The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 22 December 2015 17:42
Jimmy celebrates saving Fulham from extinction in the 1980s.

We received some terribly sad news at the weekend that our former player and Chairman Jimmy Hill had passed away. Obviously I’d seen Jimmy down and around at Fulham over the years, and everyone in football’s just got the utmost respect for the man, including me. Everyone tells me what a good player he was as well which sort of gets taken out of the equation because of all the other things he did in football: PFA Chairman, getting the minimum wage abolished, Coventry City manager, keeping Fulham afloat, Match of the Day, The Big Match. Virtually anything that you could do in football, that man did it. Both on the football pitch, and off the football pitch as well. He was just a great ideas man. Anyone who worked with him will tell you that he had such enthusiasm and wonderful ideas, ideas that nobody else had. Obviously football’s come a long way since then, but when you trace it all back it’s mainly down to that man.

We could have been Fulham Park Rangers were it not for Jimmy so we’ve got him to thank for that not happening. If it wasn’t for him in those precarious times then Fulham would have been no longer. We’re a far different club now and although things may not be going as well as we’d like on the pitch, we’re still a very good football club, and he made us a football club that was a good proposition to invest in, because of all that hard work that he put in.

It looked for a while as though we were going to go out of the league, and fans of that generation will know how close we were to becoming extinct or getting relegated to the Conference, and then we made that climb. There were great times under his leadership with Micky Adams, and we pushed on after Micky but needed that period when Jimmy was in charge, and he did it so well.

Back to footballing matters, it was two points dropped against Bolton last time out. I think we played Bolton at the wrong time because they’d had a decent result in their previous match. But when you look at it, they’re at the bottom of the league on 14 points and there’s no disputing the fact that we should be going to places like the Macron and winning. Obviously everyone’s waiting for the impact from the new Head Coach, but whilst that’s still up in the air we’ve got to get results.

Next up is Derby on Boxing Day, and their manager Paul Clement is a guy that I’ve known for years, since he was a school teacher in Sutton. I played with his father at Fulham. So I’ve known Paul and his brother Neil since then, and their dad – who’s sadly no longer with us – would be very proud of the pair of them. Neil had a good football career, Paul didn’t play at a decent level but has gone on to become a very good coach. He started at Fulham working behind the scenes in the Academy and things like that, and then got his chance at Chelsea and he ended up being first team coach under Carlo Ancelotti and Guus Hiddink, and then of course went with Ancelotti to Real Madrid.

He then had the bottle to leave there and take up a managerial role with Derby because he wanted to put his toe in the water. I’ve been watching them with interest and he had a slow start initially, but now they’ve started to kick on a bit. They spent a lot of money in the summer and it’s starting to pay off now, so this is a really difficult game against a team bang in form. And they’ve got another lad whose dad I played with in Tom Ince. He’s been in good goal scoring form of late, getting a hat-trick in the game before last, and scoring the winner in their most recent match.

That's it from me for 2015, so I'd like to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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