Interview: Gus Uhlenbeek

Image: Chris Lobina /Allsport via Getty

On the pitch, Gus Uhlenbeek was super quick and very enthusiastic making him a popular figure with the Fulham faithful. Daniel Smith caught up with Gus to look back at his time at the club which included promotion under Kevin Keegan as Champions…

DS  How did you get your first opportunity in Football?

GU – I started playing when I was about 6/7 years old for my local club in Amsterdam called VVA, that’s the age in Holland when you are allowed to play for a football team. But I was younger when I started kicking a ball for the first time.

DS – Did you have any role models when you were a child & which team did you support?

GU – The players I liked to watch were Kevin Keegan, Johan Cruyff, Jean Tigana, Maradona & Viv Anderson. They were in my eyes great skilful, technical players, who always entertained the crowds with their ability and did it with a smile on their faces. The clubs I supported were Ajax and Nottingham Forest.

DS  You started your career with Ajax in their youth setup. Were there any first team players that you looked up to?

GU – Yes, players like Rijkaard, Olsen & Tahamata.

DS – How did the Fulham move materialise? Who contacted who and was there a particular reason why you chose to sign for the club?

GU – I was in my last year at Ipswich and I got offered a new deal from George Burley, who was the manager at the time, but I felt like the deal did not justify my potential. So, I went to Spain to have a look at Compostela who had just been relegated from the Primera Division and wanted to sign me. I went over with the wife to have a look around, but we did not get a good feeling about moving to that part of Spain.

When I went back to the UK to re-sign for Ipswich, at the last moment Neil Redford phoned and asked me if I would be interested in signing for Fulham because Keegan wanted to sign me. If someone like Kevin Keegan, your childhood hero wants to sign you, then you don’t say no! Even if it means dropping a Division at the time

DS- Who were your closest friends and roommates when travelling during your time at the club?

GU – To be honest we were a close group of friends at Fulham, it was my best time at a club. We would hang out after training or matches; most wives and girlfriends were getting on really well. The likes of Brevett, Hayles and Sean Davis but I was friends with all the lads really.

DS – What did you learn from Kevin Keegan as your manager and how did he compare to other managers in your career in terms of coaching and man management?

GU – He had so much knowledge of the game and was really honest to the players. His mentality was always “if they score 3, we will score 4.” It was very attacking football.

DS – How enjoyable was your first season with Fulham and how did it feel winning the league with 101 points?

GU – An unbelievable season! To win it with so many points was great, but we needed to if you look at the players we had. Everything we achieved was part of the team spirit we had built that season, even the subs were getting on with every other player.

DS – After Keegan had departed, was it difficult to adapt to Paul Bracewell’s management style and/or strange being managed by a teammate?

GU – Not really, he was part of the Keegan school, so he had that experience. But every coach has his own tactics, and he took that manager role really well.

DS – You were very fast bombing down the right flank. Were you a track athlete at any stage and what was your speed over 100 metres?

GU – Hahaha! No, not really and I never had my speed timed at a track, I remember that there was a race between the fastest players in the League, but I was injured so I could not take part in the race.

DS – Is there a match that is special to you?

GU – We had some great matches, but I think the match we played at Craven Cottage in the cup against Tottenham when we beat them, that was a great match. I remember playing against David Ginola at the time and I had a decent game against him.

DS  You scored one goal for us against Wrexham away. Do you remember it?

GU – I think I got the ball and hit it on an angle from the right side, from outside the box and into the bottom left corner. I can’t remember the celebration though.

DS – Was you in the squad when Michael Jackson visited the Cottage, if so, what was that like?

GU – Yes, I got to meet Michael Jackson. That was an experience that no one will ever take away from me because he was the King of pop so to meet him and shake his hand is unbelievable. He came into the changing rooms to shake every player’s hand as everybody knows he is a bit shy meeting people. He said something like “come on guys, let’s win this game today” in his typical voice. I’m happy to have met him, some people would ‘kill’ to see him let alone shake his hand haha.

DS – I’m sure it’s going to be quite a tough ask but could you pick the best eleven of your teammates throughout your career?

GU – Manager: John Goreham/Nicky Law

Formation 3-5-2

Edwin Van Der Sar (Ajax); Phil Jagielka (Sheff Utd) Chris Coleman (Fulham) Tony Mowbray (Ipswich); Steve Finnan (Fulham) Michael Brown (Sheff Utd) Sean Davis (Fulham) Lee Clark (Fulham) Tarrico (Ipswich); Michael Mols (Ajax) Geoff Horsfield (Fulham)

DS – When you look for the results on matchday, which of your former clubs do you look for first and why?

GU – To be fair I watch the results from all the clubs that I played for. Every club has a place in my heart.

DS – Was there ever an opportunity to represent your country of birth Suriname?

GU – No not really because I had a Dutch passport. You needed to have a double one in order to play for Suriname.

DS – Do you keep in touch with anyone from your Fulham days and have you ever been back to the Cottage since you left the club?

GU – I don’t really keep in touch with anyone, I am just following a few on social media unfortunately. No but I would love to come back one day and show my boys where their Dad played.

DS  Are you still involved with football?

GU – I’ve got a few coaching badges, but I’ve still got a few to do and I just work at amateur clubs and train players etc.

DS  Finally Gus, pie or pasty, which filling?

GU – Chicken Pie.