Cult Hero

Saturday 22 June 2013 09:00

Fulham have had more than their fair share of characters over the years, players that for one reason or another have left their mark on the Cottage faithful. Ian McCulloch reveals our most colourful cult heroes...

He didn’t really look like a footballer. In fact, with his long, flowing black locks and his swarthy features, Robbie Herrera looked for all the world like a Colombian drug lord – which is what he was often called, especially by Captain Simon Morgan. But a footballer he was, and a very good one.

“I did take a lot of stick about the way I looked,” says Herrera, laughing.  “But I was asking for it with my hair like that. Despite all the flak I took from Morgs, he was my best mate – we shared a room when we travelled away.”

Herrera originally arrived at the Cottage in 1993 during Fulham’s darkest days, with the very existence of the Club in jeopardy and property developers poised to pounce. It was only a three-month loan from Queens Park Rangers to begin with, but it went so well that not only did the Club try to sign him on a permanent basis, the supporters held a bucket collection on the terraces to help raise the money.

“That was just so brilliant, the fans doing that,” Herrera says. “When I first came to Fulham I was just keen to get some games under my belt, but I ended up loving every minute of my spell there. I went back to QPR after the three months, and the two clubs tried to work out a fee to make the move permanent, but they couldn’t come to an agreement. It ended up going to a tribunal but Fulham just didn’t have the money.”

But that’s where the mystery deepens. With the transfer window about to slam shut, an anonymous benefactor stepped in, stumped up the readies, and a Fulham player Herrera became.

“I was back at QPR,” he says. “And then on deadline day I got a call to go to the Cottage - I was told they’d managed to find the money. To this day, I still don’t know who it was. Some people have said it was Hugh Grant, or possibly one of the Directors, Cyril Swain, but I never found out. I don’t suppose the bucket collection came very close to raising the money, but it was a fantastic gesture from a wonderful set of fans.”

These days Herrera is youth-team coach at League Two side Torquay United, and ambitiously looking forward to the future.

“It’s going great,” he says. “I’m involved with the reserve side as well and I’m really loving it. The club are doing very well at the moment. We’ve had a fair bit of success over the last few years - we’ve reached the Play-Offs and been promoted, so it’s a good time for the club, and hopefully it will continue. I’ve been doing this for three seasons full time now - the set-up here is excellent and improving year on year.

“I’ve got my ‘A Licence’, so I’m looking to move on to First-Team coaching at some stage. I’m very happy at Torquay, but I would never turn down the chance to work at a bigger club if the opportunity arose.”

Herrera experienced the best and worst of times at Fulham, seeing the Whites sink to their all-time lowest league position, and then soar as Micky Adams’ wonderful Team won the promotion that sparked the Club’s current renaissance.

Although he missed the end of that season with an horrific shoulder injury suffered at, of all places, Torquay, he was a key member of the squad, a skilful full-back who was as potent going forward as he was solid in defence.

“It was a real low time for the Club when I first got there,” he remembers. “But I saw the fortunes change right round with Mohamed Al Fayed coming in. The season I came in on loan was when we were relegated to the bottom division. But then we had that fantastic season when we won promotion. The team spirit was unbelievable - we all got on really well and there was such a good feeling around the Club. There were a lot of good characters there - people like Darren Freeman, Danny Cullip, and the old heads like Morgs - it was a great time. We had such a good bond and so much confidence - we went into games never thinking for a moment that we could be beaten.

“Playing in front of The Enclosure was something special as well - you were so close to the fans you could hear everything that was said, good and bad! Fortunately, most of the comments aimed my way were positive, and I could hear them singing my name, so that was great running up and down the line there. If I could have my time again I wouldn’t change a thing, it was that good. I’d just like to thank the fans for making my time at Fulham so special.”