Loyalty and longevity are not common traits associated with the modern day footballer. Tom Cairney and Tim Ream are into their 8th year at the club with Neeskens Kebano not far behind. That got us wondering if any of them might make it to 10 years service, which in the old days would result in a player being given a Testimonial match. It also made us ponder who was the last Fulham player to be so honoured and of course we recalled immediately it was our player of the 90’s, the one and only Simon Morgan…
The second half of the 1980’s had been an awful time for the club after we had come so close to a return to the First Division in 1983. Soon after Ernie Clay pulled his financial backing which led to the wholesale departure of our best players and then worse, the sale of the club and the freehold of the ground to Marler Estates. Jimmy Hill formed a consortium that gave us a stay of execution before, some time later, coming to a controversial agreement that gave us some money in return for agreeing to drop our support for a Council CPO of the ground. Hill’s argument was that as we might lose our home anyway it would be better to get some compensation. Fortunately the subsequent collapse of the property market and the construction company’s demise stopped that deal from coming to fruition and in 1997 Mohamed Al Fayed’s purchase of the club finally secured our future at Craven Cottage.
The upside of Hill’s deal was that it did indeed give the club a little money to invest in some greatly needed reinforcements to our much depleted squad. We had been treading water in Division Three after relegation in 1986 and, although we did make the play-offs in 1989, by the following season we were engaged in a battle to stay up which we only just managed by a narrow margin. This was the backdrop to Simon Morgan’s arrival at the club in October 1990 when once again we found ourselves at the wrong end of the league table. The transfer fee we paid Leicester City was stated to be £102,000, which was a staggering amount for us at that time especially coming after a similar fee had just been paid to West Brom for Stacey North.
Morgs was a talented youngster who had won under 21 caps for England. He’d lost his way a bit at Leicester but it was still something of a coup for a struggling third division club like us to sign him. He must’ve wondered what he’d let himself in for though as his debut at Stoke ended in a 2-1 defeat. A season of struggle followed, which we only just survived owing to the fact that reorganisation meant three teams went down rather than the usual four.
Two reasonable campaigns followed but in 1993-94 he was devastated as we were relegated on the last day of the season at Swansea, with Simon feeling special responsibility as club captain. Further depths were plumbed before Morgs got redemption, skippering Micky Adams’ team to promotion in 1997. Simon’s book, ‘On Song for Promotion’, is a fabulous tale of that wonderful season and echoed the humour regularly seen in his programme columns.
Although Morgan had been signed as a defender, as his Fulham career progressed he was used primarily in midfield where his swashbuckling and combative style was of most use in the muck and bullets football of the lower divisions. Simon had a little bit of everything in his game. He was calm in possession, excellent in the air and also had a handy goalscoring knack for a primarily defensive player. His best season in that regard was 1994-95 when he contributed 11 but he also chipped in with a very handy 8 goals in that Adams promotion campaign.
When the cash was splashed the following year, after Al Fayed’s takeover, Adams and most of the team were jettisoned but Morgan kept his place, demonstrating the quality that proved he should have been playing his career at a much higher level. In 1998/99 he formed a defensive triumvirate with Chris Coleman and Kit Symons that was the bedrock of a side that took the Second Division by storm. The icing on the cake for Morgan was the giant killing of Aston Villa, on their own patch, in the FA Cup. As a boyhood Birmingham fan Morgs took great delight that day, especially as he notched the opening goal.
Simon remained a regular in the Championship and had a richly deserved testimonial in August 2000 against Spurs. However, a long term injury meant he missed virtually the whole of his last season at the club; the triumphant march to the Premier league under Jean Tigana. The Frenchman rewarded Morgs with a cameo substitute appearance in the last home game with Wolves and he was awarded man of the match for his few minutes on the park. A fitting finale for a player who epitomised the club for the entire decade. I’ve no doubt, if he’d been fit that season, Tigana would have put his talents to use and if he’d been a trifle younger might’ve been retained for our tilt at the Premier League.
Instead, Micky Adams got Morgs to rejoin him at Brighton and although Adams left the club in October 2001, Simon remained a mainstay of a team that went on to win the Second Division (now League One) title. It was a good way for him to end his playing career and since then Simon has remained in the game in community and administrative roles at both Fulham and the Premier League.
However, he will always be remembered best for his decade playing for Fulham when Captain Morgan was truly an inspiration and an undoubted hero of ours. A true Fulham legend.