Proud to be Fulham

Monday 15 April 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

So in the end it just wasn't to be. Fulham's dreams of Cup Final glory, roads into Europe and an emphatic humbling of the local rivals ended up floundering in a far-away and unlikely location. On a cut-up and crumbling pitch in the Midlands surrounded by an impenetrable network of impassable motorways, Fulham once more learnt the lesson that football is all about goals.

Despite dominating the second half, the Whites could just not produce that little bit of luck that Chelsea were able to conjure up for their winning goal. Fulham's failing, as it has been for much of the season, was that they were just unable to add a finishing touch to one of the many fine moves that they put together. BBC pundit Alan Green summed it very well when he said that although Chelsea played badly, at the moment Fulham couldn't punch their way out of a paper bag!

Poor old Louis Saha - he obviously enjoyed his goal up at Newcastle so much he thought he'd replicate it at Villa Park. It was an exact carbon copy; unfortunately his range finding apparatus was facing the wrong way!

And what about Graham Poll? How the FA can put a self-confessed Chelsea supporter in charge of such a crucial game is beyond me. There were several iffy decisions that went Chelsea's way, but Poll showed his true colours when he decided not to punish Jesper Gronkjaer for his very deliberate handball late in the second half. That was an automatic yellow card in anybody's book - Gronkjaer's second of the game. I doubt there is another referee in the world who wouldn't have sent the Dane off in this situation, and I will be very interested to see if the FA have anything to say on the matter. This is England's refereeing representative at the World Cup don't forget, and I suspect that FIFA won't have such an unforgiving view of such a flagrant flouting of the rules.

Did the incident have any real bearing on the outcome of the match? It's interesting to note that it was Gronkjaer who prevented Steve Marlet getting on the end of Fulham's well-worked free kick right at the end of the game.

But Fulham aren't going to Cardiff and they only have themselves to blame. Chelsea were there for the taking, they didn't play well and gave the Whites plenty of chances to get in behind them. The unpleasant truth is that, for all their neat play, for all their attacking promise, for all their domination, Fulham were just not good enough to beat Chelsea on the day.

On the plus side, there was something on Sunday that restored my faith in human nature as I know it. Like a lot of us I suspect, as a kid I could just as easily have ended up supporting Chelsea as Fulham; if my Dad had turned left out of his front door instead of right the first time he went to a football match, then things could have been very different today for me.

Chelsea may have been the bigger, more successful Club throughout all my time as a football supporter, but I've never regretted the hand that fate dealt me. I've always disliked their ground, and found the majority of their supporters unpleasant, arrogant and charmless.

There were a group of four of them sat behind us in the Holte End on Sunday. They had originally sneaked in with their coats buttoned up to their necks, but when the stewards weren't looking, revealed their blue shirts, superman style, for all to see. I don't have a problem with that as such, I've been forced into away ends myself when desperate to see a game. If, when the goal went in, they could have behaved like most normal people would have done, and just enjoyed their good fortune inwardly and quietly, there would have been no problem.

Not a chance with this bunch of bozos. They just had to get up and crow about how good they were. Trouble naturally ensued, and they were quickly hauled out by the stewards, who I have to say, as soon as they noticed them, were in, got them out, and were gone before you could blink.

They're special people, Chelsea fans, and I thank God I'm not one of them. The four morons behind me gave me back my belief that my Dad, and then myself, made the right choice all those years ago. I am Fulham, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Finally, what about that road network that saw Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal fans having to negotiate their way home through the roadworks late on a Sunday night? It's a pity that motorways didn't exist during World War Two, if the Germans had ever invaded England, they could have just been channelled up the M6 - they'd still be there now!