Keeping it in Focus

In the midst of a relegation battle, I think we could all do with some light relief to ease some of the stress and tension we’re experiencing as we fret about our survival prospects…

I’d therefore like to relate a tale of a very good friend’s reactions to my Fulham related posts on Twitter. To give you an indication of where I’m going with this I should immediately tell you my friend is not a football fan. This puts her in a very good position to put our current angst into perspective, which it’s fair to say is a scarce commodity when football is discussed on social media. However, before I get to the crux of the matter I should give you some background.

Fulham Focus first surfaced in November 2017 and if you are reading this then it would suggest you are familiar with the website and the methods of navigating your way there via social media. I did consider myself something of an IT dinosaur until a few years ago but now, although far from an expert, have moved with tentative steps into the modern age. I have my children to thank for the majority of my progress. They are now all in their late 20’s/early 30’s so grew up with modern technology and were probably amongst the first generation of teenagers to get mobile phones. They weren’t impressed with my initial forays into the phenomenon as I originally only felt compelled to get one in case of emergencies; for instance, if I broke down in my car. Consequently, I was generally too afraid to even turn it on in case it was drained of battery for when I really needed it. Alexander Graham Bell would surely have been turning in his grave at the thought. His invention had now turned mobile yet rather than using it as a means of staying in contact with my nearest and dearest it was lying dead as a dodo. If you wanted to get hold of me in a hurry you’d have been quicker to write me a letter.

In my defence, I’d suggest many of my generation are much the same. I left school in 1978 to embark on a career as a Customs Officer when email, mobile phones and the internet were still some way off. It wasn’t quite the age of the quill pen but carbon paper was still in regular use while Tippex correcting fluid was considered cutting edge technology. Incidentally, if you’re interested in the work I got up to behind the scenes at Gatwick Airport then please get a copy of my book Time to Declare. As you might expect Fulham do get the odd mention and it’s laced with the sense of humour necessary to survive decades on the Craven Cottage terraces – it’s available through Ashwater Press or directly via

Having got that shameless plug out of the way I’ll get back to the story. As technology developed a lot of the old school paperwork was now done on a computer instead. For my job, it meant we recorded seizures electronically and typed up offence reports and witness statements ourselves instead of handwriting them and sending them to the by now-defunct typing pool. The sad demise of shorthand typing as a career did at least force me to become more aware of IT’s possibilities and the beautiful simplicity of the Word document. This was handy as around the turn of the Millennium I was fortunate enough to meet David Lloyd at a fan’s open day at Motspur Park. David had been editing the wonderful fanzine There’s Only One F in Fulham for a number of years by then and had published a couple of my letters previously. As we got to talking he said he’d be pleased to publish any future pieces I’d like to write. I took him at his word and from then on penned a piece for each edition and before long was being credited as one of TOOFIF’s ‘Regular Contributors’. It was a long and happy association for me although I’m not sure if the readership got as much pleasure from some of my drivel. The advent of email and the purchase of our own PC at home meant it was easy to type a missive on a Word document and email it directly to TOOFIF Towers. This was especially handy if David was close to a print deadline.
David celebrated TOOFIF’s 30th anniversary with a wonderful commemorative book a while or so back and it’s a tribute to the fanzine’s longevity that it has retained its relevance as the internet and the immediacy of social media has developed. The lockdown and the lack of fans at the Cottage has coincided with a hiatus for the fanzine and it will be for David to decide if the printed medium makes a comeback. Into the breach have come a number of fan websites that deliver a wide range of informative content. As I said Fulham Focus came on the scene in 2017 and I was fortunate enough to be approached by founder Daniel Smith who wondered if I’d like to join the team. He was aware of me via my TOOFIF contributions yet mysteriously thought I might still have something to offer his new creation. Since then I’ve been very happy to provide the site with some regular content. Most stuff I write relates to our long and illustrious history which is probably on the basis I’ve been around for a fair percentage of Fulham’s existence. The privileges of age have to count for something surely?

One of the main differences between writing for TOOFIF and Fulham Focus is the exposure the content gets. To find out what was contained in TOOFIF would necessitate actually purchasing a copy of the magazine. I know some fans subscribed from afar, but most copies would be sold to fans actually attending home games. With just 5 or 6 issues a season quite some time might elapse between you offering an opinion on something and anybody actually reading it. Quite often events might have overtaken the point you were making in the interim anyway. As a result, you seldom got much feedback on what you’d written. David might occasionally publish a letter or two in response to some of the articles but that’s as far as it went.

Writing for a website is a completely different experience. Danny and the young guns at Fulham Focus are very tech-savvy and put any content the team produce on a number of media platforms. You can therefore access our stuff on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and through the Fulham Focus website itself. That means that as soon as your content is posted reaction is immediate which can be both a good and bad thing. Most of the stuff I write isn’t exactly controversial, so the reaction is generally positive and often promotes good healthy discussion. Negative feedback doesn’t bother a thick-skinned soul like me too much as I feel if you’re going to express a view in public then that goes with the territory. The line should be drawn though at the abuse that too many users of social media think is acceptable.

The other main difference is that writing for Fulham Focus has the potential to expose you to a wider audience. I knew my TOOFIF scribblings would only be read by actual Fulham supporters. However, anybody that follows me on Twitter has the potential to discover my opinions on the current state of affairs in SW6 as was pointed out to me by my friend the other day. She is an old colleague of mine from my airport days and if you are familiar with Peter Kay’s wonderful comedy Car Share that will give you some idea of the nature of our relationship. We were on the same team for many years and as we live close to each other on the South Coast shared travel to work. This gave me ample opportunity to bore her witless about the travails of Fulham Football Club and over time she acquired not only knowledge of the game but also quite a shrewd take on affairs. She was particularly perceptive about the National Team. As her husband is Scottish I regularly put those little England flags on my wing mirrors whenever a major tournament was on; as much to wind him up whenever my car was parked outside their house as to demonstrate my support for the Three Lions. It’s fair to say he got his own back by appending Scottish regalia to my vehicle in the most peculiar locations, but it was my friend who summed the situation up best.

Her view was that Scotland had it sussed by not even bothering to qualify. She told me that, as usual, I would get all excited about England’s chances when I should know that it would all end in tears with a group stage exit or at best a loss on penalties just when our hopes were highest. If I had only bothered to take her wisdom on board I could have assuaged my disappointment at another England failure by cleaning up at the bookies. She was offering much the same advice to me about Fulham just the other day. The conservation went like this:

‘Every time you have a lot of Fulham Twitter activity, they ask me if I want to start following Fulham’.

Me: ‘Why haven’t you? Don’t feel obliged to give a truthful answer’.

‘I don’t need to as I see all your crap (let me down gently I thought). If I was going to be a football fan I’d choose a successful team. All this up one year down the next is irritating’.

She was now in her stride: ‘You all spout the same crap when they’re at the bottom – keep believing they can do it etc etc. Then the next year when they’re at the top of the lower one you get all excited. Then it all repeats’.

I had to laugh. Fifty odd years of supporting Fulham had been summed up in a nutshell. It also neatly puts football into perspective. Of course, I’m as desperate as the next fan for us to stay up but if we don’t then as my friend said I can get all excited next year. It’s a veritable win-win scenario.

Keep the faith my friends and Up the Fulham!