Article written by Gordon Mills
The home game against Bristol City in December 1957 was rendered unforgettable by the explosive introduction onto the scene of goalkeeper Tony Macedo. In an unforgettable display of agility, anticipation and vibrant watchability, the young man from Gibraltar, who was still completing his national service at the time, transformed our expectations of Fulham goalkeepers for ever. He leapt for crosses, he plunged at the feet of onrushing attackers, he threw himself spectacularly across his goal to save long shots and he quickly distributed the ball with unerringly accurate throws to the feet of Fulham players still catching their breath from the last Bristol City attack.
That was the season that saw George Cohen establish himself in the team, Roy Bentley withdraw to a midfield role and Johnny Haynes lead the side to the top five in the old second division and to the semi-final of the cup. From the moment he stepped into the team, Macedo was integral to its success. He barely made an error and was absolutely outstanding in the unexpected 5th round victory at West Ham and in a number of league games that cemented the promotion push. In the famous semi-final against the Munich decimated Manchester United Macedo kept Fulham in the game with a series of blinding saves, one of which I can still see in my mind’s eye as he twisted to tip a Bobby Charlton thunderbolt over the bar. Fulham actually led this game with a few minutes to go to half-time but Charlton scored his second while Fulham were down to 10 men with Langley off and undergoing treatment.
The second-half saw a feast of goalkeeping from Macedo and Harry Gregg, who was not far behind the Fulham keeper in outstanding saves. But 2 – 2 it stayed and on we went to the replay at Highbury. Imagine our shock when our super hero proved fallible and human after all and was directly responsible for three of the United goals in the 5 – 3 defeat. He just didn’t seem capable of catching the ball on that cold, damp afternoon and United took full advantage, sending in long shot after long shot which Macedo struggled to keep out. To give him his due though, I doubt any other goalkeeper would have got anywhere near some of the crosses and shots he dropped but the defeat was doubly hard to take because we missed Wembley and our goalkeeper was found wanting in the most important game of his life. (We missed promotion too, thanks to a fixture pile-up at the end of the season.)
The next season he was back to his best much of the time but I always felt that something had happened to him at Highbury that afternoon because he was never quite the same again – some of the confidence and self-assuredness had gone. However, he was a vital part of our promotion to division one and he went onto play with spectacular flair and agility for a number of seasons in the top flight. In one memorable game, against Wolves I think, he hurt his shoulder and returned to play on the wing, his arm strapped to his side.
Unfortunately, he will be remembered for one or two terrible errors that he committed during the first division days, the most inexplicable being the gifting of the ball to Jimmy Greaves when he just rolled it to him on the edge of the area as if Greaves were a Fulham player – Greaves slid it home to tie the game - and another when he wasn’t really paying attention and a Mullery back pass almost directly from the kick off eluded him and set Fulham off to a 6 – 1 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
But I choose to remember the courageous, other worldly dives and saves, the prodigious leaps to claim crosses and corners and the outstanding positional sense that meant so much to his colleagues and to us on the terraces.
There is a story that when England were on a summer tour to South America and going down to a bad defeat against Peru or Colombia, Eddie Hopkinson, the incumbent between the post let in a soft goal and Haynes, who had been back helping the defence, retrieved the ball from the back of the net and said to Hopkinson, “Tony Macedo would have saved that one easily.”
Unfortunately, the Under 23s was where Tony’s international career ended but he would not been out of place in England’s goalie’s yellow sweater.