Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fulham's lucky mascot!

One of the benefits of having a work mate who’s a season ticket holder at Fulham is that he can often get cheap seats for Europa Cup fixtures. Because seriously, who in their right mind wants to be out watching crap football on a dreary, cold Thursday night? Well, me for one thing. Since the arrival of the little man I don’t get out as much and when I do it needs to be 1) when he’s in bed and 2) on the cheap, otherwise I’ll feel a little bad for cutting into my boy’s future Lego fund to sponsor my beer intake. Ten pound a ticket is obviously too good an opportunity to turn down, so last Thursday night I spent the evening in the company of Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson, Danny Murphy, Clint Dempsey and John Arne-Risse (nice to see a couple of Liverpool legends there)…

This is not the first time I’ve been to the Cottage. I was fortunate enough that said mate asked if I wanted to attend a few games a couple of seasons ago when Fulham marched to the final of the Europa Cup, only to miss out on lifting the trophy due to a Diego Forlan inspired Atletico Madrid. I missed the final (as it was in Hamburg) but did frequent the three preceding matches against SV Hamburg, Wolfsburg and, luckily, the unforgettable knock out encounter against Juventus. It’s not often you get to see a World Cup winning captain being completely bullied and out muscled by a previously much maligned striker. It’s also rarer to see such an extraordinary come back. The atmosphere in Fulham after that game was electric. Conveniently, it had occurred shortly after Chelsea had been knocked out of Big Cup, so the chants of ‘there’s only one team in Fulham’ were even more rousing that night. I don’t think anyone could quite believe what had happened!

Of course, Clint Dempsey's winner looks awesome, but we all know the reality that it was really a rather wanky cross...

Anyway, Wisla Krakow are no Juventus, and as Thursday’s match was still in the group stages of the competition there was not as much riding on the game. Any celebration was likely to be muted. From Fulham’s perspective of course; every Pole in South West London that turned up for the game (all of them then) would probably disagree with that assessment. The normally sedate seated Putney End, normally filled with part-time supporters (such as myself), was instead a sea of standing Krakow fans singing, chanting and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Most Fulham fans looked on bemused (or cowered depending on the root of their xenophobia) but it seemed to charge the players into frenzied activity. Before you could say “fuck me, woeful defending” it was 1-1 inside five minutes. Then Andy Johnson scored an absolute peach – a volley from a corner with the goal slightly behind him. It’s always nice to be sitting directly behind the net when a fantastic strike like that hits the back of the net. And slowly Fulham cruised to another 4-1 victory (although even that didn’t manage to quite pierce the noise and joviality of the Krakow fans). Well worth the tenner!

Anyway, the point of this post: that’s four in four. Four UEFA… sorry, Europa Cup jaunts to Craven Cottage, four pretty outstanding victories. Not a tedious game in sight, goals galore and whilst nice Uncle Roy has evolved into Kojak, the same approach to playing good passing football with the occasional hoof up to Zamora remains Fulham’s bread and butter. So I’ve been declared by my work mate and his fellow season-ticket chums as a lucky mascot. Based on my current attendance to win ratio, Fulham should win the Europa Cup this season. So, if you want to see a decent game on the cheap on a wet mid-week evening in south west London, against quality opposition, where an upset is likely, I heartily recommend visiting Craven Cottage. It’s the better option to watching the forlorn figure of Fernando Torres trudge around Stamford Bridge, miss another sitter, look up to the sky and ask where it’s all gone wrong. How much do you have to pay for that shit?

Sign me up Al-Fayed and European domination is yours... I'm lucky like that!

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