Football: Fulham fans in two minds about new era - Sport - The Independent

Football: Fulham fans in two minds about new era

Commentary: Fulham 3 Oldham Athletic 1

When Kevin Keegan took over at Newcastle United his first home match attracted 29,263, almost double St James' Park's previous gate. They roared their support and Bristol City were steamrolled 3-0.

Saturday was Keegan's first match as Chief Operating Officer at Fulham, 8,805 turned up, up on the last Craven Cottage game but not the season's best. They politely cheered a 3-1 win over moderate Oldham Athletic.

While Keegan is largely right to say all football fans are passionate about their team, there is a difference between the black-and-whites of the Toon and those of the Thames. St James' Park dominates Newcastle city centre like a medieval castle keep. Beneath it every other person wears a Newcastle shirt. It is such a deeply symbiotic relationship Sir John Hall's vision of a Geordie nation being uplifted by a giant Newcastle Sporting Club is not a fanciful one.

Craven Cottage is charming rather than imposing, supporters arrive via Bishop's Park where pensioners sit in the rose gardens and small boys play football - wearing the colours of Arsenal and Chelsea, Rangers and the inevitable Manchester United. The fans like their football, but they do not believe Keegan is a Messiah come to lead the Putney nation out of the wilderness. While success under Mohamed Al Fayed, Keegan and Ray Wilkins would naturally be welcomed, there is a wariness about the price.

David Lloyd, the editor of the long-running fanzine There's only One F in Fulham said: "Many fans are gutted with the way Micky Adams [who took Fulham up last year] was treated. Fulham fans have suffered so much for so many years under managers who've stayed past their sell-by date, then along comes a guy who gives them some success only to be tossed aside. He wore his heart on his sleeve, as Keegan does, and he had a real rapport with the fans.

"That makes us worry about how we will fare. It would be dreadful if we got in the Premiership only to find loyal fans could not afford the prices," Lloyd said.

This happened at Newcastle where the club's response was that success had a price, the best players needed funding and that genuine Newcastle fans should be happy that the team was winning. The disenfranchised were not entirely convinced and Fulham fans, many of whom have been attracted by the club's "winning isn't everything" image, are even less so. There had, admitted Lloyd, been a substantial minority who did not want to sacrifice the club's unique atmosphere. As one fanzine contributor wrote to Al Fayed in the current issue: "Please remember that football should be, always and above all else, about fun and entertainment."

The fans are not the only ones uncertain about the future. Fulham's players must be feeling extremely vulnerable. A transfer pot of pounds 10m is waiting to be spent and they have been given a month to show they have a place in the new Fulham.

Wilkins, the team manager, admitted that some players might be feeling insecure but added: "You will never play this game if you have inhibitions about your ability. You have to express yourselves and that is what we have tried to impress on the lads - feel free to play."

Their nerves were evident in the early stages, which Oldham, on a good run of form, controlled. Then Fulham's Jurgen Klinsmann look-a-like, Richard Carpenter, played a fine ball to Paul Moody, who steered it past Michael Pollitt with a touch Keegan would have been proud of.

Oldham then became, as their manager, Neil Warnock said: "abysmal". Moody added a second after Pollitt rashly charged a Steve Hayward cross, then Lee Sinnott, under pressure from Moody, put into his own net. Moody, signed for a current club record pounds 200,000 from Oxford United, will score goals in this division and should stay awhile. However, the new realities were betrayed by the body language of his partner, last season's top scorer Mike Conroy, when he was replaced by on-loan Leon McKenzie late on.

Wilkins also said: "We will introduce players when we feel the need to" and, though Fulham have the basis of a promotion-winning side, few will survive if the club progresses as planned. The Newcastle example suggests a rapid turnover is likely, with players signed to do a job then discarded.

In his early months at Newcastle, Keegan (who will be making these decisions with Wilkins), restricted by the slow release of funds and the transfer deadline, added just Brian Kilcline and Kevin Sheedy to the team as he staved off relegation. A year on, promotion was achieved by an almost- new XI, only Kevin Scott and David Kelly remaining. They soon departed and, by the time Keegan walked out, three-and-a-half seasons on, Rob Lee was the only promotion winner still a regular.

Warnock, who has won more lower division promotions than most, said: "The players will be looking over their shoulders but they have to do the business whatever club they are at. No doubt one or two of the lads he [Keegan] thinks will probably be leaving will surprise him, and he'll keep them on and others he'll let go.

"I don't think promotion is automatic this season, we have just as much chance, but I'll be very surprised if they aren't promoted next year. Heads must roll if they don't." The last comment was tongue-in-cheek but probably right, though the rolling head will be Wilkins rather than Keegan.

On prospective signings, Warnock warned: "You need quality but it has to have the right temperament for the division. Then get the team spirit going and things will take off.

"It's going to be an interesting time and it's good for Fulham fans. I can remember coming here as a teenager with Chesterfied when Johnny Haynes was here and nothing's changed. They haven't had a lot to shout about over the years, so apart from the sadness over Micky Adams, it's great for them."

Despite reservations, most Fulham fans appear to agree. As one said at the turnstile: "We better make the most of this, we won't be able to stand on the terraces in the Premiership".

Goals: Moody (10) 1-0; Moody (52) 2-0; Sinnott og (64) 3-0; Hodgson (72) 3-1.

Fulham (3-5-2): Arendse; Cullip, Blake, Lawrence; Smith, Carpenter, Cockerill, Hayward, Herrera; Moody, Conroy (McKenzie, 80). Substitutes not used: McAree, Cusack.

Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Pollitt; McNiven (Riches, 63), Sinnott, Garnett, Serrant (Salt, 83); Orlygsson, Graham, Duxbury, Wright (Innes, 65); Barlow, Hodgson.

Referee: G Singh (Wolverhampton).

Booked: Fulham Lawrence, Cockerill. Oldham Hodgson, Orlygsson, Wright, Garnett.

Man of the match: Moody.

Attendance: 8,805.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Project Manager (upgrades, rollouts, migrations)

£350 - £425 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager - 3 mont...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week