole episode and since every member of the team was playing so badly, and anyone could have gone off, he decided to make the decision himself and go…”

The Maestro did have a testimonial game on April 28 1969 and a crowd of nearly 25,000 came to celebrate the career of Fulham’s greatest ever player. However, the occasion was tinged with sadness; “…many tributes were made to the maestro – Johnny the Greatest, the Magician, and the miracle Worker. The club conceded that the decline in their own status had probably coincided with the inevitable decline in Haynes’ own career…”

In the 1969/70 season Johnny Haynes played his last first team game in Football League Division Three in a 1-1 draw against Stockport County in January 1970. Fulham sought to rebuild the team for the remainder of the season and the following year would be promoted to Division Two without Haynes. Whilst that was the end of his career at The Cottage, Johnny Haynes moved to South Africa and played until the mid 70’s at Durban City, Durban United, Durban Celtic and finally Maritzburg.

In 1985 Haynes returned to Britain, settling in Edinburgh for the remainder of his life. He never took up a role as a football pundit or really become involved in the game in any real way. However, his love for Fulham never diminished and he was a leading figure in the successful bid to save the club during the dark days of the 90’s. Thankfully he was around to see Fulham promoted to the top flight of English football and visited The Cottage on a number of occasions. As a mark of Haynes’ contribution to the world of football, in 2002 he was an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame.

The final two chapters of the book close the story of The Maestro. Chapter thirty-one is an excellent section of statistics covering his Fulham and England career, whilst Chapter thirty-two is the Epilogue. This details the events of October 2005 when a car accident lead to Johnny’s death and also contains tributes from across the football world.

Fulham renamed the Stevenage Road stand The Johnny Haynes Stand with the dedication taking place on August 26 2006 at the home game against Sheffield United. On October 18 2008 a statue of the Legend was unveiled before the home game against Sunderland. Martin Plumb and Ken Coton have produced a brilliantly researched book which sits alongside these as an equally fitting tribute to Johnny Haynes – The Maestro.


For copies of this book and other Ashwater Press publications, please go to: http://www.ashwaterpress.co.uk/

Book Review: Following the Fulham…Into Europe by Peter Thomson

Ashwater Press is an independent book publisher which essentially produces publications featuring Fulham Football Club. The driving forces behind the enterprise are Ken Coton and Martin Plumb. Amongst the array of Ashwater Press titles are the following, “When Fulham Went To Wembley”, “The Mickey Adams Promotion Season: 1996-97”, “Johnny Haynes – The Maestro”, “Fulham Photos”, “A Fulhamish Coming of Age” and “Tales from the Riverbank”. To sum up Ashwater Press, real Fulham history, by real Fulham fans for real Fulham fans.

There is also a “Following the Fulham” series by Peter Thomson, which includes, “Around the Grounds“ and “The Premiership Years”. The “Into Europe” publication from this stable was published in 2002 and features The Whites first venture into European Competition, when they took part in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. As the publication is subtitled, “Winning the Intertoto Cup 2002” you would expect it to recount in full the various ties which saw the team emerge with a trophy from their first foray into Europe. However, this is Fulham we are talking about and in typically Fulhamish fashion there is a different logic to this publication. Indeed Peter Thomson, the author makes no claims that it is a complete record of the Intertoto campaign, instead it is “…dedicated to the fans who made it to Haka, Athens, Sochaux and Bologna…” and arises due to the lack of programmes for all but the away fixture in Finland. It is as the auther says, “…a modest record of events for the archivists and a memento of a magic month for those of you who followed Fulham into Europe…”

The publication may be only 24 pages long, but is a little gem for any Fulham fan. It starts with a page which provides the authors Thanks to those in getting the project to print and is followed by a short message from the Club Chairman, Mr Al Fayed. Peter Thomson provides his lament “Programme, Programme, My Euro for a Programme”, as way of introduction to the main content. “A Traveller’s Notes”, by football journalist Chris Hatherall provides a brief piece on his working relationship with Fulham and some of his highlights of the Intertoto away fixtures, as a precursor to double page spreads on the fixtures in Finland, Greece, France and Italy. There follows, a match summary for each away tie with team line-ups and scores, but more importantly a copy of the teamsheets for the games against Egaleo, Sochaux and Bologna. For the FC Haka match, the front cover of the official programme is reproduced.

The remaining pages are a great tribute to the author and reflect the quirky nature of life as a Fulham fan. In “An A to Z of the Intertoto Cup, July/August 2002” my favourite entry is, “…A is for Ashford…7th August 2002 off to Ashford for the Eurostar to the semi-final at Sochaux. Just eight years ago it was off to Ashford for the first round of the FA Cup. Fulham were soon 2-0 down to non-League opponents and drowning, quite literally in the wet, wet, wet. Micky Adams walked on water that day to save us twice from the penalty puddles. He went on to secure our first promotion in 18 years. Let us remember those difficult days as we head off to Europe…” The reason for choosing this entry, is because it should remind Fulham fans that there was a time before the European trips and Premier League. Our club goes all the way back to 1879 and all the highs and lows that those years have witnessed. Fulham didn’t just come into being from 2001.

“A Song for Europe” offers a double-page spread on the various songs and chants that the Fulham faithful used on their travels and a new hero is born in Bologna, celebrated in song with, “…Score Inamoto, we’re going to score Inamoto…” Chris Hatherall returns to offer a review of Fulham’s Far Eastern star, Junichi Inamoto, who in the Final 2nd Leg at Loftus Road scores a hat trick to secure a 5-3 aggregate win over Bologna. The author offers a personal postscript as he records his thoughts as he travels home after the Final triumph. Another two-page spread, “Flying Start – Summer 2002” acknowledges the unbeaten eight games in Europe and the first two Premier League games, which see The Whites beat Bolton on the opening day 4-1 and then gain a point at Middlesbrough coming back to secure a 2-2 draw with two goals in the final minutes. This ten game unbeaten run provides the connection to the final article, “Merula Chirpeth” which at first glance may seem rather strange. However, the author picks up on an article from The Cottagers’ Journal (match programme) from March 7th 1908 for the match against Manchester United. As at the start of 2002/03, Fulham in 1908 had enjoyed a ten game unbeaten run. As for Merula (real name Oscar Drew), he was the editor of the programme and worked on the West London and Fulham Times. Why Merula? Merula is a blackbird, but other than that, I’ve not been able to establish anything more than that. A curious end to a cracking little publication.

Sadly Peter Thomson died in May this year and so isn’t around for this season’s European adventure. The “Following The Fulham” series are a wonderful  tribute to him and a fantastic legacy for Fulham fans now and in the future.

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2011/12: Europa League Second Qualifying Round, 2nd Leg – Fulham v Crusaders

The last time I was making this train journey from Leeds to London to watch Fulham in a European tie; it was under very different circumstances. Back in April 2010 on a balmy evening I took my place in a capacity crowd at the Cottage to watch 90 minutes that would determine whether Fulham FC would appear in their first ever European Final. History tells us that it was another night of drama, incredible emotion and tension as Fulham defeated Hamburg 2-1 to reach the inaugural Europa League Final.

Some 15 months later, it is all rather different. As the 14.15 pulls out of Leeds City Station, it is under a grey Northern sky and drizzly rain flecks the carriage windows. The anticipation and nerves that surrounded the journey down last April just aren’t there. Yes, once again Fulham are in the Europa League, but this is about as far from the Final as you can possibly get. Having gained a place through the Fair Play League, Fulham started their Europa League campaign at the First Qualifying Round with a game in June. A 3-0 aggregate win over NSI Runavik from the Faroe Islands, set up a Second Qualifying Round meeting with Crusaders FC from Northern Ireland. With the Cottagers already 3-1 up from the First Leg, the home tie at the Cottage is pretty much a formality.

I can’t deny that I am looking forward to getting a first look at the team under new manager Martin Jol, but it is also about reconnecting with being back in London and that feeling of being “home” which bonds and satisfies the inner soul. As the train edges ever further South via Wakefield, Doncaster, Grantham and Stevenage, the weather outside does not alter and a wet welcome awaits me in Kings Cross.

As the train pulls in, I know there is now the joy (sic) of travelling across London by Underground to complete my journey. I just want to get this bit done as quickly as possible and emerge at Putney Bridge and the comforting sight of The Thames and Bishops Park. Despite not having lived in the capital since 1991, I know I need the Piccadilly Line to Earl’s Court and a change onto the District Line to Putney Bridge. I blend in with the commuters and tourists with my Evening Standard and look for news of tonight’s game. With the Test Match at Lord’s and the build-up to next years Olympics dominating the sports pages, Fulham warrant a mere paragraph.

Still a flick through the paper and an attempt at the crossword passes the time and I’m soon emerging out of Putney Bridge station. A quick walk and the Thames is in view, the rain continues, but I stop to take in the sight of Putney Bridge and the calm that being close to water brings. The familiar landmarks of St Mary’s and All Saints sit resplendent at either side of the bridge. As the rain gets heavier I decide it’s time to move off and quickly glimpse to see The Eight Bells full of Crusaders fans. I push on down Fulham High Street towards The Golden Lion where Fulham fans have gathered for their pre-match sustenance. I order a pint and then gaze around the rapidly filling pub. All this is familiar, I’m one of them – I’m a Fulham fan, but then I know it’s not my local and I don’t have this ritual here during the season – I’m not one of them. It’s not bitterness, but sadness. In truth I know I miss the ritual of watching my team and meeting mates before a game.

Outside the rain has eased so decide it is time to make my way to the ground. I branch off down the Fulham Palace Road and past what once used to be newsagents and grocers’ shops but which are now restaurants, estate agents and the like. As others cut off to make their way down to the stadium, I know there is only one turning I want to go down and that is Finlay Street. It is the road I walked down with my dad so many times since the early seventies. You arrive with the Cottage in front of you and the words “THE FULHAM FOOTBALL CLUB” painted on the side. I see it once more and feel both content and nostalgic. I wander the length of Stevenage Road and take various pictures.

With programme purchased, I make my way into the Putney End. Again I can’t help making the comparisons with the Hamburg game. Where in April 2010 the German fans filled a corner of the Stevenage Road stand, the Crusaders supporters take up half the space. The confident, bouncing, noisy Teutonic hordes are now replaced by a crowd which whilst offering vocal support for their team, seems more intent on just enjoying the occasion.

Come kick-off there is a crowd of nearly 16,000, but there is no edge. Despite it being a competitive fixture it does feel like a friendly. Crusaders give of their best, but the extra speed and quality of Fulham in their passing means that the home team are leading after 19 minutes through Andy Johnson. Other chances come and go, but Fulham add no further goals.

Half-time gives a chance for more reflection. I look to the Hammersmith End and see the covered all-seater stand, which fairly much mirrors where I sit in the Putney End. These identi-kit stands serve a purpose and without them, Fulham wouldn’t be able to play at the Cottage in the Premier League. However, they have the feel of glorified temporary seating. They just don’t seem to fit in with the splendour, history and unique quality of the Cottage itself and the Stevenage Road Stand. Indeed the black cladding around the Cottage looks restrictive and a barrier to keep everything at a distance. My eyes too are filled by what seems to be hundreds of yellow jackets on an army of stewards, whose sole message appears to be that everything and everywhere is off-limits. Is this the price of modern football?

And so the teams return for the second-half. Crusaders are not disgraced, but the superior fitness of the Fulham team begins to tell as the game goes on. The home team find more space and in a fourteen minute spell, goals from Damien Duff (56 minutes), Bobby Zamora (66 minutes) and Steve Sidwell (70 minutes) give Fulham a 4-0 win on the night and a 7-1 aggregate win. The teams carry out the customary shirt-swapping, applaud their respective groups of fans and are suddenly gone. With the yellow army patrolling the perimeter of the pitch, the fans too drift away into the damp July night.

My journey North now begins in earnest and I join the crowd as it snakes through Bishops Park, the Fulham faithful offering a hum of contented banter, set against the rumble of traffic flowing back and forth over Putney Bridge. At the Underground station, fans flock to the trains heading back to Earl’s Court. I dip into my bag and once more attempt to complete the crossword in The Standard. Without noticing I’ve changed trains, trance like I’m already at Kings Cross with just under an hour to kill before the 23.30 takes me back to Leeds. A call home, a swift pint, a purchase of a sandwich and some tinnies and I’m ready for the return. I’m amazed how busy the station still is, everything on the concourse is open and people are buzzing around like its still rush-hour.

The final walk down the platform and within minutes the train lurches out on its journey North. I eat and crack open a can, and for the first time tonight feel tired. I’m lucky that I’m in a bank of seats with a table and nobody else sat in them. I’m not in the mood for conversation. I stare blankly out of the window and sip increasingly slowly the cold lager. It adds to the sensation of a frozen and numbed brain. I just want to be home now, but know that the train is not due in until 02:45 and then a taxi ride awaits. The crawl home continues and a second can is opened. With ticket checked by the guard, I settle back in my seat. Sleep comes easily and quickly. A jolt and I awake to find the train has stopped and I’m relieved to be in Leeds. Along with the rest of the weary passengers I stumble out into the early morning air and I head for the taxi rank.

Its 03:00 by the time I get into bed. I understand the concept of a weary body and mind. They say “home is where the heart is” and I now can feel the warmth of her skin.

FA Cup Semi-Finals 2010/11: That was then – this is now….

FA Cup Semi-Final 1975

05 April 1975 – just another Saturday for most people, but for a 12 year old boy this was a day that was almost too incredible to believe was happening. It was FA Cup Semi-Final day and his beloved Fulham were within a game of reaching the FA Cup Final for the first time in their history. Second Division Fulham were up against First Division Birmingham City, Trevor Francis et al.

The Cottagers previous attempts in reaching the FA Cup Final had all ended in failure. In their first season in the Football League (1907-08), the team progressed to the Semi-Final after victories over Luton Town (8-3), Norwich City (2-1), Manchester City (3-1 in a replay) and Manchester United (2-1). However, the Semi-Final at Anfield against Newcastle United proved a game too far and Fulham slumped to an FA Cup Semi-Final record 6-0 defeat.

It was 28 years before the men from Craven Cottage reached the Semi-Finals again in 1935-36. The journey which never saw Fulham leave London contained wins over Brighton & Hove Albion (2-1), Blackpool (5-2), Chelsea (3-2 in a replay) and Derby County (3-0). For the first time during the Cup run the Cottagers had to travel away from the capital and they were duly beaten 2-1 by Sheffield United.

In 1957-58 Fulham hoped it was third time lucky in the Semi-Finals after victories against Yeovil Town (4-0), Charlton Athletic (2-0 in a replay), West Ham United (3-2) and Bristol Rovers (3-1). Their opponents were Manchester United, a club still coming to terms with the Munich disaster just 6 weeks after the event. The first game ended 2-2 at Villa Park and in the replay at Highbury, Fulham again failed to reach Wembley after a 5-3 defeat.

Just four years later, Fulham were back in Semi-Final action. Hatlepools United were dispatched in the 3rd Round 3-1 at the Cottage and Walsall were overcome 2-0 in a replay in Round Four. Round Five and Port Vale were beaten 1-0 and in Round Six a replay was required to see off Blackburn Rovers by the same score. Burnley were the opposition at Villa Park and Graham Leggat’s first half goal gave Fulham the lead going into the interval. However the advantage was quickly wiped out as John Connelly levelled for the Clarets. Once again a replay was required and once again Fulham came up short. A brace from Jimmy Robson put the Lancastrians on their way to Wembley as Jim Langley’s 90th minute goal was nothing more than a late consolation.

It was against this backdrop of Semi-Final failure that the Fulham faithful travelled north to Hillsborough in April 1975. My recollection of the day is dominated by a number of things. In my early teens I was not a great passenger when travelling by car as I was prone to travel sickness. So the journey up the M1 had me eating and drinking very little and sat clutching a carrier bag in case of emergencies. I also remember having a new rosette for the game which my mum had bought me. Black and white crinkled ribbon circled a silver foil replica of the most famous Cup in the World and a neatly printed piece of cardboard sat proudly below showing “FULHAM FC” in black block capitals. I remember too us parking near a massive estate of tower blocks and the walk to the ground. It was the biggest crowd I’d been part of, nearly 55,000.

Of the game itself, well the size of the ground, the noise of both sets of fans, the colour, the excitement and the tension of the occasion are all fresh in my memory. Fulham dominated and should have been ahead at the break, but then our reward came early in the second half with a wonder-strike from John Mitchell. We were going to Wembley for the first time and I was going to witness the historic moment. And then Fulham’s Semi-Final hoodoo struck again as Joe Gallagher brought the Blues level. Once again a replay was required. I cut a rather forlorn figure in the back of the car as I clutched my sick bag and we headed away from Sheffield. History shows that four days later Fulham broke their Semi-Final jinx in the last minute of extra time at Maine Road with possibly the luckiest, scrappiest, scruffiest, Semi-Final goal ever. Unfortunately I had to settle for listening to the game on the radio, but we were there and that was enough for me. Wembley beckoned for the FA Cup Final.

Roll forward to this weekend and it’s Semi-Final time again. However, these days things are very different. The games no longer take place on the same day. Both games are shown live on television and both take place at Wembley. I don’t agree with it. Wembley is the reward for the Finalists. That day in 1975 was special because a Semi-Final then had its own unique atmosphere – travelling to a neutral venue was like one foot on the podium. Now the podium has been flattened and in my opinion contributed to the devaluing of the FA Cup. I feel sorry for fans having to travel all the way down to London and all the costs and hassle that will involve to suit the needs of television and the FA’s Wembley debt. I know a Stoke fan who is caught in a quandary like many will be this weekend. He has a family to support, so going to both the Semi-Final and Final is not a financial option. What does he do? Does he gamble on not going this weekend and hope that the Potters get to the Final and then scramble for a ticket? Or does he go to the Semi knowing that if they win he won’t be able to see them in the Final?

For me football is no longer for the fans, it’s about the powers that be in positions of authority, whether that be the FA or the media organisations. Tradition? They have killed it and frankly they don’t care if they do. I’m glad I was able to experience the heritage and romance of the FA Cup back in 1975, because that now belongs to a different era and I’ll always cherish that day in April, 36 years ago.

2010/11: FA Cup 4th Round – Where were you in ’85?

The 1984/85 season brought about to Fulham one of those oddities that seem to happen in football. In the League Cup, the men from SW6 who were then in the old Second Division, got drawn against First Division Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Despite being a tier lower than their opponents, Fulham weren’t disgraced in a 3-2 loss at the Third Round stage.

Come the New Year and the FA Cup Third Round draw, fate dictated that Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday once again locked horns, although this time the fixture was at Craven Cottage. With Sheffield Wednesday bringing a good away following, a crowd of 11,434 gathered to see if Fulham could gain revenge for the defeat earlier in the season. Just as in October The Owls were victorious 3-2. Ray Houghton scored Fulham’s goals, whilst Mel Sterland and Lee Chapman with two, ensured the South Yorkshire team progressed to the Fourth Round. Wednesday were a robust team back in the eighties and they were certainly too strong physically for Fulham on the day.

Now for most fans, once their team is knocked out of the FA Cup, their interest pretty much ends, possibly until Cup Final day. Yes Fulham were out, but that didn’t mean that was the end of my Cup adventure that year. One of the advantages of living in London at that time was that there were plenty of options in terms of watching other clubs – and I use the term watching as opposed to supporting deliberately.

1984/85 was Wimbledon’s first ever season in the old Second Division and they more than held their own to finish in a respectable 12th position. Having overcome Burnley 3-1 at Plough Lane in the FA Cup Third Round, the Dons got a very tricky tie against one of the teams of the eighties, Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. At the City Ground the underdogs from South London earned a replay after a 0-0 draw. Back then replays were arranged for the following week, with the game at Plough Lane set for the following Wednesday night. Given that Brian Clough’s team were one of the big attractions then, the replay was made all ticket.

The lure of seeing Old Big ‘Ead (as my nan loved to call the incomparable Mr Clough), in the flesh and a possible Cup upset proved too strong a temptation to resist and so I took my place amongst a bumper crowd to see if the Dons could beat the twice European Champions. On a night of great tension and nervous moments, Wimbledon caused a Cup upset with a Paul Fishenden goal enough to see off Forest. It was an evening when you couldn’t but help get caught up in the emotion of the occasion. That is what the FA Cup can do.

26 years later and what does the Fourth Round hold for the teams. My beloved Fulham have the misfortune to once again draw Tottenham. I say misfortune as Spurs knocked us out after a replay in the Quarter Final last year and in the seven meetings in the competition Fulham have yet to win. Sheffield Wednesday have battled through wins over Southport, Northampton Town and Bristol City to a Fourth Round tie at Hillsborough against Hereford United, in which the Owls will fancy their chances of making progress to the Fifth Round. AFC Wimbledon came through in the First Round after a replay against Ebbsfleet, but fell in the Second Round against Stevenage. Forest overcame Preston at Deepdale in the Third Round and face an interesting game at Premier League West Ham. How times have changed.

Whoever your team enjoy the Fourth Round this weekend and may it provide some more Cup Magic!

Suggested Websites – TOOFIF

There’s Only One F in Fulham

The website is the internet arm of the award winning Fulham Football Club (FFC) fanzine. Below is brief outline of the history and background of the publication as detailed on the TOOFIF website.

TOOFIF is a football fanzine, produced specifically, but not exclusively, for the ardent followers of Fulham Football Club. It is published in the form of a printed magazine which appears at best every 4 weeks during the football season. The full title is ‘There’s only one F in Fulham’ but that’s a bit of a mouthful, hence the use of the acronym TOOFIF. The title is a hark back to the raucous chant by Fulham fans at Anfield when 10-0 down to Liverpool in a League Cup tie in 1986.

The fanzine initially set out as a sort of footballing “Private Eye” with the emphasis on stupid haircuts, ugly players, best/worst teams, dreams, nostalgia and some serious bits. However, TOOFIF became more hard-hitting as problems with Craven Cottage came to a head. When, as part of a deal, the Club agreed to be gagged by property developers eager to build on the site, the fanzine became the main channel of information. In the ensuing years, prime reasons have been to support the “Fulham 2000” campaign to regain the Cottage freehold and reinforce the “Back to the Cottage” message while we were at Loftus Road. In short, when the need has arisen, TOOFIF has aimed to keep supporters informed and thereby able to debate the issues of the day.

The website can be found at: http://www.toofif.co.uk