From the past or present, each week we talk to a different Fulham personality. This Sunday, it is midfielder Paul Trollope who joined in 1997 and was a part of our ascent to the top flight.
Midfielder Paul Trollope was a part of some of the greatest moments in Fulham’s history, as he signed in 1997 and left with the Club in the Premiership.
Beginning his career at his hometown club Swindon Town, he had a big act to follow but relished the chance to make his name in the game after years of watching his father make a record 770 appearances for the side.
“My dad [John] managed to play a record number of games for Swindon, so I grew up in quite a big shadow in the local area,” he told the Fulham website. “It introduced me to football from a very early age. I spent all my school days watching Swindon and having access to the game behind the scenes, which helped to make it a real football upbringing.”
Moving to Torquay United on loan, before choosing to join permanently, Trollope credits Don O’Riordan with giving him a chance to showcase his skills and eventually get a move to Derby County where he would make the transition into the top flight.
“At Swindon I was an apprentice and signed as a professional under Ossie Ardiles,” he said. “As the team progressed and Glenn Hoddle came in, I realised I wasn’t near the first team and so I went on loan to Torquay at the age of 19 and signed permanently soon after. It took me a while to grow up and learn the game down there but soon I managed it and started to put together some good form under O’Riordan.
“It was a spell that managed to alert a few people to me and I got my move to Derby County. It was a Championship club at the time, but it was an interesting time because they had invested heavily into the squad in the previous years. There were a lot of good players there and it was interesting to come in. Obviously it was great to get promotion to the Premier League and make 20-odd appearances there which was fantastic.”
“There was a few of us who were let out on loan when we first got into the top flight. I went out to Grimsby Town and Crystal Palace and then we all came back around the Christmas period as the team had a few injuries. It was a fantastic period as we did enough and got the results to stay in the Premier League again.”
Fulham came calling after his two-year spell with Derby and Trollope admits he was excited to take on the project in SW6.
“It was an interesting one,” he said. “It was Derby’s second season in the Premier League and they had three or four midfield players who were ahead of me. Sometimes you have to realise when the club moves forward quicker than you and we were signing multi-million pound players. I was still involved but I wanted to play more and when I heard that Kevin Keegan wanted to speak to me it was something I was interested in.
“I remember seeing some of the signings that Fulham were making after Mohamed Al Fayed took over and thinking that it looked like a great project to be involved in. Although it was two divisions lower, it was tough to turn down because of the way that Kevin sold the Club to me. It was something that I thought at the time was right for me and when I came down to London it matched up.”
With the promise of top flight football in his five-year plan, Mr Al Fayed clearly impressed Trollope and the midfielder saw plenty of changes as we set about our path to glory.
“It was an interesting time as the new players were very respectful of what was there before,” he said. “For us there was a really successful team under Micky Adams before which sealed promotion, and the managerial team of Kevin and Ray [Wilkins] gave those players a chance to prove themselves. I always remember Kevin saying: ‘Do you want to get on the train with us?’ At the time when I arrived it was a big squad and a good one but it was a challenge.
“There were changes with Kevin’s role and Ray leaving at the end of the season and we were disappointed we didn’t do enough to gain promotion via the Play-Offs because we thought we were good enough. To get the promotion the year after and then two years later for us to get to the Premier League was incredible and it was a great time for everyone at the Club.”
Trollope made 68 appearances, with 30 from the bench, in a five-year spell that ended in 2002.
“My personal situation was that I didn’t play in every game; I had runs in the side without playing a whole season and had a couple of injuries,” he said. “As the Club bought more and more players and the level rose, I was one of those who didn’t quite have enough to keep up.
“Even still, it was a fantastic experience for me to be a part of the ‘French revolution’ at the Club and the methods that were used which were radical at the time. It certainly stood me in good stead for my future career. The small frustrations that I had when I wasn’t playing were dwarfed by the experiences that we were all involved in during that time. It was a really good group and some great characters. It wasn’t just a group of quality, they were nice people as well and we were a tight unit.”
Moving on to Coventry City, Northampton Town and Bristol Rovers, Trollope made the move into management with Rovers and took a chance on a new career path.
“I went straight from playing and the opportunity arose to become a caretaker manager,” he said. “I put playing on the backburner for that spell and threw myself into management. Luckily it went well and, after a lot of preparation, my experiences with all my former clubs and the Welsh national team saw me feel confident about the situation.
“It was something I knew I wanted to go into. I was thrust into it and I was fortunate that the club had a great Director of Football to work with as well – Lenny Lawrence. He taught me aspects of coaching and management that was invaluable to me.”
During his five-year tenure, Trollope even oversaw a win over Fulham: 5-3 on penalties in the Third Round of the FA Cup in 2008.
“We had a golden spell in the middle of my time there when we gained promotion from League Two through the Play-Offs,” he added. “We got to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final; we got through to the Quarter-Finals of the FA Cup when we were beaten by West Bromwich Albion and we beat Fulham on the way.
“Roy Hodgson hadn’t been in charge for long and we managed a 2-2 draw at the Cottage, then came back to a muddy Memorial Stadium and went through on penalties. It was a nice moment for me. Going back to any of your old clubs is always good for a player, but that was special.”
After hanging up his boots in 2007 to focus on coaching full-time, Trollope is now a coach at Norwich City under Chris Hughton (whom he had joined for a brief spell at Birmingham City), but Fulham are still close his heart.
“When you’re at a place for so long – I was there almost five years – it always holds a special place for you,” he added. “Where the Club is now is because of the players from the past. Whether it was with Micky moving through the leagues, or those who came later, all the players played their part – however big or small. Any player who has played for Fulham has done something to ensure that it is what it is today.”