Chapter Eighteen – Bottom Of The Bill
28 April, 1962, was a fateful day for Fulham, a day of climax to a weird season which saw us with one foot in Wembley and the other in the Second Division at the same time. On that crisp Saturday in springtime, Chelsea had already been relegated. We were at home to Manchester United. Cardiff City were away to Everton and Fulham and Cardiff were now unhappily contending if you could call it that for the other relegation place. Fulham beat United 2-0, Cardiff had eight goals knocked past them by Everton. We survived. For all that, it was uncomfortably close. Yet looking back on the season as a whole, it was also quite ridiculous that we should ever have been in this position. In October or November, we were sixth from the top, playing strongly and beating many more fancied teams, but from Christmas on we had an appalling run of injuries which brought with it single goal defeats from teams we were otherwise outplaying. We went twelve league matches without a win. During that period, the only games we seemed able to win were Cup ties, and often we needed replays to get through these. Wolves, Cardiff, Birmingham – these teams left Craven Cottage with single-goal wins after we had run them ragged. We had one of those spells when we were hitting shots from two yards and still somehow missing. If six players were in a mad scramble under the crossbar, the ball would always break free, past the post, and when the opposition produced spasmodic counter-attacks against our heavy pressure, somehow once in the match they would unearth a forward who could run fifty yards with the ball and scramble it past Macedo. We reached the point when we were not even sure of scoring from penalty kicks. Going down to the ground one day, I overheard a Fulham fan say, ‘All we need today, three penalty kicks – two to miss, one to score’.
The Fulham crowd gave us some ‘stick’ but at the same time they were all very loyal. They seemed to appreciate that these results were freakish and they kept turning up week after week perhaps in the simple hope that Fulham might win a match, even by accident. The fact that we kept plodding along in the Cup probably kept their faith in the players flickering on.
The overwhelming problem for a club like Fulham in such circumstances is reserve strength. We have probably only fifteen players at best equipped to play in League football, so that when we lose a player because of illness or injury we feel the strain more than say Tottenham or Arsenal or Manchester United where many good men are held in reserve. This is what we suffered in early 1962. Fulham are not rich enough to have things any other way. Not enough people come often enough to see them play. But Fulham is a club rich in other directions and one of them is that the people who do come to see us play, regularly, are warm people, who believe in us and believe in the club.
It's All In The Game was published by Arthur Baker Limited.
If you missed our special video featuring George Cohen, Tosh Chamberlain and Fred Callaghan sharing their memories of their teammate and friend Johnny Haynes, then have a watch below.