Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Closed for business

It's taken me a while to write it but I have finally completed my report of the Europa League Final (see below). It seems an appropriate final post. Time to call it a day for this blog though I will continue to write sporadically about Fulham for the wonderful Craven Cottage Newsround. Thanks for reading and see you at the Cottage sometime!

The Europa League Final - Fulham 1 Atletico Madrid 2

It always ends with disappointment.

This is what years of following Fulham has warned me to prepare for. Those words have echoed around the back of my mind as we overcame bigger and more unlikely hurdles during an amazing Europa League campaign. Yet I found myself in Hamburg on the twelfth of May watching my Fulham play in a major European Cup Final for the very first time. We’d achieved what seemed like an impossible task. We’d reached the final of a competition we’d started almost 10 months previously. This was already an incredible high, I was going to just enjoy the day. “Kay sera sera” and all that.

It was a bigger game than I could ever have imagined. One hundred and seventeen minutes after it kicked off it ends in despair. Diego Forlan collects a pass from Sergio Aguero as he cuts across the trailing Hangleland. A stabbed foot connects and sends the ball slicing past Schwarzer into the far corner of the net. That’s it, game over, no way back. I slump into my chair (the first time I’d used it since arriving in the stadium) as the Atletico fans go wild. Danny Murphy is replaced by Jonathon Greening. Not a substitution that inspires hope but it doesn’t matter because we know this time we’re beaten. A bridge too far for our weary heroes. The final whistle blows and I swear loudly and kick the seat in front. I’ve never felt this disappointed about losing a game. We leave before the cup is lifted, not wanting the pain to be any worse, and begin a long and miserable journey home.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, as our plane left Gatwick and soared above the clouds into brilliant sunshine, it had all seemed so different. A buzz of excitement filled the aircraft. Young and old Fulham supporters united by the thrill of travelling to witness a momentous event in the club’s history. Anything was possible. We landed and took the scenic route around the airport before pulling up next to Atletico's personalised jet plane.

Hamburg Airport was a scene of tranquillity with no indication of the chaos to follow after the game. We queued at the entrance to the S-Bahn for a while as German Police let regular commuters down onto the massive, and completely empty, platform. They held us back for some fifteen minutes for no obvious reason. It gave my friend Mark the chance to practice his German pronunciation with the Polizei guarding the escalators. The now growing crowd of Fulham fans wait patiently to be allowed through, causing more of an obstacle for the passing locals than we would have done down on the platform.

We were eventually allowed through and catch the first train to the Reeperbahn. This was where the fan zone was going to be but at nine in the morning things were still fairly quiet. We took a stroll along Hamburg’s most infamous street, passing random groups of Fulham and Atletico fans also trying to get their bearings. The endless procession of strip joints and sex shops seemed oddly incongruous at that time of the morning.

We decided to go in search of the Star Club, the venue The Beatles had played before they became famous. Down the opposite end of the Reeperbahn we found Beatle-Platz where silver silhouettes of the early Beatles line up (John, Paul, George, Pete Best & Stuart Sutcliffe) marked the side road to the club. The Grosse Freiheit (as the club is currently called) wasn’t obviously the right place but a star shaped street number and a small plaque in German convinced us we were outside the historic venue where The Beatles learnt their trade.

Keen to ensure we didn’t get so drunk we’d be unable to remember our first Euro final we continued on the tourist trail. Free travel on the trains and buses for ticket holders made getting about town very easy. A quick hop back down the S-Bahn brought us to the harbour side and we decided to take the boat tour around the docks.

Having turned down an 11 Euro trip in English we walked to the far end of the quay to find a smaller boat which cost 14 Euros. We were too far away to turn back so took the price hike. After ½ hour of looking at oil refineries and cargo containers, and a commentary in German, we were wondering if we’d made the wrong decision. However, the smaller boat was able to get into places the larger one couldn’t and we soon turned into more interesting waters.

We followed some older canals and found Blohm & Voss boat builders who specialise in luxury yachts for the very wealthy. Abramovich’s recent £80 million pound purchase was moored alongside, looking more like a small battleship than any sort of pleasure cruiser. We considered a raiding party to try and sink it but were put off by the ominous Russian mafia types skulking about the deck.

Back on dry land we made the short walk to St Michaelis Church, an impressive protestant church that dates back to the 17th century. The 449 steps to the top of the tower were rewarded with panoramic, though misty, views over the city. Lots of Madrid supporters had made the visit as well and we noticed several taking the chance to say a prayer for their team - maybe they had God on their side.

By now we felt we'd earned a beer and went in search of a friendly bar with some Fulham fans in it. The scene in the Reeperbahn fan-zone was very different from the one we'd left this morning. There were football fans everywhere, a few Fulham but mainly Atletico fans. We carried on in search of a little piece of South West 6 in Hamburg, and a bit further on and round a corner we found it. Hans Albers Platz was a sea of black and white. A little square surrounded by bars and places of dubious repute but a proper home from home.

We had intended to have a couple and then go in search of somewhere to eat. But you know how these things go, a couple leads to a few, a few leads to quite a lot. This was the place to be, the longer we stayed the more Fulham fans seemed to arrive. We bumped into a couple of people I know from work, we saw Richard from CCN, and we made lots of new friends.

Things were, perhaps understandably, getting a little fuzzy now. Time had ticked on and the square was thinning out so we realised it was time to make our move. We stopped for a quick bite to eat (something with hindsight we didn't really have time for) and then joined the crush getting onto the tube. The Reeperbahn station was heaving with fans of both sides and when one train arrived but didn't move for over ten minutes we knew we were going to cut it fine.

We hopped on a train going the wrong way and picked up the next train going the right way at the previous station. We still didn't go anywhere but at least we had a seat! Eventually things were sorted out and we began our journey to the Hamburg Arena. The train dropped us some way from the stadium and we hurried on to find the free shuttle bus point. Another crush but we made it. Fulham and Atletico fans shoulder to shoulder. Lots of friendly banter and mutual appreciation. It's the way it should be. It's the way it normally is with Fulham. I remember turning down a few offers to swap scarves, hugging a few Madrid fans (I'd definitely had one too many if I was hugging people!) and rushing on towards the now visible stadium. Getting from the Reeperbahn to the ground had been an epic task in itself. We scurried up the steps and made it into our seats in time to catch the end of the opening ceremony. Smoke and flags everywhere. Fulham fans all around. Over 10,000 of us, probably nearer 12,000. This is special.

The game itself was a bit of a blur. Atletico passed neatly and Fulham struggled to find their rhythm early on. We make mistakes and Atletico give us no time on the ball to sort ourselves out. An early chance sees Forlan hit the post. A close call. Then we give the ball away again, Aguero swipes at a shot and it somehow finds Forlan who toe pokes it past Schwarzer to give the Spanish the lead. I nip to the loo, there's a cheer whilst I'm there. "Is that Fulham?". "It must be". Back up the steps to a now joyous crowd, I've missed the goal but it doesn't matter, we're on terms again. A Gera cross and a Davies volley I discover, brilliantly taken. We're playing better now too. The half ends and it seems like we only just got here.

The second half is better. We're back in control, Atletico now seem to have lost a bit of belief. But we're struggling up front. Zamora strives manfully but isn't fit. Despite that he's a loss when he departs. Nevland has a go, his final Fulham performance but that bit of magic just isn't there. We're a machine that's running on empty. Extra time comes and goes. Neither team wanting to make the mistake that will end it. It's going to penalties. I'm content with that. Then, out of nowhere a goal comes. Aguero chases a lost cause down the left flank, gets in a cross, and Forlan is there to fire home the winner. Three minutes left but it's all over.

An incredible effort from our team. We'd played beyond everyone's expectations during a massive 63 game season. With a fit Zamora and a team that hadn't had such a long season maybe things could have been different. In the end we were beaten by a very good side with a quality front line.

And so it did end in disappointment. I've never felt as low after a game as I did leaving the stadium, I wasn't great company on the journey home and twenty-four hours later I was still feeling glum. However, with a new season fast approaching, I can now look back on the day as a brilliant adventure. The highlight of my years watching Fulham. A great, if not perfect, end to a fabulous season. We may not have come back with the silverware, but we did come back with some happy memories and a good deal of pride. Maybe next time eh?


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HEC 2009-10 End Of Season - Awards

HEC has been very hit or miss this season and I'm planning on calling it a day very soon. Might do a write up of the Hamburg trip, for my own benefit if no one else’s. Anyway, couldn't leave a season like the last without doing my end of season awards. It's been a thrilling ride from start to finish, the best season I've ever witnessed, and quite possibly the best ever for our club. Whatever happens in the future, if Roy stays or goes, if the squad gets stronger or quietly goes their separate ways, 2009-10 will stand tall amongst greatest campaigns we've completed.

Player of the Season: Bobby Zamora - This was a really tough call with five players being genuine candidates. For me Zamora has been the stand out player. The injury to Andy Johnson not only left Bobby ploughing a lone furrow but changed the way we played football. Zamora has been outstanding as our target man, held the ball up as well as he ever did but also scored an impressive tally of goals. His all round game has reached new levels and he was deservedly linked with the England squad. Aaron Hughes was a very close second, an almost ever present who has been remarkably consistent, and Clint Dempsey, Zoltan Gera and Damien Duff all deserve praise. (Last season: Brede Hangeland)

Young Player of Season: Chris Smalling - Had he not claimed an unexpected transfer to Man United mid-way through the season he might have garnered more praise. As it turned out that £10Million+ agreement seemed to cause a small loss of focus. Despite this he has impressed, making the third choice centre back spot his own and earning the club a tidy profit in the process. He was a surprise inclusion in some of the earlier Europa League games but acquitted himself well. Followed that up with a first Premier League start against the dark side, in which he was unfortunate to score an own goal. His most extended run in the side came after the switch to Old Trafford had been agreed and saw the team struggling for form. It certainly seemed like we'd got the better end of the deal, but stronger performances at home to Wolves and West Ham and away at Everton suggest he may indeed go on to greater things. (Last season: Wayne Brown)

Best New Signing: Damien Duff - Duff's signing was the most exciting of our summer transfer news but we all must have wondered whether he could get anywhere near the form that had seen his value reach £17Million. Of course he'd achieved this feat partly under Roy's tutelage and it didn't take him long to settle in. His debut came in the 74th minute at home to Amkar Perm. He received the ball almost as soon as he stepped onto the pitch, side stepped a Russian defender, burst to the by-line and sent a rocket of a cross which looped up off Nevland's head before being lashed into the net by Zamora with a ferocity that almost broke the net. 75 minutes on the clock, some start. Duffer went on to have a great season, consistently a threat down the flank and a regular goal scoring contributor. (Last Season: Mark Schwarzer)

Goal of the Season: Bobby Zamora v Shaktar Donetsk - We scored a lot of great goals this season and this is another tough category to pick. Dempsey's goal against Juventus was right up there and Digger's goal against Hamburg a close third. Both those goals were arguably more important but there was something extra special about Bobby's strike against Shaktar. It came with the match evenly balanced but our chances of winning the tie still a long way from anyone's thoughts. A slick passing move saw Gera somehow flick the ball on to Bobby who let the ball roll then lashed home a bullet of a shot. The Donetsk 'keeper stood no chance and as it smacked off the underside of the crossbar and smashed into the back of the net we rose as one to applaud a wonder strike. (Last Season: Zoltan Gera v Man Utd)

Moment of the Season: Dempsey's goal vs Juve - OK, so I couldn't let this goal go unrewarded. The Juventus game was the most remarkable achievement and as fine an advert for European football as you're likely to find. Clint's pulled off the unexpected so many times that you almost think he couldn't surprise you any more. And then he does. From my vantage point in the Hammy End I was directly in line with Dempsey and that top corner. Everything happened in slow motion. I initially thought he had over hit a cross. Then I thought it was a shot about to scoop over the bar. As it began it's descent we all realised where it was heading. You could see it in the eyes of Juve 'keeper Chimenti as well. Oh. My. God! Top corner, 4-1, game over! A stunning goal to win a stunning game. (Last Season: Finishing 7th and reaching Europe)

Most Improved Player: Zoltan Gera - Again, there are a few contenders for this award. Chris Baird has not only shown he's capable at both right back and centre back but settled into a new role as midfield anchor. Bobby Zamora has added a massive dose of confidence to his game and turned himself into some sort of super hero. But it's Zolly who for me has made the most remarkable improvement. Europe has helped in this. Also, the loss of AJ which opened up the role of playing someone in the hole behind Zamora. I always thought of Gera as more of a central player and he's flourished with the freedom this role allows him. He's also gained confidence from his success which has allowed him to play in a wide role to greater effect. His work rate wherever he plays has been second to none and it's lovely to hear his name sung so loudly by the crowd. (Last season: Dickson Etuhu)

Most Disappointing Player: Greening - Jono has shown glimpses of what he can do and if the example of Zamora and Gera are an inspiration he could go on to become an important player for our club but there's no question he's not had the best of seasons. For me, the final straw came in the F.A. cup quarter final at home to Spurs. Too many sideways or backwards passes, no creativity or vision to see a way through the defence. Maybe the midfield anchor will be the role he ultimately plays but I was expecting more when he arrived and I'm sure he's capable of better things. (Last season: No award)

Most Underrated Player: Paul Konchesky - Underrated specifically by me. I was becoming a bit of a Konch critic before he was injured in January. Nicky Shorey's arrival seemed a breath of fresh air and I was singing the loan boys praises. Then Konch returned and showed just why he was first choice left back. Defensively solid and a definite threat going forward. (Last season: Aaron Hughes for 2nd time!)

Player Performance: Gera v Juve - I could nominate Zoltan for any number of his performances in Europe. This was a genuine team effort but Gera's willingness to run and run played a vital part in the win. (Last season: Murphy v Swansea City)

Team Performance: Home v Juve - Absolutely the best game I've ever seen. I'm running out of superlatives but this was a spectacular team effort against one of the giants of European football. (Last season: Home v Man Utd)

Best Opposition: Shaktar Donetsk - Pinpoint passing at 100 miles an hour. Shaktar were incredible and I'm still amazed we found a way to beat them. (Last season: Manchester United)

Best Opposition Player: Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) - I didn't really appreciate it at the time but the 21 year old Argentinean really made Atletico tick. Effectively created both goals for his strike partner Forlan (though the first one was a scuffed shot) and caused us all sorts of problems in the middle of the park. (Last season: Stephen Piennar of Everton)

Best Goal Celebration: Simon Davies v Atletico - Simon Davies' Toto Schillaci impression as he pulled us level was perfect. He's struggled to find form and overcome injury this season but as our European tour extended he got better and better. Seeing the welsh man bursting with joy having pulled us level with a fine volley was another special moment. (Last season: Zoltan Gera v Man Utd)

Quote of the Year: Roy Hodgson "It's nice I'm being linked here and there, but it's not something I was aware of. We all know its part of football. We also know the sword has two sides. One minute the sword is tapping you on your shoulder and asking you to arise, the next thing it's being used to cut your head off." - Roy is full of wonderful wit and wisdom. He's made many comments that I've thought perfectly sum up our season. It's no wonder he's being linked with some top jobs, you wouldn't begrudge him the opportunity but I really hope he stays.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 5 Football Superstitions (that failed to help Fulham win the Europa League)

This would have been a more upbeat post had Fulham won in Hamburg last night. I'm still absolutely gutted we didn't but I'm starting to accept that it was still a brilliant day and a massive achievement.

1. A bet on the opposing team - I've been doing this in the domestic cups for a while now (actually ever since I didn't place a bet on Leyton Orient beating us in the FA Cup which they managed 1-0) and like to think I've helped us avoid some embarrasing slip ups against the likes of Kettering and Accrington Stanley. Fulham's progress in the Europa league has cost me a small fortune but was worth every penny. I might not bother collecting the winnings from this game.

2. Wearing my lucky socks - Back in the nineties when Mickey Adams was just starting to create a buzz at the club I discovered a pair of lucky boxer shorts. They were yellow, which isn't a colour I'd normally choose but had a remarkably long run as lucky totems. When I got a pair of yellow socks last year I couldn't help but wonder if they held the same magic. They did and I've worn them to games ever since.

3. Dad touching the boot of Johnny Haynes - Dad didn't come to Hamburg and even if he had we'd have needed to make an awkward detour to fit this one in. It's done us proud at home though but doesn't have a 100% success rate.

4. Wearing my lucky replica top - I don't buy a top every year but I got this personalised one from a mate for my 40th and it's been a very lucky shirt ever since. Then again I wore my unlucky "Steve Marlet" shirt (the black adidas one) to the recent West Ham game and we won that 3-2.

5. Going in through my lucky turnstile - Somewhere during our epic 63 game season I started to feel drawn to a particular turnstile. We'd been going in roughly the same place for quite a while but now Number 38 (slightly to the right of the picture below) is the only entrance I'll use.

Photo (c) John Hall


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fulham 4 Juventus 1 - Greatest match of my life

OK, it's a little after the fact but I need to get some words down about this if only for my own memories.

The Old Lady comes to the Cottage. It was always going to be a special night. A chance to play one of the biggest teams in Europe doesn't come along too often and you've got to make the most of it when it does. I'm wearing my lucky socks and my lucky top. I've placed my lucky bet on the opposition. We've driven down our lucky road and made sure my Dad has made his lucky touch of Johnny Haynes' boot. We enter via my lucky turnstile. Done everything we can to help the cause.

The 3-1 loss in Turin had set us a difficult task but that away goal, Dickson's sliced shot in off someone's shin, gave us hope and a lifeline. As long as we don't concede an early goal we'll be ok.

One minute twenty six seconds in. Diego twists and turns in the box and is half blocked. Hangeland tries to clear but doesn't connect. Trezeguet, on the floor from an earlier effort, picks himself up and slots home a sharp finish.


The ground is packed. We've sold out and it's full of Fulham fans (or mates of Fulham fans). There's a brief lull in the atmosphere. We let the facts sink in. 4-1 down with our away goal advantage nullified. It's not gonna happen now is it, but no-one wants the party to end this soon and the atmosphere starts to build again.

Fulham dust themselves down as well. We push on and find ourselves attacking freely. A left foot cross from Konchesky is chested down by Zamora. World Cup winning captain Cannavaro is brushed aside and attempts a quadruple roll to convince the Ref he was fouled. He wasn't, he's just not as good as he used to be. Zamora controls the ball, turns, and fires a bullet volley past the 'Keeper into the bottom corner of the net.

That goal gives everyone a lift. Fulham continue to press. A through ball from Chris Baird looks to have put Zoltan Gera through on goal. Cannavaro falls over again and takes Gera down. There's a pause then a red card flashes. A melee ensues as the Italians argue fruitlessly. Eventually the Juve Captain accepts his fate and hurdles the "Respect" hoarding on his way off the pitch. A nice exit if nothing else. Zamora takes the free kick and, from the distance of the Hammy End, it seems destined for the top corner. The big hand of 3rd choice goalie Antonio Chimenti arrives to push it over the bar.

Fulham keep the pressure on. A Simon Davies freekick eludes everyone before smacking against the far post, then Dickson Etuhu gets his head to a corner and finds the same bit of wood. It's all Fulham. When the second goal comes it's a tremendous team effort. Konchesky rampages down the left wing and sends a firm pass into Zamora's feet. Bobby flicks the ball into the box with the outside of his right foot. Simon Davies, who has tracked across from the other flank, collects the ball and cuts it back from the bye line to where Gera is waiting to fire into the roof of the net. 2-1 Fulham, game on!

It's a thrilling game already but as the half time break gives us a chance to catch our breath we know there's a long way to go. Surely Juve will come out reorganised and more determined.

Fulham start the second spell with the same level of passion and effort they ended the first. Damien Duff drives down the right flank, fires in a cross and catches a gold shirted arm. Penalty says the (frankly quite Fulham friendly) Ref. No Murphy tonight but up steps Mr Gera. I'm not confident, but Zoltan has no fear. A fine penalty whipped into the bottom left corner as Chimenti dives the other way. A double sommersault from Zolo and then he's mobbed by the team. All square and now anything could happen.

With 70 minutes gone Dempsey replaces Kelly. His arrival sees a big re-shuffle. Davies goes to right back, Gera trots out to the left side and Dempsey takes over in the hole. It seems like a lot of change to incorporate one player.

Dempsey has an early header saved by Chimenti. Davies and Duff are now causing chaos down the right hand side. Gera, who initially looked peeved to be moved, begins to find space on the left. We're not sitting back and Juve are praying for penalties. Time ticks away and there's a sharp reminder of how delicate the balance of the tie is. Juventus gain possession for long enough to send a shot low and wide of Schwarzer's right hand post. Not that close but close enough.

Then it happened. Dempsey recieves the ball from Etuhu on the edge of the box, his back to goal. He turns into space, leans back a little and floats a chip towards goal. From behind it happens in slow motion. The ball rises high into the air, it looks like he's over hit a cross, but no. It's coming down towards the top corner. Surely not. That can't go in? Oh my word! It can! It has. YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

There's a primal roar around the Cottage. The noise of almost 25,000 celebrating as one. Dempsey charges down in front of the Hammy End. Pumping his shirt and slapping his badge. This is what he can do. This is why Roy wanted him on the pitch. This is football genius. From 4-1 down to 5-4 up.

Against all the odds we're through. The quarter finals await.

The journey home is punctuated by the sound of congratulatory texts. I'm in a daze, reliving each moment and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

Friday morning and we're the big news. Radio 5 and Talk Sport are both leading with our amazing victory. We're headline news on Sky. It's real. I seem to spend most of the day taking congratualtions from people at work and explaining what an incredible night it was. Even now as I write, three days later, I'm full of pride and pleasure at what happened on Thursday.

We lost to Man City today. I really don't care. I can't remember a loss affecting me less. We were below par for sure but still gave them a scare. A few players were rested, a few reserves had the chance of a run. It felt like a training game. Preperation for the big matches to come. It's been another amazing season already but there's a chance it could become a very special one indeed.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Omens and viewpoints

It being a cup game I found myself in the Johnny Haynes stand yesterday for the F.A Cup quarter final against Spurs. I'd thought when booking the tickets it would be good to be closer to the action. We'd been in the Riverside for the Shakhtar match and enjoyed the change of scene. The old Stevenage Road stand is shallower and really we were too low to have a great view of the action, that combined with my own sense of foreboding and a tight and, at times, scrappy affair led to an uncomfortable 90 minutes. In fact I can't remember enjoying a game that we've not lost less. As the last few minutes ticked away I could visualise both the elation of a goal for us and the gut wrenching disappointment of a goal for Spurs.

During the week my Mini had reached the unusual landmark of 66,666.6 miles, something that I noticed approaching by chance and managed to capture on camera. Note to any Police officers reading this, I had pulled over and safely parked the car before taking the shot. It did take a bit of doing though to find somewhere suitable at the right moment. This felt like it might be an omen of some kind. You'll probably realise by now I'm quite superstitious.

The first half seemed to be all Spurs. They're no Shakthar Donestk, but they made more use of the ball going forward. Fulham struggled to find any rhythm but remained stoically organised and limited Tottenham to a weak header from Peter Crouch and a Kranjar shot from the edge of the box. Crouch, who was all elbows and whinging, may well have risen to my top five most disliked players in the premier league.

The second half was much better, as Fulham attacked with more purpose and the game opened up a little. We really missed the guile of Danny Murphy in midfield. Jonathan Greening can be a tidy player but I could count the number of forward passes he made on one hand and none of them had the direction or purpose that Murphy might have achieved. Our forward play therefore tended to be a bit repetitive and lacked any real drive or speed of thought. Too many times we'd break down the wing but then slow down the play until we had few options available or simply gave the ball away. I felt yesterday was an occasion when switching the wingers might have shaken things up a bit. Duff and Davies (though to be honest the Welsh wonder had a poor game) bombing down the wing and slinging a cross into the box might have created something our patient build up could not. Though, I guess, that's not really us.

Credit goes to Dickson who had a fine game in the middle and also Chris Baird who seemed to see a lot of the ball. On a positive note we're still in the hat and will at least know who we might face by the time of the replay. The initiative is definitely with Tottenham now but we've got nothing to lose. Maybe Murphy will be back and we'll have one more massive performance in us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oh my giddy aunt!

We're through to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup!!! (Yeah I know it's not called that anymore, but still.)

Very proud of the team tonight after a sterling performance. Weathered the storm early on, scored a vital away goal thanks to a towering header from Brede and held on till the end. Danny's red card was the only sour note and he'll know he let his emotions get the better of him. The challenge on Duff (and unneccessary follow up) just seconds before was far more worthy of seeing red. I've never seen Roy react so angrily. All that matters is we're through and the journey continues. Amazing time to be a Fulham supporter.

Photo courtesy FulhamFC.com

Monday, February 08, 2010

FFC Paintball

A random internet search tonight plucked this gem of a picture from the jaws of obscurity. It must have been during Lawrie Sanchez' one and only pre-season prep. Lots of happy smiling faces (apart from Wayne Brown strangely). I'm looking forward to Burnley tomorrow night, they were the team I saw play against Fulham in my very first match. How far we've both come since then.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Public Service Announcement

That most erudite of Fulham message boards has a new home. If you're familiar with FoF it won't look fantastically different but the team have made some nice improvements and, I think, are hoping for improved speed and reliability. So far I like what I see.


They've been working quite hard on the rest of the site as well and already have a new Links list and a "Decent Pubs" map available from the front page.


It's been a month since I saw the Whites in action and I'm chomping at the bit to see some live football. January hasn't been kind, though we have at least successfully navigated two rounds of the F.A. Cup. Tricky game at Quiet Hart Lane tomorrow night then my tension can be relieved with the visit of Villa on Saturday.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reasons for loving Hodgson no. 624

Roy's been linked with the Liverpool job. This is happening more often of late. Mr Hodgson being linked with "bigger" jobs. Each time I see one mentioned it makes me both proud and fearful. I know he's happy doing the job he's doing, but you couldn't blame him if one day he decides he'd like one last shot in a major job. Then he goes and says something like this,

"It's nice I'm being linked here and there, but it's not something I was aware of. We all know it's part of football. We also know the sword has two sides. One minute the sword is tapping you on your shoulder and asking you to arise, the next thing it's being used to cut your head off."

and I can breath a little easier.

I've missed the football today. The last time I went was for the Spurs game on Boxing Day and the next time I'm going is January 30th for the Villa game. It's been too long already and there's another two weeks to go. Ho-hum. Back to my chore list I suppose.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Snow fun and heartfelt thanks

Hello again and a very Happy New Year to you all.

I had planned to write a review of 2009 but as yet I've not found the time to finish it off. As you can tell from the photo below I've had many important and pressing engagements to take care of!

However, I do have a little heart warming tale to tell. Cast your minds back to the home game against Man United. You're smiling already, I can tell. That was, for obvious reasons, a very happy day. I'd planned to drive that day, to give my Dad a break as he travels to mine from East Sussex, but for one reason or another I didn't. As I didn't need them to hand I'd casually chucked my keys in my coat pocket. A pocket with a zip that inexplicably I didn't use. We scored three goals. I jumped up and down like a loon three times. Unbeknown to me my keys fell out of pocket during one of these moments of ecstasy. I'm guessing it was following Damien Duff's match ending volley.

It wasn't until we arrived home that I realised my keys were no longer there. I searched my coat, I searched my jeans, I searched Dad's car. No keys. Anyone who has heard about my travails with my glasses will know this sort of thing happens to me more often than they should for a 40 year old father of two! I rang the club and got through to Tommy on the enquiries line. He was really helpful and checked straight away to find out if they'd been handed in before advising me to ring the security office directly the next day.

The security team do a number of sweeps through the ground following a game, but none of these discovered my keys. In the afternoon I rang again and spoke to Ricky, a different member of the security team. I described where I sit and mentioned the concrete ledge that runs along the edge of the stand. Within an hour he called me back to say he'd found them and I could collect them any time. A quick trip up to the Cottage and all was well with the world again.

Sometimes life throws these little things at you to trip you up. Sometimes they'll get you down or add a bit of stress you just didn't need. This wasn't one of those times. Lady luck was on my side. I was as happy on that Sunday afternoon as I have been for a very long time. My keys had been recovered and my team had beaten Man United 3-0.

So, not the most exciting story you've ever heard but if nothing else a chance for me to publicly thank Ricky and Tommy. It seems to me, as our "little" club has got better and bigger it's actually improved it's people skills. I think the club does a lot right - good prices, good people working for us, good business management. We're a Premier League side with a multi-million pound turnover yet we've retained the feeling of being a family club.

Thank-you Tommy. Thank-you Ricky. Thank-you Fulham.