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

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