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 firstname.lastname@example.org