Build up to Boro'

Wednesday 19 December 2001

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch...

Fulham reached their first Cup Final in 1975. They reached their second Cup Final also in 1975. On the 26th November and the 9th December to be precise, in the two legged final of the Anglo-Scottish Cup against Middlesbrough.

Don't know much about that tournament? Well here's a potted history.

The Anglo-Scottish Cup began life as the Texaco Cup in 1971, a competition involving clubs from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who hadn't qualified for Europe. The Irish clubs withdrew after the 1971-72 finals because of political unrest and competed in a separate Texaco Irish Cup.

When Texaco withdrew their sponsorship in 1975, the Anglo Scottish Cup was introduced. This was a continuation of the previous competition involving English and Scottish clubs only, but was never taken very seriously. In 1977 Newcastle were disqualified for fielding a weakened team in their Quarter Final 1st leg tie at Ayr United.

The status of the English teams gradually declined over the years, and fed up with it all, the Scottish clubs withdrew in a huff in 1981 - the tournament continuing with English Clubs only as the Football League Group Cup. It was renamed the Football League Trophy in 1982 and then replaced in 1983 by the Associate Members Cup.

It may have been a bit Mickey Mouse but it gave Fulham an early opportunity to get the West Ham defeat out of their system, and the Whites duly qualified for the very first Final of the re-branded tournament.

In the first round group stage, Fulham were in an all-English group with the winners going through to meet a Scottish opponent in the next round. Qualification was gained with a two-one win at Norwich, a two-two draw at home to Bristol City, and very welcome home win against Second Division rivals Chelsea courtesy of a penalty from Alan Mullery. An innovative rule awarding an extra point to any team scoring three goals was therefore not needed.

A two-legged Quarter Final against Heart of Midlothian was next, and the Whites went through five-four on aggregate, winning three-two at home and drawing the return two-two. A crowd of just over 6,000 at the cottage showed how excited the Fulham faithful were by all of this.

Motherwell were the opponents in the Semi Final, and after a one-one draw at home, Fulham won three-two in Scotland to go through to the Final four-three on aggregate.

First Division Middlesbrough awaited. Unfortunately Jack Charlton was the Teesiders' manager, and the big Geordie had taken all the negatives from his playing days with Leeds and magnified them at Boro tenfold - they had finished seventh in the First Division the year before, conceding less than one goal a game. Their primary tactic was to stick ten men behind the ball and play for the draw, or if they got incredibly lucky, sneak a one-nil win. It worked very well for them, as it did for Charlton's Irish team in later years.

A Les Strong own-goal, deflecting a Terry Cooper cross into the net, was the difference between the two teams in the first leg at Ayresome Park. This might not seem too mountainous a task in itself, but for a Jack Charlton team it was all that was needed. As the man himself famously said before the second leg, "If Fulham can score a goal against us, then they deserve to win the World Cup."

Fulham played very well in the return, and did everything they could to get that vital breakthrough, but Boro shut up shop and defended like only they could. The goalless draw meant that the Cup went north and Fulham once again were left trophyless.

The sad result of those games, and nothing has happened since to rectify the situation, is that Fulham still haven't scored in a Cup Final. It may be some time before we get the chance to do something about it, but I still bear as much of a grudge about Jack Charlton's Middlesbrough as I do about West Ham. I don't care what's happened since between the two teams; as far as I'm concerned we still owe them one. A Christmas stuffing for Boro on Saturday would be very welcome indeed.