I never much like receiving the red card from the postman of non-delivery of signed-for items. It involves a journey to the sorting office for bad news. So yesterday when I queued up in the cold I was less than happy. Little did I know. Readers will know that many of our sports Rusters love sports memorabilia and none more so than Ivan Conway. In surfing his favourite website he came across a team photo of Fulham of the early 20s, two signed photo of George Cohen, two hand books and one handbook of the 50s and an Evening Standard 20 pages edition devoted to Fulham published in September 1970. He acquired these and sent them to me. How kind and appreciated.
Like Ivan I find these memorabilia fascinating for a variety of reasons. First it is a historical record of the club, secondly it shows how soccer reporting has changed and thirdly, it reflects the times. The photos of the twenties with Craven Cottage behind the team featured the directors resplendent in three-piece suits , watch chains and hats, trainers in big wide caps and side whiskers and shorts that bore no sponsor.
The yearbooks and handbook were written in a prose, florid and verbose, you would never see in today’s programme which resembles a merchandising catalogue. Take this sentence from the 1949-50 yearbook to celebrate Fulham’s promotion from the second tier, the old second division, now the fourth.
“The quality-first variety of soccer that characterises play in the upper circle should suit our players down to the ground. It is the type of football they like to play and whatever fate may have in store for us, we can, I am convinced, promise our first division opponents that they will find the Cottagers foemen worthy of their steel.”
The Evening Standard Fulham edition is the only one I remember buying. It had the age-old assertion that there are no longer characters in the game which every generation makes of the previous. It covered tactics, players, history – even our best-ever Fulham side: of these I would say six would get into teams selected in 2015: Langley, Haynes,Cohen, Mullery , Robson, and Leggat.
The other feature I enjoy is the reference to lesser known or younger players. There was passing mention to Cliff Lloyd who with Jimmy Hill led the successful fight to abolish the maximum wage; Tom Wilson who more than anyone kept our home at Craven Cottage as a director; to Dudley Evans who join Fulham’s first board in 1904 as player-director (I wonder what duties that encompassed) t0 an outstanding youngster called Johnny Haynes.
I could say that with the team presently poised just above relegation zone, these records therapeutically bring some cheer but they actually emphasise that traditionally Fulham have not been a top flight club and fear of relegation is the consistently dominant theme. The 1970 edition celebrated a Fulham side built on the pace of Jimmy Conway and Les Barrett on the wings, Steve Earle who scored 100 goals for Fulham and big Vic Halom who became a SDP councillor on Wearside having played for Sunderland in the 1973 victory over Leeds. In 1970 we finished fourth and won promotion to what is now the Championship the next. As Fred Callaghan who played 322 games as left back and runs a lounge at Fulham observed.
“It’s great to see Fulham at the other end of the table for once”.
Not a sentiment we enjoy right now.