The Tony Gale Column

Friday 23 February 2018 10:00

Four points from games against Aston Villa and Bristol City is a very good return. A lot of my pals went to the Villa game, a lot of them ex-pros, and they all agreed Fulham were much the better team and that we deserved the win. Then it was always going to be important we didn’t lose in Bristol because that would have put them above us and given them some momentum.

Going back to last Saturday, it was a good statement from us to put Villa to the sword in the way that we did. They’ve got a lot of experienced players, big-game players, but we played them off the park, particularly in the second half, and I thought 2-0 was a fair reflection of the game. I think Villa will be up there at the end of the season because, even though they’re not as good a footballing side as us, they tend to get the job done.

Floyd Ayité scored the killer second goal and he deserves a lot of credit for it because, even though the goalie was nowhere, it’s not an easy skill to score from that distance and a lot of people tend to rush it in that situation. I saw a great example of that sort of goal earlier in the season, I was up at Goodison Park when Wayne Rooney did it. The thing is not to panic. You’re thinking you’ve got to act quickly as people are going to be getting back and the crowd are urging you to shoot, but you can’t rush it. It’s just a shot at the end of the day, but it’s easier said than done. You see so many people miss those, so fair play to Floyd for a well taken strike.

It would have been nice to back that up with another win at Ashton Gate, but a point’s not the end of the world. Importantly, we saw Aleksandar Mitrović get off the mark with a decent goal. That’s what we want him to do, get in those dangerous positions where defenders can’t pick him up. He’s always looking to find space in the area, that’s why he’s been brought in, and I was delighted he opened his account for us in that way.

Onto to Wolves on Saturday, and there’s a side who will play football against us, which will work in our favour. They’re the runaway team this season but we won’t go into that fixture found wanting for confidence. Wolves may have dropped a few points of late but it’s still going to take a monumental hiccup for them not to win the league. It’s a big game, it’s live on television, but if the boys just play their normal game then there’s no reason we can’t win and make it eight on the bounce at the Cottage.

They were the big spenders this season so there was quite a bit of pressure on Nuno, the manager, but I’ve been impressed with him. I’ve interviewed him a couple of times when I’ve been covering Wolves and found he comes across well. They lost up at Sheffield United and had someone sent off, and afterwards I said he deserved to go, which Nuno agreed with completely. There were no arguments, so he seems quite a level headed guy. There was a lot of pressure because of the money that was spent, but he’s responded well.

Saturday marks the 25 year anniversary of the passing of our former defender Bobby Moore. After he left the Club I took his place in defence, and while they were the biggest shoes to fill, there were no better shoes to fill. I ended up following in his footsteps a lot actually, as I went to West Ham after Fulham, and then Capital Gold where Bobby had worked with Jonathan Pearce. So wherever I’ve gone, I’ve followed in Mooro’s footsteps. I’d say I was better on the radio than him, but not at football!

He wasn’t just a giant of the game in terms of being a great footballer, but he was a man who was the same to all. That would be my abiding memory of him. Whether you were the Prime Minister or an autograph hunter, he treated everyone the same. Les Strong was a roommate of his and speaks very endearingly of him. He had a very good, dry sense of humour as well, as you’d expect with him coming from the east end. He was a top fella, and so good to me when I was a kid. With Bobby it was a case of you speak when spoken to, although he was so approachable it seems silly to say that. Whenever you needed advice he’d come out with the guidance you needed. The best thing was watching him day in, day out in training. He cared about every single pass he played, even in training, he was super. The best this country has ever had, what a player.

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