From the past or present, we catch up with a different Fulham personality. This week, Dennis Turner talks to Kevin Lock.
Older supporters look back with great affection to Malcolm Macdonald’s brief tenure as Manager. Promotion from the (old) Third Division in 1982 was followed by a serious challenge for promotion to the top flight 12 months later, which faltered at the final hurdle.
It was achieved with a young side playing an exciting brand of open, attacking football. But there was a lot of experience in the Team as well, and in Kevin Lock, the Manager could rely on a cultured defender who was consistently cool and unruffled, who read the game like a book and who had a left foot with the metronomic efficiency of Steve Davis’ snooker cue.
A genuine Cockney from Plaistow (the ‘i’ is silent as he was quick to point out), Kevin joined his local club as an apprentice straight from school at the age of 15.
“I was a fanatical West Ham United supporter as a boy,” Kevin admitted. “I went to every home game and it was a thrill to sign for them. And it was at a time when youngsters had a chance to learn the trade and progress through the ranks.
“That was partly because that was what Ron Greenwood and John Lyall believed in, but it was also because clubs like West Ham and Fulham needed a steady supply of home-grown talent for the first-team squad. They weren’t big spenders and there were no foreign players in those days. When I went to Upton Park, I was in the same youth side as Pat Holland, Johnny Ayris and John McDowell and we all made it through to the league side.
“It was a special time at the club as well. I made my debut at Sheffield United in 1972 and in that team were Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds and Pop Robson - all great players and great professionals. Harry Redknapp was also a regular but missed the trip to Bramall Lane through injury. It took me a year to get established in the side and I played in several positions. We were a First Division side in those days and the highlight for me was the FA Cup Final in 1975.
“It might sound strange to say it but, in some ways, I wish I had been a supporter at that time. The players were kept apart from the excitement of the build-up and I missed all that. As a supporter, I would have loved to have been part of it. I was too young to understand the 1964 FA Cup win and, while I knew how much it meant to the fans, I was sorry not to have been involved in it.”
Although Alan Taylor got the Man Of The Match award for his two goals, most impartial observers reckoned Kevin was the best player on the Wembley pitch that day - against Fulham and against his old Upton Park mentor in Moore. Kevin, who was often labelled ‘the second Bobby Moore’, has nothing but praise for his old teammate.
“Any comparisons between Bobby and myself were unfair - on him,” stated Kevin. “I thought he was the greatest player I ever played with and ever saw. He was my idol. Bobby was good to me when I was a youngster, but then he was good to everyone. He was a model professional on and off the field and I have to admit that I cried when a journalist phoned me to tell me he had died.”
By 1978, Kevin had fallen out of favour at Upton Park and it was time for a new challenge. “I’d made around 160 appearances for the Hammers,” he recalled. “I’d played at Wembley and in Europe. I had also won four England Under-23 caps and got called into the full squad for a game in Portugal. I was on the bench and Kevin Beattie got injured during the game. I was told to get ready to go on. But then Kevin got up and played on and that was as close as I came to playing for England. I used to see Kevin regularly after we’d both finished playing and I always used to wind him up about that match. I have to admit that the England set-up under Don Revie was a strange one. The bingo sessions that worked at Leeds United weren’t so appropriate with England.”
After losing his place at West Ham, Fulham came in for him. “It was a wrench to leave my local club,” Kevin said. “But I met Bobby Campbell at a hotel in London and he sold the Club to me. And since West Ham had been relegated, there was no question of dropping down a division. There was a good set-up at the Cottage, and some very good players, like Gerry Peyton, Richard Money, Ray Evans and John Beck. And there were several really promising youngsters coming through, like Tony Gale, John Margerrison and Gordon Davies. And, of course, Les Strong was in the Team.
“We should have done really well and at times we played some great football but it all went wrong in my second season. To this day, I don’t understand how a side as good as we had at Fulham got relegated in 1980. A collective loss of confidence is the only explanation I can think of.
“When Malcolm came in, it was a breath of fresh air, and his coaches - Roger Thompson and Ray Harford - were terrific. We all started to enjoy ourselves again and it showed with the results. After promotion we looked like getting into the First Division. I’m not sure whether we would have held our own but we would have given it a really good try. The team was pretty much the one that went down, and was a mix of experience and youth. Roger Brown was influential on and off the field. He was a top player and personality and I was shocked and sad when he died so young.”
Kevin’s place in Fulham folklore was secured with his penalties against Liverpool in the League Cup in the autumn of 1983 and he has a very good claim to being our best-ever spot-kick taker.
“I didn’t take the penalties at Upton Park,” he explained. “We had Geoff Pike, Pop Robson and Billy Bonds. Even when I went to the Cottage, John Margerrison took the first few but then I got the job. I scored 29 goals for Fulham, not bad for a defender I suppose, but most were penalties or free-kicks.
“I remember the two against Liverpool. However calm I looked, I was feeling nervous, especially at Anfield when there were only a few minutes left and we were a goal down. Bruce Grobbelaar knew I would put it to his right so I hit a bit higher. Thankfully, it went in.
“I only remember missing one penalty at Fulham and that was Strongie’s fault. We were away at Exeter City in midweek and got a penalty. As I prepared to take it, their striker, Tony Kellow, was standing on the halfway line with Les. When he said I always put the ball to the goalkeeper’s left, Les said no, the right. Kellow then made signals to their keeper to go right. He did, and saved it. A few weeks later we were at home and were awarded a penalty. My Mum, who was Irish and had a bit of a quick temper, was watching, as she always did when I was playing. Once the penalty was given, a bloke in front of her shouted out ‘Not Lockie’ and that so annoyed her that she gave him a clip around the ear. Luckily, I scored.”
At the Cottage, Kevin’s versatility was a great advantage. He seemed equally at home at left-back, left-half or in the centre of defence. He even played in goal twice when first Peter Mellor and then Gerry Peyton went off injured. His shout as goalkeeper, ‘My ball, Cottagers,’ was fondly recalled by Gale 20 years later.
“I suppose I was most comfortable in the middle of the defence,” Kevin said. “I wasn’t the tallest but if I had someone like Roger Brown or Tony Gale alongside me, they could go for the high balls and I could pick up the pieces on the ground. Unfortunately, I was starting to get a few niggling injuries, usually muscular problems. My contract expired in 1985 and it was time to move on.
“There was some interest from Queens Park Rangers but I got a call from Bobby Moore at Southend United. He said he wanted me to play and also to look after the youngsters. I wanted to get into coaching and I was pleased to link-up with Bobby again. I was nine years at Roots Hall, and stayed when David Webb took over from Bobby. We did well and got promotion and took them to the top of the (old) Second Division one January. We had some players whose contracts were running out that summer and Dave went to see the chairman about re-signing. His reluctance to spend meant we moved on.
“The next stop was Chelsea, who were struggling near the foot of the table. We were told by the chairman we had three months to save the club from relegation and if we could, we would get the job long-term. We did keep Chelsea up but Glenn Hoddle got the job. Then we were off to Brentford, where the chairman Martin Lange let us get on with it. He was great. Again we did well, winning promotion but then the chairman sold out and, before long, Ray Lewington came in and I was out.
“After that, I didn’t bother to apply for any jobs in football. I still loved the game and being with players, but the politics wore me down. As a player, you don’t get involved in all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans but as a coach or manager, you’re in the thick of it. Not many chairman just let you get on with your job. Today, I’m working outside football but still watch West Ham regularly and do some corporate stuff with them. I do keep in touch with some of the Fulham players from my day, like Strongie and Tony Gale, and still have a soft spot for the Club.”