Fulham. West London, down at the end of the Kings Road and near the river. There you go, ‘O’ level geography put to excellent use at long long last. I’ve never been inside Craven Cottage but I did walk past it once when lost and looking for the five million (one million if you believed the police) others who had invaded the capital for a CND march. Must’ve been 1983 and thank goodness I went as without my encouragement and support for unilateralism I doubt Gorbachev would have had the courage to eventually dismantle the Soviet Union.
I have heard it’s a nice ground, in fact a friend of mine prefers it to all others and he’s visited many of the professional stadia in this country so perhaps he’s on to something. As far as I’m concerned Fulham brings back memories of an unlikely cup run in the mid seventies. I was a teenager in that benighted decade and the FA Cup final was a firm fixture on everybody’s calendar. You watched it on the BBC, you flicked over to see if it looked any different on ‘the other side’, and you ran out onto the street at half time, case ball under your arm, to re enact the first half and again after the final whistle to relive the match with your mates. Ah the innocence of lost youth.
The seventies were an extraordinarily good time for me FA cup wise. The drill was to support Arsenal. Well of course. However in the unlikely event that they had failed to make the grade you had to select one of the two competing teams and get behind them as if your very life depended upon it. This made the final matter that little bit more. In adult life people use online bookies for a similar purpose. In any event we enjoyed the final regardless of who was in it, usually supporting the underdogs but always backing not Leeds and not Man Utd. Why was it such a purple patch for me? Well, despite having to fill in with proxy support for the likes of Newcastle, Sunderland and Southampton I still got to witness Arsenal play in no less than five finals between 1971 and 1980.
The only game I couldn’t really get excited about in all that time was Fulham versus West Ham in ’75. The West London side should have ticked boxes. Playing in the second division conferred unquestioned underdog status, and they had the fading legend that was Bobby Moore playing for them, which was precisely the sort of stuff I needed to have them as my team for the day. For whatever reason that year it dawned upon me at around 9.30am, and about half way through Cup Final It’s A Knockout, that I actually didn’t give a stuff for either side. I cannot explain why, but if the word ‘meh’ had existed then it would have neatly summed up my feelings on the ’75 final.
Modern day Fulham is a rags to riches story beginning in March 1996 when they languished in 91st place in the football league hierarchy. They recovered from the edge of the abyss and then were moderately financially doped by the owner of Harrods and rocketed up through the divisions to the Premier league. They really are the antithesis of Arsenal in many ways, not least the endless manager go round with a succession of coaches as far apart in football philosophy as Keegan, Hughes and Hodgson. They’ve given us a few decent games in recent years and I don’t doubt that they’ll be stung by their most recent embarrassing scoreline and won’t relish another humiliation. So thanks for that Chelsea you bastards. They have a few players who know their way around a football pitch and a goalie who often seems to save his best for when they play us. However well or badly they perform today I just hope and pray that they don’t attempt to emulate Moyes shameful tactics on Tuesday night, which were quite simply unforgivable. And be honest who wants to see a pleasant young man like Phillipe Senderos sent out to try to injure a fellow pro? It’s a hideous thought.
Closer to home now, and we had news yesterday of a Positively Arsenal triumph. Our very own Mel O’Reilly has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to get the club to act more radically on it’s pricing structure and so the news of ‘Mel’s Scheme’ as the club will doubtless be calling it which broke across all major news outlets was music to our ears. In years to come the futuristic equivalent of bloggers will talk of how they first watched Arsenal because of the tenner teen ticket introduced under ‘Mel’s Scheme’ which made watching the world’s premier super club affordable to the meanest of incomes. Doubtless the statue will follow and the O’Reilly Stand should be a formality. Congratulations, and I hope this doesn’t mean you are now too good to comment on our humble blog.
On a personal note, I have to take my Mum out today, so if you see me I’ll have my phone off and fingers in my ears hoping like hell to avoid the result. The plan is to watch Arsenal Player on Sunday morning which in the past has turned into a real trial. When I first subscribed the good folk at dot com used to think it was a wizard wheeze to display the score prominently on the front page of the web site. In order to bypass this skulduggery I saved a short cut to the Player itself on my desktop. Then they decided to put the score below the video of the match itself. Genius. I mean that doesn’t destroy the pleasure of watching at all does it? I assume I wasn’t the only one to moan about this as they have subsequently taken remedial action and the score no longer appears on the day immediately following the match . However they are nothing if not cunning at the Arsenal. The people who run the site are as devious and mischievous as Tomáš Rosický turning pirouettes in amongst the opposition midfield for laughs (like he does). When you open the relevant page they have a still from the match in the window where the video plays. The last time I sat down, congratulating myself on managing to avoid any mention of the match all day Saturday and Sunday morning, I opened the page to see this still image, a freeze frame from the match and guess what? It was from the 82nd minute, at which point the game stood at 2 – 1 to the Arsenal. How did I know? Well in the top left hand corner of the image there was the time and the score. Absolutely fucking unbelievable. In the game in question we had been trailing by a single goal until very near the end and so all the tension and surprise , the anguish and relief were neatly, surgically removed for me. See, who says we are afraid to criticise the club on PA?
In any event, I’m not very good with that kind of thing so if you happen upon me treating my dear old Ma to a cream tea in Burnham On Sea this afternoon, best not mention anything about the match. I may be a pacifist who saved the world from nuclear annihilation, but things might still get a little messy.