Cottage industry

Fulham may have a rich owner with big plans, but Scott Longley claims the club still isn't going in the right direction

Initially it was like winning the lottery. For one glorious moment Fulham fans felt like we were the cats who not only got the cream but got the whole dairy and an army of milkmen to feed us on demand. Thanks to Mohammed al-Fayed we were rich beyond our wildest dreams.

Then events began to get out of hand. First it was the pledge of a new 15,000 all seater stadium. Then it was the arrival of Keegan and Wilkins and the promise from the new chairman to make Fulham ‘the Manchester United of the South’. And now, in Paul Peschisolido and Chris Coleman, we have the Second Division’s first £1 million and £2 million players. Somewhere down the line things just got stupid.

This is not the Fulham that the fans once knew and loved. Our old club has been hi-jacked, and whisked into the first class compartment whilst the supporters have had to step aside like Dickens’ Old Joe’, wistfully remembering what larks we had with the old chap in the past.

Now ingratitude is never a pleasant thing, and I really do hate to seem churlish Mohammed, but… I want my old club back. I want the old comfortable Cottagers, of whom the task of supporting was handed down to me by my father in the spirit, I believe, of teaching me at an early age to never expect too much from life; the club that wasn’t afraid to admit that its twin heydays consisted of one season in the Fifties when we finished tenth in the First Division and a fluke losing appearance in the 1975 FA Cup final.

I want the unprepossessing club that was never splattered all over the back pages; the club that, for a long time, only ever got featured on prime time TV when Terry McCann happened to give us a mention on Minder, or latterly when Des Lynam wanted to patronise Jimmy Hill on Match of the Day, and whose only other contribution to the nation’s sporting life was that our stadium happened to be a landmark as Oxford and Cambridge sculled past during the boat race.

In the past envy would never have been a word associated with the way supporters of other clubs felt about Fulham but now, thanks to Mister Moneybags, that has all changed. With our fancy new kit and our new- found airs and graces, and despite that fact Watford and Bristol City are running away with the automatic promotion spots, Fulham are the ‘team to beat’ in the division. Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you an awful lot of resentment. In this sense, Mohammed has already proved true to his word. We have become the Man Utd of the South. Everyone hates us.

Something must be done. We need to throw off our ill-fitting suit of financial security and high flying ambition and get back to our roots. One option seems obvious. Ray Wilkins should be encouraged to emulate the extravagance of the Pools winner Viv Nicholson and embark upon a wanton display of frivolous spending and hugely-inflated transfer fees. No asking price should be too ludicrous, no player out of our league, no rumoured signing too far-fetched and before too long I’m sure we will be the first name to crop up on every rapacious agent’s ‘mug punter’ Iist .

Indeed, going by recent signings, a good start has already been made, particularly by Ian Selley, Wilkins’ first buy, who broke his leg on his debut for the club. That’s more like it; a little more of the same kind of ill-luck and misfortune and we will have frittered away our chairman’s fortune before you can say Wolverhampton Wanderers.

From WSC 132 February 1998. What was happening this month