With so many ups and downs over the years, every Fulham supporter could write a book and that’s exactly what Roland Jaquarello has done. ‘Being Fulham’ is a book based on the unforgettable 2016/17 season where Fulham played some of the most breathe taking football most fans have ever experienced by the Whites. We all know how that season ends unfortunately and Dannyboi spoke to Roland on behalf of Fulham Focus to relive the highs and lows of that season…
DB – First of all how did you become a Fulham supporter?
RJ – In the 50s (yes it was that long ago!) I was an autograph hunter. In those days you could easily go to any league game. You just queued and paid at the gate. So even as a youngster, I saw quite a few London games. However, as an 11-year-old, my autograph travels brought me in contact with Johnny Haynes, which led me to an eccentric ‘Fulhamish’ experience that made me a Fulham FC fan for life!
DB – You must have seen enough of Fulham to write a book which you have lol. But why ‘focus’ on last season’s campaign and what inspired you to write the book?
RJ – I’d recently written another book about my experience in Irish theatre and broadcasting. This gave me confidence. I also had a gut feeling that Slaviša would get it right when he had time to mould his own side. Especially, after I’d seen his Watford team give us a thrashing on their way to The Premiership.
DB – What kind of book is it Roland? And by that I mean is it a supporters point of view telling a story or more of a factual report. Just to give the readers an understanding of your approach to “Being Fulham”.
RJ – The book is one supporter’s story of the season and following the club. I’m embedded with the supporters in the stand or on the coach travelling away. I’m watching games ‘in the zone’ as it happens, with all the consequent emotional involvement of elation, despair, frustration. I’m ‘rock ‘n’ rolling’ it! I’m not a match reporter or a sports journalist but a fan telling a story.
DB – What was your particular highlight of last season?
RJ – Probably, Tom Cairney’s late goal v Leeds. A great strike and a wonderful orgiastic celebration at the Hammy End! You’d have thought we’d won the league when we’d only drawn! However, it gave us great impetus. We’d gained a point while stopping a close rival getting three. Our performance away to Norwich runs it close. The way we played with ten men in the second half, proved doubters wrong and showed that we had ‘bottle’ as well as an attractive passing game.
DB – Who did you vote for the player of the season from 16/17 and why?
RJ – Tom Cairney. The way we play depends on a talented playmaker. Tom fitted the bill perfectly. Good retention of the ball, imaginative passing as well as some brilliantly executed goals, particularly from long range. A leader by example, it’s a pity he’s been plagued by injury this season. Let’s hope he’s over the worst of it. Ryan Sessegnon meteoric rise should also be mentioned. As well as his undoubted skill, he has an amazing temperament for one so young, Let’s hope he stays to see us back in The Premiership. as in time, he could play for one of the world’s best clubs -like Real Madrid?
DB – Have you assessed the summer and January transfer windows of last season in your book and how that impacted on our season? Who do you think was the best signing last year and why?
RJ – The transfer window is mentioned. It was mainly successful otherwise we wouldn’t have made the playoffs. Aluko, Ayité and Kebano brought much-needed pace but the addition of Johansen and McDonald bolstered our midfield and gave it a better balance between creativity and defensive solidity.
DB – How did you find the media coverage for Fulham over the course of the season and is this touched on in the book?
RJ – I mainly cover our live Sky games and Jim and Jamie on fulhamfctv. The print press cover us sporadically apart the local outlets, where the coverage is extensive but somewhat predictable. The main focus of the national dailies is on The Premiership, so there’s a lot about whether Sessegnon will he go to Man Utd or Liverpool? Too much football coverage these days is about rumour and scandal rather than about the game, although some websites and blogs have countered this to an extent. Certainly, interaction has a good side. However, the trouble is that social media can sometimes create a wave of unnecessary hysteria before the facts have been fairly examined. Still, I suppose it’s better to have football emotional and opinionated rather than bland.
DB – How did you feel after the disappointment against Reading? How do you cover this in your book or does the fairytale end quite bluntly?
RJ – I consider whether play-offs are a good thing in a league competition or a tv company construction and chart the ups and downs of those games. It was very close. Understandably, there was a lot of nervousness, which led to the games not always being of the highest quality. However, the sheer competitiveness of the encounters was sufficient compensation. Although he made a mistake in the first game, the goalkeeping of Al Habsi was a significant factor in us not getting back into the tie. It was an opportunity lost, I’m afraid. but let’s hope it’ll come round again-quickly.
DB – The football was great last season, it really was a joy to watch. Where does this season rank in comparison to the very best the club has had for enjoyment for you personally?
RJ – It’s up there with the Tigana team’s Championship winning season. I prefer passing football-yes, even from the back, not second ball football. This isn’t easy in the rough and tumble of a 46 game attritional league, where inevitably athleticism and fitness will be more of a factor. However, I’ve not seen Fulham play better football than under Jean Tigana-the template for modern Fulham. Slaviša ‘s team were also attractive to watch but lacked the goalscorers of the 2000-01 side- Louis Saha and co.
DB – Now you couldn’t have written a book about last season without touching on the Chris Martin saga?! How did you feel about it all?!
RJ – Martin provided something different, a physical presence and an outlet to hold the ball up. He had a volatile and variable time at Fulham but he did make a significant contribution. Whether he wanted to be back at Derby for domestic or football reasons is unclear. It certainly didn’t endear him to the fans. Although Slavisa rightly reprimanded him, I think he fancies him as a player and as he’s not featuring much at Derby, I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to us in the January window!
DB – Could you put your finger on why we came up short in the end?
RJ – Lack of a natural goalscorer. Missing too many penalties. Not managing important games well. Lack of a bigger physical defensive presence.
DB – Going into this season how did you expect us to do considering how close we came in the Playoffs?
RJ – As soon as we got the new players up and running, I thought we had a chance.
DB – I know there are several moments in the back where you mention past memories and players. What made you think to do this and how does it relate to the main topic of the book?
RJ – I didn’t want to write a linear book, so I allowed various places to remind me of players and incidents in the past. Involving Fulham but also the opposition and different parts of the country we visited. Hopefully, it’s a rich tapestry!
DB – A couple of questions about your time supporting Fulham quickly. What are your favourite match & goals over the years?
RJ – Vs Blackburn Rovers away 2001. The Sean Davis goal that saw us get promotion into The Premiership. I was on my own in Kiely’s pub in Donnybrook, Dublin, watching it on Sky. When Sean scored I jumped off the stool and nearly did myself an injury. The Irish bartender nearly collapsed in laughter!
Alan Mullery’s volley v Leicester in the FA Cup. What a cracker! GOAL OF THE SEASON MOTD 1974
John Mitchell’s goal v Birmingham in FA Cup Replay, Maine Rd, 1975. WE’RE GOIN’ TO WEMBERLEEE!
Tom Cairney’s goals v Leeds at home, Wolves away, 2016-17. Great shots! ‘AIN’T NOBODY LIKE TOM CAIRNEY!…’
DB – Who makes your all-time Fulham eleven?
RJ – Van der Saar/Macedo
Cohen/Finnan Coleman Parker Langley
Haynes Mullery Lowe
Leggat Saha Malbranque
DB – Do you have any plans to release a second book in the future?
RJ – Not at the moment. Maybe a first year back in The Premier League might inspire one!
DB – It was a very memorable season and I’m sure many fans will want to purchase your book. How can they do this and where can they follow you for updates on future projects?
RJ – Lulu: Print 9.99 ( better than Amazon, who give the author little money!):
You can find me on Twitter at @RolandJaquarel1
DB – And finally Roland…… pie or pasty, which filling?
RJ – Pasty with meat and veg please!
DB – Good luck with the book Roland and thanks for sharing it with us.
RJ – Thanks Danny for doing this and good luck with your website.