Interview: Martin Plumb

Credit: @cultzeros via Twitter

Martin Plumb is the author of a series of Fulham hardback books and scrapbooks giving a detailed account of the clubs history. Daniel Smith spoke to Martin to learn more about the books and to hear Martin’s story following Fulham…

DS – Hi Martin, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. It’s always brilliant to speak to Fulham fans at the best of times, but it’s a pleasure speaking with someone who’s dedicated so much time to writing books for Fulham.

Before we get onto the books and the Ashwater Press. Please tell us how it all began for you as a Fulham supporter?

MP – 4 ways: 1) we beat Ipswich 10-1 in Dec 63, 2) I was then given a Fulham v Cardiff programme by a City supporter, whose team had been relegated, and it gave me my first view of the Cottage. 3) There were also friends in the road who were Fulham supporters who promoted the club. One family were the Glovers, whose son Allan went on to play for QPR and WBA. 4) Finally, our family didn’t have a car, a school friend offered to take me to a match with his Dad. Once inside the Putney End in 1964 with views of the Thames, Cottage and the cranes behind the Hammersmith end, I was hooked, even though I’d been to White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge previously.

DS You’ve seen many players over the years, if pushed to create your favourite eleven, who would make up your team?

MP – It’s very difficult over 55 years. If I’m allowed 5 subs and working on pure class, ability and character:

Mark Schwarzer, George Cohen, Tony Gale, Chris Coleman. Jim Langley, Alan Mullery, Gordon Davies, Ray Houghton, Allan Clarke, Johnny Haynes, Graham Leggat.

Subs: Paul Parker, Simon Morgan, Steve Earle, Les Barrett and Louis Saha.

DS – Fulham has always been a special club but having taken a look at your work, you seem very much for our wonderful history. Do you feel the club has lost its Fulhamishness and if so, what would you change to improve it?

MP –How long have you got? It’s not just Fulham it’s all of football, it’s a mediafest, with a lot of it style over substance. Football used to be ‘theatre’, but we’ve lost that and gained a circus. When football became just about money, it lost its soul. It should be about communities and people, but it isn’t any more. In the past we mattered to the club and importantly our money mattered too. Now we are a distant fourth behind television, oligarch benefactor owners and sponsorship. We are just the grunts that turn up in all weathers and provide the atmosphere. In the Sixties you walked to the ground with the players, and they turned up to all the functions and sang along. Now we’ve elevated players to demi-god status in a protected bubble. It won’t change until the bubble bursts – which it will. Our club isn’t too bad, but it will never be that homely close-knit family club of fifty years ago. It’s a business and a ‘brand’ now rather than a sport which is a shame. However, I still love ‘the beautiful game’ but feel saturated and drowned with the coverage, it’s all day, every day. As they might say in Wayne’s World, I’m partied-out on football.”

DS Explain what the Ashwater Press is for us please?

MP -Easy, It’s Ken Coton’s enterprise. Fulham were never the most innovative of clubs, but were one of the first to have an official photographer. Ken has been taking Fulham pictures by the pitch on and off for over forty years. Nearly all great moments were always captured. He started producing books in 1992, and I joined him in 2004 to augment that. I like to think I’ve added value to the dimension and style of his great work. Ashwater is named after a small village in Devon. We sell all over the world including the USA, Australia and most countries in the EU.

DS What made you decide to start writing the books?

MP – I was recovering from an operation in 2004 with time to kill, so just started jotting down notes and memories from when I started attending and it just grew. I was surprised that most of what I recalled was factually correct. The ‘Riverbank’ series was born.

DS – As mentioned above, there’s more than one book. Are they all similar, do they focus on different eras etc. What makes each book different?

MP – It’s a mix of everything; eras: Riverbank, Micky Adams, events: Cup Final, players: Haynes, stats: Strikers, images: Golden Years, Fulham photos, general memorabilia: scrapbooks etc. We take great care not to replicate things and try to keep it fresh. There’s always something to write about.

DS – Are there anymore in the pipeline?

MP – We hope to meet with Fulham FC soon to discuss a book for this year, more news soon. Also look out for our next book, Lost League Football Grounds which we were commissioned to write by another publisher, it contains quite a few Fulham pics! We’ve just completed a second book for David Hamilton, The Golden Days of Radio One and we are just diversifying and producing a book for the life of a ‘roadie’ who was with Suzi Quatro, Gary Numan and Hot Chocolate. I should be enjoying a leisurely retirement, but I’m not!

DS – Did anyone inspire you to become an author?

MP – Well, I would like to say I don’t truly consider myself an author, it’s a hobby. My main careers were IT, rock music, teaching and accountancy. I just try and put something together that’s interesting, supporter-orientated and readable. But with 20,000 sales since 2004, we must be doing something right.

DS How much work is required in producing one of the books?

MP – I assume you mean outside the selling, marketing and posting! It can vary. Being a part-time hobby, I don’t do it 8 hours a day. A simple book can be 2-3 months each for Ken and myself [ie 4 – 6 man months], a heavy, complicated tome with lots of research can be 12-15 man months each.

DS – I’m sure there will be fans thinking the same as me reading this, I want to start buying your Fulham scrapbooks. Where’s the best place to purchase them?

MP – There is a website which tells you on the left-hand menu about us and our history and a right-hand menu about our books, present and past – there is an e-mail and phone contact. Over the years our mailing list has contained over 4,500 different customers. Some of our books are on sale in the club shop. Thankfully most of our books sell out completely and we only have a few copies left of old stock. In fact it’s gratifying that we still get orders for books that we produced in 2004!

DS – Is there a way the readers can contact you about your books or a twitter/ facebook page to follow for updates on new content you produce?

MP – We have a Twitter account @Ashwaterpress. There isn’t a Facebook page. We don’t use Facebook and use Twitter only sparingly as we don’t have daily or regular news / updates, we just use Twitter for notifications of new books.

DS What’s been your favourite match as a supporter?

MP – Easy. Fulham 2 Liverpool 0 Feb 1966. Liverpool were a great team, champions elect and running away with the league. We were rock bottom and almost certainties for relegation. We out-fought and outplayed them that day in a fiery match and deserved to win. It was a platform that saw us lose only 2 of the final 13 games and we hauled ourselves to safety —-just.

DS How about your favourite goal?

MP – Must be Viv Busby’s solo goal against Cardiff in August 1974, when he beat about five defenders and the goalkeeper in a mazy run down the wing from the halfway line to slam one in at the Putney End, we won 4-0. Mitch’s goal in the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough comes a close second however.

DS Do you still go to games?

MP – Yes, but fewer. I had a few health issues including heart and family bereavements and issues, which knocked me back a bit. Hopefully next season, I’ll go more often. If I’m there or not, I’m still on edge when there’s a game on, still get elated when we win and hacked off when we lose. That bond never diminishes.

DS – What would you say to supporters between the ages of mid-teens to early 30s [for the record not all, just some] who have no interest in Fulham players and history from the 50s, 60s, 70s etc and are only concerned about tomorrow?

MP – I suppose when I was a teenager, I was only interested in the present and 5 years ago, but from 1910 – 1950 we had bumped around pretty uneventfully in the Second and Third Divisions, from 1960 it’s been a roller-coaster really, never really stabilizing, with some highs and numerous lows. Apart from say two famous clubs Wolves and Blackpool, I don’t think anyone has experienced the traumas we’ve had. So much went on and there were financial survival issues in the late Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. The supporters today need to know how lucky they are to still have Fulham FC and Craven Cottage to visit – even if we lose, Fulham FC could have easily gone out of existence. That’s why the Riverbank book series is so important.

DS – If you could change one result or moment in Fulham’s history, what would it be and why?

MP – Easy, at Derby the final day of 1983, it’s scarred on all supporters’ minds. A terrible atmosphere, players and supporters assaulted, the crowd encroaching on the pitch, actually kicking the ball and our players well before the end of the game. The referee bottled it and blew for full time very early, well before 90 mins; with the crowd invasion, goodness knows how much additional time SHOULD have been played. It should have been abandoned on safety grounds. It could have been replayed, it would not have set a precedent. We lost 0-1 but with the various combinations of other results, Leicester were promoted instead of us back to the First Division and Derby were safe from relegation. The FA then totally bottled the aftermath and chaos refusing to undo the various results [too hard]. We didn’t protest hard enough and stayed down. Tragically, we lost impetus after that and it heralded 15 years of decline and decay that should never have been.

DS – Where do you see Fulham in 3 years from now?

MP – Tough one, Jok has proved himself a good coach and with an average / good squad took us to the brink of the Premiership. I’ve seen nothing but easy words from Mr Khan, and a number of wasted transfer windows. You don’t need to spend £20m to get a decent player. He has more wealth than MAF, who invested heavily immediately. This summer was Mr Khan’s opportunity to reward the hard work being done and the progress being made, but so far ……. This is year 4 now, time enough to signal any intent; the answer to your question, mid-table apathy in the second tier, unless there is a management change.

DS Finally, pie or pasty – Which filling?

MP – I’ll duck it with a ‘violin’ answer, as a kid of the Fifties, food was scarce, you ate anything! So if it’s hot, tasty and fills a gap – I’ll eat it!