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Fulham F.C.

Year 1997/1998   (Phespirit cheered Fulham F.C. from the terraces of the Hammersmith End)

Saturday 9 August 1997


This is the first game of the season, but already the drama has begun without a ball being kicked. Chairman Jimmy Hill, having secured the future of Craven Cottage, has bowed OUT of the club; Mohammad Al Fayed (along with thirty million pounds) has come IN.
Despite the heroics of last season Micky Adams can surely see the writing on the wall .....

At the sharp end of things it is immediately apparent that last year's players will struggle in this year's division. We just manage to scrape this win.

Saturday 30 August 1997


After a steady opening five games (three in the league, two in the league cup, including a 4 - 4 at home to today's opponents just four days ago) this is our first defeat of the season. Phespirit spends almost the whole of this match stuck in various traffic jams leading out of London, trying to get to Wycombe.

A bad day.

Tuesday 9 September 1997


Fulham's first home match since the death of the chairman's son in a Paris car crash.

On this still and sombre Tuesday night several tributes are presented before the match. A lengthy speech is read from the centre circle by Fayed spokesman Michael Cole, with a few words added by Mo himself. The minute's silence is then almost immaculately observed (interrupted solely by a brief ring from one fan's mobile phone - probably to his/her overwhelming embarrassment).

Plymouth fans are impeccable in showing respect.

Phespirit remembers little from the game itself, only the pervading eerie, un-fooball-like atmosphere. No-one seems entirely sure how to bridge the gulf between shared mourning and boisterous Fulham-supporting.

Somehow we make the leap and the result comes good. Anything other than a win would have been totally wrong.

Saturday 13 September 1997


A bad one, this. We are fairly and squarely tanked at home by better opposition. Especially bad for Micky Adams as this proves to be his last game as manager. The axe falls - as was inevitable - on the man who was everybody's hero just four months previously.

Although harsh, Phespirit suspects that Micky was destined to struggle in this stronger division - with or without millions to spend - and that perhaps it's better that he makes the martyr's exit now (with a few quid in his back bin) than wait for the fans turn against him.

Saturday 11 October 1997


We now have Kevin Keegan as Chief Operating Officer, which is great, and Ray Wilkins as manager, which is terrible. The fans are grumbling but most are trying to take an optimistic view.

Phespirit doesn't mind saying now:
Wilkins is not the right man for the job.

This slender home win against Blackpool, whilst being a fair result, demonstrates that there is still plenty of scope for improving the team's performance.

Saturday 8 November 1997


This should have been an easy win against a poor side. We go one-up, one-down, back into the lead and then hang on by the one goal to the end. This means that everyone is able to alternate between merrily chanting "you're not singing any more" and grumbling abuse at the players.

From half-time onwards it pisses down with rain, but this merely allows Phespirit to get a good position in one of the front walkways by sharing his umbrella with a match steward. In conversation, Phespirit is told that all of the stewards here work both Bristol grounds, and that they are actually all City supporters.

As City are simultaneously in the process of murdering Brentford we can all go home well pleased.

Friday 19 December 1997


Phespirit watched this one on the telly. Unlike the previous televised match which we won three-nil at home to Gillingham (reportedly a classic, shown a month earlier, Phespirit missed it), this is a terrible, poor quality affair.

Danny Cullip comes on as substitute and scores with a hero's header a few minutes from time. Three points for winning. Nothing for inspiration. Wilkins?

Monday 5 January 1998


Match Ticket

This match represents the nightmare scenario for Phespirit. As such, he must hide his shame in a small grey font.

Phespirit sits in the away end, joining in with songs such as "You're going down with the Barnsley" (which he genuinely believes) and cheering on every Fulham attack, but privately he confesses to his friends that - for historical reasons - a Spurs win might actually be the preferable result. Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry .....

In the end both teams do themselves proud but Phespirit goes home trying to forget the whole affair.

Tuesday 24 February 1998


This must be the all-time classic example of a team raising their game out of all proportion to their talent to beat the division's apparent glamour boys. As we have one of our now familiar off-nights, so Bournemouth are inspiried.

All respect to Bournemouth supporters, however: coming all the way to London en masse on a Tuesday evening to follow a struggling team, and then out-singing us home fans on the night. Top visiting support of the season.     Well, they're harmless, aren't they?

Saturday 14 March 1998


Another stupid bloody result at home to some useless going-nowhere side. Wilkins should be getting more effort out of the players than this. It's all the more galling as we'd had a great two-nil win at Chesterfield the game before - it's becoming reminiscent of last season when we couldn't stop winning away but then dropping points at home.

And then, of course, there's the scum element of Millwall. The fans who, despite winning, still go looking for punch up. When they invade 'The Old Suffolk Punch' in the Fulham Palace Road the police insist that time be called to avoid any bother.

Totally out of order. A disgrace.

Saturday 28 March 1998


Matthew Fox R.I.P.

Monday 13 April 1998


Now this is a return to the good stuff - this is what we should have been watching all season. Great football and loads of goals (including a hat-trick for Pesch) all on a hot clear day.

Not only that, but we leave the ground boldly reckoning that we can afford to lose all our remaining games and still qualify for the play-offs .....

Saturday 2 May 1998


Match Ticket

It's a gloriously sunny day with over seventeen thousand in the stands for a match which we only need to draw to guarantee our place in the play-offs; so why oh why do we all bray for a win when Beardsley scores our equaliser on the hour?

As it turns out, a miraculous goalless draw achieved by Wigan at Gillingham means that we make the play-offs anyway, but we can count ourselves very bloody lucky.

Phespirit blames Wilkins.

Saturday 9 May 1998 / Wednesday 13 May 1998

Promotion play-off semi-final: FULHAM 1 - 1 GRIMSBY TOWN / GRIMSBY TOWN 1 - 0 FULHAM

Phespirit was in France when these matches were played and consequently missed what must have been a tragic anti-climax for everyone present.

The preceding week mercifully saw Ray Wilkins dismissed from the club and Kevin Keegan take over as manager, finally undoing what he never should have done in the first place, and re-fuelling the fans optimism.

During the actual matches, however, it is the dismissals from the pitch of Paul Moody (home) and Paul Peschisolido (away) which prove crucial in the end. And so the dream of a trip to Wembley and - more importantly - promotion to Division One must remain a dream for another year at least.

Pessimistically, although Phespirit expects Fulham to be a stronger, more attacking side next year, he also expects the standard of play in Division Two to be higher all round. Teams such as Manchester City, Stoke City and Notts County should all be strong rivals along with Fulham for the automatic promotion places (plus, of course, we are cursed with having to face the likes of Millwall and Gillingham for another year). Nonetheless, player for player Fulham should still have the best side in the division.

So with the right man in charge - CHAMPIONS!

Fayed and Keegan always said they had a five year plan to get Fulham F.C. into the F.A. Premiership -

That's one down, four to go .....