Bishops Park, Fulham. The Vicar meets Robert Thorn and shares his concerns. You know that his time is up purely by the nature of the scene itself, and his untimely demise is just a matter of ‘how’ and ‘where,’ rather than ‘when.’ The Omen film – brilliant. As a kid I shat it watching Omen I and II. The Ice Hockey disaster on the frozen lake in the second one? It could easily act as a metaphor for United v Barcelona, 2011 at Wembley. Things looking grim for long periods, then a brief shred of hope, only for it to quickly slip away again whilst many onlookers stood there, helpless. There’s no point lads, let it go, let it go…..
Fulham away is brilliant and I miss it already. The Boathouse in Putney; the White Horse in Parsons Green; the relaxed atmosphere; the bigger away following; the easier ticket access (if you’re a Cottager that is!). I’d had a membership at Fulham since 2008, and the unique but welcome ‘neutral’ section, which allows entry into the away end, is a great feature of membership, as is their ‘Fultime’ magazine. Well it’s not actually, I just wanted to share that I knew the name of it really as if that makes me better than you but it doesn’t.
Alan Smith goal, night game. I left my mates (or rather they left me) as I went through the underpass to walk alongside the Thames on my own. Ten minutes of reflection against a brilliantly lit up London nightlife, with a peaceful river backdrop. If it was in Prague with the Mrs you’d say “we’ve got fuck all like that in England.” But we have and this was it. Alan Smith scored, only for PapaBoubadiopabopbop to equalise late on and highlight another false dawn of that time. But as bothered as I was, I’d just had the nicest walk to an away match ever so it didn’t matter, even though it did.
Johnny Haynes, 4-0 and £500 up. This was in the days when United were still United and not some piss-poor imitation that we see today. Devastating on the break, with a genuinely frightening forward line, who were allowed to play to their strengths. For the FA Cup tie the bookies were offering 50/1 on United to win 4-0. I don’t usually bet on correct scores but they seemed reasonable odds and, assuming there weren’t too many team changes, it was always possible.
We sat uncomfortably, knees rubbing on the cast-iron/wooden seats in the Johnny Haynes stand which has ‘character.’ That and the unnerving feel that it’s going to collapse if someone so much as moves to get their hip-flask out. As Tevez smashed one in from as far away as Chelsea, a fella to our right stood up and clapped. He got ejected. Modern football….
As we stood having a pint at half-time, we noticed a sign saying anyone who “looks like an away fan” could be ejected. We looked around at the long camel coats and stereotyped Fulham fans (briefcases and bowler hats etc), and then back at ourselves and concluded “yep that’s us.” How you could enforce that I’ll never know! Anyway, with five minutes reamining and United 4-0 up, I said “I’m off.” My mate protested in case we missed a goal. I explained that a goal, either way, was costing me £500 and I didn’t particular want to see it so we bailed out early to Putney Bridge tube. 4-0 it remained and the nights ale-soaking Chinese banquet for five was on me.
Danny Welbeck once scored at Fulham. No, honestly he did and we won 5-0. It’s that kind of place, things happen that shouldn’t. Although Nani once missed a penalty at 2-1 with a few minutes left and then Fulham equalised, so sometimes things happen that you expect I guess. I left the ground fuming, and I was fuming that I was fuming. This was Fulham away, you don’t have a bad day out at Fulham away, fuckin Nani! But the fuming soon wore off thanks to a train journey home that was so good it made up for any loss of points.
Having missed Ronaldo’s leg-breaking last gasp winner, the highlight of all the Fulham away matches for me is when we played Ritchie De Laet and Carrick in defence and lost 3-0. Ooooohhhhh Bobby Zamora ran us ragged and our title challenge was looking forlorn. But with half an hour to go, at 2-0, and a Fulham third looking far more likely than a United comeback, “this is how it feels..” started and didn’t stop. It built and built and built to a roof-bursting crescendo. People on seats bouncing up and down like Jack Nicholson and his fellow inmates… “this is how it feels when you’re team wins nothing at all, nothing at all, nothing at all.”
This was the away day of all days at Fulham, one where you can genuinely be proud of the club you support and even on the shittest of shit results, the trip itself refused to be shit. Almost like the football away gods said – “this is Fulham away, don’t let the lads down.” They didn’t and the prayer mats are out to ensure an extremely swift return for the Cottagers to top flight football, even if it’s just to get my “Fultime” fix.
This article was written by Duts @theunitedway78 – an edited version first appeared in Duck magazine (@Duckmagstoke)Tweet to @TheUnitedWay78