As much as I’ve enjoyed hobnobbing with the stars over the last couple of days, it’s always good to keep your feet on the ground, your backside off the padded seat and speak to the common man. But as we’re playing Fulham this weekend that proved a bit hard. But in amongst the celebs and poshos we rejected was Gavin, a 41 year old Gemini and Fulham Season ticket holder of 26 years, we spied a chance to take advantage of his Twitter addiction and chucked some questions his way. This is what he said…
Wigan Athletic, what do you really think of us?
There’s an oft recycled quote from Al Fayed upon taking over Fulham back in 1997. In an over excited moment he claimed that he wanted to make Fulham the Manchester United of The South.
In similarly headline friendly language I would say Wigan are the Fulham of the North West, and our only true rival for the coveted “Most last games on Match Of The Day” award. Wigan, like Fulham seem to exist slightly off kilter to the rest of the clubs competing in the Sky Sports Greatest League In The World (™). Always ignored, often frustrating, occasionally marvellous but continually disappointing the majority of the media by finding ourselves in each new Fixture List when it’s published in June. How long that remains the case – for either club – depends entirely I think on the quality of managerial appointments.
Realistically, both sides are a Lawrie Sanchez away from oblivion, or a Roy Hodgson away from a top half finish…
However, if your question was more of a word association style challenge, then I’d go with The Wigan Casino, George Orwell, Ellery Hanley and Pies. In that order.
We won the battle for the Third Division back in 1997, but arguably you’ve won the war since then. What are your memories of that time?
That season was, with the exception of the Tigana masterminded promotion to the Premiership, my favourite as a Fulham supporter. Pre Al Fayed, pre hype, pre interest to anyone at all who wasn’t involved but all the better for it. Micky Adams took over from Ian Branfoot during the previous year and built a team based upon cast offs, journeymen and no hopers which surprised us all.
My over riding memory of that season was the game with the orange ball at Springfield Park – a one all draw in heavy snow (well, heavy for a Londoner) – where the result was secondary to the perfectly orchestrated team winding up of pantomime villain Graeme Jones – who fell for the bait and got himself sent off. Also memorable that day was my slide/tumble down the steps of the home stand when Fulham scored. Cover blown (The home seats were the only option available with a roof).
If anyone had said then that both sides would be going into this weekend’s game on the back of nearly twenty years of uninterrupted top flight football between them (and a European final) then I would have suggested they’d been in the same Vodka bar near Wigan station as us pre match.
Back when we were young nouveau riche upstarts, you had a proper minted owner who wasn’t afraid to get his wallet out. These days you look like the poorer (or at least more prudent) relations in West London. I suppose you’ve always had some rivalry with Chelsea and QPR, but how do you view your spendthrift cousins these days?
Firstly, everyone’s rich these days. Even Leicester. The idea of even trying to exist in the top two divisions necessitates a sugar daddy. The millions that used to buy dreams are now needed just to keep up with the Joneses…
Over the past few seasons – certainly post Lawrie Sanchez – Fulham have benefitted from a strong collection of players who bonded well as a squad. The advantage of having no stand out superstar players is that when players are injured or out of form the overall team isn’t hit particularly hard when the squad is rotated. As you point out though, this comfort zone could be the reason there is a perceived step backwards in investment over the last couple of seasons.
Big name signings like Berbatov and Dembele apart – recent sales have been replaced by free transfers, loans and kids. Whist the recruitment in the Academy looks promising – Fulham are currently Premier Academy League Champions at U18 Level – the first team average age is still creeping up and contracts are running out to the extent where half the side will need replacing in one hit this coming summer. The same summer as we intend to start increasing capacity at the Cottage by building a new stand. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the appetite is like for this challenge…
As for the neighbours – they both seem to have no issues chucking money around. Which is cause for much entertainment in SW6. Chelsea, having paid about a million billion pounds over the top for London’s first European Cup have followed it up with another multi-million pound recruitment campaign on the pitch and a “We want our Chelsea back” campaign off it. The inbreds from the bridge clearly didn’t check the small print on the contract when they sold their souls to the devil. It just doesn’t work like that. It’s amusing that the fans wanting their Chelsea “back” probably don’t even know who Kerry Dixon was so I guess they mean they want to go back to Day One in their own footballing timeline – the day the Ruud Gullit turned up, you know, when they had no money…
QPR meanwhile are doing a brilliant job illustrating how not to run a football club. At least Chelsea’s monthly payroll statement has entries for Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata. QPRs has Bosingwa, Rob Green, Ji Sung Park and Clint Hill. Obviously, the world’s most deluded club don’t see it like that, but that’s all part of the fun. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a dig at anyone for being a small club. I support Fulham remember. But the difference between the likes of Fulham and Wigan, and North Korea Rangers is that the first two clubs don’t actually think they are the biggest club in the world and the most loyal fans ever invented. Still, at least when they go bust in two years time the loyal hundreds can spend Saturdays in Ikea reliving beating both Fulham and Chelsea the year they went down…
Obviously, we’ve both got chairmen with big personalities who’ve spent a lot of cash on getting the clubs where they are, but does that give them free reign to do what they want? What do Fulham fans think about that statue? I heard Jacko was West Ham when he was younger.
Ok, let’s get it out of the way – that statue is an embarrassment. That said, I have never seen it. I can’t see it from my seat and I’m not going out of my way to have a look. It’s not like it’s outside the stadium (that’s for Johnny Haynes) but tucked away near the bins by the toilets. Boys toilets obviously, it’s what he would have wanted.
There’s an interesting story that when Mad Mo had the rush of blood and commissioned it the intended resting place was Harrods lobby. Then, Harrods got sold off and the lovely Mrs Fayed told him where to go if he thought he was going to put it in the hall
at home. So, by the bins it is… maybe it will get “lost” when the building work commences, you know what builders are like…
How do you see tomorrow’s game panning out?
Fulham to put in a disjointed and under whelming shift to claim a late 1-1 draw after being behind at half time. The goal will be deflected. Call me Mystic Meg – If you also want the lottery numbers they’ll be 8, 12, 21, 24, 35 and 40.
I’ve not been to Fulham for a good while, so I won’t pass comment on your pies, tell us what they’re like, do you partake and, if you do, what’s your favourite flavour and how do you go about eating it?
Sorry, don’t do Pies. Got me thinking though that has… last Pie I can recall eating at football was Beef & Onion and at Wealdstone when I was about 12. It was alright as it goes…a bit hot maybe…
Does anyone south of Warrington eat pies at the game anymore? I guess we’ll have to keep up the research. In the meantime join me in thanking Gavin for taking the time to answer our questions, if I’m not about after the game, it’s because his numbers came up. In the mean time, Gavin had nothing to plug, but as a treat for him (and for no tother reason than he told us who they were), here’s a track from one of his favourite bands, The Clientele
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