Just what do we do in the close season, when time stands still and Saturdays feel very strange?
Well, there's the World Cup I suppose, but that only takes up a month and comes round only every four years. The dreaded shopping trips? Holidays? Scanning the newspapers for the 1,438 new players linked to Fulham's summer budget tends to drag the three months out longer than it should, as does reading ill-informed opinions from certain "journalists" as to how Fulham are going to fail in the forthcoming season. Do you remember the prize-winning article by our dear friend David Mellor before our 101-point championship winning season in 2000/01? It went something along the lines of "I expect Watford to finish above Fulham". That year we romped to the title with ease and walloped Elton's boys 5-0 along the way. So top marks there, David.
No, I chose to try and avoid the close-season mayhem, and decided to go for a walk.
Whilst flicking through the Evening Standard's Hot Tickets supplement some time ago, I noticed an advertisement for an event called "BIGFOOT", a 3-day 50-mile walk through Wiltshire in aid of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. I don't know why, but instantly I thought "I'll have some of that", and fired off an application to register for this madness. Thinking about the challenge, I remembered some years ago two die-hard Fulham fans walking through the night from Craven Cottage to Brighton & Hove Albion's ground, to raise money for Fulham 2000. What an effort!
I also remembered the size of the blister on one of the guy's feet afterwards (a photo was in the Fulham fanzine and the thing was around half the size of his foot!) I also remember the two fans being presented to the crowd at the Goldstone Ground, looking like extras out of "Night of the Living Dead", ready to keel over at a moment's notice. I wonder if they stood for that match or took a seat in the stand?
Looking at the information pack I received as a BIGFOOT participant, I knew the distance would be similar to that endured by the two fans on their trek to Brighton (I always found the train easier), but it would be over 3 days. Nevertheless, I would seriously need to train. A walk to the pub first, perhaps...
I received my participant information pack at around the same time that Fulham signed its first close-season player, Sava from Argentina, and at the same time as Franco Baresi joined Fulham as Director of Football. Sometimes it just isn't media fun and games (apart from when Mellor is involved and then it just gets silly).
Thoroughly reading the information on training and fundraising, I came across some general information about Multiple Sclerosis, and found it quite troubling. The incurable condition, which normally strikes between the ages of 20 and 45 (the age range of most of Fulham's playing and backroom staff), is diagnosed in 2,500 people every year in the UK. That's fifty adults every week being told that their lives are about to change forever. MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system, leaving many people severely and permanently disabled.
There are so many charities around these days. It is a pity that governments cannot do more to help those that suffer in suffering's many forms, and that fundraising is left to independent organisations such as the MS Society and countless others.
Fulham FC has been a tremendous sponsor of local charities on a season-by-season basis, with some thirty thousand pounds raised by the club for the local HAPA charity for handicapped adventure playgrounds, and similar amounts for other worthy causes. Where Fulham FC was once considered to be a charity of its own, with independent groups such as Fulham 2000 helping the club survive through its most difficult times in its long history, the situation has now turned on its head. Our club is now thriving under Mohamed Al Fayed, and is donating to good causes of its own. You can certainly see how things have changed for the better when Fulham offers its FA Cup gate receipts to those struggling to save York City. An unprecedented move, and one welcomed by football supporters everywhere.
Fulham supporters have always been a generous lot, even when times were hard economically for those supporting their team through thick and thin. That is why, as a Fulham fan for over 25 years myself, I am appealing to you all to walk with me through this 50-mile challenge with your support. Every pound donated to my sponsorship campaign will make a difference.
Of course you've heard this all before from countless charity appeals, but this appeal is from a Fulham fan determined to complete this challenge to all of you other Fulham fans out there. I may know many of you, and I've no doubt met many of you through my role in the Fulham United campaign, the independent group of Fulham locals which campaigned in support of our new stadium, which will soon become a magnificent reality.
I'm trying to raise two thousand pounds, enough to fund a Multiple Sclerosis nurse for two months. Every penny counts. For example, ten pounds can cover the materials for 2 MRI scans, and fifty pounds could cover the cost of employing a lab technician for half a day at the scanner unit. If I can go any higher than two thousand, then that would be fantastic. I'm going all-out for a MASSIVE fundraising campaign, which will add further determination to complete the 50 mile challenge.
As fellow Fulham fans, will you walk with me?
To make a donation, visit my sponsorship page by clicking the image above where you can make a secure on-line payment of your choice. I want to walk for the MS Society, and I also want to walk on behalf of the great people that are Fulham fans.
Many thanks for your time.