He's back

Wednesday 3 July 2002

"Does it mean you will play for Fulham again Daddy?". The first reaction of my 8-year-old daughter to the news that after 20 years as a professional I was finally hanging my boots up and returning "home" to Fulham Football Club as Head of Community.

The news didn't seem to register with my mother either. "Will Mr Tigana still let you turn out for the reserves every now and again?" she asked. I can imagine a few thousand Fulham fans recoiling in horror at the very thought of Simon Morgan turning out for their team again. Have no fear - it ain't gonna happen.

The knees have finally had enough and now, for the first time in my life, I have to start working for a living!

I did manage to make an immediate impact on my first day in my new office. Within a couple of hours I had created as much chaos as one of my dodgy backpasses used to in the Fulham defence. The draws on my desk broke, my computer wouldn't work and the photocopier packed up - Morgs was back!

Order was quickly restored thanks to the serene, smooth, calm professionalism of the Community Department office staff but I think they all got another shock when I announced at 12.30 that I was finished for the day and was going down the bookies to while away the afternoon. Old footballers habits die hard!

The transition from footballer to real-life worker has been made much easier thanks to the efforts of the Community Manager, Gary Mulcahey. I was a Fulham player when Gary first launched the Community Scheme back in 1992. In those days the Community consisted of Gary Mulcahey and a bag of balls and the fact that our Department is now regarded as one of the biggest, and most successful, in the country is great testament to Gary's hard work. He has a wonderful relationship with the local community and with Fulham's long-standing supporters and I am delighted to be able to work alongside him.

Gary would be the first to give credit to his staff, especially another long-server, the Football Development Manager, Danny Jacquart. Dan and his coaching staff worked with nearly 60,000 children last season as our Community links continued to develop and extend.

Most supporters perception of the Community Department will probably concentrate on the school holiday soccer courses we run. Over 1,000 children will participate on these courses over the summer holiday and with a free FFC branded boot bag or ruck sack if you pre-book and the possibility of appearances from current squad members, it is the perfect way to spend the summer holidays.

The Community will never be as exciting in the eyes of Fulham fans as a Louis Saha goal, as dramatic as an Edwin Van Der Sar flying save or as exhilarating as a Steed Malbranque dribble. Thankfully, neither will it be as painful as a Rufus tackle!

Yet the Department does so much important work throughout the Community and touches the lives of many, including under-privileged, homeless, disability and unemployed groups. Gary has whisked me on a whistle-stop tour of all we have to offer. It has meant a non-stop round of meetings, presentations and business lunches - the waistband is already starting to fill out - but my eyes have already been opened to the huge amount of work we do.

First stop was Lambeth and a visit to see the students who have just started our third Football into Work course in the borough. The previous courses have been a huge success with 10 of the previously unemployed students going on to work as coaches for Fulham and one other moving into employment at the National Sports Stadium at Crystal Palace. A great success story for Football into Work and testimony to Toby Perrin and Somora Rattray for their hard work in raising the profile of Fulham Football Club within Lambeth.

Then it was down to Queensmill School in Fulham where 60 autistic children put on a wonderful sports day parade and were rewarded with FFC medals.

The Skills and Learning Centre, currently based at Craven Cottage, has proved a massive success with over 400 pupils visiting last season. With the Cottage nearly ready to be renovated a new room is required and the next task was to visit the potential new site with Centre Manager, Sam Kemp, and try to ensure it will be up and running for the September relaunch.

There was just time to catch a glimpse of Finns in typically consistent form in the World Cup (who else hid behind the sofa when he stepped up to take that penalty!) before we hosted an Adidas Football Festival for 750 young schoolchildren. Just to prove I hadn't lost my touch I took part in the Skills Area and entered the hardest shot competition only to be beaten by members of the ladies team and Doris the cleaner!

While on the subject of the World Cup England, yet again, flattered to deceive. Beaten by the eventual winners, yes, but lacking the necessary mental strength to seriously threaten the World's best teams. And losing against only 10 men - where have we seen that before?! Another glorious failure just emphasizes the importance of the 1966 World Cup winning heroes in our nations footballing and sporting history. How long before our own George Cohen is finally knighted and given the credit and thanks he fully deserves?

Funniest part of the whole World Cup media circus was last Saturday's Sun which featured a personal rundown of all the German and Brazilian finalists. Ratings and profiles were written by that renowned World Cup winner and all-round football superstar, Chris Kamara! What chance have we got?

Back in the office I have also been catching up with our progress in such diverse initiatives as the Dads and Sons campaign, Charity fundraising, increasing links with the Fulham Academy, the anti racism campaign and the international academy as well as the necessary administrative duties needed to ensure the department runs smoothly.

Then it was back out into the field for another round of soccer courses, after school clubs and another presentation, this time to our Lillie Road teams who had another successful year as Junior Fulham.

But there has certainly been time for plenty of play between all the work. Much to the amusement of the community staff I came last in our World Cup prediction competition - shows exactly how much I know about the game! Then there was my debut in the weekly staff football match where I made the massive mistake of being on the opposing side to the Gaffer. Basically these matches go on until his team win! My side lost 7 - 5 and Jean scored all 7!

I have also had brief glimpses of the lads as they returned to pre-season training. Watching them running round the training ground looking so lean and fit reminded me of how much the game has changed for the better over the last few years. They all look so thin and fit, even Melv!

Yet while they headed off to the canteen for chicken and pasta I trotted back to the office, via a fast food outlet!, and continued the community preparations for the intertoto cup match on Saturday - the last match at the Cottage, take 10! Does this mean I can go on another ex-players parade round the pitch?!

Thanks to sponsorship from Western Union the community will have 600 guests and new supporters at the match. Herein lies a serious message because thanks to the generosity and unstinting support of the Chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed, the Community department has grown into one of the biggest and most innovative in the country.

Yet we need to be able to stand on our own two feet and if anybody would like to support any of our Community initiatives we would love to hear from you.

Until then we will continue to endeavour to provide the highest level of quality community based activity in the country. We want as many children as possible to join the Fulham family as Club FFC Junior members and by experiencing Community summer holiday soccer courses and matchday packages. If you are interested call the Community Department on 020 7384 4767.

As for now I find myself in a strange situation. For the last 20 years I have prepared for a new season as a professional footballer. This time I'm part of the team behind the team and we're all working hard to ensure the Club continues its miraculous rise.

The season starts on Saturday with a European adventure - good luck lads, I will raise a glass of red wine to your success on Friday evening! Have a great season - we're all right behind you!