Thursday, 27 September 2007

Top 5 Albums that mean the most to me

This was a Top 5 suggestion from TFI (my favourite FFC message board!). The top 5 albums that had a big impact on your live. So not necessarily the greatest albums of all time (in some cases, maybe, not albums you'd care to admit liking) but ones that are evocative of particular times or events in your life. I've chosen albums that were flagships for my changing tastes and typically, since first doing this, I've already changed two entries. In chronological order;

1. Status Quo "From The Maker's Of ..." - Quo were the first "non-mainstream" band I got into and really set me on the path towards my current more eclectic musical tastes. I first heard them around the time of the "Back to Back" album, a more "melodic" even poppy record than previous releases. "FTMO" was a compilation covering the first 20 years of their career. It was the album that made me realise Quo weren't the happy jolly pop band I thought they might be and led me into new rockier territory that would eventually lead to METAL!!

2. Marillion "Misplaced Childhood" - As I was discovering the joys of Iron Maiden and religiously reading Kerrang! I chanced across a band that was completely out of step with the heavy rockers I was enjoying but still being talked about by the same group's of writers. It took me a while to but by the time "Misplaced Childhood" came out I had developed a major obsession with Marillion. They were the first band I saw live (Hammersmith Odeon of the Misplaced Childhood tour) and seeing a live band for the very first time radically changed my life.

3. Pixies "Bossanova" - Caused a major change in my attitude towards "indie" bands. My mate was at Uni in Aberystwyth and visits up to see him revealed an exciting lifestyle that I had missed out on by going straight from college to work. We went to the Reading Festival in 1988, camped out, all three days ... saw six bands. It was a cracking weekend. The Pixies were one of the six bands I saw and are now my all time favourite group. This was the album that first woke me up to them.

4. Nirvana "Nevermind" - Having been through my Thrash/Death/Speed Metal era the discovery of Nirvana though this album, and the Pixies as previously mentioned, began my move away from METAL! into other areas of music.

5. The Sonics "Psycho-Sonic" - Just when I thought I'd heard it all, my introduction to the Sonics opened my mind to a whole era of music I'd never really been aware of. They are so raw and wild I find it hard to believe they are a product of the early 60's. This is another compilation and probably includes everything you could ever want to hear by them. It's led the way for me into the podcasts and a list of another 100 bands I have to hear.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Top 5 Film Directors

Enough of the Football stuff then, its time for another biggy. I reckon if I was only allowed to watch the films made by these five (or six if you count Ethan) directors I'd still be pretty happy.

1. Quentin Tarantino

2. Joel & Ethan Coen

3. Ridley Scott

4. Martin Scorcese

5. Akira Kurosawa

Tarantino came crashing into my world with a late viewing of "Reservoir Dogs" at Richmond cinema. I'd never really seen anything quite like it before. Tarantino films are stamped all over with his personality; visceral action, lengthy dialogues and erratic timelines still make his films unlike anything else you're likely to see. Three of his films are in my all-time top ten ("Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction" & "Jackie Brown") and so is "True Romance" a film based on a QT screenplay but directed by Tony Scott (Brother of Ridley).

The Coen Brothers have also made a huge number of films (too many to list here) that I have really enjoyed. They manage to make films that still have the feel of an Independant release whilst working with all the benefits of the major studios. Like Tarantino, their dialogue is always good and the storylines unique.

If Ridley Scott had only directed "Blade Runner" it would probably have been enough to get him into my Top 5, that he was also responsible for "Alien", "Black Rain", "Thelma & Louise" and "Black Hawk Down" puts him in the legendary status for me. Scott does not have the distinctive styling of Tarantino or the Coen's, he's more of a traditional big screen Hollywood director, but unlike so many of his contemporary's he does his job well and rarely repeats himself. According to he also owns Shepperton Studios with his brother Tony, so we're kind of neighbours.

Although "The Godfather" is often considered the greatest gangster movie ever made, Scorcese is, in my opinion, the greatest gangster movie director. From "Mean Streets" to "The Departed" via "Goodfellas" and "Casino" he just knows how to create a good crime story. Add to those "Gangs of New York", "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" and you've got an amazing canon of work. Scorcese makes me feel like I've lived my whole life in New York.

I've not seen the entire output of Kurosawa's work, in fact I've only seen three of his films, but two of them were so incredible that I could not leave this inspirational director out. "Seven Samurai" is worth the effort it takes to sit through a four hour, black & white, subtitled epic. A really moving film that spawned so many imitators. "Ran" is just as epic in scope and even more spectacular. The third film "The Hidden Fortress", whilst not as fascinating a movie, can claim to have been a significant influence on the characters of R2D2 and C3PO in George Lucas' "Star Wars".

Friday, 14 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Players I didn't see play

I went to my first match in 1979 so having missed the first 100 years of the club there are plenty of great players to choose from. The first four really picked themselves but the final choice took a bit of thinking about.

1. Johnny Haynes

2. George Cohen

3. George Best

4. Bobby Moore

5. Allan Clarke

There's not much more to add. Seeing Haynes play in the flesh would have been something special. TV footage of the time is limited and doesn't really do him justice, but his stats say it all 658 appearances, scoring 158 goals for Fulham and 56 appearances (including the '54, '58 & '62 World Cups) for England, 22 of which were as Captain, scoring 18 goals. My Dad occasionally tries to explain how good a player he was, able to see passes no one else could and execute them perfectly, but I would love to have seen him play with my own eyes.

George Cohen's career was cut short due to injury in 1969 a mere 3 years after he had helped England lift the World Cup. 459 appearances for Fulham, scoring 6 goals and 37 appearances for England. I'm sure he would have made the 1970 World Cup squad had he continued playing and who knows what he could have achieved.
I only missed George Best by a couple of seasons, and whilst he was not at his peak when he played for the Whites, it would have been a privilege to have seen one of the world's greatest players at Craven Cottage. He managed 42 appearances for us and scored 8 goals.

Like Best, Bobby Moore was also at the tail end of his career but probably made a bigger contribution to our history. Leading us to the F.A. Cup final in his first season at the club and making a total of 108 appearances in which he scored just once. Another world great at the Cottage.

Allan Clarke was probably the ultimate goal scorer, his career stats show an incredible number of goals per game. He joined us as a 19 year old from Walsall, and played for two seasons during which he scored 45 goals in 86 appearances. We sold him to First Division Leicester City for £150,000. He would of course go on to be a legend at Leeds United where he scored a stunning 151 goals in 273 appearances. What would you give for someone who could score like that now?

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Goals

My memory for the details of games is actually shocking so there could well be some great goals I saw that I just don't remember. Kamara's overhead kick to equalise against Spurs is a recent contender, Louis Saha's against Newcastle another, and Sean O'Driscoll's goal direct from a corner against Newport County also memorable. However, I reckon the fact this lot have stuck in my head so firmly means they're worthy entrants. As always your welcome to add your own selection in the comments, that's the beauty of Top 5 lists, they're not supposed to be definitive just your favourite choices.

1. Gordon Davies from the left wing against Chesterfield (30th Jan 1982)

2. Simon Morgan header against Villa in Cup (23rd Jan 1999)

3. Rodney MacAree at Carlisle (5th April 1997)

4. "Super" Mick Conroy from the half way line at Wycombe (12th August 1997)

5. Kevin Moore equaliser against Walsall (13th August 1994)

I must have seen Gordon Davies score a hundred goals but I can't actually remember many of them. I guess Ivor was more of a "fox in the box" than a 40 yard man. This one has never left me though. A hoofed clearance from Roger Brown was latched onto by our Ivor who then shot from somewhere near the Stevenage Road byline right in front of the Cottage. It probably wasn't as far out as my memory would have me believe, but it was certainly not an angle from where you'd expect anyone to score. It shot past the Chesterfield 'keeper though and hit the back of the net, 1-0 Fulham, game over! A glorious goal.

The trip up to Villa Park for this 4th round F.A. Cup match was probably my first trip to a big ground with Fulham. I remember being stunned at how big the Holt End was and never believed we would get away with a win. Eight minutes in though and Simon Morgan rose to head home a Stevie Hayward free kick. I don't think I've ever seen Morgs get up so high and it was a real bullet header into the back of the net. Amazingly we went on to put in a really solid performance and after Stevie H had added a second just before half time, managed to defend our lead against the team that were then top of the Premier League.

OK, I have to admit I'm breaking my own rules here. I wasn't at Carlisle. I was with the three other guys I regular go to the football with at a mates stag do in London. None of us were best pleased with the timing but there was no choice to make. We bundled into a pub to try and catch news of the game and find out the Grand National result. The National had been cancelled but when news came through that we'd won 2-1 we were ecstatic. I couldn't have a top 5 list that didn't include this wonder volley from McAree, probably the most important goal in the history of the club so far. "Who put the ball in the Carlisle net? Rodney McAree!"

It was a first round league cup match, but Wycombe wasn't too far away and ground we'd never been to before. There'd been some chaos getting into the ground at the start and we'd ended up down the side in with a mixture of Fulham and Wycombe fans. Half the Fulham squad, including Kit Symons, were sitting behind us as well. It was a quiet sort of game, we weren't expecting too much as the teams trooped off at half time with the scores tied at 1-1. Then it happened. "Super" Mick Conroy controlled the ball in the centre circle, and then shot. "What the hell are you do ...? Oh my G ... GOOOOOAAALLLLLLLLL!!!". An unbelievable strike, I never thought it was likely to be even close but back then "Super" Mick could do no wrong. It wasn't quite from the half way line but it was near as damn it, and why should we let the facts get in the way of a good song.

My final choice is unlikely to be a goal many people remember. It was our first home match in the basement division, I had taken a philosophical view to relegation the previous season believing we could waltz the league title and re-establish ourselves once again. However, the stark reality of live at the bottom did not take long to hit home. The game was a fairly even affair but Walsall had taken the lead in the first half through Kyle Lightbourne. Attacking the Hammy End in the second half we just couldn't quite find the cutting edge to pull one back, until, in the final minutes, new signing Kevin Moore rose to head home a corner. I celebrated this goal like no other, the emotion of relegation and 15 years of steady decline had built up to the point where I actually shed tears of joy. Of course in the end it would get worse before it got better, but right then it seemed that we had finally turned the corner.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Kits

A club's kit is often intrinsically linked to a particular era of football history, and sometimes a specific player (the Black away kit of 2003/04 will always be the unlucky "Steve Marlet kit" to me). These are my favourite five Fulham kits to date. Check out for pictures of these and every Fulham home kit since 1886.

1. 1999-2001 Home Kit (Adidas)

2. 1975-1977 FA Cup Final Kit (Umbro)

3. 1981-1983 Home Kit (Oscar)

4. 1993-1994 Away Kit (Vandanel)

5. 1952-1963 Home Kit

The vogue for adults buying football shirts really only started in the 90's, and so despite the fact that four of my top five kits are white the 1999/2001 Home Kit was the first white shirt I had bought since my Mum & Dad had bought a polyester replica Adidas top for me when I was about 12. I really liked this kit, it had a feeling of quality about it and was different to previous Fulham shirts whilst still looking quite traditional. Even a season under Paul Bracewell did little to dampen my enthusiasm and when Tigana arrived it got the chance to claim it's place amongst our most successful kits by seeing the team win the League and gain promotion to the Premier League. Player I most associate with it: Stan Collymore.

The kit we wore for our only F.A. Cup final appearance (to date) and then for the two subsequent seasons was possibly the first time we had deviated from a plain white shirt. The black collar and cuffs gave it a bit of seventies style and the "retro" FFC logo has remained popular ever since. Player I most associate with it: George Best.

This was the kit the MacDonald team wore as we won promotion back to Division 2 and then almost Division 1 the following season. Made by previously unheard of Oscar, this kit saw the addition of black eppilettes and was just as smart in the red away flavour. Oscar produced one more kit for the club in 1983/84 before disappearing completely from the kit manufacturing scene. Player I most associate with it: Ray Houghton.

I'm not sure I've got the year right but I'm sure I remember wearing this on that long trip down to Swansea to see us finally drop into the lowest league. It was the first of a series of red & black away kits that took their inspiration from the 1975 "A.C. Milan" away kit. Player I most associate with it: Gary Brazil

Really our kit hardly changed at all from 1903 right up to 1975, the reason I've singled out this period is that it was probably our "Golden Era" and for several of these seasons we wore some fancy stripey socks. The Historical Football Kits website has the stripey socks down as 1955-56 and 1959-61, so maybe they are correct, but scanning through the Turner & Coton book "Fulham - The Team" suggests players were less concerned with wearing matching socks back then. Anyway I'm basically saying I like the plain white shirt and this season's Nike version is just as good and could be a future Top 5 contender. We've not worn a completely plain white shirt since 1975 so it was due a return. Player I most associate with it: Johnny Haynes

Somehow I've failed to include any of the numerous away kits I have bought nor the 1977-1980 kit that was the first one I saw the team play in. That was a classic Adidas kit with black collars and the famous three stripes. I was maybe slightly put of it at the time thanks to that kit my Mum & Dad bought me as a 12 year old. My kit was always slightly too small, was made of a horrible polyester mix that was never nice to put on and had a badge that was a dodgy transfer which started to come of after a couple of washes. I wore it religiously to football training though, until eventually I had to accept it really was too small. Looking back it was a great kit as well but for now sits just outside my Top 5.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Matches

The best five Fulham matches I can remember attending.

1. Portsmouth 4 Fulham 4 (1st Jan 1985 at Fratton Park)

2. Fulham 7 Swansea 0 (11th Nov 1995 FA Cup 1st round at Craven Cottage)

3. Fulham 1 Lincoln 1 (18th May 1982 promotion clincher at Craven Cottage)

4. Fulham 3 Spurs 2 (11th Sep 2002 at Loftus Road)

5. Fulham 4 Stockport Co. 1 (26th August 2000 at Craven Cottage)

A New Year's Day trip to a windy Fratton Park and the most amazing game of football I have ever seen. Within the first 15 minutes we had already lost Robert Wilson to injury and had seen a Pompey goal disallowed for offside. Less than 10 minutes later and we were 3 goals down. Pompey added a forth thanks to Jeff Hopkins (never my favourite player) attempting a clearance that only managed to smash into Alan Biley's face before looping back over a stranded Jim Stannard and finding the back of the net. 4-0 down at half time and nobody in the away enclosure really believed we were going to win the game. As the Whites trotted out for the second half though the away end sang loud and clear determined to make the most of a Bank Holiday afternoon out. With the wind in our favour we made a great start scoring the first goal two minutes into the second half. Coney reaching a far post cross from Ray Lewington. "We're gonna win 5-4" we sang hilariously - as if! Then we added two more in three minutes and suddenly, with 15 minutes still to play, realised we actually could win. Pompey fought desperately to stem the tide and for a while it looked like our hopes would be dashed. Hopkins headed a Portsmouth free kick into our own net but miraculously we got a reprieve as the Ref ordered the free kick retaken. In the final minute Cliffy Carr surged forward and was brought down in the box. Kevin Lock stepped up, right in front of the away crowd, incredible pressure but Locky was always the consummate penalty taker and he slotted it away to level the match at 4-4. The away end erupted in joy and as the final whistle blew we knew we'd seen something spectacular. Even being held back for 1/2 hour after the game did not dampen our spirits, in fact if anything we were happy for a bit of extra time to bask in the glory of the greatest Fulham comeback of all time.

Quite often victories by big scorelines don't make for great games. Its all too one sided and there's no edge to the game. This F.A. Cup success was something different though. We weren't having the best of times and Swansea were doing well in the division above us. We took the lead after just two minutes, Nick Cusack flicking on a Tony Lange goal kick for "Super" Mick Conroy to fire home. Conroy got his second after 16 minutes before Lea Barkus had to leave the field to be replaced by Paul Brooker making his Fulham debut. We added a third within the first half hour as Duncan Jupp shot home after a Gary Brazil corner. I remember being slightly concerned that we may lose our momentum having lost Barkus, Brooker however, turned in one of the greatest debut performances I have ever seen. In the second half he ripped Swansea apart time and time again and by the end of the game I genuinely believed we had a new Fulham hero in the making. Conroy completed his hatrick, before Cusack and Brooker made it six. Martin Thomas then completed the rout with a cracking volley from a Robbie Herrera cross. At the time this was the biggest-ever defeat of a club from a higher division in the history of the F.A. Cup.

A crunch match which could have seen either team claim a promotion spot. It was a dark and misty old night with a big crowd of around 20,000. We struggled to find our rhythm, and Lincoln looked by far the better team. Then "Big" Roger Brown came crashing in with a header to take the lead and we were back in the driving seat. Lincoln pulled one back with around a quarter of an hour remaining, but we held on and the point was enough to confirm our promotion back to the 2nd division. As the final whistle blew the pitch was swamped by supporters, who carried the players from the field. We stayed to see the team come out onto the Cottage balcony to soak up the cheers and applause, a great night, my first promotion season and one I will never forget.

Another cracking Fulham come back, and THE game I think of when I remember our years at Loftus Road. 2-0 down, having lost Saha early on to injury and not looking that impressive, we came out for the second half a different team. Inamoto scored on 68 minutes to give us hope before Malbranque slotted home a penalty, with about 5 minutes left, to level the scores. Having pulled it back to 2-2 no one could have complained, but then Sylvain Legwinski raced onto a through ball and fired home an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the goal to make it 3-2. It was just about the last kick of the game and we went home unable to stop smiling.

This was the game when I realised exactly how good we were under Tigana. I'd missed a few of the early games that season due to the birth of my first son in May and I think this might have been the first chance I had had to see the team for real. We were so good that I actually felt sorry for Stockport. They couldn't get the ball of us, we just passed them to death and how they ended up on the scoresheet I have no idea. We probably could have won by many more but this was as impressive display as I have ever seen from a Fulham team. It would go on to be one of our greatest seasons and eventually see us achieve Premier League status for the first time.

Incidentally in case you are wondering about some obvious games not included in this Top 5 here's a few great games that I missed; Carlisle 1 FFC 2 (5th April 1997), Blackburn 1 FFC 2 (11th April 2001), FFC 1 Sheff. Weds 1 (16th April 2001), FFC 2 Liverpool 0 (22nd Oct 2005), FFC 1 Chavs 0 (19th Mar 2006) and FFC 2 Arsenal 1 (29th Nov 2006).

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Players I have seen

These are my favourite Fulham players that I actually saw play. Not necessarily the greatest to have pulled on a white shirt but the ones that I enjoyed watching the most.

1. Gordon Davies

2. Steed Malbranque

3. Ray Houghton

4. Simon Morgan

5. Louis Saha

Gordon "Ivor" Davies was my first and greatest Fulham hero. He scored twice in my first ever match, and went on to become Fulham's all time leading goalscorer. During his two spells at the club you just got used to the fact that Ivor would probably score. After he finally hung up his boots it was a very long time before we found someone who could score goals as often as he did. In fact we never really did.

Steed may have left under a bit of a cloud, but for five seasons he left me spellbound with his wizardry and work ethic. He brought a joy of playing to our team. Initially under Tigana he played his part in a team that could all play football the way it should be played, and eventually under Coleman he was the star man, the driving force behind a team of more workman like cloggers.

Much like Steed, Ray Houghton was the creative spark behind the MacDonald team of the 80's. A team made up of promising youngsters and a few old heads that went to the brink of the top division before spiralling back down again as the key players were sold. Signed for free from West Ham, Houghton was a bundle of energy, and played a starring role in our epic series of games against Liverpool in the League Cup. Having been sold to Oxford he got to claim a League Cup winner's medal (beating QPR 3-0 in the final and scoring the final goal). Having played for several seasons in a very successful Liverpool team he then moved to Aston Villa and during the 1994 World Cup scored his most memorable goal as the Republic of Ireland beat Italy 1-0.

The 90's was a grim time to be a Fulham supporter. Having spent a couple of years away from football, my return saw a team I didn't recognise. No one stood out and we were frankly appalling. As I got more games under my belt one player did start to set himself apart from the rest. Morgs gave 100% in every game, he worked his socks of and whilst he didn't look the greatest I appreciated the effort. However, as our fortunes slowly changed, and new managers came and went, it turned out Morgs really could play. Under Micky Adams he drove the team on, moaning at every contentious decision but putting his all into every performance. Having joined a team expecting a return to 2nd tier football, he ended up Captaining the side that dropped into the 4th tier. It's a testament to his character that he stuck with us through those dark days and saw us back in the 2nd tier and on the brink of the 1st before his knees could take no more.

Another "black sheep" of the Fulham family, Louis Saha arrived from Metz with no great reputation to boast about. A short loan spell at Newcastle had not impressed anyone, but under Tigana's guidance and playing in a team that was all about style, Saha flourished. Our top scorer in the team that won the Championship, he continued to impress in the Premier League. Two goals in our first match, a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford, may have sealed his fate as far as we were concerned, but we did get to watch his style and goalscoring for a couple of seasons before he left us for "better things" and provided us with £12m which was just enough to offset the £11m we had wasted on Steve Marlet and ensure our return to Craven Cottage.