Saturday, June 30, 2007

Happy Birthday to me!

I haven't actually got anything particular to say, but as it's my birthday today I felt I ought to post something. Our telly's broken at the moment (all the colours are still there they're just displaying in the wrong order - seen a lot of green blood and blue pasta in the last week!) so we drove into Kingston in the afternoon. It was hell, took a very long time and proved subsequently fruitless as we dithered on making a final decision and still haven't bought a telly. Took a different route home only to get caught up in three far worse traffic jams and take twice as long as the journey in. Fairly frazzled by the time we got back, things then plummeted to a new low as we discovered the water wasn't working (we've got a combi boiler as well so no header tank for backup). Thankfully it was only a temporary interruption and it was back on within the hour but for a while there I thought the weekend was going to be pretty miserable.

On to football related topics glad to see Chris Coleman has been offered the job at Real Sociedad. It should be an interesting challenge following their relegation to the Spanish second tier but it will certainly give Cookie some good experience. Steve Keane is likely to go with him. Keano played in Portugal for a bit and also supposedly speaks Spanish. Not sure if these facts actually tie up but for now I'm happy to believe it's true. I do think it will be a pretty tough job, managing in a league and country of which they'll have little experience and trying to attract new players to a team in a lower division. I can't see many ex or current Fulham players heading out there but I wish Chris all the best and hope he does well. I'll certainly try and keep an eye out for their results and report back on how they are doing.

Right - I'm off to make the most of the remaining year of being in my thirties!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Nostalgia - World Class Fulham Players

Article written by Gordon Mills.

There was speculation on TFI concerning world class players who have pulled on the Fulham white shirt over the years. Obviously Johnny Haynes stands head and shoulders above most of our players but there have been a number of others who, if they were not actually world class – and how do we measure that anyway – were definitely international class. Haynes was special because he was unique. Perhaps the most accurate long passer of the ball in the history of the game but also before his car crash in 1962 a regular goalscorer. In the promotion season 58 – 59 he was top scorer with 26 and twice scored 4 in a game. In the top division he deliberately played more as a schemer, deep behind the front men, supplying them with precision passes. To many, he was still good enough to be in the England team in 1966 but Ramsey didn't like him.

Another world class player from the same era was Graham Leggatt. He came as a right winger, often played on the left because there was no one else to play there and then was asked to play centre forward and scored a hat trick the first time he played there. He could play anywhere in the front line and was, in many ways, the first modern forward. He had a good shot in both feet, could hold the ball with his back to goal and could head well. He played regularly for Scotland and scored often. He even scored a hat trick the day before he was transferred to make way for Allan Clarke!

Clarke of course is another international forward. He may not have been world class when he played for Fulham but he was a very, very good striker who played to score goals. Although their styles are very different, Collins John and he are similar in their single-mindedness re goalscoring. In years gone by there was always a game between the full England side and the England under 23s on the eve of the cup final. I remember one at Highbury when the under 23 strikers were Clarke, Marsh and Barrett – Rodney had gone to QPR by then - but it was a Fulham trio to all intents and purposes and they led the full team's defence – Bobby Moore and all - a merry dance in a 5 – 0 victory. Marsh and Clarke scored two each and Barrett one. Amazing!!

Moving to midfielders, Alan Mullery was a very good player in both his stints at Fulham and should definitely have played for England before he was transferred to Spurs. He was another modern player, always running, an accurate passer and good in defence. He also had a great shot.

Ray Houghton is another who won international honours after leaving but was a class player for Fulham. In defence we had George Cohen of course, another modern player who was a tremendous overlapper. He was very fast and could close down opposing wingers and never let them get the ball across. For a couple of seasons in the middle 60s no winger could get past him. He was definitely world class in everything except distribution which wasn't bad but was inconsistent.Then there was Jim Langley, perhaps the first wing back in the history of the game. He was an amazing character who would have played more for England if Roger Byrne hadn't been so good. When he eventually won full honours, he was made a scapegoat for a bad four goal defeat to Yugoslavia, I think it was. He had a wicked long throw which could reach the penalty spot and could slide tackle with impunity.

Goalkeepers can only include van der Sar and Macedo and the latter was too inconsistent but on his day absolutely amazing. Van der Sar too seems to have aberrations that call his pedigree into question.
You will note that I haven't included anyone from the modern era. That's because I haven't lived in England for almost thirty years. I have seen Louis Saha on tv but I don't think his first touch is good enough to make him real international class. Malbranque is a fighter and has vision but world class? No.John Collins was I think. A great brain and a real lynch pin.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Nostalgia - Jim Langley

Article written by Gordon Mills.

During the latter part of the 1950s Fulham began to put together a team that would challenge for and eventually gain promotion from the old second division to the old first. An integrated blend of home grown talent and imported players started to gel and play with style and directness. One of the most impressive and best loved imports was Jim Langley, an attacking left back with extraordinary bandy legs and a crew cut. He came to the Cottage from Brighton with a list of recommendations as long as one of his trade-mark throw ins. He was an England B international when he arrived but his own full international opportunities were limited by the great Roger Byrne and then, after Byrne's death at Munich in the infamous air crash, by being made the scapegoat for a humiliating defeat in Belgrade. Some people reckon that Gentleman Jim was never really good enough for the full England side but really, I don't think there were many, if any, better than he when he was in his prime.

I remember well his first game – at home to Bury. Langley had been heralded before the game but the other players were unfamiliar with his style of overlapping and constant forays into opposing territory and no one had the wit to cover for him when he went up and this left the defence horribly exposed on the Bury right and the result was a terrible 3 – 1 defeat. Things improved after that with Eddie "Sticks" Lowe dropping back to cover as the rest of the defence became accustomed to Langley's style. The others' ignorance of the way Jim played could well have had something to do with the fact that he rarely seemed to train. My mates and I used to go to the ground often during school holidays and never saw Jim on the field training with the rest of the players. He kept himself very fit but not by training it seems.He was an all-action player whose seemingly elastic legs enabled him to use the slide tackle effectively and judiciously and who could wind himself up for throw-ins and propel the ball beyond the penalty spot. At times it seemed as if our most potent weapon was a Langley long throw towards the head of Maurice Cook.

He was also the penalty taker, rarely missing and relying on placement rather than power. One embarrassing miss was in the 6th round of the cup game at the Cottage against Blackburn in 1962. It was pouring with rain and Langley shot wide leaving us 2 – 1 behind with not long to go. Fortunately, Haynes scored the equalizer and Cook scored the only goal in the replay to set us off to Villa Park for the semi final against Burnley. Fulham were mighty unlucky in this game and Langley, whose only fault as a defender was occasionally not closing down his winger quickly enough, was caught out by John Connelly who had been given too much room and chose to shoot on sight instead of taking on Langley and scored from outside the area to equalize Leggatt's opener.

His most famous couple of games were the cup semi finals 4 years earlier against Man Utd. In the first game he was stretchered off just before half-time with what looked like a broken back. Tosh filled in at left-back and Fulham fought on with 10 men at the start of the second half but then, after about an hour, Langley returned to hobble along the left wing and to be a thorough nuisance to the Man Utd defence. That game ended 2 – 2 and we waited anxiously to see if he would make the replay. Of course, he did, having made a miraculous recovery but that game was Macedo's nightmare; he couldn't catch anything and fumbled and flummoxed throughout. My mum along with lots of other supporters fell in love with Langley in this game as it was live on tv on the Wednesday afternoon and the nation saw Langley commiserating with a crestfallen Macedo after another handling mistake cost another goal. A 5 – 3 defeat flattered Utd.

Langley was a great team man and a very good left back – in my opinion, the best to play for Fulham in my lifetime. He had his weaknesses against wingers who simply ran at him – Brabrook, Hooper, Grice all caused him endless problems – but no one who tried trickery or guile got the better of him. My weirdest memory of him occurred one Easter or Xmas, I can't remember which, but it was when there were games on consecutive days and Langley had cut his head open in the first game away somewhere. The next day the boys were at home and Langley turned out wearing a wig!! His head had been shaved and he sought to hide it with a syrup!! He was transferred to QPR when we thought he had not much left to give but starred for them later in their League Cup Final triumph over West Brom.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Signing - Aaron Hughes

A brief interlude in the run of nostalgia to report that Fulham have made their first signing of the summer window. Aaron Hughes, 27 year old defender from Aston Villa for a reported £1Million. Hughes is also captain of Northen Ireland, where he has generally played centre-back, gaining 44 international caps. For Villa he has also played at left and right back as well as midfield, making a total of 60 appearances and scoring 4 goals since he signed from Newcastle in 2005.

Nostalgia - Alan Mullery

Article written by Gordon Mills.

Back in the 1950s and 60s Fulham had an impressive record of producing top class players from their junior ranks who played long and impressively in the old first division. One such player who came into the team during the promotion season 58 – 59 to join other home produced legends such as George Cohen, Johnny Haynes, Tony Macedo and Tosh Chamberlain was Alan Mullery. He was only about 18 when he made his debut and he immediately impressed us with his non-stop midfield performances, strong tackling accurate passing and all-round ability. He learnt a lot about passing the ball from Haynes who was in his prime when Mullery emerged but he was a real natural who worked very hard and never seemed to be off form.

He took over at number 4 from Roy Bentley who moved to centre half and he was so consistent that its difficult to pick out many individually memorable incidents during his first spell at the club but let me mention a couple: the first is unusual because it hardly flatters him. It was a home game against Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham were to kick off. Now Fulham had a well rehearsed kick off routine that they repeated at least 42 times a season – Cook rolled the ball to Haynes who, in turn, rolled it back to Mullery who was somewhere around the edge of the centre circle and he would loft it towards the opposing penalty area where the aforementioned Cook or another forward would challenge for it. It was hardly rocket science but it had the virtue of sending the ball deep into the other team’s half. However, on this particular day Mullery for some inexplicable reason was unprepared to receive Haynes’ pass and miscontrolled the ball badly, letting it bobble past him. He was immediately challenged by a Wednesday forward who might have been the famous match fixer, Bronco Layne, and in desperation hoofed the ball back towards Macedo in the goal. Tragically, Macedo was not between the sticks at the time and could only watch and flounder ineffectually as the ball bounced into the back of the net. I don’t know if quickest own goals have ever been timed but this had to have been conceded in little more than 10 seconds and it led to one of our least auspicious performances in which the 1 – 6 scoreline was actually quite flattering – to Fulham!

However, there were so many fine performances from our young right-half during those seasons in the first division such as the headed goal from outside the penalty area in a 2 – 0 victory against West Ham, the fantastic display in the 0 – 0 draw at Chelsea when he seemed to be competing against the Chelsea midfield on his own and a shot at White Hart Lane from outside the area that bounced off the crossbar. Had this last effort gone in it would have leveled the scores against the great Spurs side of the early 60s. I remember reading in a programme at the time that Mullery spent one summer working on the roads and running to and from work to build up his fitness. He was certainly the fittest player in the team along with George Cohen.

He was my favourite player and I was devastated when we sold him. Back in those days there was not much media coverage and transfer speculation rarely seemed to claim the headlines but I remember the transfer because it came out of the blue. We had gone home after a brilliant victory against Liverpool and had recreated the winning goal in Bishops Park on the way home. Haynes took a corner along the ground to Langley who was about 10 metres outside the angle of the area on the left side. Jim hit it low and hard into the middle where Reg Stratton – yes, the amateur international winger making one of his rare appearances at centre forward – deflected it like a bullet past a surprised Tommy Lawrence. Bedlam ensued.

We were so happy that evening but it all evaporated the next morning when The People’s headline revealed the news that Fulham had accepted Spurs’ offer for our hero. It was rumoured that Bobby Robson who formed part of the half back line triumvirate with Mullery and Keetch was so incensed in the dressing room after the game when the players found out that he marched out to accost the directors and had to be restrained by some of his teammates!! I think it was about 7 years before Mullery returned to eventually lead us to Wembley but I had already gone into exile by then, although I did see the Semi final and final, but they’re another story.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Nostalgia - Rodney Marsh

Article written by Gordon Mills.

One player who emerged from the ranks of the juniors during Fulham’s spell in the top flight during the 1960s, a player who had boundless potential, who was very exciting to watch but who sadly never really fulfilled his early promise at Fulham was the enigmatic Rodney Marsh. A prolific scorer in the junior team and a player blessed with beautiful ball control, Marsh entertained us often and we waited expectantly for his first team debut after watching him score some spectacular goals in the South East Counties league.

His debut was in a home game against Aston Villa when he scored the only goal with a superb volley from the angle of the penalty area. He controlled a pass from Haynes, I think, flicked the ball up and belted it before it bounced into the top far corner. We were convinced a world beater was in our midst. However, we didn’t know as we walked home through Bishop’s Park that Rodney had broken a bone in his foot as he struck that goal and that he wouldn’t play again that season.

His debut was a pretty accurate microcosm of the rest of his career at the Cottage as he scored some terrific goals but was horribly injury prone. After that first game we waited patiently for his return the next season. He eventually resurfaced in a floodlight game against Burnley and played brilliantly in a two-one win. The next Saturday he scored the winner at Leicester with a flying diving header but in so doing he cannoned against either a defender’s shins or the base of the goal post, knocked himself out and sustained concussion and remains deaf in his left ear to this day from the impact. It was months before he reappeared and to me, even in his great days at QPR and Man City, he was never as good as before he knocked himself out.

The following season was his most productive for Fulham as he scored 18 goals including the winner in a 2 – 1 home victory against Man Utd. This game actually had a great impact on Rodney as he saw himself on TV later that evening and admitted to being shocked by his own posturing and his pathetic parody of his great hero Dennis Law. He recognized how foolish he looked running around concentrating more on how tightly he was holding his sleeves down than actually doing something positive with the ball. It had been a very good game and one that Fulham thoroughly deserved to win – Haynes scored Fulham’s first with a low shot from outside the area and Marsh just about managed to make enough contact with a Haynes cross to slide the ball home for the winner.

Later that season he had what I consider to be his best game in his first spell with us – a 4 – 1 home victory over Spurs in which he was magic. The victory went some way to erasing some awful pastings the Blanchflower teams gave us in the early sixties when John White and Bobby Smith continually scored against us. The next season saw the famous goalkeeping appearance I wrote of some weeks back against Northampton and his transfer to Rangers on the day before the deadline. 15,000 pounds was a small price for him and many of us were very sorry to see him go but he was not achieving and was beginning to frustrate the club.

One very entertaining incident I witnessed at the Bank of England Sports ground where Fulham were training happened as the players were returning to the changing rooms. Rodney, who had been his usual bumptious self during a pick up game, got a ball and made a great deal of noise as he juggled it, counting loudly the number times he kept the ball off the ground. He eventually lost control at 37 touches. We then saw Johnny Haynes take the ball and silently juggle it 40 times before he unceremoniously belted it across the field and invited Rodney to retrieve it. It was an eloquent way to show the upstart who was the boss and greatest player in the squad. Rodney sheepishly did as he was bidden.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Monday, June 25, 2007

Nostalgia - Alf Stokes

Article written by Gordon Mills.

In stark contrast to Fulham's elevation to the top flight 5 years ago when they indulged in a prodigal purchasing binge, their preparation for Division 1 football in 1959 was distinctly austere and low key. Teams then were still very much in the business of producing their own talent – the Busby Babes being the bench mark - and Fulham were actually rather untypical, having bought over the previous few years more than half of their regular starting line-up. In fact, I think the only acquisition between gaining promotion and the start of the new season was the florid faced, perpetually sweaty, overweight former England Under23 and England B striker from Tottenham, Alf Stokes, whose contribution to the campaign was memorable only in its minuteness. He contributed and played far less than the more recent great expensive disappointment, Steve Marlet, and was not on the Cottagers' books for very long. Of course, he was purchased for a mere finger nail of the fee that Marlet cost but in those days ten thousand pounds was big spending for Fulham. However, he did enough in one game to leave most of us wondering what might have been had he managed to keep himself fit and had played regularly.

That one game was an evening encounter with the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers, the reigning league champions. They came to the Cottage unbeaten in their first five games while Fulham had been hammered in their first game at Blackburn 4 – 0 but had held their own in their next four. Without floodlights, evening games in those days started at the latest at 6.30 and on this September evening we went straight from school to secure our spots behind the Bovril signs so we could climb on them and cheer when necessary – and we had plenty to cheer about that night. Thrilled to see the old gold of Wolves at the Cottage, we watched as the champions attacked us from the start but the Whites had plenty of attacking ideas of their own and, led by Haynes and Leggatt and inspired by some great touches by Stokes, we managed to hold a slender 2 – 1 lead during the second half. My memory is not perfect and I'm not sure who scored Fulham's third goal but we were delirious at the final whistle when Fulham had won 3 – 1. And against the league champions. I can, however, remember a goal from Stokes in that game. I don't know which of the three it was but it was a perfect header from a cross by Haynes that went just inside the post at the Bishops Park end, right in front of where I was standing with a bunch of my 11 year old friends. We genuinely believed we were going to win the league after that and we were sure that Stokes was the answer to our centre forward problem. No more Maurice Cook we prayed. How wrong we were.

Stokes only played about 10 more games for us and managed a paltry 5 more goals before he packed his bags for Cambridge, I think it was. The following Wednesday was the return fixture and Wolves were still seething from the defeat. As it was midweek we couldn't go and when we saw the newspapers on the morning after, we were mighty relieved that we hadn't gone. Wolves, in what was described as a torrent of attacking football beat us 9 – 0. 9 – 0…. And it took me an age to get over it completely because I can remember my 11 year old reasoning telling me that the 3 – 1 win over the champs meant we could win the title. Sometimes I am reminded of that blind optimism when I read some of the unrealistic postings on this site. The sad thing about that defeat was that it sent us spiralling down the table on the back of four consecutive defeats - one a terrible 3 - 1 home defeat to Chelsea! In spite of that loss of confidence, the lads came back well and finished tenth - but we weren't champions!Poor old Alf Stokes was the first in a long line of has been strikers we bought over the years; the likes of Johnny Byrne, Brian Dear, Jackie Henderson, Cliff Jones and Frank Large come to mind. And I'm sure there are more…

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Friday, June 22, 2007

Nostalgia - Ken Hewkins

Bit late in the day with this one (actually been quite busy at work for a change!). This was actually the second of Gordon's posts on TFI hence the slightly confusing start for those who are reading these pieces for the first time. I've got the order sorted out now and will be saving the alluded to "world class players post" for the end! Suspect there won't be much activity on here over the weekend so check back on Monday for the next post.

Article written by Gordon Mills.

Encouraged by the response to my world class players post the other day, I have decided to make a weekly post highlighting a player from the era when Fulham were in the old first division 1959 - 1968.

I'm going to begin with Tony Macedo's understudy for much of that time, reserve team goalkeeper, Ken Hewkins. Ken was a South African and a big man. Well over 6 feet and hard as nails, he might well have been a first team regular were it not for Macedo's unpredictable brilliance. Hewkins could propel his goal kicks well into the opponent's half - no mean feat given the weight of the balls back then - and such was the power of his kick that he was the regular penalty taker for the reserves. One game in front of the usual 211 spectators at the Cottage a penalty was awarded to Fulham in the dying moments of a game with the scores level. Big Ken ran enthusiastically up the pitch with the rest of the team standing back in anticipation of his bullet like shot. He didn't check his stride as someone else had placed the ball on the spot, increased his speed and launched a thunderous cannonball of a shot goalwards. To his dismay the ball crashed against the crossbar and such was its velocity that it rebounded well over his head and the rest of the Fulham players who were gathered on the edge of the penalty area. In fact it rebounded to an opponent who was loitering in the centre circle. He turned towards the Fulham goal and set off with the ball at his feet and all 11 Fulham players in pursuit. He shot from about 35 yards, no doubt fearing the ref would blow for time before he could get any closer to the goal and the ball bobbled along into the unguarded Fulham net with Hewkins and the rest puffing in vain some yards adrift. The laughter from the now Johnny Haynes stand was amplified by members of the first team who were in attendance, enjoying every second of the spectacle. There was no time to restart the game - Fulham reserves had lost!!It was moments like these and characters like Ken Hewkins who made supporting Fulham such a joy and started the popular term "Fulhamish".

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nostalgia - Steve Earle & John Dempsey

Article written by Gordon Mills

This week I want to feature two players who served Fulham well during their stint in the old Division 1 in the 1960s. Those players are Steve Earle, who came through from the same junior side that developed Rodney Marsh and Fred Callaghan, and John Dempsey who was a product of the juniors the next year. Earle was a beautifully balanced striker who could play on the wing or in the centre. He had a good shot in both feet and could head well. He would have been the star of that junior team if not for Rodney. In one South East Counties league game Fulham won 9 – 1 and Marsh and Earle scored four each! In the 1965 – 66 season Fulham had amassed just 15 points from twenty nine games and were firmly ensconced at the foot of the table when Liverpool came to the Cottage. This was the Liverpool of Ron Yeats, Ian St John, Roger Hunt, Gordon Milne, Peter Thompson and Ian Callaghan and they were on their way to winning the league by six points. Victory against Fulham was seen as a mere formality but Haynes and Cohen and the rest had other ideas and in a tremendous upset Earle scored twice in an amazing 2 – 0 victory. The first was not a memorable goal – something of a scramble and a hint of hand ball as he controlled the ball in the centre of the Liverpool penalty area but the second was a beautiful glancing header from a Haynes free kick that gave Tommy Lawrence no chance.

That victory set Fulham off on 5 consecutive victories and one of the greatest escapes from relegation in the history of the old first division as they gained 20 points from their final 13 games. Earle played a large part in this revival especially in the away game at fellow strugglers, Northampton. This was a real crunch match – a winner takes all affair because the end of the season was only a couple of games away. We went to the cricket ground in Northampton and sat on benches with the cricket square behind us as Northampton took the lead. Earle equalized but the Cobblers regained the lead before Earle scored again. It was nail-biting stuff as both defences were porous but Leggatt put Fulham ahead and then with only a few minutes remaining and with Northampton piling on the pressure, the ball was cleared from the Fulham penalty area and bounced to Steve Earle who was on his own. He ran half the length of the field, dribbled round the Town goalie and slid the ball home to seal a famous win. My friend John and I danced deliriously onto the pitch and were promptly grabbed by the sole bobbie on that side and were marched away. John's dad pleaded with the man in blue and we were allowed back to the bench. Even if we had been ejected it would have been worth it because safety from relegation had been achieved.

Earle also scored five of the eight at Halifax a few years later in the famous 8 – 3 win. John Dempsey was in that team too. He was a tall, sinewy centre half who really blossomed when he moved to Chelsea. In the 65 – 66 season he was tried at centre forward in a league cup match against the same Northampton and scored a remarkable hat trick in a 5 – 1 victory. Unfortunately the rest of the experiment was not so successful. A few weeks after the league cup game Northampton came to Fulham for a league fixture and we were all anticipating another humiliation but sadly it was Fulham who were humiliated. I think it was Macedo in goal who got injured and had to go off. In those pre-substitute days that meant an out field player deputizing. I'll never understand why Rodney Marsh went in goal but he did and promptly proved why he was later called among other things a clown prince. Using nearly all parts of his body except his hands, Rodney managed to let in most of the goals in an embarrassing 4 – 1 defeat. Demsey was back in defence again soon after that and was definitely a major factor in the great run at the end of the season. He had an amazing game at Elland Road where we won 1 – 0 on Easter Monday after losing 3 – 1 at home on the previous Friday. He was good in the air, very tenacious in marking opposing strikers and his distribution was good too. He gained a cup winners medal and a European Cup Winners Cup winners medal with Chelsea in 1970 and 1971. I can't remember if he played for Ireland before he left Fulham but he won a few caps later, I know.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nostalgia - Graham Leggatt

Article written by Gordon Mills.

The Christmas period in 1963 saw one of the most amazing victories in Fulham’s somewhat checkered history. On Boxing Day 1963, Ipswich came to a cold, damp Cottage to play on a pitch that cut up from the kick-off and ended up like a glue pot. The conditions assisted Fulham though, because they ran in what is still their record victory, I believe, a thumping 10 goals to 1. There is still an air of disbelief when I reminisce on this game because not too many weeks before Xmas we had had to endure 5 or 6 consecutive games when the team couldn’t even manage one goal. Then, suddenly and oh so unexpectedly, they piled in 10. The records didn’t finish with the score either. Graham Leggatt, whose goal tally during his stay at Fulham was something like 125 at an average of one every two games, scored the fastest hat trick in First Division history. I think the three goals came in four minutes during the first half – this may have been beaten since but I’m not sure. He added a fourth in the second half with a long shot from way outside the box that was something like the goal Harley scored a couple of years back against Aston Villa, I think it was. Another enduring memory of this game was Mullery’s goal – a Fulham shot hit the post and the ball just stuck in the mud in the goalmouth and Mullery, slipping and sliding in the mud, beat the floundering Ipswich keeper to the ball and tapped it in.

Graham Leggatt now was a really good striker. He came to Fulham in 1958 as a winger who had already played for Scotland and had he come the year before when the deal all but went through, I’m convinced his goals would have secured not only promotion – we finished fifth just a couple of points behind Blackburn who came second – but also a cup final place; remember, that year we lost 5 – 3 in a semi final replay to Man Utd. However, having come as a goalscoring winger, he was pressed into service as a centre forward in our first season in the top flight and scored a hat trick on his first appearance as number 9 in a 3 – 3 draw at Old Trafford.

I believe he was the first of the modern forwards – not very tall but quick and difficult to shake off the ball. He had a great shot with both feet and was very good with his head. He could play anywhere in the front line. He was also tough: when he first came he played with his wrist bandaged to protect a fracture and the programme one day had a little snippet of dressing room talk in it. Apparently, Tosh Chamberlain remarked to Leggatt when the Scotsman was bandaging his wrist, “When I see you doing that it makes me think you’re getting ready for a fight.” To which Leggatt replied, “Well, Tosh, you never know.”

Leggatt’s Fulham career ended at Xmas 1965 when Fulham played Leicester twice, winning 2 – 0 there and then thumping them 4 – 2 in the return with Leggatt poaching another hat trick. The next day he was sold to Birmingham to make way for our new striker, Allan Clarke but that’s another story.

Just getting back to the Ipswich game – two days later was the return at Portman Road and nobody was surprised when a still hungover Fulham capitulated 4 – 2. Strangely, that wasn’t the only huge turnaround in scores that Xmas. On Boxing Day Blackburn went to West Ham and won 8 – 2; at Ewood Park two days later West Ham won 3 – 1. On Boxing Day Burnley thumped Man U 6 – 1 and two days later Man U beat them 5 – 1 at Old Trafford. On Boxing Day Liverpool hammered Stoke 6 – 1, the return two days later was postponed but when they played in Stoke at the end of the season, Stoke prevailed 3 – 1. So maybe some strange gods were at work for the fixtures.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nostalgia - Tosh Chamberlain

Article written by Gordon Mills.

The Fulham Football Club owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to one man. Not because he was the greatest player or donated vast sums of money or led them to glory. No, that man, Trevor “Tosh” Chamberlain did something that shaped the club for almost 20 years: he persuaded Johnny Haynes to join him at Craven Cottage and not to go to the club, Spurs, nearest his home of Edmonton. I don’t think FFC has ever really thanked Tosh as much as it should have done for this great service, unless you consider keeping him at the club for over 10 years in the 50s and 60s when for ¾ of that time he clearly wasn’t worth a place in the first team as thanks enough.

Tosh was a character and there are hundreds of stories about him – most of them apocryphal. The Guardian’s Frank Keating must take the blame for perpetuating some of the most ridiculous such as Tosh attempting to take a corner and thwacking the flag instead – it wouldn’t have been so bad but Maurice Cook tried to head it in; another was his anecdote about Tosh and Haynes arguing so vehemently with each other that the ref threatened to send Tosh off which led to Tosh explaining that he couldn’t do that because he and Johnny were on the same side. I prefer to remember him for some of his performances: one was a cup game against the might of Newcastle, the cup holders at the time. They came to a packed Cottage – over 40,000 – and Milburn and Mitchell ran the Fulham defence ragged from the Kick off and swept into a 3 – 0 lead. Tosh was stung into action and promptly bagged a hat trick of his own to level the scores. He brought he house down and was already a hero. Unfortunately, the Fulham defence couldn’t match Tosh’s efforts and soon it was 5 - 3 to Newcastle – the fifth a terrible decision by the ref who allowed an assault on goalie Ian Black by Vic Keeble to stand as a goal. But Fulham still weren’t finished: Tosh had a goal disallowed and then we scored a fourth but tragically that was it, a 5- 4 defeat but Chamberlain had scored a hat trick on his debut in the FA Cup.

Not long after this we played an evening friendly against the touring Botafogo team from Brazil, mysterious Latino and black men who nobody knew as it was even before they achieved a certain amount of recognition by winning the World Cup in Sweden. Those days, pre-floodlights, evening games sometimes kicked off at 5.45 and we would dash there from school to get a place behind the Bovril signs. Fulham and Tosh were inspired that night and our hero dazzled with his one trick of pushing the ball past the full back on one side and running past him on the other – well it worked twice, I think - but it led to two of Fulham’s 4 goals in a memorable 4 – 2 win. Tosh, who to my recollection had a shot about as powerful as Roberto Carlos, slammed home the fourth and almost tore the net!

Tosh was a regular during the promotion season 58 – 59 but was not at his best for much of the time and another regular, Jimmy Hill, endured an even worse season. Hill, who later in the 60s gained notoriety for leading the PFA to the abolition of the maximum wage and allowed Haynes to become the first 100 pound a week footballer, had enjoyed a great time in 58, scoring in every round of our cup run to the semi final, but the next year he was in a goal drought. Easter arrived and in those days the fixture list pitted teams against each other on Good Friday and Easter Monday with another match against different opponents on the Saturday. Easter 59 saw Fulham in second place, twice play Sheffield Wednesday who were in first place in real top of the table competition. The Friday was a cracking game that was poised midway through the second half with Fulham just ahead 3 – 2. Hill and Tosh were both having nightmares but suddenly Fulham gained a corner on the right at the Hammersmith end. Tosh went to take it. He swung his trusty left foot and sent over a perfect inswinger. Cook wasn’t there but out of nowhere Hill rose like a dodo and butted the ball home – his first goal for about five months. Minutes later, another corner, another Tosh inswinger, another Hill header – 5 – 2. Just before the end, another corner etc and Hill had his hat trick and Fulham had won 6 – 2. Tosh had magic in his left boot that day. The next day we were home to Grimsby and although we won 3 – 0, the Rabbi, Hill, and Tosh were back to their worst. Incidentally, on the Monday at Hillsborough, we drew 2 – 2, a 5 point Easter that didn’t win us the second division championship but did virtually secure promotion..

Another story to close – for a while Tosh held the record for the longest kick in football because on a very windy day he sent a shot over the riverside terracing – no stand in those days – and into the river where it incredibly landed in a barge and ended up 7 miles down river at Brentford. Not even Frank Keating can better that one.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nostalgia - Bobby Keetch

Article written by Gordon Mills.

Here’s another nostalgia article about a player from Fulham’s spell in the top flight in the 60s. For a couple of seasons the centre of the defence was manned by one Robert Keetch, a character by anyone’s estimation. Keetch was a man of contrasts: he was an imposing figure with a shock of shiny blonde hair and an aristocratic bearing yet he played in a swashbuckling, physical style that often bordered on the filthy. He was once sent off in reserve game after five minutes for persistent dirty play! He was a connoisseur of fine art and antiques yet he had a two year long vendetta with Burnley striker, Willie Irvine, which culminated in a wild kick to the Burnley man’s knee on a freezing night at the Cottage and saw our Bob given his marching orders.

He was one of the friendliest of players, always ready to chat with us fans yet he once climbed the railings around the pitch at the Den to attack a Millwall supporter who accused him of being a “bottle blonde” during another reserve game. (We used to go to away reserve games in those days.) He has been nicknamed “Killer” but not by Fulham supporters. He was not a particularly skillful player but he stuck close to opposing strikers and always let his presence be felt. He had a good record against players such as Derek Dougan, Peter Osgood and Dennis Law and he always seemed to play his best against better players.

My fondest memory of him was in a game against the Everton of Alex Young, Alex Scott, Jimmy Gabriel and Brian Labone who came to town one November Saturday and proceeded to play Fulham off the park for an hour while they built up a two goal lead. They then sat back and waited for the final whistle but Fulham hit back for 1 – 2 and then, in the dying minutes, Everton failed to clear a corner and the ball came bouncing across the Everton goal. Keetch, still up from the corner, launched himself feet first in a sort of twisted karate kick, made contact with the ball when it was just under the crossbar and deflected it over Gordon West and into the net. The Cottage erupted – we had equalized with the Merseyside aristocrats. Keetch disappeared under the congratulations of his teammates. He was a good mate of Johnny Haynes who he followed to South Africa after a spell at QPR and many nights in clubs along the Kings Road but he died prematurely not too long ago – at least I think it was not too long ago.

Next, Tosh Chamberlain.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nostalgia - Maurice Cook

Article written by Gordon Mills.

One of the problems with nostalgia pieces is that they rely on memory, a fallible resource. Mine has never been perfect, never photographic, having been installed way before digital revolutionized the whole business, but my intention with writing pieces reflecting on times from the 1950s and 60s was really to try to rekindle some of the atmosphere of supporting Fulham at that time. One of the most atmospheric and enjoyable times was during the great escape of season 61 – 62. Relegation seemed inevitable as Fulham lost something like 10 consecutive matches after Xmas and were about 6 points adrift of Cardiff at the beginning of March. A good home win against Sheff Utd and a remarkable 5 – 2 thumping of Arsenal set us on the right track though. Cardiff were slipping and Fulham went to Wales and beat them 3 – 0. Two defeats against West Brom over Easter set us back a bit but in the penultimate game of the season we completely outplayed Man Utd, beating them 2 – 0. We hardly allowed them a kick and Cohen kept Charlton out of the game totally. Cardiff lost and a two point lead and a vastly superior goal average meant we were safe. Chelsea finished bottom and my friend John and I went to Timothy Whites and bought a wooden spoon which we decked out in blue and white ribbons, placed in a shoe box and addressed to Tommy Docherty, the Chelsea manager at the time. We went to Stamford Bridge and asked to see the florid Scotsman but were refused and had to leave the symbol of their relegation with a gatekeeper.

The interesting thing about all this was that the revival in league form coincided with a good cup run and the sudden and temporary outstanding skill and goalscoring touch of Maurice Cook. He smashed home the winner in the 6th round replay at Blackburn and then led the line really skillfully against Burnley in the semi-final, having two headers from Langley long throws saved on the line and then, in the closing minutes, he was through with only Adam Blacklaw, the Burnley goalkeeper, to beat. Unfortunately, Maurice reverted to type at this all important moment and shot straight at the tubby Burnley custodian’s legs and the ball bounced clear. So a draw it was. A 1 – 2 defeat in the replay saw our Wembley aspirations dashed again but the great run of results meant that we remained in Division 1 for another year.

My most endearing memory of wrinkle foreheaded Cook was in a December game against Birmingham at St Andrews a year or so later. It was an awful game – one of those when you think the teams have agreed on a 0 – 0 draw from the start but midway through the second half, Bertie Auld and Johnny Haynes clashed in midfield. Haynes took some terrible stick from close marking defenders over the years but rarely retaliated, preferring to let his skill and passing do the retaliation. I recall a West Ham half back called Andy Malcolm who was a really good close marker and used to follow Johnny all over the pitch, barely a foot from the great man all game, but their confrontations never erupted into violence. However, something different must have gone down with the sinister Auld, one of my least favourite players; do you remember the heinous scenes in the World Clubs Championship when he was sent off among three or four others for Celtic against Racing Club in Buenos Aires? Anyway, suddenly Johnny was pursuing Auld, who had the ball, and seemed to be swinging punches at the little toad. Auld stopped in his tracks and head butted Haynes who fell in a heap on the turf. Cook, who was about 20 yards away, lumbered over to protect his friend and captain, towering above the diminutive Auld, and was sent packing with a haymaker of a right that landed just below his eye. He too ended p a crumpled heap on the Birmingham turf. When the mayhem died down, Haynes and Auld were sent off – Johnny for the first time in his career, Auld for about the tenth, and Cook was carried off. Haynes received a week’s suspension and Auld four weeks. Cook had a bit of trouble restoring his pride but nothing more. Speaking to Alan Mullery on the train going back to London, we asked, “How come Maurice got punched?”

“Sticking his big nose into things as usual,” replied Mullery.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at