Hi David, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. TOOFIF has become synonymous with the matchday experience at Craven Cottage…
If by a “synonymous” presence you mean an “interminable” one, then I suppose you’re right! It’s almost 30 years now, which is remarkable as I’m still only, er, 39. Mind you, to be sure of getting to that 30-year mark I could do with a couple of extra helpers on matchdays to help flog the flipping thing! Anyone up for doing so will be handsomely rewarded (ie we do a good line in personal compliments) and you might get a beer voucher, too.
I suppose the best place to start is back in the latter part of 1987. What made you begin the process of creating TOOFIF, leading to Issue One appearing in March 1988?
When Jimmy Hill returned to the Club in 1987 as FFC Chairman he decided to prune the number of volunteer programme contributors as they each received free entry to matches in return for their labours. I was one of those to be culled, even though I was playing rather than watching football on Saturday afternoons back then so wasn’t in need of tickets. I was also a Supporters’ Club committee member, and, with the long-running ground saga in its relative infancy, the committee were becoming increasingly active. In the wake of the proposed Fulham Park Rangers nightmare someone suggested starting up a fanzine with long-time FFC fan David Preston. I didn’t know what a fanzine was, or even who David P was come to that, but we locked horns and came up with “There’s Only One F In Fulham”. As a courtesy we wrote to the football club telling them of our intentions to “produce a regular, punchy magazine” that, while always supportive of the club, would offer an alternative view to the often bland, enforced PR-speak typically peddled by football clubs up and down the country. We weren’t looking much beyond frank terrace opinions and concerns intermingled with features such as silly names, crazy haircuts and tales of convoluted away trips. The club weren’t keen, which was understandable. But the main thrust of their response was odd: Why don’t we use our undoubted expertise for the benefit of the club? In those days, that could only mean contributing to the club programme, and I’d just been booted off that particular gig! Issue One hit the streets at Aldershot in March 1988.
So, looking back, despite the difficulties the club faced, 1988 ironically turned out to be a good year for Fulham as it's the year I was born (lol!), as well as the year that brought us TOOFIF for the first time – a proud moment for you, I’m sure. Do you look back at that time and consider it a good or bad time for you bearing in mind the turmoil the club faced?
As far as longevity goes, all the sensible money would’ve been placed on you – mini-Dan v the fledgling TOOFIF…? No contest, surely! We weren’t looking much beyond 1988. All the more so when David P decided his social life came first, and legged it after Issue 6. As for it being a proud moment when Issue 1 came out, I reckon ‘bewildered’ is a more accurate description.
It can’t be easy starting out – did anyone at the club play a big part in giving you your big break with TOOFIF?
No. The mag has always been independent of the club.
Did you imagine TOOFIF would go onto be as successful as it has been and did you anticipate the longevity of its success?
Actually, there was a “big break”. By the late 1980s, Fulham didn’t own Craven Cottage, property developers Cabra Estates did and they were intent on bringing in the bulldozers. The local council stepped in with the aim of securing the ground via a compulsory purchase order (CPO): this called for a government-sponsored public inquiry, arranged for January 1990. In the event, FFC did an 11th-hour deal with Cabra, taking a chunk of money and a three-year lease in return for dropping their support of the CPO. That controversial deal, however, did provide the fledgling TOOFIF with an unexpected bonus: within the small print lay a clause that barred any Fulham FC personnel from commenting on the deal via its own outlets, i.e. the programme and Clubcall. Remember, this was way before the internet, swish club magazines and the wall-to-wall media coverage offered these days. The independently run TOOFIF, though, was free to carry on unhindered and probably made its name in trying to keep the magnificent diehard supporters as fully in the picture as possible with regard to all the goings-on at the time. There was certainly no thought back then of still producing the fanzine in the 21st century – that was about as likely as Fulham playing in the top flight!
You've interviewed so many people over the years, so surely at some point something must have gone wrong in typical Fulhamish style?
Micky Adams was eager to get several messages across to the fans when he took over from Ian Branfoot – not least that, while he was a big fan of his mentor, this was his time, and he was intent on doing things his way, but he needed the fans to be onside – so former club director Dave Gardner suggested he had a chat with the mag. I bought a new mini-tape recorder specially for the occasion and traipsed down to the BBC Sports Ground in Motspur Park to meet our new gaffer. It all went very well and, after rewinding the tape and listening to our opening exchanges, I headed home to transcribe the chat. On doing so, though, it turned out that I’d only taped the opening three or four minutes. “Oh yes, we had a faulty batch,” said the guy from Currys as he gave me a replacement (and chucked the offending machine into a big cardboard box full of other duff ones). Brilliant. I plucked up the courage to call Micky Adams who, while not best pleased, was gracious enough to agree to an action replay the following day after he’d finished taking a training session. It wasn’t an easy walk into the BBC Ground. All the players had been made aware of my cock-up and they made me very aware of it as I walked round the pavilion. “What a muppet!” and “You’re even worse than Ken Myers [who did Clubcall]!” were about the only two printable remarks. Micky Adams, who went on to give a cracking interview, thought the whole squirming episode was hilarious. Even his sidekick Alan Cork was smiling.
Another nightmare scenario came at Gary Brazil’s house in Epsom. He’d taken a load of stick from the terraces and via the mag, and had been invited to give his side of the story. Gary’s missus made us some coffee. “Enjoy a drink and some biscuits first and then I’ll make myself scarce so you can have a talk,” she said helpfully. It was a lovely warm afternoon and the French windows were open. Gary started to relax as we exchanged pleasantries while I was getting ever-more comfortable in their plush cream sofa. What could possibly go wrong? But it wasn’t just a welcome breeze that came in through the open window. No one noticed their cat enter from the garden and sneak behind the sofa. Out of nowhere, it leapt down onto my lap with its claws digging in as it landed. Even Gary Brazil jumped. Not nearly as much as me, though, and certainly not as much as my cup of coffee, which went everywhere. In the realms of how to make friends and influence people it doesn’t rank right up there. In how to disfigure a sofa, though, it was massive bonus points all round. Gary Brazil could hardly stop laughing and was still chuckling when we did the interview. Fair to say, Mrs Brazil wasn’t quite as cheery.
Who's been your favourite interview for TOOFIF? You can name several if it's impossible to have just the one.
Ray Lewington gave a cracking interview in Issue 127 (Jan 2013). Ray has been Mr Fulham throughout TOOFIF’s lifetime (even more so than Simon Morgan), experiencing the monstrous lows at FFC before deservedly revelling in our top-flight success and that glorious European Tour. Lewy was wonderfully forthright in his chat with TOOFIF and was delighted for the staunch Fulham fans who’d stuck with the club during the tough times that they’d been rewarded with the huge upswing in the club’s fortunes. In the very next issue Chris Coleman tried to outdo Ray with a punchy offering of his own. Those two interviews were extremely well received. The two ex-managers of our club may be ‘Little and Large’ as far as stature is concerned, but both are giants in the club’s history. Both have done remarkably well in their careers but have certainly not forgotten their roots. Roy Hodgson, too, was top drawer company, as you’d expect. In fact, it’s been a genuine privilege to share some time with all the TOOFIF interviewees. Which is why Mark Cooper’s never made an appearance!
Is there anyone dead or alive that you haven't interviewed that you would/ would have liked the opportunity to?
I had an interview with George Best lined up before he got really ill. Bestie remains a Man Utd legend rather than a Fulham one, but he loved his time at the Cottage and gave plenty of outstanding displays in a Fulham shirt. I met him and Johnny Haynes during the Fulham 2000 business – both were patrons, and were good mates, full of respect for each other’s abilities. A chat with The Maestro would’ve been the ‘biggie’, but it never happened because I never got round to asking him. We celebrated his 70th birthday in the mag and I had hoped to talk to him when he subsequently came down to London (Johnny was based in Edinburgh), but it wasn’t to be. Jean Tigana, though, remains on the hopeful ‘to do’ list.
Football keeps on evolving. The Matchday Programme for all supporters across the country is becoming less and less of a necessity what with internet access everywhere. Have you ever considered going digital with TOOFIF as opposed to the charming paperback edition?
“TOOFIF: Charming”! Love it. Going digital is an option but I’ve not figured how to make it work. Any advice on that score would be welcome.
Putting TOOFIF to one side for a second, let's talk about David Lloyd the supporter. For starters why Fulham and when did your adventure begin?
I was brought up in Wimbledon, near Dundonald Rec, which became my second home. My near neighbour Reg Stockham took me to a reserve game at the Cottage in the mid-’60s when his wife Joan, also a season-ticket holder, couldn’t make it. I was nine or ten and was totally hooked.
As you mention near the beginning, the club was in a bad place around the time TOOFIF was founded. Describe your feelings as a supporter, did you ever feel the unthinkable that our wonderful club would leave the Cottage or fold up completely?
Things did get very bleak and it got to the point where the possibility of the club folding appeared on the horizon. Jimmy Hill and Bill Muddyman were instrumental in keeping the club afloat, but the Herculean rearguard action taken by the club’s hardcore support was every bit as important. In the ensuing years, so many fans gave their time and expertise freely for the benefit of the club. And we’re still here. And still at Craven Cottage.
Moving on to a more positive front, you've seen some wonderful teams, players and managers down the years. I suppose there's no point asking anyone who's seen the Maestro play who's the 'best' player you've seen in the wonderful white shirt, so instead lets start off with who was your favourite ever player?
I only saw Johnny Haynes in his twilight years, although his influence and extraordinary passing ability were all-too-evident. So, the best player I’ve seen in a Fulham shirt has to be Louis Saha – lightning fast, skilful, athletic; simply a brilliant striker in a brilliant team. Mousa Dembele was getting close to that mantle with a host of impressive midfield displays before he headed off to Spurs.
Who's been your favourite manager?
Roy Hodgson probably edges it from Jean Tigana and Mickey Adams. It took a while – and the Great Escape! – for Hodgson to get it together. It was a joy to see the players improve before our very eyes, individually and collectively and we became very hard to beat under Roy (and Ray!). Okay, it wasn’t all plain sailing as we never really cracked it as far as our top-flight away form was concerned and yet we grew into a team that could take on and beat anyone on our day and we not only consolidated ourselves as an established Premier League club but also got to a major European final. Adams did wonders on a shoestring to drag us upwards from the basement division in 1997, paving the way for Chairman Mo’s involvement, while Tigana’s French revolution had us rubbing our eyes with disbelief at the consistently brilliant displays for much of the 2000-01 campaign.
Thirdly, do you have a favourite match and/or specific moment that stands out for you personally – highs or lows?
One of the lowest points was the Fulham hierarchy wasting a page in the Fulham programme in accusing me of snitching details of a private meeting chaired by CEO Brian Naysmith to the press (I’ve never done such a thing). It was basically a vicious character assassination. Now, if you run a fanzine you can’t expect to always have things going your way, there are bound to be one or two run-ins if you’re publishing something that’s contrary to the party line. Also, I’m not daft (believe it or not!); you can’t expect any football club to be overly keen on having to put up with a mag that carries strong opinions on its operations. But I’ve always tried to behave responsibly. And as to that article in the programme, there was never a retraction and certainly no apology – even though it soon became obvious who HAD contacted the paper in question (The Guardian, and not The Independent as suggested by the club). Was that person similarly castigated? No, he was made a director. As a footnote, a few years down the line Naysmith had the cheek to ask for a clutch of free back copies to help with a thesis he was putting together. That request fell into the “You couldn’t make it up” category.
At the other end of the scale, I’ve been fortunate to play in a number of fans’ games on the hallowed turf, even nabbing a goal or two along the way. These were all fantastic encounters, with former FFC players such as Jim Stannard, Simon Morgan, Ara Bedrossian, Jim Hicks and Ray Lewington involved in some of these, plus ex-Northern Ireland player Gerry Armstrong for some reason. Playing against Lewy was a revelation. He never stopped talking – cajoling, encouraging, assisting, coaching, directing; all this with a smile on his face in a low-key game that didn’t matter. The two sides included players of widely varying ages, standards and fitness. But it was a truly uplifting experience as Ray’s input in particular helped to ensure that everyone on the pitch felt involved.
Worst single football experience Fulham-wise was Derby away in 1983. Simply horrible and a cop out by the officials on the day (for ignoring the unfolding unfair circumstances) and then the football authorities for turning a blind eye to the whole fiasco. That game still hasn’t finished. Biggest gradual blow was our relegation from the top flight in 2014. In my view this was wholly avoidable and undid all the fantastic work of so many who not only got us there in the first place but who had transformed ‘little’ Fulham into an established Premier League outfit with a more-than-reasonable European pedigree.
Best Fulham day out was Carlisle away in 1997, complete with congas on (it seemed) every station platform between there and London Euston on the way back. Railway engineering works meant we didn’t get back into the Smoke until the early hours, so I was tired and emotional in more ways than one!
On a general note, it was hard not to get emotional when the transformed Craven Cottage site was unveiled following our two seasons at QPR. We were back!
As you're someone who is very experienced with asking questions I have an unusual one to ask. I recently had a debate with someone about using the phrases 'best' and 'greatest' when referring to Fulham goals. So the initial question is do you interpret them as meaning different things and if so, what are.......
-Fulham's greatest ever goal?
-Fulham's best ever goal?
-Your favourite ever?
A quick comparison of two noted Fulham goals backs up that point vividly. John Mitchell’s last-gasp effort against Birmingham in the FA Cup Final replay in April 1975 took us to our only FA Cup Final, but it was as scruffy a goal as anyone has ever scored. The ball just about bobbled over the line in the last minute of extra time so was every bit as dramatic as it was messy. But we didn’t give a damn that it wasn’t a ‘worldie’ (in any case, SuperMitch had scored a belter in the drawn game a few days earlier) – we were too busy celebrating getting to Wembley. Pajtim Kasami’s superlative goal at Crystal Palace in October 2013 was at the other end of the skills scale – a once-in-a-lifetime effort that ultimately counted for nothing. That chest control alone was phenomenal; to then volley the ball so emphatically into the net was the stuff of dreams (and made Steve Sidwell’s belter in the same game look decidedly powderpuff!) and yet the end result became the stuff of nightmares. That 4-1 win did more than anything to paper over the cracks of the crumbling Martin Jol era. The Dutchman was retained for far too long and it was the beginning of the end of our spell in the top flight, no question
In considering those two goals it occurred that we scored two very different goals in a game that did matter. Mick Conroy’s bundled effort at Carlisle in April 1997 brought us back into that ‘must-win’ encounter and was every bit as important as Rod McAree’s wonderfully struck winner.
Other memorable goals that spring to mind are:
* Viv Busby’s mazy dribble against Cardiff in the mid-seventies;
* Alan Mullery’s wonderstrike against Leicester that won BBC’s Goal of the Season in 1974;
* George Best’s majestic effort at Peterborough in September 1976;
* Gordon Davies finding the Putney End net from just in front of the Cottage against Chesterfield in January 1982;
* Roger Brown’s thumping header against Lincoln, May 1982;
* Simon Morgan’s header at Villa Park in January 1999;
* Sean Davis getting that late winner at Blackburn in April 2001 (cue Jean Tigana’s touchline sprint and Souness scowling more than ever!)
* Danny Murphy’s vital headed goal at Portsmouth in May 2008;
* Bobby Zamora’s right-footer against Shakhtar Donetsk, February 2010;
* Brilliant improvisation from Simon Davies to fashion a leveller against Hamburg in April 2010;
* and, for sheer drama, Tom Cairney’s last-gasp strike and ensuing celebrations against Leeds last season.
But you can’t discuss best/great/favourite Fulham goals without highlighting Clint Dempsey’s extraordinary chipped winner against Juventus. That one ticked all the boxes – it was spectacular, audacious, timely, and sealed a phenomenal and unlikely comeback against the mighty Juve. It might even have been a fluke! But who cares, it capped a wonderful night down by the Thames and the European Tour was back on track. Mind you, it would’ve counted for naught but for Dickson Etuhu nicking a precious away goal with that scruffy deflected effort in Turin!
What are your early expectations and predictions for next season?
The signs and vibes are good as I put this nonsense together. The squad seem committed to not only stay together but to finish what they started last season. We’ll need a couple of astute signings (not least a proficient centre-forward) to bolster what is a decent squad if not strong in depth. We were very lucky last season not to suffer too many injuries, particularly to our middle three, Cairney, McDonald and Johansen, so crucial to our attacking intent. Given how Slavisa Jokanovic got us playing for latter two-thirds of last season, his biggest hindrance might be the great expectations of us lot, especially if we cough and splutter early on. Here’s a tip, Slav: your team’s attacking ways last season were compared to those of the great Jean Tigana squad of 2000-01. Why not calm all our nerves by masterminding a similar start to the campaign? Eleven straight wins should do it! Well, we can dream!
Do you have a FOF account? And if not WHY NOT!!!! Lol
Yes, of course!
We're coming to the end of our FOF'erview, So let's move back towards TOOFIF for a second. Where do you see TOOFIF going in the future? It's the same age as me so I know the 30th anniversary is coming up in 2018. Are there any special plans to mark the occasion? [I'm assuming I'll be invited if there's a big party lol
Surely the best way to celebrate 30 years of the mag would be by the club regaining its top-flight status (no pressure, Slav!). As for where I see the mag going in the future, I’d say the nearest paper recycling centre! Frankly, it’s getting harder to produce by the season, mainly because of increased family responsibilities. And, let’s face it, a fanzine should be produced by the vibrant younger generation not an old fart. So let’s see how this season goes. There ARE plans for a book to mark the three decades of the mag. Don’t worry, it definitely won’t be a “Best of…” as that would be an insult to the TOOFIF faithful! More a trawl through the Club’s remarkable highs and lows in that time, but from a fans’ and the fanzine’s perspective.
And finally, I'm afraid it's a FOF tradition started by my colleague Darren Sonnet (Westcliffe White) to ask.......pie or pasty and which filling?
Pie. Probably steak and kidney, as I had one last week and it really hit the mark. Incidentally, if you want find out how much a pie weighs, where would you do so? Answer: Somewhere Over The Rainbow. (Sing the first couple of lines…!) Okay, I’ll get my coat…
It's been a wonderful FOFerview David, thank you so much for giving us your time. TOOFIF is a big part of the matchday experience for our fans and has that personal touch to it thanks to your talent and passion for Fulham, that's what makes it so special. For further info about TOOFIF, including how to take out a subscription (the mag’s mailed out to addresses worldwide) or to get hold of some back copies, please contact David via firstname.lastname@example.org or message DLTOOFIF on Friends of Fulham.
On behalf of everyone at Friends of Fulham, good luck with the book and with the future of TOOFIF.