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


Mildred said...

Well written article.

Anonymous said...

Gordon, did you ever see Bedford Jezzard. I have heard and read numerous stories about him and he sounded an excellent player.His goal tally was superb but unfortunately like George Cohen his career was ended prematurely by injury. I believe that Newcastle bid an incredible(in thos days) £80,000 for Haynes,Jezzard & Robson. If the latter two had been at Fulham for their entire career ,like Haynes, who knows where Fulham would have ended up. Keep writing,lovely articles. Stevie Boy

Chopper said...

Stevie Boy - I've passed this on to Gordon and will post any response. Cheers.

Chopper said...

Thanks for this.

I saw Jezzard play once in a competitive match, the first my dad took me to, against Middlesbro in the old Division 2. Fulham won 4 – 0 but Jezzard didn’t play very well. I was very excited to actually be at a first team game after serving my apprenticeship at the reserves for a while but I was equally interested in the names of some of the Boro players – Ugolini, an Italian goalie; Delaphena, a winger from Jamaica, and Fitzsimmons in midfield. All unusual enough to keep me fascinated.

The next time I saw him was when he played in the pre-season public trial – 1st team against reserves – after he had broken his leg and he limped off at the end never to play again. His leg was strong enough for him to open the bowling for the Fulham cricket team in the odd charity game and he bowled at a lively pace with Johnny Haynes keeping wicket.



Anonymous said...

cheers both, this is a lovely site, keep up the good work

stevie boy

Chopper said...

Thanks Steve