Football, the game that brings fans from all walks of life together. Ever looked at the person next to you or in front of you at the Cottage? Perhaps the person on the train to and from the game and just started talking to them as if you know each other even though you are complete strangers? People that you wouldn’t ever contemplate saying hello to in your everyday life but know they are Fulham fans, knowing they are “one of us” completely changes the attitude we have towards them.
Just think about someone you talk to every day because of Fulham or that you travel home and away to the games with that you would never have known without the mutual support for the club. Fulham has given me some of my closest friends. Even though 95% of all talk is Fulham related they are more than just fellow supporters to me and they come from all walks of life and all different parts of the country or world.
I had an experience once that I would like to share with you. It’s something that has always stuck in the back of my mind and he’s a gentleman that I’ll never forget. Having said that I’ve forgotten his name… but out of respect for him, I’m not going to make one up. His name doesn’t matter for the purposes of the story. I’m 30 now but straight from school I did an apprenticeship as a carpenter. I was 17 when we started a double storey extension for this old Jamaican couple, I’m guessing who were in their late seventies, living in Peckham. Now you’ve got to remember that I was an apprentice, so I let the others discuss the progress of the work with them. I was also a teenager and a local lad. The gentleman was in his late seventies, strong accent, different culture and different interests.
Even though a lot of my friends were from families that originated from places like the Caribbean, this particular gentleman and I didn’t seem to have anything in common and our conversations never developed past a polite hello. His wife would always be out and about whilst he stayed home in front of the TV at the front of the house. He never offered cups of tea, never came to check on us and upon leaving for the day we would be lucky to get a goodbye. This continued for a good 3 weeks until one Friday as we were packing up, the gentleman overheard me looking ahead to the Football at the weekend with the other lads. He interrupted us to ask who we supported (the typical Millwall and Arsenal fans were with me at the time).
“What about You?” he asked as he turned towards me. I chuckled to myself and said what I normally say when I’m asked that question in South East London because it’s so rare, “you will never guess it” I replied. Then he might as well have got the liquorice out cos he was throwing all sorts at me… Palace, Everton, QPR, Leyton Orient, Charlton… I think he even said Southend! Eventually, he gave up and played me at my own game. “Well funny enough you will never guess who I support either.”
So, off I went naming every club I could think of. Likewise, soon giving up and confessing “I support Fulham.” There was a slight pause as it registered with him that I was a Fulham fan. “Me too!” he shouted as he leapt into the air. He called for his wife to come through “This boy supports Fulham too” to which she replied (and I’ll always remember it) “Oh God, there’s two of you!”
My colleagues were getting fed up with me because it was a Friday afternoon and I was too busy chatting away about Fulham instead of packing up. He said when he came over in the fifties, that he loved football and he needed a club to support. Johnny Haynes was the man at the time, so he chose Fulham and had loved them ever since. He showed me his photos in the living room, including one of him standing outside the Cottage and there was a painting of the Cottage on the wall. It was incredible that this was all in front of my eyes, but I hadn’t noticed it. On the Monday when we returned we were greeted at the door with bacon sandwiches and the kettle was on. He had gone out on the Sunday and bought loads of papers so that I could see the match reports just in case I hadn’t read them yet, and he stood in the doorway at the back where we were working pretty much the whole day chatting away. At lunchtime we were offered sandwiches, he had found loads of old photos and newspaper cut-outs from years gone by to show me and I’ve never drunk so much tea in my life! This continued for the duration of the job, in fact, the gentleman said at one point that he didn’t want us to finish because he would miss us.
The contrast between before and after we knew we shared Fulham in common was quite incredible and an experience that I’ll never forget and doubt I will experience again. It taught me a very valuable lesson about supporting Fulham. I assumed because my grandad came from Battersea and had passed Fulham down to my mum, then onto me and my sister that we were of Fulham blood and that a gentleman from Jamaica living in Peckham simply wouldn’t be. I’m glad I met him because he made me realise that it doesn’t matter why or how you support Fulham. We aren’t the sort of club who have supporters for the glory, Fulham reaches out to you for the right reasons because it’s much easier supporting a club who win things if that’s your motivation. But he loved Fulham as much as me, his enthusiasm for the club was very clear to see and it was a joy listening to all his stories.
I wish I could remember his name, but it sadly escapes me and I haven’t seen him since. That was a good 13 years ago and I really hope that he’s still going strong supporting the Whites. Who knows, maybe he already knows about Fulham Focus and is reading this right now.
I really hope so…