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Fulham F.C.

Year 1995/1996   (Phespirit cheered Fulham F.C. from the terraces of the Hammersmith End)

Saturday 12 August 1995


A glorious outbreak of unbroken sunshine welcomes Phespirit on his debut at the Cottage; the crowd is in good humour - Fulham's summertime third division terraces are the right place to be at three in the afternoon.

One hundred and five minutes later, after two goals each from Martin Thomas and Michael Mison have secured a deserved Fulham victory, the sun is still shining brightly.
Phespirit is hooked.

Phespirit's enthusiasm is further bouyed by the grim humour of the terraces - the lone Fulham supporter baiting the opposing fans with chants of "Where've yer coal mines gone? Where've yer coal mines gone?" might not have been politically correct, but Phespirit admired his imagination.

This excellent start to the season is carried on through the first month;
by the end of August the Whites are comfortably second in the table.

Saturday 9 September 1995


A month later, with the momentum of early success propelling us forward, the lads race into an early 3 - 0 lead against a very ordinary Doncaster side - goals are scored by Mark Blake, Mick Conroy and Nick Cusack. Nothing can go wrong. Indeed, it seems we are truly being smiled upon when the referee sees fit to send off a Donny player for second bookable offence - against ten of 'em we must be laughing.

Inexplicably, however, our lads take this as a cue to turn into Stonehenge, ceasing all effort, remaining almost entirely static for the remainder of the match, passing the ball only to opposition players or into touch. Inevitably a goal is leaked, abuse pours forth from all home sections of the crowd and everyone shuffles home feeling slightly miffed, despite having just won by two clear goals.

Tuesday 3 October 1995


Here we have a second round Coca Cola Cup match, second leg, in which the lads are faced with the stiff task of turning around a 2 - 0 first leg deficit.

Wolves are a class apart on the day and, despite some outstanding support from the home crowd, a rout is sadly inevitable. The only consolation is seeing the away fans getting drenched in the pissing rain.

[ The last statement is tongue in cheek; as one who has stood soaked to the skin in an uncovered away enclosure, Phespirit is a strong advocate of the terrace roof. ]

Saturday 28 October 1995


What might have been a brief lapse in league form against Doncaster, actually turns out to be a pivotal point for the whole season.

This awful match, scratching a draw against Hereford, sees us slip to seventeenth in the table. The standard of football is so terrible that Ian Branfoot's position as manager is firmly set as a subject for much terrace scrutiny and grumbling .....

However, even in these lean times the football fan can find consolation. Now, come the future years when Fulham reap success, Phespirit can self-righteously claim:
"I was there when we drew 0 - 0 at home to Hereford."

This match was such a dire spectacle that the martyrdom of attendance affords Phespirit total absolution for any prior or subsequent football sin. Perhaps Jesus himself might have been spared forty days in the wilderness had he chosen instead to been present at the Cottage this night .....

Saturday 11 November 1995


League performances may have plummeted but there's nothing like the F.A. Cup to revitalise enthusiasm at a club - especially if there's a chance to scalp a team from the division above.

Miraculously, that is precisely what Fulham do against Swansea - and they just kept scoring and scoring!

When the home fans enquire of goalkeeper Tony Lange, "What's the score?" he needs the fingers of both hands to count it out - given another half an hour he'd have had to take his boots and socks off.

This result sets an all-time F.A. Cup record for team defeating another from a higher division.
And Phespirit was there! Yeah!!

Saturday 18 November 1995


Fulham hate Brentford / Brentford hate Fulham. Trad.

This may be a mere Autoglass Windshields Cup match on a Tuesday night, but still all the die-hards turn out for their regular local derby dust-up .....

..... and duly there is fighting in the stands, calls for "knife fights", chants of "outside, outside", assertions that "Brentford run from Fulham", etc., etc.

Cusack's glorious late goal against the scum from Division Two is enough to win us the game, but Phespirit can do without this kind of terrace cabaret.

Saturday 3 February 1996


Despite our fleeting moments of joy, Fulham are never realistically destined to win one of the cups, and all the time our league results are going from bad to worse.

In February, Fulham fans find their team second from bottom of the entire league, with only Torquay beneath to prop us up - and then even they go and beat us (mercifully in Phespirit's absence). It's just as well they are too far adrift to catch us with three points.

By now the fans not only want Ian Branfoot sacked, but also tarred, feathered and flogged bollock-naked into the Thames.

Eventually, however, he is just moved upstairs.

Tuesday 5 March 1996


A diversion: there is early tension on the way to the ground as Phespirit, Jon and Jim each select themselves a match official - the one with the shortest official buys the half-time teas. Jim loses with a linesman marginally shorter than Phespirit's referee.

At half-time we drink amidst a deathly silent crowd, having witnessed yet another woeful performance and the sight of our team trapsing off the pitch two goals down.

Then, as the second half begins, one man - just one man - starts singing his heart out from the Hammersmith End. He rallys the rest of us, exhorting us all to follow his lead. And we do. The fans take the challenge, singing as we haven't sung for months, and the team respond magnificently. In the eighty-seventh minute Michael Mison bundles in an equaliser and everyone falls into a swoon.

There is much said about the effect fans getting behind their team, but this is the first time Phespirit has seen a result actually changed entirely at the instigation of a lone fan.

Saturday 27 April 1996


By the end of April, the anti-alchemist Branfoot (turning pure gold into lead) is a long distant nightmare, having been replaced in his job by senior player Micky Adams. Things are now looking up.

Armed with little more than his own motivational skills, Adams somehow wins us a handful of the closing matches and hauls the club a little higher up the table to a position of relative respectability.

The fans' renewed optimism is shown in that over 10,000 of us turn up for this final game of the season at home to the crowned champions, Gillingham.

We don't get to see any goals but we comfortably match a team already up, and the sun warms us just as it had done on the opening day.

Perhaps next year it will be our turn ..... ?

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