It was an honour to write for TOOFIF last time out, and I’m proud to have been asked back to have another go. Thanks to everyone who read it and for the positive feedback I received on social media.
I was a ’90s Fulham “boi”, born in 1988; I went to my first game was when I was just two years old… we lost! Ever since, well since I was old enough to ask questions, I’ve been fascinated with history. Not the Egyptians or stuff like that – the only Egyptian that matters to me is Mo! – I mean the Victorians, World Wars etc. And the back-story of Fulham FC also fits into this mentality. I’m certainly not a Fulham Historian; more like a Fulham Enthusiast. Anyone who’s ever met me will have one word in common when describing me as a supporter: PASSIONATE!
I was lucky to grow up in a family where Fulham was discussed daily. My Grandad would tell me story after story about ex-players and teams. So much so that it intoxicated me in a good way. When my Grandad passed away I turned to Friends of Fulham for my daily dose of Fulham chat. Along the way I’ve met many great people and developed some fantastic friendships. I became fascinated by two supporters in particular – their knowledge of all things Fulham is incredible, probably better than my Grandad’s – Ed Holford and Dave Wilson, aka LBno11 and SuperMitch. Between my family and supporters like these I have been able to develop my own interpretation and understanding of Fulham’s past. A past I wasn’t a part of, yet when I picture it, it feels like it’s part of me.
Have you ever read a book and imagined what the characters look like? You become fond of some for whatever reason, and others not so much. You imagine how they act and what the surroundings look like. That’s your right as the reader, to dream the story as you wish to interpret it. Then a film is released based on the novel; now you have to read the book through the eyes of the director’s interpretation. You can be left underwhelmed or inspired by the film, but I think it’s fair to say, it never pans out as well as the way you pictured it.
I care as much about yesterday as I do about tomorrow when it comes to Fulham, and because of a lack of TV footage it is my fortune/ misfortune that after listening to the stories and the eyewitness accounts of so many, I am able to read the Fulham book and picture players my way. It might be misguided or wrong to others but this is how I picture those characters who have made the Fulham Story such a wonderful one to date, with, hopefully, the next great chapter about to unfold this season.
So here goes – it’s not your predictable top Premier League list or a patronising greatest-before-my-time selection, which would simply be guesswork. My ‘Greatest’ team comprises the players I wish I’d seen play for Fulham the most. There will be some notable names missing but, as I said above, we don’t all fall in love with the same characters when we read a book. Therefore, until Hollywood comes a-calling (and if so, maybe I could be portrayed by Tom Willis, and the TOOFIF Ed by Bruce Willis), this is how I interpret The Fulham before the boi was even a babyoi…
Manager: Malcolm MacDonald
So we start off with the boss, and this was possibly the easiest decision for me. As you’ll learn as we go along, my parents influenced me a lot and their love for this particular era is stronger than any other period in our history. The football was breathtaking, and I’ve seen snippets of this for myself on YouTube, and not too different from the way Joka’s team play good football. It seems like it was a great time to be a supporter. But I’m not the only one wondering and dreaming about Malcolm Macdonald’s time at the Club. I’ve never come across a Fulham player and subsequent manager who has such big question marks hanging over his head. For starters, he was a very promising talent who was sold far too soon and too young, eventually moving on to become a massive Newcastle hero as opposed to a Fulham one. Then, once installed as manager, he was at the helm as the promising 1982-83 campaign fizzled out with the fiasco at Derby, and all the ‘what if?’ issues that surrounded that game. There are so many reasons for me to pick Macdonald that it becomes absolutely mental when you remember that no player will ever be born closer to the Cottage than Malcolm was – in a house in Finlay Street – unless of course someone gives birth on the pitch. Mind you, after the ridiculous Michael Jackson statue, I’m not ruling out anything when it comes to Fulham! I’ve taken an interest in a number of our managers: Ray Harford was very popular with players and many say he was a big influence on Malcolm’s success as he coached that team. Then there was Bobby Robson, Bedford Jezzard and, of course, Alec Stock. But I found Macdonald to be the most interesting and the one I could relate to the best. We’ve had many players who have gone on to manage the Club, but I don’t think any can top Macdonald, can they?
Goalkeeper: Tony Macedo
This was pretty easy. I feel privileged to have experienced two-thirds of what is regarded as the Club’s goalkeeping triumvirate. Seeing Edwin van der Sar in Fulham colours was, for me, unreal. I felt so lucky to have a world-class keeper at my Club. Ajax, Juve, FULHAM and Man Utd; it still feels ridiculous that we managed to keep him for four seasons. Then there’s the less glamorous but more loveable Mark Schwarzer, who was consistently top-drawer and an important player in the greatest era of our history. It’s hard enough debating who gets the nod in a greatest eleven between these two, but it becomes mind-blowing when older generations throw in the legendary keeper from Gibraltar: Tony Macedo. Was he really that good? My Grandad said it was very close with Edwin. I guess I’ll never know, but as much as I would like to have experienced the goalkeeping expertise of Ian Black, Peter Mellor and Gerry Peyton it would be a no-brainer for me if my time machine worked. I would love to see with my own eyes whether Tony could possibly have been better than van der Sar and Schwarzer, two sensational servants to the club. People mention his loyalty, a pure Fulham one-club player. But then I’d argue that Edwin staying with us for four years, despite realising fairly quickly that we weren’t the Man Utd of the South, was loyal too in the circumstances. The mystery of why England refused to allow Macedo to play for our nation despite him being considered English in most people’s eyes is an odd state of affairs, too. Maybe then I could have seen some sort of footage of him playing at the highest level (International football), but I guess I’ll never know. Another thing that these three have in common over most of our other keepers is that they all played at the highest level for Fulham in iconic eras. They were proven against the very best. That’s no disrespect to the rest, but it does have to be taken into consideration.
Left-back: Joe Bacuzzi
I choose Joe as my first full-back for different reasons to Tony. This one isn’t driven by a hunger to know who was better, Rufus Brevett or Bacuzzi, say. This one is personal. Born in Clerkenwell of Italian descent, Joe has a lot in common with my family. There’s a big Italian community in Clerkenwell and it’s where events such as the Italian Precession take place. I come from Italian descent and my Mum lived in Clerkenwell as a kid. My Grandad, despite being English, married an Italian (my Nan!) and did a lot for the Italian church and social club across the road. It was through such involvement that he got to know Joe very well. Joe was a great player, or so I’m told. If you ignore the ‘guest’ appearances he made for other clubs, he, like Macedo, was a one-club man, an achievement that fascinates me. I can’t name a single player who was a one-club man. Does Ryan Sessegnon count!? Not even Simon Morgan can claim that title. So it’s something I admire and respect for each and every player who showed such commitment to our Club. When Joe retired he became a coach for a few seasons before being sacked by Vic Buckingham in the ’60s. Footballers weren’t the millionaires that they are today, so being out of work he looked away from football. My Grandad managed to get him a job in the Sainsbury’s factory at Waterloo where he was working – a professional footballer that my Grandad paid to watch, just like we do now, and yet in the end my Grandad got him a job and had to show him how to make the sausages etc in the factory. It wouldn’t happen now that’s for sure. Like most such friendships, they lost touch eventually as Joe wasn’t involved with the Club anymore. My aunt, who died young, is buried at St Marys Cemetery, Kensal Green and it was noticed years later that Joe and his wife are buried half a dozen graves away. My Grandad, now looking down on us too, was buried with my aunt and I find comfort in the fact that the story and friendship went full circle and now they are close enough to each other to follow the Club together! It would have been very special to see Bacuzzi play for Fulham.
Centre-backs: Tony Gale & Roger Brown
The ’80s version of the Thames Barrier is how I view Tony and Roger. I could be completely wrong, but my assumption is that both were very good players, especially Tony, but they were better as a pair as they complemented each other. That description could be someone describing Hangeland and Hughes, so it would be great to experience a pair that could even be compared to H & H, let alone be as good as that fantastic pairing. Gale and Brown are interesting characters for different reasons. Obviously Tony is here, there and everywhere these days and his love for Fulham is very apparent. I’d love to know if he was more for Fulham or West Ham, as I know he cares about both dearly… if he has good taste, we know it’ll be Fulham! Coming through as an apprentice it must have been very satisfying for all concerned seeing a young promising talent blossom into a key player in the promotion season under Macdonald. When I think of Roger I picture the iconic photo with the cigar. The gentle giant who you didn’t want to mess with on the pitch but off it, a lovely man. That’s how I understand him. When Roger became ill the club held an evening for him at the Cottage to raise money. Supporters including my mum and dad as well as most of his ex-team-mates held a reunion for the occasion – which only goes to show how loved and appreciated Roger was. I would love to go back to the Lincoln game just to witness the precious moment he headed us to promotion. So, two great defenders who it would have been a privilege to see play for the Club. But if you are going to do it properly, you revisit a game when they played together!
Right-back: George Cohen
What can I say that you don’t know already? I try so hard to accept that Fulham have had a right-back better than Steve Finnan; not possible, surely? But this just demonstrates how special George Cohen must have been. Fulham is our family and naturally we take great pride in anyone that’s one of our own. If your children or siblings do well, you want the world to know “that’s my son” or “that’s my brother”. The same happens with players. England have never won the World Cup without a Fulham player in the side; and not just a Fulham player at the time but Fulham when he won It, FULHAM before and Fulham right up to the present day. George is a fine gentleman who you can’t help but respect. The statue at the ground is well deserved in my opinion – and I never even saw George play! But boy – sorry, I mean boi! – I wish I had! As one of the ’75 Cup songs points out, “you lucky people” who got to see the likes of George play at the Cottage were indeed lucky. So for me, right-back was a no-brainer when picking my team. I wish I’d seen George play for the sheer novelty of witnessing the legend but, most importantly, to be able to determine whether he was actually better than Finnan. To this day I just can’t believe it, Steve was an unbelievable player.
Left-midfield: Ray Houghton
Alas, the first major omission from my team is Les Barrett. A decision that Ed Holford will be having palpitations over! While I learnt an awful lot from Ed (Les Barrett’s greatest fan), I’d already been indoctrinated about another era courtesy of my family and Ray is one player I was curious about. In our house, the ’70s weren’t spoken about with as much detail as the ’60s and ’80s. Those decades meant an awful lot to first my Grandad and then my parents. You see and hear a lot about Ray now as a pundit and, of course, the Liverpool connection means he’s one of the big names that has played for our Club. Ray is one player that I have been fortunate to see footage of, and what a talent! If there’s anything over the years that my parents have passed onto me it’s a curiosity with Malcolm Macdonald’s sides and while I can’t select every player in there, Ray was always getting the nod as the best player in that team, or so I presume. That Newcastle goal, which I’m told was shown on MOTD for a few years, is a special goal and it’s little snippets of quality like this that make me want to see more! Ray has agreed to do a FOFerview with me which is very exciting although it has no bearing on my decision to pick him: “So time machine, take me back to 1983, just make sure it’s not the last game of the season…!”
Centre-midfield: Ray Lewington
I found it so hard to choose between Lewington and Stan Brown. Stan played in every position and was the ultimate team man, but Ray has held every position at the club and is the ultimate club man. From captain to coach, caretaker manager, assistant manager and full-time boss of the Whites, Ray really has done it all for Fulham. Supporting Fulham is a rollercoaster full of unexpected highs and lows. Ray epitomises this having been part of the management team in both the darkest and most glorious eras of our history. Whenever the manager’s role was vacant it was always Ray who was put in temporary charge to hold the Club together – a trusted pair of hands who knew the Club inside out. For his dedication and loyalty to the Club it was fitting that his time at Fulham came to an end not long after the Europa League journey. But who am I kidding, his time at Fulham will never be finished for good. It says a lot about the man and the character that, years later, Roy Hodgson chose Ray as his assistant for England and, most recently as his No.2 at Palace. I have never taken for granted the role he played coaching out first team and the void left when England came calling. His service to football deserved that opportunity with the National team and, although England fans might not look back with much fondness, there’s a Club tucked up by the River Thames that will forever welcome him back with open arms. I’ve seen Ray in all of his roles at the Club, well almost. The one that’s missing from the collection is as a player and for that reason he has to make my starting eleven!
Centre-midfield: Johnny Haynes
There are exceptions when doing any list, certain rules one must adhere to and in this instance it’s a team that must feature the Maestro. When everyone who’s ever seen him play regards him as the greatest, then it must be true. I can only imagine how special and gifted he was. The perfectionist who fits the billing of “All-time greatest” perfectly. His legacy lives on with the statue and stand, a stand I have always associated myself with from my early days in the enclosure to sitting in block DL since we returned ‘back home’. I was fascinated by the Cottage Cafe with all the pictures and quotes on the walls about Johnny. Greaves being quoted as saying something along the lines of “Forget Hoddle and Beckham, nobody could pass a ball like Haynes!” Which I find hard to take in, for me Beckham’s passing was almost robotic at times, so accurate it didn’t seem real. So how on earth does someone top that with a heavy ball that has laces going through it? It defies logic, but then I guess so does supporting Fulham (lol!). I wish I could have met him, I wish I could have seen him play. But I suppose above all, I wish we had managed to unearth more Maestros. Johnny Haynes, captain of Fulham and England, is my skipper too.
Right-midfield: Graham Leggat
I’ve always been curious by Graham. You don’t listen to my Grandad talk about the good old days without hearing about that Ipswich game a good hundred times! I would have loved to do a FOFerview with him to ask how it felt to hold the record for fastest-ever top-flight hat-trick for so long, only broken by Mane at Southampton a couple of years ago. For Friends of Fulham I’ve overseen several polls on greatest striker, greatest winger and to this day I still don’t know what position he was best in! I suppose that’s the sign of a special player, one who could play naturally across the forward line. He was clearly a great goalscorer, sitting as he does in the 100-club with just six other FFC heroes. I was disappointed by the Club’s tribute to Graham when he passed away; it didn’t seem fitting for one of the Club’s greatest players. In my head, on ability alone in their prime, he sits second to Haynes on the all-time list, but that’s only from the way he’s been described to me and assumptions I’ve made. So when Doc has fixed the flux capacitor on the Delorean, my first stop will be ‘Fulham 10 Ipswich 1’. Then I can make my own mind up on what position suits him best; for now, Graham, you’re on the right wing.
Shadow striker: George Best
It seems a bit of a contradiction to pick so many thus far based on the fact they were one-club men for FFC. On one hand George played for Fulham for only a relatively short period; on the other hand, IT’S GEORGE BEST! The game has had few more silky, skilful and as talented as George. He was an entertainer, the type to get bums off seats (although thinking about it, it was pretty much all standing at the Cottage back then anyway!). Nevertheless he was an entertainer and made us all feel that we were having fun! That for me is what Fulham is all about.
It’s great to win but it’s even better if you’re having a good time being part of something special. The prime example of why I’d love to go back in time and see George at the Cottage is the famous clip of Best and Marsh trying to tackle each other and looking like they haven’t got a care in the world. A feeling I related to as a child at the Cottage, without the stress and emotions of supporting a club like Fulham. It was innocent and fun, people like Best would keep the boi in me alive, so he’s a must on my team sheet.
Centre-forward: Ronnie Rooke
Hands up if you’ve seen Rooke play for Fulham? I’m sure I could count them on my fingers! He played for Fulham between 1936 and 1946, an era unspoken about really. It’s only from 1948/49 promotion to the top flight onwards that people share stories of Fulham from my experience. Even my Grandad only started going in 1948, so while there are plenty who are aware of Ronnie and his talents, he remains the biggest mystery of all to me. There are hardly any eyewitness accounts or stories, no footage of him playing for us yet he still managed to be ranked third in a newspaper’s Top 50 greatest-ever Fulham players behind Haynes and Cohen. It was reading this article that drew my attention to the striker. I did research on his time at Fulham and his record was very impressive. A player not served the justice his legacy deserves possibly because there aren’t enough people alive to keep it going. And with no real proof of his ability, it’s a shame that he will probably be forgotten in years to come, if he hasn’t been already. But without knowing any better I regard him as Fulham’s greatest striker.
I’m told time and time again that Langley is easily our best ever left-back. Another player from that iconic ’60s era, and one who could take a penalty – an attribute any Fulham fan of last season shouldn’t take for granted! Left-back is the only position that I’d struggle to name a genuinely top-drawer candidate from my lifetime. Everyone loves Rufus, of course, but the three left-backs I’ve taken a liking to over the years can’t be held in the same breath as Jim. As much as I loved Robbie Herrera, Jerome Bonnissel and James Husband, there has never been a left-back that I could say was a Fulham legend. That is just my opinion and it’s through the eyes of those older more knowledgeable supporters that I have to pick Jim Langley, if only to experience the greatest we’ve ever had.
Like George Best, this is purely in awe of who he is. I feel proud that England’s favourite son played for Fulham. And not just the odd cameo, either. Bobby played a good 140+ games for the Club during a significant period and a famous one, too. A West Ham and England legend to most, yet it seems forgotten that Bobby played in the only FA Cup Final we’ve appeared in. So the novelty isn’t without substance and I think the proof of that is how much we associate George Cohen with the World Cup instead of stealing West Ham’s claim to “have won the World Cup” on their own. The world of football has possibly never had a defender as perfect for the beautiful game as Bobby in all aspects, and it would have been an honour to witness him in a Fulham shirt for myself. Again I sing it “you lucky people!”
(Sir) Bobby Robson
Do people forget Bobby spent the majority of his career at Fulham? An amazing man who went on to achieve so much at many clubs. It’s a real credit to Bobby that everyone wants to class him as their hero. I get the impression that he was a great role model who always had time for the fans and the youngsers after a game. I don’t know how good he was as a player, I certainly know he was a brilliant manager, though, so it would be great watching him play to see for myself if he was as good on the pitch as he was in the dugout. It’s another one us fans can name-drop when people tell us Fulham have no history. Considering we’ve never won anything – other than the Intertoto – our history of personnel is very rich. In particular I would like to see Bobby in his first spell in the ’50s. Playing alongside a younger Johnny Haynes, Jezzard, Stevens, Mitten, Bacuzzi, Hill and Tosh among many others. I have more of a picture of the ’60s side in my head so it would be great to bring my understanding of the ’50s to the same level. The difference being I’ve heard a lot more stories of the ’60s era for some reason.
Football would never have taken off into a global sensation without the glue that holds football teams together and allows the superstars to express themselves and promote the brand. I was fortunate enough to do a FOFerview with Stan’s son about his Dad and I learned a lot about the man as well as the player. It might be other players who take the headlines but it’s those like Stan who you notice when they aren’t in the team. The type to go that extra yard for his team mates, never kicking up a fuss or doing anything that would do harm to the team. Stan loved Fulham and it would have been a joy to see the pride on his face every time he wore the shirt. It’s so refreshing to hear that his son and grandsons are Fulham supporters and another ticked box for me regarding ex-players who win a piece of my heart. Stan’s son Darren has helped me to develop a great amount of respect for his Dad and an understanding of why ‘the players player’ was so popular. The ultimate reason I have chosen Stan is to witness the ultimate utility player for myself. Stan played in every single position – now, that’s not something you hear every day. He was unique in his own selfless wonderfully Fulhamish way and, when reading the Fulham story, I think Stan is one of those characters in a book that everyone falls in love with.
Only the third player to score a century of goals for FFC, Arthur is a player I’ve taken a fond interest in as it was around the time my Grandad became a Fulham supporter. My favourite-ever player is Boa Morte; I love a winger who can score goals – that’s why I’ve picked both Leggat and Stevens. With the huge differences in fitness, pitches and the weight of the ball it would be interesting to see just how talented these players were.
Stevens played around 400 games for Fulham, a true great of his time and an ever present in a Whites shirt for over a decade. Only a player as special as Leggat could keep Stevens out of the side.
He scored 179 goals and I didn’t see any of ’em – lol! Now that’s Fulhamish. Another player from the Malcolm Macdonald team which is one of the reasons why I want to know so much about him. I think my Mum and Dad are good judges of character and they both have a lot of love and respect for Ivor. Not just for his performances on the pitch but for his attitude off of it. In the Premier League era, my folks met him a few times and he always had time to chat. Gordon’s enthusiasm and love for Fulham and his willingness and desire to want to speak about his playing days were very clear to see. A record goalscorer, an iconic nickname and a lovely man. Exactly what you’d hope a Fulham legend would be. It would be an honour to do a FOFerview with Ivor and, of course, to experience him in a Fulham shirt for myself but until then I’ll have to rely on my assumptions of how special he was in and around that 18-yard box.
I feel pressurised into including Allan. Until a few years ago I confess I hadn’t heard of him. You hear of Mullery, Haynes and Cohen and all the household names, but Allan Clarke didn’t come up much. Maybe because he only played just under two seasons? I don’t know why but the key thing is I know now! Speaking to anyone from that era, all I hear is good things about Allan – how special he was and, often, that he’s the best centre-forward we’ve ever had. Can you really judge that on one season? I suppose Saha is only remembered for one-and-a-half seasons too (promotion and before his Man Utd move). What do you consider when thinking of the greatest? Longevity at the top? One outstanding season? Most talented? I suppose every individual is different. But I’m of the opinion that Rooke was the very best and it’s hard to justify that as so many more fans alive today can back up Clarke’s achievements. If people are correct that Clarke was up there with Saha as the best complete forward we’ve seen in a Fulham shirt then I’ll go along with everyone else and say he must be up there at the very top.Only one way to find out for myself, I guess. Doc, how long is that time machine gonna be?!
Hope you’ve enjoyed the read! If I could, I’d go back to experience every FFC era, from the first few days at St Andrews to Wembley 1975. I go back to the future every day anyway, day-dreaming about something FFC-related from the past. I was born in 1988, but when you have so much affection and love for a club like Fulham, you’ve kicked every ball from the very beginning anyway. Let’s hope in 20 or so years time when I’m Grandad-boi, I can talk about the years ahead of us with as much care to detail and pride as my family have done with me.