West Bromwich Albion. .1
THEY are used to old stars down at Craven Cottage. Once a refuge for the talents of George Best and Rodney Marsh, they are now providing an opportunity for the former Tottenham and Barcelona striker, Steve Archibald, to show if he can still score goals.
The former Scotland international is almost 36 and played only five first-team matches last season, one for Reading and four for Clyde, his first club and first love, whom he tried in vain to help gain promotion from the Scottish Second Division. Archibald, who is playing for Fulham on a non-contract basis, admits he is 'a bit rusty' but he did make a significant contribution to an entertaining game against the Second Divsion leaders, notably in the pass which led to Sean Farrell driving in an emphatic equaliser and maintaining Fulham's unbeaten record.
Whether Archibald can adapt to the hustle of this level of football is doubtful. In the school playground he would have been called a goal-hanger and he has the work-rate of a couch potato.
Archibald was pleased with his new club, however. 'I saw a bit of character in the Fulham team,' he said: whether this was mutual was not clear. Once an apprentice at Rolls-Royce, he looked a bit like a Roller that had somehow found its way into a stock-car race. Yet his manager, Don Mackay, was not worried. 'He never was a chaser-abouter,' he said.
Fulham are not exactly flush with funds and whether they will be able to afford to sign Archibald, should they want to, will depend on them getting more gates of the kind they managed for the visit of West Brom - 9,143 - which was their best for more than two years. In fact, according to Mackay, they need 9,000 every week just to break even. Otherwise, despite strenuous efforts to reduce their wage bill, they will have to sell to survive.
Yet there are encouraging signs apart from the form of the team, who have only lost five of their 30 League matches since Mackay became manager at the end of last year and are now third in the table. The possibility of Craven Cottage remaining the club's home is more likely now that the depressed property market has made its redevelopment unprofitable. The public inquiry restarts on 16 September so all Fulham fans who want to keep the club at this most appealing of grounds should express their views to the Department of the Environment as soon as possible.
A few more sides like West Brom would help to increase crowds. Most of the time, the quality of their passing was admirably precise with Darren Bradley showing great intelligence in his quick delivery of the ball to the wings. They took the lead effortlessly in the second minute, Simon Garner's cross being neatly headed in by Bob Taylor and for a while looked as if they might score at will.
Yet they succumbed to the temptation to indulge in keep- ball, allowing Fulham - who might have equalised in the first half when Jeff Eckhardt's header hit a post - to take charge in the later stages and end their 100 per cent record. The West Bromwich manager, Ossie Ardiles, who played with Archibald at Tottenham and again, briefly, under Mackay at Blackburn, admitted: 'We were a bit complacent.'
In fact West Brom, who had Garner - also ex-Blackburn - holding his arms out to direct play like a traffic policeman for most of the afternoon, lost their way rather disturbingly. Ardiles, a keen chess player, will be determined to improve his side's endgame which unfortunately resembled Samuel Beckett more than Bobby Fischer.
Goals: Taylor (2) 0-1; Farrell (73) 1-1.
Fulham: Stannard; Morgan, Pike, Eckhardt, Nebbeling, Thomas, Hails, Marshall, Farrell, Archibald, Baah. Sustitutes not used: Ferney, Kelly.
West Bromwich Albion: Naylor; Caldicott, Lillwall, Bradley, Strodder, Raven, Garner, Hamilton, Taylor, McNally, Robson, (Shakespeare, 38). Substitute not used: Heggs.
Referee: D Axcell (Southend).Reuse content