The One With Ten Men – Part 2

Hi everyone, hope you managed to catch part 1 already, where I counted down from 10 to 6 of the most memorable red cards I remember supporting Fulham. Now it’s time to continue the countdown with the top 5 with dismissals that I know I’ll never forget…

5 – “The one that shut up their manager”

Blackburn Rovers 1 – 2 Fulham (2000/01) – Rufus Brevett

The build-up was huge, the occasion was huge and quite frankly Graham Souness’ mouth was huge! There was plenty of talk from the Scotsman beforehand about Rovers being the better team in what was a promotion decider, an opinion that was quite clearly wrong! But like all iconic Fulham games, there’s a rule where it simply mustn’t go to plan throughout. Cue a nightmare start for the league leaders as it wasn’t long before we were a goal down thanks to Rovers’ in-form striker Matt Jansen, swiftly followed by Ruuuufus’ momentary rush of blood. The loveable left back kicked out at Garry Flitcroft because of a challenge he didn’t appreciate which left the ref no option but to give him his marching orders, leaving us in a very precarious position with the second half yet to come.

Thankfully, the doom & gloom stops there as Saha came off better in a challenge with Brad Friedel as the American collided with his own defender allowing King Louis to tap home the loose ball to bring us level, giving us a priceless point to hold onto. The rest, as they say, is history as Sean Davis was in the right place, right time to side-foot a deflected Lee Clark shot into the top corner with seconds to go. Limbs everywhere! Brevett’s red card may not be the clubs most famous sending off ever but the drama it created, maximised the significance of both the result and that famous winning goal. Meaning it’s place in the top five is well deserved.

4 – “The one where the hero became the Villain”

Fulham 1 – 0 Aston Villa (Playoff Final 2017/18) – Dennis Odoi

We will never get tired of the beautiful looping header that sent us to Wembley. A goal that ended 43 years of hurt and made all Fulham fans dreams come true. Lofted high above a sea of jubilant supporters at the final whistle, Dennis Odoi instantly became a cult hero.

Fulham were going to Wembley! Flags, wigs, hats and scarfs at the ready as we headed down Wembley Way. A tad nervous, very excited and willing to take a win no matter how it was served up. We dominated the first half playing with our usual free-flowing possession-based football. Cairney sent us on our way after a genius through ball by Ryan Sessegnon, which our skipper finished off with ease to send the sun glared half of Wembley into raptures. I vividly remember thinking when Odoi received his first booking for a challenge on Jack Grealish, that it would make him vulnerable as the game matured. For all his traits and improvement over the course of the season, I think it’s fair to say that Dennis is one of the clumsiest players in a very technically gifted side.

That fear was to prove spot on. Villa were much better in the second half and spent a lot more time in our half. Sadly, it took an unnecessary challenge by Odoi to end his day. Grealish again at the heart of everything dangerous that Villa created, skipped past the challenge as our Belgian bundled him over. The hero had turned Villain as Odoi was off for a second booking. There could be no complaints about the decision and it was now a case of fighting for a season’s worth of blood, sweat and tears rolled into the most important 20 minutes of most of the side’s careers so far. But we didn’t just hang on, we managed the situation with style. I can’t recall a team with 10 men having so much possession in the opposition’s half, at times it felt like they had 10 men. They threw a few balls into the box but each one was met by a determined White shirt refusing to come off second best to John Terry and co.

We will never forget the feeling at the final whistle and all was instantly forgiven if there was anything to forgive anyway. Dennis wasted no time getting over the decision, bouncing on top of the crossbar singing with the fans to “Mitro’s on fire”…what a guy! When you’ve waited 43 years for a crack at Wembley and happen to witness someone becoming the first Fulham player to be sent off at the home of Football. I’m not sure how anyone could disagree with this one making the top ten for memorable red cards. Will we ever forget it?!

3 – “The one where we finally beat them!”

Fulham 1 – 0 Chelsea (2005/06) – William Gallas

It doesn’t happen often, does it? Oh no, I don’t mean beating Chelsea. Of course, that is very rare for us but what I meant was seeing Chelsea not getting everything their own way! It was a lively affair in the good part of Fulham on a sunny afternoon with Cookie’s Black & White army fired up for this West London derby. On-loan left-back Wayne Bridge made it very clear in the pre-match build-up that he wasn’t going to sit on the fence for the sake of his parent club. He was hoping for a home win, a nice touch by a decent bloke.

Fulham took the lead when their high pressing paid off as Paulo Ferreira’s clearance smashed off of Boa Morte’s shin & into the corner, leaving Petr Cech with no chance. Then came the kind of luck needed on such an occasion. Didier Drogba whilst sandwiched between two defenders, appeared to chest the ball, taking it into his stride & around the oncoming Mark Crossley stranded in no man’s land, to slot the ball into the empty net. 1v1 right? Not quite. Crossley’s blushes were to be spared after Mike Dean had consulted his linesman. Between the pair, they agreed that the goal wouldn’t stand because what appeared to be a chest control was indeed Drogba’s hand.

Fulham held on despite the continued pressure from Chelsea and even had a couple of minutes in stoppage time to taunt the opposition by playing keep-ball which received complimentary comments by commentator Andy Gray. However, combined with the decision to disallow the Chelsea goal, this passage of play infuriated William Gallas. The Frenchman snapped & took his frustration out on Heidar Helguson with a rash, malicious tackle which infuriated the target man. The tough Icelandic international spent no time rolling around, he was straight to his feet with Gallas equally keen to have round two before they were broken up by teammates.

It’s a long walk to the dugout from the Hammy End and Gallas took the opportunity to respond to the jeers and waves of Fulham fans in the Johnny Haynes stand by gesturing that Fulham were going down with his thumb. All part of the banter of course but a lack of class from a team you’d expect nothing else from. Making the only victory over them in the Premier League era even more satisfying. Now William, go and sit on the pitch at St Andrew’s and cry some more will ya…

2 – “The one with the punch baggies”

West Bromwich Albion 1 – 1 Fulham (2004/05) – Andy Cole

Andy Cole, the man who sits behind Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney as the Premier League’s all-time leading goal scorer. Someone that you would say knew how to score goals and certainly knew how to win trophies. Well, now you can add to that knowing how to get sent off! Forget late and or professional tackles, the secret in how to convince the ref to send you for an early bath is to pretend you are Rocky Balboa. What on paper appeared to be a boring trip to the Hawthorns to face another bottom of the table side turned into a very memorable game jam-packed with drama. Robbie Earnshaw making his debut for the home side skied over a first-half penalty after a couple of early saves by Van Der Sar with the Baggies putting us under pressure. This was followed by Papa Bouba Diop giving Thomas Gaardsoe a ‘slice’ of his own medicine for stamping on his foot by pushing him to the ground with the palm of his hand, it was aggressive, it was silly, and it almost took his head off lol…

Despite losing the Wardrobe Fulham grew into the second half and took the lead through Andy Cole in the 71st minute with a trademark tap in. West Brom’s misery was compounded further as Luis Boa Morte picked the ball up in his own box whilst defending a corner, his surging run on the counter-attack with no one left in his way forced Neil Clement to bring him down from behind with a professional foul taking the red card on the chin. That wasn’t all his chin was going to take as words were exchanged before Clement had vacated the pitch causing Andy Cole to lose his temper and completely switch. A brawl commenced with virtually every player involved which managed to prevent Cole from doing as much damage as he appeared capable of. Fulham were reduced to nine men and to rub salt into the wounds Kanu equalised for WBA in stoppage time. I’ve never seen someone sent off for punching someone before, so I won’t be forgetting this in a long time!

This fixture appeared in a list at the beginning of 2017 as one of the dirtiest games in Premier League history with 3 straight red cards and 8 other players being booked.

1 – “The one with the comeback”

Fulham 4 – 1 Juventus (2009/10) – Fabio Cannavaro

So… the most memorable red card in Fulham’s history (in my opinion) came in a game which has become the most iconic match in our 139 years. They say you need a bit of luck to achieve success in Football and we certainly had our fair share in this one. Neutrals don’t need to know the finer details about the manner in which we beat ‘The Old Lady’ that night. All we need to sing is “have you ever beat Juventus, have you ****!”

What on paper looks like an incredible scoreline and a prime example of David defeating Goliath isn’t telling the tale in its entirety. Naturally, we Fulham fans will brag until the cows come home about the result and rightly so. It was thoroughly deserved on the night and a goal worthy of winning any game. But let’s recap on the facts quickly and why I think this goes down as the most crucial red card in our proud history. It started off slow with Trezeguet giving Juve a very early lead on the night and what appeared to be ‘Goodnight Vienna’ for our European Campaign. The Fulham response was fantastic, we never let our heads drop after that early setback. A very quick reply from Zamora chesting it down and composing himself to find the back of the net from the penalty spot, restoring hope that the unthinkable wasn’t impossible after all. Fulham continued to take the game to the Serie A giants and that pressure told when Gera was played through in a foot race with Italian World Cup winning captain, Fabio Cannavaro. Gera won that race and was taken down with the ball angling away from the 18-yard box and a good 25 yards out. This, in my eyes, was not quite a clear goalscoring opportunity but I guess you make your own luck in Football and our endeavour clearly deserved a break. The challenge was one of those that could have been a booking and in truth was probably worthy of an orange card (somewhere in between). The decision went our way and we had a man advantage for the final two-thirds of the match.

Being from Italian blood, I take a little interest in Italian Football and this Juventus side was bang average in contrast to the great sides you’d expect to wear the shirt. A combination of average players and legends coming to the end of their careers (Trezeguet, Camoransei, Cannavaro, Del Piero) with a very notable keeper missing (Gianluigi Buffon). So, to lose their captain, their leader so early in the game was massive and played as big a part as any in our Europa League fairy tale. He was the organiser at the back and without him, they capitulated which is the last thing you’d expect of an Italian side. That’s one side of it, now for the positives from a Fulham perspective. I don’t want to put a downer on the achievement because we’ve seen recently at Wembley that being down to 10 men doesn’t automatically mean it’s a given. We still had a mountain to climb and played the game perfectly and it’s certainly not our problem that this Juve side wasn’t the greatest, you can only beat what’s in front of you and the record books will forever more say that Fulham beat Juventus 4-1 (5-4 on aggregate), end of!

The fact remains for me that this match goes down as our greatest ever. Clint Dempsey’s chip, whilst not the best goal is probably the greatest ever. What followed getting to Hamburg goes down as the best achievement ever for our club. But none of it happens if Fabio Cannavaro remains on the pitch.  So surely the impact this has had on our club’s history makes it the most memorable dismissal?

Doesn’t it?