Football: Moody catches the mood

Nick Callow fears that followers of Fulham football still need some convincing; Craven Cottage ushers in Keegan era with a three-goal salute
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The attendance said it all. The beginning of the Kevin Keegan era at Craven Cottage drew a crowd of 8,805, some 150 fewer than the gate for the recent visit of Plymouth Argyle. And that was on a Tuesday night.

The Fulham supporters are not unhappy, just unsettled by their lack of control at the pace of change at their club. Those who witnessed this impressive 3-1 victory over Oldham afforded Keegan and the new manager Ray Wilkins a modest standing ovation at the end, but they will take some convincing before they believe their Second Division lads will become the Manchester United of the South.

That Plymouth attendance record will soon be broken with more wins of this nature, but after enduring so many false dawns in the past, the Fulham fans have learnt not to rush out of bed on a Saturday morning, even if King Kev has pounds 10m to spend on them.

They had made it clear from the outset yesterday that they are not going to be an easy bunch to impress. Money in the bank and world-famous figures in the directors' box just doesn't seem to do much for them.

The first sighting of Keegan and Wilkins at Craven Cottage barely stirred the emotions. Their sacked manager Mickey Adams still commands their sympathy, so Wilkins wisely decided to make a low-key entrance, strolling around the pitch to the dug-out, only occasionally raising his hand to acknowledge the polite welcome. Keegan went a step further by venturing on to the pitch before kick-off. The applause was louder and the fists were raised, but the excitement did not really linger.

Perhaps nothing more should have been expected. The predicted rush for new season tickets has reportedly amounted to about 50 fresh applications, with half a dozen being returned in indignation at Adams' sacking.

A good passage of football, however, is a different matter. That's what really gets the fans going. And the sight of Paul Moody bearing down on goal is what puts Fulham bums on seats. They can relate to Moody - a summer signing from Oxford makes more sense to them than billionaire boardroom talk. The Al Fayed factory may offer dreams ahead but players can offer them tangible goals today and Moody did just that in the 11th and 53rd minutes.

A Lee Sinnott own goal, denying Moody his hat-trick in the 63rd minute, gave Fulham a three-goal lead and the contest was all but over. Sinnott had time to save some face, however, when he crossed for Doug Hodgson's 73rd-minute goal.

Keegan had stated before the game that he would not be talking afterwards, just waving, and photographers were kindly asked to refrain from taking "in your face" snaps of the new leader. Wilkins, however, was quick to praise his players and denied their improvement was down to the threat of imminent new signings and diplomatically conceded when told it had been Adams' team, not his, who won the game.

"Yes, you could say Mickey has laid the foundations. Now we want to take it further," Wilkins said. "The lads have worked so hard in our first week and I sincerely hope that none of them have to worry about their future."

The Fulham fans have too much respect for Adams instantly to switch their allegiances (they chanted his name after the third goal), but that familiar booming repetition of "Keegan, Keegan" was ringing around the ground by the end. Maybe, this time, Fulham really are on their way back.

Comments