Cult Hero

Saturday 19 October 2013 09:30

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’s fat, he’s round, he’s worth a million pound, Jim Stannaaard, Jim Stannaaaaard!” Jim Stannard wasn’t any of those things of course, but what he was, was a very good goalkeeper.

Remarkably agile for a big man, he had a commanding presence, was a great shot stopper, and his bravery and larger than life personality earned him cult status amongst the faithful. And he’s also the only goalkeeper to score for Fulham while playing in goal. Or he might be. The controversy has raged for 24 years about whether it was Stannard or Andy Sayer who actually had the final touch for the winner in the 3-2 victory over Crewe Alexandra, but the big man has no doubts that it was his goal.

“Yep, definitely mine,” he says unequivocally. “It says so in the Rothman’s Year Book, so that’s good enough for me! It had gone over the keeper’s head from my kick, and Andy got a touch on it after it went over the line. He admitted to me at the time that it was mine. It was my goal and it won the match - I’ll always have that.”

And the song? “They used to sing a lot of songs about me!” he laughs. “But that was a good thing - I think it shows I was close to the fans, that I had a good relationship and a rapport with them. Things went well for me at Fulham. I know we were in the lower divisions and we struggled a bit, but that meant I used to get a lot of work every week.

“Obviously, I made mistakes, but I was brave and committed, and I think because of that the fans forgave me for those mistakes.”

Stannard now finds himself at Dagenham & Redbridge, having been a casualty of the managerial changes at Southampton last season where he’d been goalkeeping coach for the last two-and-a-half years. It’s part and parcel of football, and Stannard is philosophical about his fate, but it’s difficult not to feel sympathy for someone who finds their future determined by circumstances beyond their control.

“It’s an unfortunate thing in football,” he says. “You just don’t know how long you’re going to be in a job. A new manager comes along, and that’s it. You’re in a job one minute and out of it the next. I thought I did well at Southampton and I did well before that at Crystal Palace - I lost my job there because they went into administration. It’s difficult not to get a bit disillusioned at times by some of the things that happen.

“Southampton were doing okay. We had a good team, a good set of lads, and I always thought we’d do well. We’d had a very difficult start to the season, but we’d picked up and I could see us finishing comfortably in mid-table. And then, out of the blue, something like that happens. But you have to pick yourself up, look forward, and trust in your ability.”

The holder of Fulham’s record number of appearances for a goalkeeper, Stannard spent 14 years at the Cottage, with a stint at Gillingham in the middle. And he picked up a few more honours during his time at the Gills. “I broke all sorts of records there,” he remembers. “I had 29 clean sheets in one season which broke Ray Clemence’s record. And I also broke the record for goals conceded - we only let in six at home all season, and just 14 away! I spent five years at Gillingham, but my real career was at Fulham, that’s where my memories are.”

And very fond memories they are too. “It’s somewhere that will always be in my heart,” he said. “David Hamilton introduced me to the supporters before a Fulham v Southampton game, and then at half-time as I walked round the pitch everybody clapped me, and people came down from the stands to shake my hand - it was a great feeling. It was really, really nice - it’s just a shame I don’t work there!

“I spent a long time at Fulham, and if you perform then the supporters respect what you’re doing. You have to understand that when I was there we only had crowds of 3,000 to 5,000, so a lot of the supporters there today wouldn’t know who I was, but the fans who know a bit about the Club and its history will. People still stop me in the street, Fulham supporters, and say how much they appreciate the job I did all those years ago. So I’m not forgotten and it’s a great feeling.”