FIRST OF ALL, MANY THANKS DAVID FOR AGREEING TO LAUNCH OUR INAUGURAL FRIENDS OF FULHAM Q&A SESSION. DO YOU EVER LOOK IN ON FOF?
From time to time. I’ve certainly looked at it over the last few days! I don’t post though.
HOW DID YOU BECOME A FULHAM FAN IN THE FIRST PLACE?
My mother lived in a block of flats beside Putney Bridge station and I went to my first game (v. Liverpool) at the age of 9.
DID YOU EVER BUNK IN UNDER THE TURNSTILES?
No, but I used to kick a ball around in Bishops Park with a pal and we often saw the players walk by after training, which was really exciting.
WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE 2012/2013 SEASON?
Good in parts. I think possibly when we got 40 points a little bit of complacency set in. It looks as though we are making quite a few signings, so I’m optimistic that the 2013-14 season will be a good one.
WHO WAS YOUR FULHAM PLAYER OF THE SEASON?
Probably Sasha Reither. He was consistently good.
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE FULHAM PLAYER OF ALL TIME, AND WHY?
I suppose I should say Johnny Haynes because he was Fulham’s most famous son. But the player who excited me most was Les Barrett. He was the archetypal winger. Fast as a greyhound, a brilliant crosser of a ball and he could score goals, too. He was so good he made full-backs cry. It’s a shame we don’t have many out and out wingers today because they made the game very exciting. I played on the wing in charity matches and tried to copy what Les did. Not very successfully!
WHICH FULHAM PLAYER(S) COME TO MIND IN TERMS OF NOT MAKING IT AS BIG IN THE GAME AS THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE?
Lots of players never played as well after they left Fulham. Steed Malbranque was sublime here and the crowd loved him. Boa Morte played his best football at Fulham. Sean Davis should never have left. Later on Danny Murphy reprieved his career under Roy Hodgson. Chris Baird, Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora all became better players inspired by Roy and Ray Lewington. And, by the way, Tony Gale should have been capped by England.
WHICH MANAGER DID YOU HAVE MOST TIME FOR?
Alec Stock was brilliant in `75 when Fulham reached the Cup Final. Roy Hodgson reminded me of him in some ways, very Fulhamish.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER FULHAM MOMENT?
There have been many great moments. If I had to choose one it would be March 18, 2010, the game against Juventus. Having watched Fulham when gates were down to 4,000 and been there when people accused the crowd of being quiet, I`d never heard anything like it at Craven Cottage. When Clint Dempsey scored in the 82nd minute, the atmosphere was electric. I looked across to the Hammersmith End with tears in my eyes. Fulham have made me cry before (for different reasons!) but this was something I thought I would never see or hear - very emotional.
DO YOU THINK THAT THE JOHNNY HAYNES STATUE HAS ENHANCED THE CLUB'S IMAGE AND MADE PEOPLE MORE AWARE OF THE HISTORY OF THE CLUB?
I’ve seen some football statues, but this one is the best. The pose really captures how Johnny Haynes was. He`s looking at Tosh Chamberlain and saying, "Call that a bloody pass, Tosh?". There`s a picture in my book of me lining up with Johnny in a charity match at The Valley. I recognise that look because he gave it to me that night when I didn’t pass him the ball! What a player. George Cohen swears he had eyes in the back of his head…. He knew where his colleagues were without even looking up.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE MICHAEL JACKSON STATUE?
I remember the day Michael Jackson came to the Cottage. When I introduced him to the crowd, I think a lot of them thought he was a lookalike. He was under a Fulham umbrella even though there was baking sunshine. Eventually the penny dropped and they realised it really was him. We’d never had such a big star there before. Re the statue, I’ll say what I said at the time it was unveiled. It’s the chairman’s stadium, and he can do what he likes with it. He can put it on the half-way line if he likes, providing I can see round it and spot who’s scored a goal.
WHY DID YOU RESIGN AS A DIRECTOR?
The full story is in my book, “A Fulhamish Tale”, but basically the club was the subject of an FA enquiry into illegal payments of players (something done by a previous board). Another director and I asked to see the books and Ernie Clay, the chairman, said we couldn’t. How can you be a director of a club and not know what’s going on? It was a shame because being director of a club I’d supported for so long was a great experience. The other director and I felt Clay had a hidden agenda. This later became clear when he bought the ground from the Church Commissioners for £900,000 and sold it to developers for £9 million.
“A FULHAMISH TALE” WAS A GREAT READ. ARE YOU PLANNING TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT YOUR SHOWBIZ LIFE AND EXPERIENCES?
I might do that. Thanks for the idea. I’d certainly like to write another book. I started out as a writer, and it’s something I enjoy.
YOUR RECENT BOOK WAS DISTRIBUTED THROUGH THE WONDERFUL KEN COTON AND MARTIN PLUMBS' ASHWATER PRESS; THEY HAVE SUPPLIED NUMEROUS QUALITY BOOKS ON FULHAM FC SO DO YOU THINK THERE IS THERE ANY CHANCE OF THE CLUB SELLING MORE OF THEIR TITLES IN THE REMAINING CLUB SHOP?
I believe they are in negotiations with the club and I hope that happens. They produce classy books and they are both genuine long-time Fulham supporters. All their books reflect a love of the club.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST-FAVOURITE NAMES TO ANNOUNCE?
It was much easier years ago when you had names like Smith and Brown. The most difficult substitution of all was probably: “Coming off is number 7 Pavel Pogrebnyak and coming on is number 31 Alex Kacaniklic”.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO MASTER THE PRONUNCIATION OF KAČANIKLIĆ?
When we play Eastern European teams , there are sixteen names like that! Sometimes I’ve been told one pronunciation when a player joins, only for it to change later. Digacoi I called “Dig-a-choy” until he went to the World Cup and was referred to as “Dig-ash-we” so when he came back I had to change it. How do you get Dig-ash-we out of Digacoi?! When Peschisolido joined, I asked him was it PeschiSOLIDo or PeschisolEEEdo. He said he didn’t care - so I thought if he’s not bothered, why should I be?
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO READ OUT THE NAME OF THE OPPOSITION PLAYER WHO HAS JUST SCORED TO PUT US 5-0 DOWN!
DURING THE PERIOD THAT THE CLUB TRIED TO FIND A REPLACEMENT FOR YOU (DOMINIC FRISBEE ETC.) DID YOU STILL COME TO GAMES?
I didn’t come to the pre-season friendlies, though I heard reports on them, but I came to the opening game against Bolton. It was the first game back at the Cottage and I was sad not to be part of it, especially as it was a glorious summer’s day and there was a carnival atmosphere. I’d loved to have been out there welcoming everybody home.
ARE YOU AWARE THAT THE ACOUSTICS AT THE BACK OF THE HAMMERSMITH END ARE SO POOR THAT YOU CAN HEAR YOUR VOICE BUT CANNOT MAKE OUT MUCH OF WHAT YOU SAY?
No I wasn’t, but I will pass that information on to the appropriate people right away
HOW HARD DID YOU HAVE TO GRIT YOUR TEETH WHEN YOU HAD TO INTRODUCE “CHOPPER” HARRIS TO THE FAITHFUL AT HALF-TIME?
That wasn’t the best idea, was it? I don’t think that would happen again.
AMONGST THE HALF-TIME GUESTS YOU HAVE INTRODUCED OVER THE YEARS WHICH ONE(S) DID YOU RELISH MEETING AGAIN, AND ANY PARTICULAR FAVOURITES?
It doesn’t matter what entertainment is put on at half-time, nothing goes down better than when our former players come out. Did you hear the reception Barry Hayles got? By the way, Barry is still playing at 41, he just loves his football.
WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING YOU’VE SEEN AT A GAME DURING YOUR TIME AS ANNOUNCER?
Probably George Best and Rodney Marsh tackling each other to get the ball, although they were both playing for Fulham.
WHICH BIT OF HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT, WHEN THE IDEA WAS FIRST DESCRIBED TO YOU, MADE YOU WANT TO SHAKE YOUR HEAD AND WHISPER, "PLEASE, NO"?
It was difficult introducing the pantomime dame from the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, who was due on at the start of half time. We were being severely drubbed by Man City. He/she couldn’t wait to get on the pitch but I managed to persuade the dame to wait a few minutes until we’d all let sink in what was happening. Finally, when he/she did get on, the crowd were amazingly tolerant. Obviously, my life is easier when we’ve had a good first half but I am genuinely amazed at how good natured the Fulham crowd is. I don’t think it would be like that at many grounds, but then Fulham supporters have a reputation for being well behaved and, dare I say it, more intelligent than most!
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE CRAVENETTES BACK?
I think a really good troup of girl dancers would be great, but I’m told women didn’t like them.
WHICH WAS YOUR FAVOURITE FULHAM MASCOT?
I think Billy the Badger is a great improvement on Sir Craven. Remember him?
WE HAVE HEARD THAT YOU HAVE A TERRIFIC LINE IN JOKES… WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ONE?
This chap wants to be a lion tamer so he goes to see an expert trainer.
"When you’re in the cage with the roaring lion, walk towards him with the whip", says the trainer, "and he’ll sit down".
"Supposing he doesn’t", says the chap.
"Then pick up the chair and walk towards him with that".
"What if that doesn’t work?".
"Then pick up some manure in the ring and throw it in his face".
"What if there’s no manure in the ring?".
"Don’t worry", said the trainer. "There will be".
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN GERA SCORED THAT SECOND GOAL AGAINST HAMBURG?
Euphoric! Unfortunately, my mike packed up that night and I wasn’t able to announce it.
HOW ON EARTH COULD YOU KEEP COMPOSED ENOUGH TO ANNOUNCE DEMPSEY'S GOAL AGAINST JUVENTUS & GERA'S GOAL AGAINST HAMBURG?
I certainly announced Dempsey’s. I probably shouted out that louder than any goal and of course it had to be loud to be heard over the crowd.
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO FULHAM'S CHOICE OF SONG BEING THE BLACK EYES PEAS AT THE EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL?
Not my choice of music. I haven’t chosen any music at Fulham for a long time now.
DO YOU GO TO AWAY MATCHES AND CRITIQUE OTHER STADIUM ANNOUNCERS?
I don’t got to as many away matches as I have done in the past. When I do, I like to get there early so I can see what their announcer does before the game in case I can pick up any good ideas. Likewise, I like to stay out at half-time and see what goes on. I’ve noticed that at some clubs two people do what I do, one pitchside and one in the stand.
DO YOU GET TOGETHER AND COMPARE NOTES WITH OTHER STADIUM ANNOUNCERS?
I’ve had a lot of correspondence with George Sephton, who’s been Liverpool’s announcer for 40 years. I don’t think I’ll catch him up! The Liverpool programme were kind enough to name us the two best voices, and George sent me a copy. I was hoping to meet him in Hamburg, but Liverpool lost in the semis, but he’s said he will come down to Fulham. I told him he’s lucky to have a song like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that he can play before kick-off. “Viva El Fulham” isn’t quite in that league…
HOW COULD YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT RETIRING?
I shall be 75 in September and I thought the club might like to have somebody younger represent them. I’m also standing outside for three hours on matchdays and, in a winter like we’ve just had, freezing my nuts off which is perhaps not the best thing I could do at this time of life. But Mohamed Al Fayed asked me to go and see him before the QPR game on Easter Monday and when I did, he talked me out of it. His exact words were "As long as I’m here, you’re here". He’s a very persuasive man and, after all he’s done for the club, I hope he’s here for a long time to come. We’re lucky our club has been in good hands. Look down the league tables and you’ll see plenty who haven’t.
WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE OVER FROM YOU AS STADIUM ANNOUNCER WHEN YOU EVENTUALLY DO HANG UP YOUR MIC?
I don’t think that’s for me to decide but one thing you can be sure of, it’ll be someone younger!
WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN YOU EVENTUALLY DO RETIRE?
I’ll enjoy coming to Fulham with my son, who has a season ticket, and watching the games with him.
A QUESTION HAS BEEN RAISED IN REMEMBRANCE OF FINNSTER01, A LONG-TERM POSTER WHO DIED TRAGICALLY EARLY JUST OVER A YEAR AGO. HE WAS ONE OF OUR MORE QUIRKY CHARACTERS… DO YOU PEE STANDING UP OR SITTING DOWN?
I’m still standing!
AND FINALLY, WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE 2013/14 SEASON?
I hope it’s a really good one and that Martin Jol can lead us to our highest ever position in the Premier League.