Monday Musings: Lunch with a Fulham fan
Monday, 21st Dec 2009 12:54 by Paul Redfern
On Sunday I had lunch with some wonderful friends, one of whom is a Fulham fan. We always have this incredible banter – you know, the sort that goes on between fans who are also friends. It is great fun and we both enjoy rubbishing each other’s teams.
For me, Fulham have always been a bit of a joke club, when I was growing up, they were the team that were always certs to be relegated from the old Division 1 and somehow escaped year after year until one year they slipped down.
They also had a comedian for a Chair, yes, I know a lot of chairmen are comedians but this was a real-life one – Tommy Trinder. Fulham also always attracted the celebs who flocked to see (and drink) with the likes of Bobby Moore and George Best in the twilight of their careers.
Once I was watching Fulham v Derby and suddenly amidst the polite cucumber sandwich type of silence up popped Keith Allen bawling lustily loud encouragement – with mobile phone to his ear. Ah bless!
And then there was that day when we played them in the FA Cup and our Barmy Army out-shouted, out-sang and out-swore the genteel Cottagers, so much so that Van Der Sar clapped us at the end (real class – that) and Coleman was moved to comment on our support.
Plus they’ve never won anything, have they – while we’ve won the FA Cup and the Championship (pre-Premiership) twice. So we’ve got some real history and they haven’t. And they nearly went out of the League until Micky Adams saved them.
Like many fans I suspect, I have this in-my-head hierarchy which tells me we’re above them. We’re bigger and better than them just like we’re above the likes of Wigan, Bolton, Blackburn, and of course, Forest. Yes, I know Nottingham got onto the World Cup list but to me, Forest are a small club in a big city which is why the FA want a new stadium.
Of course, my mental hierarchy doesn’t correspond to reality – it’s just how I see things if we did punch our proper weight. And I suspect a lot of fans would see it in the same way – we’re above Fulham in the pecking order.
But Fulham are where we are supposed to be – in Europe, playing the likes of Shaktar and then maybe Juventus. They also have a tight compact squad, playing good football, fantastic training facilities and they have great community relations (they even have two Fulham Deaf teams as well as the Ladies).
So what are they doing right and we’re not?
Well, for starters, they’ve got this chairman – no longer a comedian, but certainly a joke in many people’s eyes. But he’s rich, and he’s stayed around. For all his eccentricities, and his rants against the establishment, he’s been startling loyal to Fulham and so there’s been this kind of stability for ten years that’s enabled them to adapt and change in a climate of uncertainty.
They’ve also been fairly moderate in their treatment of managers – Coleman couldn’t quite move them onto the next level, and so Sanchez was brought in, but he was a bit of a disaster, and here they are now with Roy Hodgson.
So from being a bit of a joke club, they are now becoming a serious club. None of the big clubs now see them as a cast-iron guaranteed three points in the chase for the Premiership. And SAF’s team got turned over at the weekend – joy, oh joy!
And I suppose that in a way is comforting. We (Derby) are going down a similar path. GSE show no signs of budging from the Boardroom, and Clough seems to be very much here for the long haul. And certainly, from my perception, we’ve stopped being a joke team. BD’s rants and PJ’s mood-shifts were embarrassing.
Clough has slowly created a tighter ship, one that works for each other. And he goes about his business seriously and sensibly, just as the Board do. It’s a bad time globally and some clubs have fans waking up wondering if they’ve still got a club to support – West Ham? Liverpool? Watford? That possibility looks remote with the present Board.
The truth is we’ve been very badly managed over the years – not just by managers but also by successive Boards. We’ve spent money that’s not ours, some have apparently stolen money that’s not theirs. We’ve certainly wasted money on overachievers who underperform. We’ve also sacked managers who didn’t deserve their P45.
So it’s no wonder we are where we are and not where Fulham are – which is where we should be. And it’s going to take a few years - hopefully not as long as it took Fulham to get back into the top flight (33 years).
Back to the Sunday lunchtime banter – we had a great time as usual, but I couldn’t stop envying him. It should be our white shirts in Europe, not theirs. But fair play - they’re a model lesson on how to manage a football club properly.
For David, and all real lovers of football everywhere.
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