Where’s Ara?! Ara Bedrossian became a cult hero with the Fulham faithful during the Nineties and there was even a fanzine sold on matchdays dedicated to the Cypriot midfielder. Focus’ Daniel Smith caught up with Ara to reflect on his experience of playing for the club…
DS – Which football team did you support growing up?
AB – I supported Liverpool growing up and still am a supporter.
DS – You joined Fulham in March 1993 when Don Mackay was Manager following a spell at QPR, although you didn’t play for their first team. How did the move to Fulham come about?
AB – Ray Lewington and Ray Wilkins were friends from their Chelsea days. Ray Wilkins mentioned to Lewington about me and that was it. I came training the next day and they signed me up.
DS – You were only with the club until the end of the season and then you returned for a second spell in October of that year. Why did you return to the club so soon after leaving?
AB – I went to Birmingham City and then to Middlesbrough during that summer. Then one night during my stay at the Boro, Ray Lewington called me and asked if I wanted to return so of course I said yes.
DS – Were you aware there was a fanzine named after you called “Where’s Ara?” which ran for a few issues? If so, what did you think of it?
AB – During my first spell at Fulham I became very close to the supporters. They were just amazing with me and a few of the boys whom I became good friends with on my return showed me the fanzine. I loved it, it meant so much to me that they would call the fanzine after me.
DS – We were relegated at the end of that season away at Swansea. What do you recall about the trip back with the players?
AB – I don’t remember much on the coach back to London after the Swansea game. The one thing I know is that if we had stayed up, Ray Lewington was going to be our full time manager and I always admired him as a coach and as a person. I was feeling very sad of course that we didn’t win and you just want the new season to start ASAP in that situation so you can try and remedy things.
DS – Do you remember much about your goal and how it felt to score for the club?
AB – I loved every game I played for Fulham, putting on the shirt meant so much to me but the game that obviously I remember the most was the game I scored my only goal against Blackpool. I had gone seven games in a row hitting the posts and cross bar and I thought that I was never going to score. So, you can imagine what a relief it was for me to score. It felt so good! I was looking for my Dad in the stands and I went over to Gary Brazil to thank him for the cross. I always enjoyed playing against Blackpool.
DS – Who was the best player that you played with at Fulham and why?
AB – Many players stick in my mind; Gary Brazil, Simon Morgan, Julian Hails and Sean Farrell spring to mind. Plus, many, many more of course but Robbie Herrera was probably the best player I played with. Obviously during our time at QPR I realized how good of a player he was before he came to the Cottage, and he became a cult hero of course.
DS – What was your relationship like with Don Mackay and Ian Branfoot as your managers?
AB – Don Mackey was never appreciative of me. I’ll never forget when my first spell at Fulham ended and it was the last game of the season at the Cottage. After the game the supporters lifted me up on their shoulders and he was pulling my shirt trying to get me down off of them, I’ll never know why.
As for Ian Branfoot, he just wanted to offload me from the beginning instead of helping to develop my game. I always remember coaches who helped me and got the best out of me and unfortunately Ian Branfoot wasn’t one of those. Ray Lewington, on the other hand, was a masterclass. I never wanted to leave the training pitch. I was very sad when he parted from Fulham.
DS – Who were your closest mates at the club?
AB – My best mates at the club were Julian Hails and Junior Lewis, both top players, and of course Robbie Herrera.
DS – You left the club in April 1995 – how different was the running of the club with Ian Branfoot in charge and Micky Adams running the reserve team?
AB – When I left Fulham, Ian Branfoot’s number two was a guy called Les. Micky Adams was a player at that time but he was always in Branfoot’s office, obviously because of their relationship from Southampton. Micky was a lovely guy though. It was actually Terry Hurlock who really kept me on my toes and my confidence at a high.
DS – Did you envisage Micky Adams going onto become the Fulham legend that he did as manager?
AB – I was so happy for Micky, he really is a players’ manager. He deserved every success he got with Fulham. I was delighted for him, a true legend.
DS – After leaving Fulham, there’s not much info on the rest of your career. Can you give us some insight into the rest of your journey as a footballer?
AB – After leaving Fulham I came back to Cyprus and back to Apoel. I finished my career off here in Cyprus playing for various teams.
DS – Have you been back to the Cottage since you left the club?
AB – It’s changed a lot since then! I was invited back to Fulham during the 2013/2014 season at the Cottage against Arsenal. Funny enough I was working for Arsenal at that time as their technical director for south east Europe and as a scout. I still can’t believe that people recognized me at the match. It was such an amazing day and one I will never forget.
DS – What are you up to now?
AB – For the last 3 years I have been the head coach of Liverpool FC International Academy Cyprus. I oversee all the coaching staff and programs that we deliver to the players across our venues. I really enjoy working with the team back in Liverpool to ensure the children are experiencing an authentic LFC program. There’s never a quiet day, but I love it!
DS – What’s it like working for the club you support?
AB – It’s great. I love representing LFC and teaching children to play the Liverpool way everyday. It’s an honour. I’ve had some fantastic trips back to Liverpool, to the Academy and to Anfield. Really special memories.
DS – Finally Ara, pie or pasty – which filling?
AB – Always pies. Chicken and mushroom filling.