Cult Hero

Saturday 7 September 2013 08:58

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...

From the moment he arrived from Leicester City back in 1990, Simon Morgan was to become almost as much a part of the fabric of the Club as the Cottage itself. Although things didn’t look all that promising in the beginning, as Morgan himself says: “They wasted all that money on myself and Stacy North - and we didn’t have a good knee between us!”

Dodgy knees or not, Morgan would go on to play for the Whites for 11 years, developing a remarkable relationship with the fans that saw him become one of Fulham’s most-popular ever players. And what an eventful decade that was - from the despair of relegation into the bottom tier of the Football League to the euphoria of three promotions in five years.

“It was a roller coaster,” Morgan says. “And I tried to stay on it for as long as I could. Things weren’t great in the early days, but once we got on the right road and the Chairman came on board it was just wonderful. If you’d asked me after the first couple of seasons whether I’d be associated with Fulham for 17 years altogether, then I would have said you were mad!”

Morgan moved away from the Cottage in 2001, but after a short spell at Brighton & Hove Albion with ex-Whites boss Micky Adams, he was quickly back at Fulham, heading up the Community Development programme. Five years later he moved to the Premier League to become their Head of Community Development.

“I’d been at Fulham so long I’d become embedded in the foundations of the Club!” Morgan says. “But I had a good rapport with the supporters so it seemed an obvious thing to come back and get involved with the administration side of things.

“I’m at the Premier League now, and have been for the last six years. Basically, it’s overseeing the community work that we do and providing support for all the hard work that the clubs do. Fulham’s Foundation is one of the leading lights, and I’m very proud of that having been at the heart of it for a number of years. So that’s the day job, using football as a power for good, and it’s something I really enjoy doing.”

Morgan played a starring role in the wonderful promotions of 1997 and 1999. A serious knee injury prevented him playing much of a part in the 2001 Division One (now Championship) title-winning team, but he did make one appearance, when he came on as a late substitute in the game against Wolverhampton Wanderers - and promptly won the Man of the Match award from his adoring fans.

“That was the best 12 minutes of my career,” he laughs. “Man of the Match and a standing ovation for taking a throw-in!

“All the promotions were very special. Expectation levels weren’t particularly high for that first one, but there was just a real feel-good factor around the place. It was a fantastic season. I have tremendous memories from that year and they were a great set of lads - we weren’t the most gifted, but everybody gave everything for the shirt.

“There’s no doubt that going through the bad times made the good times all that much better - and why I probably over-celebrated the good times! It was a wonderful time in the Club’s history, and I was just very pleased to have been involved.”

One of the real standout memories for the former defender was when third-tier Fulham took on Premier League leaders Aston Villa in the FA Cup back in 1999 - and won 2-0, with Morgan on the scoresheet.

“I think that was the day when the fans - and everyone else - realised that Fulham were back,” remembers Morgan. “Although I’m a Birmingham City fan, all my family are Villa supporters. They were sitting in the Holte End having backed me as first goalscorer, and after celebrating when I scored, nearly got beaten up! It was a great day, fantastic.

“There was a great spirit and a great attitude in all those promotion sides, and a lot of banter as well. I remember when I scored that own goal at Liverpool. Chris Coleman came over and whispered in my ear ‘great finish, son!’ just as my face came up on TV - I was laughing after scoring an own goal!

“I manage to get to Fulham quite often; I’m a Premier League match delegate, so I’m able to see a few games in that role. It’s very rewarding to go back and see them doing so well on the pitch, and to see the stands full and the Club so professional behind the scenes. And it’s very rewarding to see the fans growing up who first came along as 10-year-olds with Community tickets. It’s a great feeling to be remembered so fondly there and it makes me feel very proud.”

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