The Ex-Files

Tuesday 27 November 2012 17:30

Few players manage to attain cult status at rival clubs but Clive Walker did just that.

A classy winger in his day, he made over 100 appearances in the famous white of Fulham, then under the tutorship of Ray Lewington. It was a couple of miles up the road, however, that Walker made his name, coming through the youth system at West London rivals - and Wednesday's opponents - Chelsea.

His ability to terrorise even the meanest of defenders earned him legendary status at Stamford Bridge, where he is still revered by supporters after a 12-year stay.

"I joined in 1973, having been a kid there," Walker told fulhamfc.com. "They had just had three great years. They won the FA Cup, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and also lost in the League Cup Final in 1972.

"They were a club, at that particular time, that I thought were going in the right direction. But the building of the new East Stand cost them a lot of money, caused a lot of problems and players had to be sold rather than better ones being brought in.

"The youngsters were given a chance as a result, which isn’t such a bad thing, but I think we needed a lot more stability at the time and basically we didn't have it. We were fighting a losing battle but for me it was great to get into the side."

And boy did he make his mark, netting 65 goals in 224 appearances for the Blues - no mean feat for a wideman. Many a defender will still be having nightmares of the pacy winger bursting past them, with blond locks trailing in his wake.

"They are long gone now," Walker said with a chuckle. "I must say that scoring goals was something I’m pleased with now when I look back. I was a wide player, a winger essentially, and scored quite a lot of goals. Those things don't often happen in the modern game. I think goalscoring wingers are something of the past so it was something I prided myself on.

"Obviously the big game was the Liverpool one everybody talks about in 1978, and also in 1982 when we beat them again was a highlight. I got two or three hat-tricks for the club but also I think we were a young group of lads growing up and I have lovely memories of the team.

"You remain friends for a long, long time and that is something I look back on with fondness, that camaraderie at the club."

Walker eventually left Chelsea in 1984, feeling the need for a big change for the good of his career and personal life.

He ended up at Sunderland - a move that created a desire to travel that stays with him to this day - but it was not long before he was back in West London, first at Queens Park Rangers and then Craven Cottage.

"Fulham were lower down the leagues and the big draw for me was Ray Lewington, who I had known as a young apprentice at 16," Walker said.

"Ray and I had been friends for a long, long time and he had been trying to get me from QPR for two or three months. Eventually QPR gave me the opportunity to go and I was keen to fulfill Ray's ambition to get me there.

"Fulham were down the leagues at the time, the (old) Third Division, with a view to getting better. Jimmy Hill was in charge and it was another football club at that level trying to turn around the financial side, like everybody else. It was tough times for Fulham but, saying that, it was personally very enjoyable.

"I loved my time there. The players were good, there was some good quality there and Ray was forever fighting to get better quality and improve the football."

Only this summer Lewington ended his long association with Fulham, going on to become part of former Whites boss Roy Hodgson's England set-up.

"I can't say I am surprised," Walker said. "People ask me now 'who was the best manager or coach that you had?' and Ray has been up in the top two for me throughout my career. I knew him well as a close friend, but when he turned to the coaching side you could see it was his forte after playing. He was just that type of guy.

"He was very good at it. He was intelligent, very thoughtful and knew what players wanted at different stages of their career. I think he knew what I wanted and we had a good partnership there as player to Manager.

"I had to be very careful with the other players in terms of my support for the manager as you don't want to be ostracised, but there was a balance there. We got on great and I can only say I’m not surprised that he has reached the highest level with England."

Walker, who picked up Fulham's 1989/90 Player of the Year award, went on to play for Brighton & Hove Albion after leaving the Club, before plying his trade in non-League. 

He won the FA Trophy three times at Woking and, after a short spell as Brentford assistant manager, did so again with Cheltenham Town, who he also helped earn promotion to the Football League - somewhere they have stayed ever since.

It was not until the grand old age of 42 that Walker eventually hung up his boots - experience he puts to good use now in his media work.

Walker will be at Wednesday's match in his role with Chelsea TV, but is finding it hard to predict the outcome.

"The one thing these games have been over recent years is tough," he said. "Fulham have always made it very, very difficult. I think there’s a slight advantage as Brede Hangeland isn't available and I think Chelsea's depth, although John Terry is missing, is probably greater.

"From that perspective, I think they’ll get a very, very tight win. You can see it being tough and you wouldn't be surprised if Fulham got something out of it."