Love Hate relationship

Friday 26 April 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

It's going to be a sad and emotional day on Saturday, and a last opportunity to pay homage to the place that's provided us with so many exhilarating and breathtaking memories over the years.

In all the publicity surrounding the impending demolition of the famous old ground, it's rather got lost that it's Leicester City providing the final opposition and that it's Micky Adams who is now in charge of the already demoted Foxes.

Outside of your favourites, most people have another team that mean a little more to them than all the others in the league. It's usually for no apparent reason, and you might favour them or be delighted every time they lose. Sometimes it's because of something that happened, some event lost in the dim and distant past; it might be that they were a team who laid down and died every time you played them, or perhaps they were the team responsible for knocking you out of the Cup one year courtesy of a dodgy penalty.

Well I have strong feelings about Leicester. It all started many years ago when my all-time favourite player Allan Clarke was transferred to City, and Fulham's then manager, Bobby Robson, brought in Frank Large as part of the deal. Large was the biggest donkey I have ever seen on a football field, and to watch this lumbering carthorse playing in place of the thoroughbred I idolised broke my heart. I have held a vivid resentment ever since, and subsequent events have done nothing to change my views.

The next heart-breaker was in that infamous year when Fulham were denied promotion to the top-flight by the debacle at Derby County. Who went up in our place? Leicester of course. They'd already done the damage a few weeks earlier when they'd come down to the Cottage and sneaked a one-nil win, and my antipathy had grown accordingly.

Then there was the Worthington Cup quarter-final at Filbert Street a few years ago. First Division Fulham had their more illustrious Premiership opponents on the ropes all through normal and then extra-time, only for the Foxes to provide the sort of fighting comeback that Martin O'Neil's teams are renowned for. It all came down to a penalty shoot-out and Fulham capitulated in the worst display of spot-kicking that I have ever seen.

For all sorts of reasons, I had been particularly down at the time of that game. When we were two-nil up with ten minutes to go, I was actually starting to feel a bit human again. By the end of the game I felt like a washed out dish-rag, emotionally and physically.

So my dislike of Leicester is passionate. But now look what's happened to them - my favourite Fulham manager of all-time has taken charge. Fulham were at the lowest ebb, and in serious danger of going down the plug-hole before white knight Adams came riding in. I will always regard Adams with the greatest affection, regardless of whatever he does in the future.

If he stays at Leicester for any length of time, you never know, I might even start feeling a little more magnanimous about his team. But not yet. Not yet by a long way.

It's going to be a special day on Saturday, one that will live in the memory forever. What will make it extra-special for me is if that memory is forever associated with a five-goal thrashing of those devils in blue!