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 gmills@cob.edu.bs

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