Memory Lane

Saturday 20 July 2013 09:14

From the past or present, each week we talk to a different Fulham personality. This Saturday, we catch up with former goalkeeper Jim Stannard.

When browsing through the list of Fulham’s all-time record appearance makers, there are a plethora of names that hold legend status in SW6. Johnny Haynes is top, of course, while Eddie Lowe and Les Barrett appeared almost 1,000 times between them. World Cup winner George Cohen is fourth, and the ever-popular Les Strong comes in at nine.

The fact that men such as Bobby Robson, Tosh Chamberlain, Bedford Jezzard and Tony Gale are some way off the top 10 demonstrates how many loyal servants this Club has had. And the highest ranking goalkeeper in that upper echelon of appearance makers? Jim Stannard.

During two spells at Fulham, Stannard was between the sticks on no less than 430 occasions – comfortably more than Edwin van der Sar and Mark Schwarzer put together. It’s understandably a record that means a lot to him.

“I have massive pride in that – it’s a great achievement,” Jim admitted to “I don’t know how many goalkeepers have made more appearances than me but there can’t be many I wouldn’t have thought.

“From my point of view, I’ve got to be proud because I spent 90 per cent of my career at Fulham. It will always be in my heart because it played such a big part in what I’ve achieved in the game so far.”

Stannard was playing for South East Counties side Ford United (now known as Redbridge FC) when the move to Craven Cottage was mooted, although he confessed that he initially had doubts about signing at such a tender age.

“It came about when one of our coaches came to me and asked if I wanted to go to Fulham for a trial,” he recalled. “I wasn’t too sure because I was a young kid, but he dragged me into the car and we went down for the trial.

“I played a trial game which we won 6-0 or 7-0, did okay and Fulham asked me after the game what I do, if I was in work, things like that. I said I wasn’t working so they told me to come down the next day at nine o’clock.

“So I went in and they put me on a non-contract working agreement. In those days you hadn’t really heard of non-contracts in the pro level, but I was on one because I was only 16, and that’s how it all started off.”

The barrier between the young Stannard and first team football was daunting, not least because the occupant of the number one jersey at that time was another of our all-time great goalkeepers.

Gerry Peyton had been first choice at Fulham since midway through the 1976/77 season, but Stannard got his break when the Republic of Ireland international suffered a serious injury in January 1981.

“I had Gerry in front of me [in the pecking order] and I also had Perry Digweed,” Jim explained. “Then there was also a young lad called Dougie Hatcher who was in front of me as well, so I was fourth choice really.

“I was very fortunate with the way things happened but Gerry had a very big influence because obviously he was an international at Fulham, and we got on very well. It was quite funny because Perry ended up going to Brighton and Dougie was out on loan, so Malcolm [Macdonald] put me in the first team because Gerry wasn’t having the greatest of times.

“He just stuck me in and it all went from there. To be fair to Gerry, he gave me all the information I needed, and got me ready, so he was good to me at that age.”

The 18-year-old ‘keeper was in goal for the remaining 17 matches that season, but then only played twice over the course of the subsequent two campaigns. He shared the role with Peyton in 1983/84, but having found himself as firm second-choice the following season, he moved on to Southend United for a fee of £12,000.

He excelled with the Shrimpers. So much so that when former teammate Ray Lewington – who was now Manager at the Cottage – went to buy him back a couple of years later, his price had more than quadrupled.

That era was an interesting time, to say the least, for Fulham. In his first two seasons back, Stannard helped the Whites to a mid-table and a fourth place finish in the old Division Three, before we flirted with relegation two seasons on the trot.

We survived, but it wouldn’t be long before we found ourselves in the bottom tier of the Football League and in 1994 we were relegated despite winning 52 points. It wasn’t the happiest time to be a Fulham fan.

“We had a lot of managers then,” Jim said. “When Ray left we had Don Mackay, the old Bristol City manager Alan Dicks, and we had some bleak times. I don’t think there was much money coming in – for a London club, we weren’t getting the best crowds in the world. I don’t know that much about the financial side of it but it did look a bit bleak.

“We didn’t have any big names really at Fulham. We had a couple of decent seasons and then it went a bit bleak, but we rode that and I was there for many years to come. It will always be, in my memory, the greatest time of my life playing football.”

Having been a part of a Fulham team that competed in the fourth tier against the likes of Darlington and Hereford United, Jim has the perfect perspective to appreciate truly how far Fulham have come.

Now 18 years on from his final game for the Club, we are preparing to embark on a 13th consecutive season of top flight football, and Stannard admitted great credit must go to our former Chairman for ensuring our establishment amongst the top teams in the country.

“I wish I was playing for Fulham now!” Jim joked. “Yeah, I mean it’s magnificent isn’t it? I think it all started off when Mr Al Fayed came in.

“I left for Gillingham and he came in a couple of seasons after and the Club’s just gone from there. To be fair to Mr Al Fayed, he got the Club to where it is today – maybe the Club might not be there, it could be anywhere, but he came in, took care of it and that saw them go on to achieve greater things, because of what happened many years ago.

“Everybody does their little bit for the football club and you just want it to progress until it can progress no further. The new owner’s come in now and he’ll want to push it onto a different level. Hopefully Fulham can eventually push on to the challenge further up the table.”

A popular man with the Whites supporters, Stannard was well received when he returned to the Cottage as a coach with Southampton on Boxing Day of last year, and the 50-year-old admitted his pleasure at the fact a bond still exists between himself and the fans.

“Whenever I go to Romford borough market there’s these two Fulham supporters from years ago,” he explained. “And every time I go down to that market they shout out ‘He’s worth a million pounds, Jim Stannard.’

“I had a great relationship with the fans. It worked both ways, I used to get my share of stick, but I probably had more good games than I had bad games so, when that happens, you get respect from the supporters.

“I was there for 14/15 years and the supporters were just magnificent. They were terrific and great to me during my time there. Even when I retired if I went somewhere and saw a Fulham supporter, they’re so grateful for what you did for the team in those days.

“It was bleak and it was hard, and now you see the other side of it where the team has come so far forward, which is great. But that’s history – the club moves on, you get better players and that’s what happens.”

Stannard was an unfortunate casualty at Southampton earlier this year when Nigel Adkins was dismissed as manager at St Mary’s, and the goalkeeping coach explained that it can be a harsh environment out there when searching for work.

“I’ve gone from Southampton in the Premier League to not having a job,” he said. “It’s very hard out there. There are a lot of people working for me, trying to get me a job, trying to get me back into the game.

“You still have to earn a living – I’m doing a little bit for Dagenham part-time, helping out Wayne Burnett, and I’m helping Dean Holdsworth out at Chelmsford. So it’s one of those where, no disrespect, but it’s got to pay the bills. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. If one day I got the opportunity to go back to Fulham and coach then that would be great as it’s a great Club.”

Jim did an interview for the Cult Heroes section of the official matchday programme last season and was asked for his opinion on his ‘goal’ he scored for the Whites in a 3-2 win over Crewe Alexandra back in November 1989.

In that feature, Stannard unequivocally claimed the strike as his own despite the question of whether or not striker Andy Sayer got the final touch on his long kick downfield before it crossed the line.

It almost seemed redundant asking him whether or not it’s worth debating whose goal it was...

“No, it’s never debatable!” Jim insisted. “I’ve seen a picture of it and Andy Sayer toe pokes it in about a yard over the line. That’s centre-forwards for you, though, they never want to give any goals away.”

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