Danny Cullip signed for Fulham as a 19 year old, on a free transfer from Oxford United in 1996. He went on to play 61 games for the Whites, scoring 2 goals and gaining promotion in the famous Micky Adams side. Daniel Smith spoke to our former defender as he reflected on his time with the club.
DS – Which football club do you support and did you have any role models in the game growing up?
DC – My Dad is a Fulham fan, so I used to go to watch Fulham a bit, but I was usually out playing football myself.
Stuart Pearce was someone I loved to watch. The passion, desire and his never give up attitude is something I really respected.
DS – How did you get your first opportunity in football?
DC – I was invited to a trial at Oxford United after being scouted playing Sunday football. I went to the first set of trial games where there were over a hundred players, I managed to get through to the next phase of trials and worked my way into their under-16 squad for that season. I played well enough to get a YTS apprenticeship for 2 years, followed by a 1-year pro contract. I was lucky that I had a good youth team manager in Steve Mclaren who was a top coach, so I learnt a lot.
DS – How did the move to Fulham materialise?
DC – I was a first-year pro at Oxford and had a certain Matt Elliott in front of me at the time, so I was never going to break through as he was playing really well. I went out on loan to Kettering Town in the conference, Gary Johnson was their manager and I learned a lot from him and played well there.
Micky being Micky would have seen or at least had people at that level scouting games for players. I had a trial at Shrewsbury at the end of that season and offers from Kettering and Shrewsbury to sign, but after speaking to Micky and my Dad being a Fulham fan there was no competition.
DS – Your Dad must have been chuffed that you signed for the club?
DC – Yes he was, and there were a few of his friends from Bracknell who were also fans that went to all the games when I played home and away. They really loved that season when we achieved promotion. It was a special start to my career, without doubt, one of my most enjoyable periods, all be it quite a short one in the end.
DS – What was your favourite match for Fulham?
DC – I have two, my professional debut and first game v Hereford at the Cottage winning 1-0 and the 1-2 against Carlisle away.
DS – What was your relationship like with Micky Adams and Alan Cork?
DC – Fantastic, I love them both. They were like good cop, bad cop when needed (you can guess which way round!) Both were totally committed professionals. They were winners and you wanted to run through brick walls for them.
DS – Here’s some quickfire questions for you Danny about your team mates.
– Biggest moaner?
DC – Nick Cusack and Micky Conroy.
DS – Biggest joker?
DC – Martin Thomas was mischievous…
DS – Most intelligent?
DC – Nick Cusack.
DS – Most talented?
DC – Morgs was quality, never flustered wherever he played, Paul Brooker had the quickest feet and Micky Conroy couldn’t stop scoring and scored some crackers.
DS – Hardest player?
DC – Richard Carpenter.
DS – Biggest voices in the dressing room?
DC – Simon Morgan, Glen Cockerill and Micky Conroy.
DS – Who were your closest mates at the club?
DC – Richard Carpenter. We are still in touch, top down to earth bloke who hasn’t changed a bit.
DS – Did the news that Al Fayed was buying the club dampen your joys of getting promoted because of a potential squad overhaul or were you excited about the news?
DC – Excited at the time, but then gutted when Micky went. I then knew that my time would be up very soon but look where the club is now and that’s more important than any individual player.
It set the club on the path to where it is today, which is where we all wanted it to be.
DS – What was the team morale like when Micky Adams was sacked?
DC – As a player, when a manager you really like, and respect loses their job it’s not nice, but that’s part of the job and you’re a professional so you have to get on with it and give 100% for the club, team mates and yourself. That’s what I’ve always done.
DS – What was Ray Wilkins like to play for? How was your relationship with him given the circumstances that he was brought in to replace Micky?
DC – As I said above, I always gave 100% for whoever was the manager at any club I played for, and I didn’t like or get on with a couple of them! But regarding Ray, he was a legend of a man and a fantastic coach. To be on the training ground alongside him was a privilege, and to sum up Ray as a person, when I left for Brentford and had surgery on my ACL ligament which was a big injury back then. He was the first person who called me in the hospital as soon as I came around from anaesthetic, that really perked me up and says it all about the kind of man he was.
DS – Do you remember your 2 goals against Darlington and Burnley?
DC – I can’t remember too much about either goal really, except I think the Darlington one was from close range, off of a shin maybe? The Burnley game was a funny one, it was a very tight affair, not exactly great entertainment from what I can remember. So it’s not always great for a defender coming on as a sub when it’s so tight, if you make a mistake, you cost the points. But instead, I managed to get a header (I think) which won the game and got me the man of the match. It was ‘that exciting’ a game that the award went to me..!
DS – Before you left in February 1998, you were playing regularly for the club, making 21 league appearances during that season and featuring in the cup games too. You also scored the winning goal in your second from last game at home to Burnley as mentioned already. Was it a sudden decision to sign for Brentford or was a move away on the cards for a while?
DC – I think Kevin had his own plans and idea of players going forward. So, I wouldn’t have played regularly and I’m not really one for being on the subs bench, so when Micky called and offered regular football I wanted to play.
DS – Paul Watson signed for Brentford two months before you and described his move to us as a disaster. How did yours fare after leaving Fulham and with hindsight was it the right call to leave when you did?
DC – It wasn’t great and as I mentioned above, the bad injury I got was a nightmare for a young player as I didn’t know if I would get back to the level I could play before. But I learnt a lot about being mentally strong and battling back helped me for the rest of my career.
DS – Did you get to play at the Cottage again after you left Fulham? How did the Cottage compare with other stadiums that you’ve played in?
DC – I didn’t get to play back at the Cottage unfortunately. The closest I got was when the Micky Adams promotion team were invited back and went on the pitch at half time. That was a great moment and brought back some fantastic memories.
I always loved playing in the more traditional stadiums like Craven Cottage, you feel a lot closer to the fans which for me has always kept me on my toes and focused.
Let’s be honest, there are not many better settings for a football club, being right on the Thames etc. I also played for Nottingham Forest which has a similar setting in respect of it being right by the Trent River. On sunny days, my Dad, friends and family used to come and watch and enjoy a pint or 2 in those beautiful surroundings.
DS – What are you up to nowadays?
DC – After coming back from the injury at Brentford, Micky signed me for Brighton and Hove Albion where I had a great and successful 5 and half year period where I met lots of great people, great fans and am lucky that I’ve now worked in their community scheme. It’s called ‘Albion In The Community’ and I’ve done this for nearly ten years since retiring.
So, I’m very fortunate that Micky signed me for the third time and I’m still able to work within football at a club that I love in a fantastic part of the world.
DS – Does your Dad still go to the games and have you managed to get to any since retiring?
DC – He hasn’t managed to get to many these days, to be honest, but the last game we went to was one of the best days we’ve had at a football match. We went to the playoff final at Wembley and were lucky enough to watch it from one of the boxes, which was right where the players were celebrating after winning. What a fantastic day all round, and what an atmosphere! The Fulham fans were amazing, the noise they created was fantastic and would have definitely inspired the players to victory.
DS – Finally, pie or pasty, which filling?
DC – I’m partial to both and a nice sausage roll too, but I’ll have a hot Cornish meat pasty please.