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A BRAVE new world beganfor Fulham yesterday. Not only because they had a new manager, Ian Branfoot, in charge, but also because they were playing at a level of the game never previously encountered at Craven Cottage. Never before had this club, with its quirky history and its hall of glittering names, played host to football from the lowest division in the League.
The new era started inconclusively - who can tell exactly what a 1-1 draw with Walsall augurs? - but many of the fans there to sample their new diet were still rueing the last-day-of- last-season defeat at Swansea which had served it up.
If there was not exactly great optimism at the prospect of a season at the League's foot, the mood has been lightened a little by the appointment of Branfoot at the club's head. If there was an award for most vilified man of last season, then Branfoot, plucked out of the Southampton hot seat in February, would have been a confident nomination.
His reputation goes before him: success in the lower divisions. But the aggressive, long- ball football that went with it finds an unlikely home at the Cottage. 'You lucky people', the catch-phrase of Tommy Trinder, the former Fulham chairman, would hardly be applicable now. He was in the entertainment business, a line of work which Fulham could hardly have laid claim to in the first half yesterday.
Jimmy Hill, the present chairman, has said that this 'could be the most important season in the history of the club', which suggests that the end - promotion - justifies the means.
Branfoot brings with him three old bruisers from Southampton - Terry Hurlock, Micky Adams and Kevin Moore - three men as likely as any to suffer from the new Fifa directives. But Adams was injured yesterday and Hurlock was serving a suspension.
Branfoot, unsurprisingly, does not abide by the rule changes, though they played into his hands yesterday with Stuart Watkiss, the Walsall defender, being sent off just before half-time for his second booking. This allowed Fulham to take charge of the game and occasionally to keep the ball on the ground.
What had gone before was less impressive. New manager, new division, but same old story: here, a goal against after seven minutes. Kyle Lightbourne had broken through the defence and planted a left-foot shot under the advancing keeper.
Branfoot's blushes were spared eight minutes from time when John Marshall's chip was headed into the net. Charging away from the goal with arms outstretched was Moore, the one ex-Saint to make the side.
So Branfoot's signing saved the day. It will take more than Moore to convince the Cottagers of the joy of the division. A goal from 35-year-old Alan Cork - another new signing - now that might do it.Reuse content