Les Strong has seen it all at Fulham. As a player, he made over 400 appearances after starting out as an apprentice when he was 16. He won promotion under Malcolm MacDonald, suffered relegation during Bobby Campbell’s tenure and tragically missed the FA Cup Final in 1975 through injury after performing heroically in the previous rounds to get us to Wembley. He is virtually a one-club man despite cameos for Brentford, Crystal Palace and Rochdale and there is no denying his love for the club.
Since retiring he has continued to support the club witnessing both the dark days and the incredible rise that has seen us experience the heights of the Premier League, a major European final and of course, winning at Wembley! So what better person to kick start our new Best XI feature than ‘the best right-footed left-back‘ in the club’s history…
Below, Les has picked what he considers to be the clubs greatest eleven in his lifetime.
Name: Les Strong
Position: Left Back
Appearances: 427 (1971-1983)
Criteria for Best XI: Greatest Fulham XI in Les Strong’s lifetime.
Manager: Alec Stock and Roy Hodgson.
This was a very difficult task as there are so many great players to choose from. I’ve selected players who loved the club and served us so well, you’d enjoy watching each and every one of them. I’m going for a 4-3-3 setup, each pick bar one is a full international.
I’ve tried to choose players who would mould into a team, so here goes…
Mark Schwarzer: Very imposing goalie and superb for us on route to the Europa League final, just gets the vote in front of the magnificent Tony Macedo.
Brede Hangeland: I had a wealth of centre half talent to choose from, but needed a centre half to compliment Booby Moore.
I’ve gone for Brede, he was aggressive but calm under pressure, won almost every heading duel and he too was magnificent in our European campaign.
Bobby Moore: Simply the best player I played with, World-class and read the game better than any defender in history.
Almost every pass found its target and he was rarely beaten, despite having little pace.
Jim Langley: Marauding left-back with great pace and an excellent defender. I wanted to pick myself but cede to Sandra Cole’s superior knowledge.
I’d been away for over 10 years in Anguilla & Philadelphia, on returning I called our former ticket office manager for some tickets and said to her:
“Hello Sandra, this is Fulham’s finest ever left-back” she replied in all seriousness, “Jim Langley, it’s lovely to hear from you.”
Good enough for me!
George Cohen: World cup winner and a superb full-back. One of the original overlapping full-backs, but excelled at defending. Very few wingers got the better of him. A Fulham living legend.
This was very difficult as I’m not sure the formation would work, but I’ve gone for far and away some of the best players ever to play for Fulham.
George Best: One of the greatest players ever to play football. A joy to play with and to watch him destroy defenders. Simply the best.
Johnny Haynes: The greatest player ever to play for Fulham. A perfectionist, he was the best passer of the ball in the world, had numerous offers from clubs around the world, but refused to leave Fulham. A true legend.
Alan Mullery (Captain): A born winner, he hated to lose. He was extremely aggressive, but very calm and would literally drag players through games, a magnificent captain who scored some wonderful goals.
Les Barrett: A magnificent winger, who would cross the ball at every opportunity, never look back or sideways, very fast and was magnificent in our FA Cup semi-final in 1975.
Capable of supplying multiple crosses a game. He got an under 21 cap for England and is the only player I’ve selected not to win a full international cap.
Graham Leggatt: Terrific winger who could also play as a centre forward, excellent goal scorer who averaged a goal every two games, very fast.
Gordon Davies: Our leading goal scorer in history, Ivor has to be in the team. Very much in the mould of Jimmy greaves, stroked, rather than blast the ball in the net.
Most of his goals were in and around the six-yard box.
Tony Macedo, Roy Bentley, Chris Coleman, Tony Gale, Ray Evans, Danny Murphy, Rodney Marsh, Clint Dempsey and Louis Saha.