Last night I attended a dinner at Craven Cottage as part of the appeal to raise money for the statue for George Cohen. The great and the the good – notably Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington who guided Fulham to the Europa League final in 2010 – were present, though not George’s great pal Bob Howes who worked so hard to set up this project nor his team mate Fred Callaghan.
Although Roy paid tribute to his time at Fulham which really launched him as a future England coach and Richard Osman the compère of Pointless oversaw quiz contests, I was not alone in feeling the night should have been more George-centric. George said a few words at the end – there was video of him and of the 1966 final, true – and some generous tributes from past and present Fulham, but I did not feel he was at the heart of the evening.
50 years ago England won the World Cup. This remains the only trophy England has won in football, the same number as Greece and Denmark. For Fulham to have a player present in the actual winning eleven is a huge honour. It’s something of which Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool ,Spurs and Nottingham Forest cannot boast despite the number of club trophies they won. George was also that rarity: the one club man. His career effectively ended after a knee injury against Liverpool. He worked as youth team coach, bringing on Tony Gale and Les Strong, then he moved into property with a man whose windows I cleaned Sidney Brickman. Another saga developed to rival Jarndyce v Jarndyce as a legacy to George from Sidney was caught in the crossfire dispute over his will and the legal fees exceeded the value of the bequest. He had to deal with cancer and the death of his brother Peter in a night club incident, but enjoyed the pride of his nephew rugby winger Ben Cohen being another World Cup winner in the family.
I should end with a George story but I will recount one told by Roy Hodgson in the Great Escape season of 2007-8. Fulham’s penultimate away game at Manchester City was fundamental. We were 2 down at half time and relegated. A fan behind him shouted “Hodgson, bring on Kamara.” Roy can be a ditherer on substitutions so he consulted with his assistants Mike Kelly and Ray Lewington. When he brought on Kamara the same voice boomed at him”Hodgson, I was only joking”. Kamara scored two crucial goals, Fulham won 3-2 and stayed up.