Ah, Fulham and the World Cup. They go hand in hand, don’t they? Ok, perhaps not but I think we can all agree that those random World Cup moments that we never seem to forget are either linked to a miserable penalty shootout or a Fulham connection. The latter sometimes being so forgettable, that only a Fulham fan would care to remember it. Well, we at Focus Towers never switch our Focus completely off the Whites, not even during the summer months. So, get the barbie going, put out your St George Flags, sing for the Three Lions on your shirt or perhaps a Vindaloo. And always remember what John Barnes tells you…
“You’ve got to hold or give, Robson & the Maestro combine,
You can be slow or fast cos Zamora’s leading the line.
They’ll always kick you and hurt you, Zat Knight in defence, Allan Clarke in attack,
There’s only one way to beat them, Bobby Moore at the back.
Now catch Sessegnon if you can cos he’s a Fulham man,
And what you’re looking at is Hodgson’s master plan.
Don’t matter who we’re against, we’ll sing a Fulham song,
George Cohen in the team, England can’t go wrong!”
Here are a few moments that have stuck in the Focus Team’s memories…
England 1-0 Argentina, 1966 – Quarter-Final (Pete Grinham aka Spigs)
The quarter-final was a bad-tempered affair and Argentina had Antonio Rattin sent off. The Argentineans lost all control and tackles were flying in. At the end, George Cohen tried to engage in the traditional shirt swop with an Argentinean player. England Manager Sir Alf Ramsey was so incensed by the Argentineans’ behaviour that he stormed over to stop George swopping shirts by pulling the shirt out of the Argentinean player’s grasp, uttering that the Argentineans, were animals with the strong implication that they were not worthy of an England shirt.
England 4-2 (AET) West Germany, 1966 – Final (Pete Grinham aka Spigs)
My family, like many at the time, had not envisaged that England would get to the final, let alone win it. The summer was for holidays and our pre-planned 2-week family holiday commenced on 30th July 1966. Overseas travel was not an option in those days as money was in short supply with many folk, so our old Austin A35 set off for Caister Holiday Camp in Norfolk. However, father and son were not happy about not seeing the final on TV and so we set out very early, having established that the Holiday Camp had a black and white TV and the match was being shown in their ballroom.
My father had not envisaged traffic jams in Norfolk, especially when we still had about 3 miles to travel. The road could have, at a real pinch, taken 2 lines of traffic in each lane but… no… the good old British single file queue was the order of the day. The traffic was moving at snail’s pace with more stops than starts. At one point, my father got out of his car and looked along the pavement; my mother thought it was to see the length of the queue or what the holdup was…. but no. As the car ahead inched forward, he went up on to the pavement and drove along there for a while before coming back into the queue. I recall feeling excited whilst my mother was panic-stricken, but my father had been a bus driver and said he knew what he was doing. Luckily no pedestrians were around, as it was a country road! We got there about 2 minutes after kick-off and the rest, as they say, is history.
England 1-1 (AET) Germany, 1990 – Semi-Final (Dave Wilson)
Having won the group stage with 1 win and 2 draws England then went on to scrape past Belgium and Cameroon both after extra time, leading to a semi-final match versus Germany. This was played at Stadio Delle Alpi, Turin. We all know that England only win a World Cup with a Fulham player at fullback. While Paul Parker was with QPR then but was a product of the Fulham Youth team before progressing to the first team. His transfer to QPR was in the light of the Fulham Park Rangers debacle and the associated ownership issues.
Anyway, in the semi-final, Germany had a freekick just outside the England penalty box. The ball was played to Andreas Brehme who shot. The ball hit Parker who had sprinted out from the wall and looped high into the air in an arc over Peter Shilton and into the net. With around 10 minutes to go Gary Lineker equalised following a pass by Parker. The match ended 1-1 and the penalty shootout had the inevitable ending with Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missing.
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Spain, 2002 – Last 16 (Dannyboi)
My Fulham memory involves two Irish players Finnan & Duff, but it was more for Steve Finnan as he was our fullback at the time, hence the reason that this match has stuck in my head. Spain took an early lead through Fernando Morientes as the Spaniards controlled the first half as expected. Second half, the Irish who’d famously already lost their captain Roy Keane during the campaign after a bust-up with Mick Mccarthy, made a tactical change. Niall Quinn was introduced with Duff switching wings. The switch brought the Irish joy as Duff was brought down for a penalty. Ian Harte, usually reliable from the spot missed his kick and was eventually subbed off.
The match seemed to be getting away from the Irish and as fulltime approached, Hierro decided that he wasn’t willing to wait for the whistle before swapping shirts with Niall Quinn. The Spanish centre-half was man marking Quinn in the box for a set-piece and took pulling the shirt to an extreme, lifting the back of Quinn’s shirt over the striker’s face. Obviously, a penalty was awarded, and Robbie Keane delivered much to the jubilation of Ian Harte on the touchline.
The match eventually went to penalties after extra time, both sides doing everything they could to lose the shootout it seemed. Robbie Keane scored the Irish’ first but was followed by a hattrick of misses from Matt Holland, David Connolly & Kevin Kilbane. The Spanish not doing much better, scoring their first 2 and missing the next pair. The shootout stood at 2-1 to Spain with one penalty to go each. Expecting Duff, Quinn or 1 or 2 others to step forward, it was a proud moment to see Finnan take the long march from the halfway line and he confidently side-footed the ball into the top corner, it was perfection on the biggest stage under the most intense pressure. Sadly, Mendieta also slotted home to put Spain into the Quarter-Finals but having been too young to have seen the likes of Johnny Haynes and George Cohen in World Cups, having come from an era where my first experiences of Fulham were in the bottom Division, to see a Fulham player score at a World Cup was very memorable even if it wasn’t for England.
Italy 1-1 USA, 2006 – Group Stage (Dean Rosier)
My favourite world cup moment involving a Fulham player has to be Mcbride against De Rossi in the 2006 World Cup.
Brian Mcbride never hid away from a challenge and was always willing to put his head on the line in aerial duels. Unfortunately, Danielle Di Rossi took advantage of this determination, when Mcbride was representing the US in the 2006 world cup, planting a deliberate elbow on McBride’s face. What followed was a red card for Di Rossi, and one of the most famous images of Mcbride with blood running down his face, but it was the actions of Mcbride that really stood out, did he run off the pitch or roll around 15 times in an audition for the US Gymnastics team? No, he simply stood there and encouraged the national doctors to bandage him up as quick as possible.
What a hero!
England 1-1 USA, 2010 – Group Stage (Ben Robinson)
My best memory of a Fulham player in the World Cup is one of the most recent. In the year 2010, in South Africa, England were taking on the USA. England took an early lead and as the USA looked to find a way back into the game, the ball came to Clint Dempsey in midfield. Dempsey easily turned Gerrard and was left free to shoot from 25 yards out, luckily for England it was straight down the keeper’s throat, but then the unthinkable happened. Green went onto one knee to gather the ball and somehow managed to spill it behind himself, he collapsed to the floor as he tried to claw the ball back, but it was too late. Clint wheeled away in celebration and England’s World Cup never recovered.
England 1-1 Italy, 2014 – Group Stage (Cameron Ramsey)
Now, Roy Hodgson may not have been manager at Fulham at the time, of course, but whilst the wily old former Whites boss was straining his hardest to shepherd a rather disinterested England squad past the group stages of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, who could ever forget the freak injury which Gary Lewin, the ‘Three Lions’ physio, sustained on the touchline as he jubilantly, and indeed perilously, celebrated Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser against Italy.
With many of us at home wincing at the sheer sight of his crumbling, and admittedly hollering with a substantial bout of schadenfreude, the extent of Lewin’s injuries was horrific. Synthetic turf is practical for many things, but often traction under foot is lacking opposed to actual, natural grass and will forever play culprit to the then 50-year-old’s dislocated left ankle, fractured fibula and ruptured ligaments. Bet we all feel pretty guilty for laughing now, don’t we?
Never by my recollection has a man of professional medical expertise been stretchered out of proceedings following a Sturridge stab at the back post, but then again, the prospect of the forgotten Liverpool striker netting anytime soon would send us all into at least a violent cardiac arrest. So evidently, Lewin’s nasty fall, which left us all baffled, seems drastically innocuous in comparison. Walk it off, lad.
England 1-1 Costa Rica, 2014 – Group Stage (John Clarke)
Whether you loved him or hated him (and most were in the latter camp) all would agree Ruiz’s career at Fulham was a major disappointment. He was the marquee signing of the Martin Jol era, having no doubt impressed the Dutchman in his spell with FC Twente. However, he struggled to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League despite possessing some exquisite touches.
By the 2013-14 season, Jol had decided that having Dimitar Berbatov, Darren Bent, Adel Taarabt and Ruiz in the same squad was a good idea. One luxury player in an ageing squad might have been alright but there was no way we could accommodate them all. With Jol gone and the club in the midst of a relegation battle, Ruiz was shipped back to Holland on loan in January. It did nothing to save us as Felix Magath rode into town and steered us headlong through the trapdoor.
Despite his failure to set SW6 alight Ruiz was still a fixture in the Costa Rica side that had been drawn in the so-called Group of Death with Roy Hodgson’s England in that summer’s World Cup. His Costa Rican side were considered makeweights alongside England, Italy and Uruguay but they comfortably dispatched Uruguay in the first game while Italy did for us. After Suarez had seen us off in the second game England needed a mathematical miracle to qualify. Ruiz put paid to any hope with the winner against Italy as the so-called minnows topped the group. To be fair Ruiz looked a lot more comfortable in his National side who clearly knew how to utilise his talent. They made it through to the last eight where they were only defeated by Holland on penalties.
I assumed we’d seen the last of him in a Fulham shirt and that we’d sell him in the summer as he entered the last year of his contract. However, no move transpired and when Magath was dispensed with Kit Symons immediately restored Ruiz to the side. With Parker and a precocious Lasse Vigge Christensen doing the donkey work in midfield it freed him up to make the most of his talent. He delivered his best season for Fulham with some delightful assists and a memorable last-minute winner against Reading helping ensure we didn’t suffer successive relegations.
He departed for Sporting Lisbon that summer and remains a fixture in a Costa Rican side that has once again qualified for the World Cup Finals.