A chance for revenge

Friday 24 August 2001

Fulham's record goalscorer Gordon Davies believes the club can lay to rest one of football's biggest miscarriages of justice by beating Derby tomorrow.

Davies has relished the club's return to the top flight, 33 years after being relegated in 1968.

But an infamous night at Derby's former home, the Baseball Ground, in 1983, still rankles for the Welshman.

It was on that day Fulham, needing only a point for promotion to the old First Division, were the victims of one of the game's biggest controversies. The team, managed by Malcolm Macdonald, were trailing 1-0 with four minutes to go when a pitch invasion halted play.

Fulham defender Jeff Hopkin was attacked by a Derby fan, Davies was threatened by three more and the players were rushed off the pitch.

But instead of them coming out to play the last three minutes, the referee took police advice to call the match off - and the Football Association allowed the result to stand. "It was an outrage," said 159-goal Davies, nicknamed 'Ivor' by Fulham fans. "The referee accepted there were three minutes to go but they were never played.

"Under any other circumstance the match would have been replayed, perhaps behind closed doors. But the FA bottled it and turned down the club's appeal.

"They thought because Fulham were a small club and wouldn't make too much fuss they could walk over us and Leicester were promoted instead.

"The players felt cheated, and they still do. It cost the club dearly because after that everything went downhill. Within 18 months, 12 of the squad had left the club and Fulham were on the way down. The players and the fans have never forgotten and it gives Saturday's match an extra edge."

Davies, who now runs a pest control company, remains frustrated that it has taken the club so long to get back to the top flight after that terrible day.

"Fans were gathered all around the edges of the pitch and it was a really intimidating atmosphere," he said. "Robert Wilson actually got kicked in the thigh by a fan as he sprinted up the wing and nobody did anything about it.

"When I hit a shot wide I rushed to get the ball and these three skinheads surrounded me. I'll take out the expletives, but they basically told me if I scored a goal they would break my legs. When we got in the changing room everyone was badly shaken. We didn't want to go back out there but we never thought the game wouldn't be replayed. As far as I'm concerned it's the longest running game in history, because the final whistle still hasn't gone 18 years later."

Who knows what would have happened to Fulham if the game had been re-staged? Perhaps they would have survived at the top level rather than plummeting to 91st in the league a decade later - and perhaps they would have prospered even without Mohamed Fayed's money.

But Davies has high hopes for Fulham now. He said: "Things are so exciting there these days. Louis Saha looks like he could break my goalscoring record one day and the fans have plenty of new heroes to cheer. It's absolutely wonderful to see them in the Premiership at last.

"I can't help thinking they should have been there all along, mind you. I'll always think that. But three points against Derby will certainly make things a lot better."