Saturday 3rd May 1975 is a date that many Fulham fans hold dear. After all, it’s not every day your club reaches the FA Cup Final.
Back in the 1974/75 season, Fulham were a Second Division side, which makes their progress to the Final of the country’s oldest cup competition even more impressive. Moreover, the record 11 games that it took them to reach the Final was a feat of strength as well as skill. Unfortunately, the match was not what we would have wanted and we lost 2-0, but the run to the Final was still one of the Club’s finest moments.
Third Round: Fulham 1-1 Hull City, 4th Jan 1975; Hull City 2-2 Fulham, 7th Jan 1975; Fulham 1-0 Hull City, 13th Jan 1975.
Three games against Hull began the run and they were mostly played in miserable wet and windy conditions. The first game saw us host the Tigers on a run of just four goals in our last 10 games; none in the previous three. Jimmy Conway got us ahead, but then Ken Wagstaff hit back to force a replay. At Boothferry, we could have been up by a few before the break, but it took until the 64th minute before Viv Busby struck home. Peter Fletcher latched onto a poor Les Strong backpass to force extra-time, then there were two more goals: one header from Stuart Croft, and a 15-yard equaliser from Busby. The second replay came at Filbert Street and only 48 hours after a league match – but it needed just one goal from Alan Slough. Busby broke free, ran half the length of the pitch then fed Slough who hammered us into the next round.
Fourth Round: Fulham 0-0 Nottingham Forest, 28th Jan 1975; Nottingham Forest 1-1 Fulham, 3rd Feb 1975; Fulham 1-1 Nottingham Forest 5th Feb 1975; Nottingham Forest 1-2 Fulham, 10th Feb 1975.
Three games against one opponent was trying enough, but it was four in the Fourth Round next up against Nottingham Forest, for whom Brian Clough had just taken over. The first game was pushed back three days after torrential rain, although it was not much better by the 28th. Forest put pressure on the Fulham defence all game, but were unable to break through thanks to goalkeeper Peter Mellor and it ended goalless. The Replay at the City Ground saw us go ahead as Busby’s pass was converted by John Dowie but Neil Martin equalised with a header and extra-time brought no more goals.
The Cottage hosted the next game but another 120 minutes ended level. Bob Chapman’s sliced clearance fell to Slough and he made no mistake on 25 minutes, but John Robertson’s fine free-kick made sure it would go to another game! Then for the fourth (and final) match, it was back to the City Ground again. This time, Busby made the difference and converted from Conway’s cross, then picked up a wonderful 40-yard pass from Alan Mullery, rounded the goalkeeper and scored. “Justice has been done at last,” Mullery said afterwards.
Fifth Round: Everton 1-2 Fulham, 15th Feb 1975.
When we took on the Toffees just five days later, they were top of Division One at the time. In front of 45,233 fans, we pulled off a huge shock as Busby continued his fine form by taking advantage of a fumble from goalkeeper Dai Davies. Roger Kenyon equalised after 52 minutes but, with Bobby Moore and Mellor marshalling the defence well, we pushed forward and Conway’s cross was converted by Busby once more with six minutes remaining. “My scoring form has come just at the right time,” Busby said. “I have never scored twice in successive matches, let alone important Cup games, in my life.” Manager Alec Stock called it our “finest hour”, but more was to come.
Quarter-Final: Carlisle United 0-1 Fulham, 8th March 1975.
The Club then faced First Division Carlisle at Brunton Park, who were playing in their first-ever FA Cup Quarter-Final. The opposition were struggling with relegation battles, while the Whites’ Cup run had transformed our form. The game was ultimately a tale of two goalkeepers: Mellor had what was surely the game of his life for Fulham, while Alan Ross made one mistake – a slip which saw him tangle with one of his own defenders and hand Les Barrett the only goal of the game in the 66th minute. “We got back that evening and Alec Stock and I were on Match of the Day,” said Barrett. “We jumped off the train and went straight to the BBC.”
Semi-Final: Fulham 1-1 Birmingham City, 5th April 1975; Birmingham City 0-1 Fulham, 9th April 1975.
After a number of Replays to get this far, Fulham were in a good position when the Semi-Final went to another. The first game saw a half-fit John Mitchell hammer home after a wonderful move, but Joe Gallagher hit back shortly after Slough had almost made it 2-0. At Maine Road, we had to wait until the very end of extra-time to score a horrible goal: poked home by Mitchell from close range. “There was quite a contrast between the two goals,” Mitchell told Fultime. “The first was probably one of the better; the second, despite it meaning the most, was one of the worst. I had a shot which hit the keeper and came back off me and rolled in. I don’t think it even reached the back of the net.”
Final: West Ham 2-0 Fulham, 3rd May 1975.
After 11 games, the FA Cup Final and a trip to the historical home of football, Wembley Stadium, was sealed. The team to face us was West Ham – Bobby Moore’s old side – and the build-up was almost as interesting as the Cup run! Sadly for Les Strong, he would not be a part of the Final as he suffered a knee injury in a challenge with George Graham against Portsmouth shortly before the game. Then there was the legal action which saw boot manufacturer Stylo take the Club to court on the day of the game as the players had wanted to wear adidas, but the Judge eventually delayed the ruling until after full-time. We were made to black out the adidas logo on boots and bags and, after a short crisis which saw us have to bring in last minute shinpads from Wembley High Street, we were ready.
Les Barrett: “It felt like reaching the Final was meant to be. My dad actually had a dream before we played in the Third Round that we’d get to Wembley. I’ve never told anyone this but I also had a dream the night before the Final that we’d lose if I didn’t do anything in the game. And that’s how it panned out.”
Unfortunately it did. Fulham failed to match the performance levels that had seen them reach the Final, with John Lacy’s header that went just wide the closest we came, while Mitchell saw a chance slip away too. In the end it was Alan Taylor who netted twice to put West Ham 2-0 up and hand them the trophy. It would be the last FA Cup Final to be contested by 22 British players and when Fulham returned home to the Cottage the next day, they found the Putney End packed with supporters. Manager Stock revealed: “Losers’ banquets are usually events to avoid, but I like to think Fulham’s was a happy occasion. The Club were so delighted in getting to Wembley that they soon forgot the score and what happened a few hours earlier. When the groundsman ordered a bottle of champagne at four in the morning, I knew it hadn’t been a bad old night.”
Read the full interview with the Boys of ’75 in the latest edition of Fultime here.