One of my earliest Fulham memories was a fourth round cup tie against Sheffield United in February 1967, almost 46 years ago to the day. The first half was so bad that BBC did not show it on Match of the Day. It ended 1-1 with the Blades winning the replay. In yesterday’s match, the televised highlight could have started on the 120th minute with the Sheffield United winner.
As I was nursing a bad throat, my missus suggested I stay out of the cold and watch the game on ITV 4. Years ago nothing would have prevented me from attending a match, but the mood is so depressed that on this rare occasion I followed Barbara’s advice. Everyone seems shrouded under a slough of despair at Fulham, except possibly Rene Meulensteen who still contrives to say something cheerful. His cred is running out and rumours abound that Alan Curbishley will replace him.
Until extra time, when there were some long shots from Kasami and Tankavic, the Sheffield goal was rarely troubled. It was a performance that was inept and dull. He chose a team of mixed experience and youth but the end result, in every sense, was another depressing home defeat against a team that simply had more desire to win.
There was a picture on television of new signing Mitraglou peering through the driving rain blanket over his kness. He must be wondering what he has walked into.
Is there any hope? I looked up the date of the 1967 cup tie, with some sadness, in Dennis Turner’s Fulham Facts and Figures. I saw the record of the previous season (1965-66). Again in early February Fulham were bottom, with the equivalent of 20 points. We went onto win 9 games, including victories over Liverpool, West Brom and Villa, all of whom we will play this season. Sadly there is no Dennis to celebrate this extraordinary Great Escape and I doubt if more than 2% of our present fans are aware of this.