After a weeks pause following the bitch-slapping hype at Hull (just this writers own opinion), the lads are down in yonder south for the trip to Fulham. Cracking ground, great ale trekking and a trip that always seems to throw up really good days out sandwiching appalling performances. Sound familiar? David Lloyd, editor of TOOFIF (in its 26th year! ) kindly spent his time to vent some spleen about FFC. You can find TOOFIF being sold around the ground very easily. Anger is an energy!
TF: In the last few seasons Fulham have been a pretty decent team to watch with quality players. What has changed this season?
David (TOOFIF): We’re not a decent team with quality players any more!
TF: The sacking of Martin Jol has been followed by Rene Muelensteen who was then replaced by Felix Magath. Was Jol’s removal premature? Why give Muelensteen the job and then remove him after only 3 months later.
David (TOOFIF): Amazing the perception of how things have gone at Fulham to people away from the fold. No sleight at all intended to true faith by the way, but it’s not something the media have got a hold of because, to them, it’s neither a shock nor a scandal (the base factors of red-top ‘sports’ reporting these days); and Fulham FC doesn’t shift newspapers. To us fans, though, it has been a real scandal. Martin Jol was in the post far too long. The alliance should have worked, but with the club’s purse-strings being tightened in readiness for a takeover – Al Fayed out/Khan in as owner last summer – Jol seemed to lose interest. Like naughty schoolboys messing about when the teacher’s not there, the players lost focus and the supposed flair players, e.g. Berbatov, Ruiz and on-loan Taarabt, went AWOL. It’s been a right mess, and one that was tactlessly handled by the club. Meulensteen, a great coach and a decent guy by all accounts, was given the job despite no real managerial credentials. In came Wilkins and Curbishley as managerial support only for the trio to be ruthlessly despatched almost at once. What a shambles, and what an appalling way to rip up the blueprint for a smallish club not only holding its own in the top-flight but becoming an established Premier League outfit with European pedigree. And all so avoidable! Don’t remember that little lot in the club’s pre-season blurb to supporters inviting them to part with their hard-earned cash in return for season tickets
TF: Has Magath got enough to work with in the current squad to escape relegation? What’s your impression of him so far?
David (TOOFIF): He’s got enough, yes. But whether he has the time and ability to get the players to regroup, refocus and really go for it remains to be seen. Up to now it seems the malaise has well and truly set in. The players need to show that they’re bothered, too. Magath, who has an excellent CV don’t forget but has no previous experience of the Premier League, has divided opinion already (mainly as we haven’t won a game under him as yet and we’re almost sunk) – he’s either a determined individual who talks a good game and is set on whipping the squad into shape or a deluded character who talks a good game and who is danger of becoming a joke figure. We’re praying it’s the former.
TF: If Fulham were to be relegated, can or will the club finance a season in the 2nd tier sufficiently to regain PL status after one season?
David (TOOFIF): The Championship is notoriously difficult to gain promotion from. Who knows what will happen should we go down; who’ll stay and who’ll go? Will there be a mass exodus? The horrible aspect of all this is that it’ll be the hardcore fans that’ll be staying long-term (as at every club) and not those individuals responsible for club policy. We realised something was amiss more than a year ago, but the disintegration was allowed to continue unchecked. Losing is one thing, but the manner in which we’ve been losing is another thing entirely. It’s been shambolic. There’s no F in heart!
TF: Fulham enjoyed a fantastic run to the final of the Europa League in 2010, narrowly losing to Athletico Madrid in the Final. What is your opinion of the approach of clubs, like Newcastle United, that see the EL as a distraction to the business of the Premier League?
David (TOOFIF): That was a mind-blowing experience. In February 1996 Fulham FC were one off the bottom of Division Three and went to the bottom club, Torquay United, and lost 2-1. That was a real lowpoint; no shit, Sherlock! Micky Adams became manager, steered us to promotion on a shoestring budget the following season after which in came Al Fayed as owner. The charge into the top flight was enjoyed all the more by those of us who stuck with the club through the bad times. The Europa League run was amazing, and the against-all-odds win over Juventus quite extraordinary. And yet it was good old-fashioned hard work and organisation that was the basis of everything. That ethic got us to that final, plus a decent crop of players of players moulded into shape by Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington (wonder what that duo are up to these days?). The Premier League is a business, no doubt about that, and such a European adventure needs to be managed properly. But you’ve got to be in it to win it, right? So, even though I’m a dinosaur and detest the principal that so many teams contest the Champions League these days (fourth place – Champions? Really?) and that the Thursday/Sunday EL regime can be a real bind, that’s the way it is. Yup, a potential distraction to the bread and butter stuff, but we’d have loved a bit of that distraction this season!!
TF: Craven Cottage is a gem of a ground and one of my personal favourite trips. Can you ever envisage FFC following QPR to the outer rim of West London for a new build stadium?
David (TOOFIF): No.
TF: The Fulham area has changed character dramatically in the past 40 years and has moved up the social scale. Where does Fulham’s fan base come from now and how is it different in character from QPR and Chelsea?
David (TOOFIF): We have had seemingly endless battles with a clutch of the local residents eager to see the club go out of business or relocated (as seemed probable for a couple of decades), even though Fulham FC and Craven Cottage were there long before the houses and anyone who lives in the area these days. But you’re right, the area is now gentrified and that particular clutch of residents wanted rid of the grubby oiks who attend football matches – with the by-product of getting a nought added onto the end of their house values, naturally. Plenty of supporters do still live nearby, but it’s true that the majority who were brought up in the vicinity of the Cottage have moved out for economic reasons. However, the roots remain very strong. If you can’t tell the difference between fans of Chelsea and QPR and supporters of Fulham then you need help! We’re the friendly, decent and ultimately classy prong of that particular triumvirate.
TF: TOOFIF have been on the go for an excellent 26 years. Has the fanzine scene at Fulham been active apart from yourselves? Do you see a future for the printed version?
David TOOFIF: In these days of instant news and wall-to-wall football coverage it’s hard to believe that there’s still a call for the much more occasional printed mag. But there’s still sufficient input and interest for it to chug along for a while longer. As long as the Ed can chug along too, that is.
TF: What is your view on Newcastle United this season? Do you see potential for the club to aim higher than 8th?
David TOOFIF: As suggested above, I bet we don’t know the half of what’s being going on in your camp. Although we know Kinnear’s gone! And Mike Ashley’s still there. And that Alan Pardew’s been in the news. Newcastle has the support and tradition to suggest you should always be aiming for at least eighth spot. If run properly, of course. A club should always be run properly: no ifs, no butts.
TF: Score prediction?
David TOOFIF: For us, it’s a must-must-must-win game. If we click, we’ll win by two: 3-1. If not, you’ll win by three or four.
Many thanks to David for his time!