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”?

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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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