Words: Jonathan Sim
Cult Heroes? When I think of the term in association with football, the likes of Stan Bowles, Rodney Marsh and Robin Friday spring to mind. But it also covers a broad spectrum of players that are one fan's nightmare and another fan's dream.
The ten I have come up with are obviously a subjective mix. Fottballers who are sure to raise a smile or a grimace in equal measure. Players that you may love or hate, but are certianly not indifferent to.
South Londoner Kenny, is a member of an elite group of Fulham players who scored on their debut for the Club. I didn’t attend as many games as I would have liked during the 1984-85 season, and was losing the faith a little bit to be honest, but when I saw an 18-year-old Kenny open his account against high flying Oxford United in February 1985 my waning enthusiasm for the Club was restored. He scored two more against Carlisle the following Saturday, but the fact that he should have scored more than just 13 further goals in the next three years was indicative of a talent that "was never effectively harnessed" according to Turner & White in Fulham Facts & Figures (1998).
He fell out with coach Ray Lewington towards the end of the 1987-88 season, and went on to play for Charlton and Leyton Orient before plying his trade in Ghana. It would have been interesting to see how he would have coped at a higher level because in terms of natural talent, he was just about as good as anything I have ever seen at Craven Cottage and perhaps a victim of the more direct style adopted towards the end of the 1980s.
Luis Boa Morte
Boa quickly became a key part of the lethal trio whose goals propelled us into the top flight. Luis Boa Morte, Barry Hayles and Louis Saha were as good together as anything the Football League or Fulham Football Club had seen before or since, and proved far too much of a handful for defences at that level.
Although he initially frustrated with wayward finishing, the loveable thing about Luis Bo' was that he genuinely looked like he gave a damn and he became a unique footballer during his time at Fulham. It's difficult to find a similar character playing the game today. Quite continental in style, he loved to take players on, and although ostensibly an offensive player his willingness to track back and tackle as well as maraud forward at will made him special. He was a random factor, able to cause panic like an unpinned grenade in the opposition ranks, an emotional character, a trait that strengthened the bond between him and the fans. Luis Boa Morte wore his heart on his sleeve.
This was someone who looked like he wanted to play in a white shirt and who shared the pain of defeat - not that we saw many of those during his first season with the Club. Simon Morgan's constant berating of officials used to grate with me, while Luis, didn't for some reason. No offence Morgs!
But he could go too far. Although his nibble at the leg of David Weir at the bottom of an almighty bundle with Everton during the 2001-2002 season was more comical than sinister, he was certainly the player opposition fans loved to hate.
It's always best to rip a plaster off dead quick to avoid pain and when Luis did go it was mercifully sudden, though it was still a shock to see him line up against us in a West Ham shirt just days later. A little surreal in fact, but I'm sure that I speak on behalf of Fulham supporters everywhere when I wish him well.
Favourite memories? A cartwheel at Bolton after he scored the second of two decisive goals during the Division One promotion season. Another Division One goal at Huddersfield away when we clinched promotion. His hilarious celebration on the corner flag after my own personal favourite Boa goal against Blackburn at Loftus Road in April 2004. Further goals against Liverpool during consecutive seasons at the Cottage, and that infectious grin - indicative of a talented player given the chance to spread his wings and express himself after an initially frustrating career with Arsenal and Southampton. Arguably, my favourite ever Fulham player, I'll really miss Luis Boa Morte.
Like the aforementioned Justin Skinner, Gary Brazil was another 'Marmite' player - you either loved him or hated him.
Personally I thought he was great, and like Skinner, one of the more talented players to grace the Club during some of the bleakest days in our history. Gary scored 50 goals in 207 games and was very much the Tomasz Radzinski of his day. It's worth noting that Gary's time at the Club coincided with the gradual slide towards the basement, but for a brief rally under Don Mackay in the 1991-92 season when his 19 goals in all competitions brought his best return for a season. This included a hat-trick at Maidstone in the much-sponsored Associate Members Cup.
He was a nimble-footed, skilful forward rather than an out and out goal scorer, but anyone who followed Fulham home and away during this time will remember some stunning strikes from Gary, particularly on our travels including one of the best Fulham goals I think I've ever seen away at Chester in May 1993, when he cut in from the left-hand side and fired an unstoppable shot home from around 30 yards. A brace at Bolton the season before were also goals to savour. It's pleasing to note that such a technically able player is now back at the Club as Manager of the Academy Under 18 side.
Obvious, unavoidable but true. 'Ivor the Engine', the most prolific goal scorer we've ever had, bar none. And someone who, like Boa, gleefully built a rapport with the supporters in a way that seems to be enjoyed less and less in football today. The fact that Ivor left us to play in a blue shirt up the road dilutes it a tad for me but the sheer volume of goals makes him a bona fide Fulham cult hero and legend.
He scored an extraordinary amount of goals, but retained a certain something that set him apart. I loved the way he used to put his hand under his shirt to indicate his beating heart at corner kicks, and the broad smile that greeted every goal, including that one against Chesterfield. A vision in that white OSCA shirt with black shoulders, very Welsh tache, and deceiving turn of pace complete with a dead-eyed finish similar to the best. I remember the home crowd clocking him sitting in the stand during a humdrum home win against Bury in October 1986, before Ray Lewington signed him back from Manchester City, not to mention the nausea felt when he went to Chelsea.
I also remember interviewing him for this magazine, when he matched me for a photographic memory of all my favourite Ivor moments. He retains an infectious enthusiasm for Fulham Football Club that continues to this day.
Love him or hate him, Ian Branfoot did a great job clearing away some of the deadwood and introducing a strict discipline that paved the way for Micky Adams' promotion push from the ignominy of the bottom tier. It wasn't always pretty and the fans were in dire need of a new hero, someone to set the pulse racing again, and Rory Hamill seemed just the ticket when he arrived as part of a sweeping migration of Southampton cast-offs in December 1994.
Rory never made the grade officially on the south coast but seemed to relish the opportunity with Fulham and for a while it seemed as though we had discovered something special. His second goal for the Club came just seven seconds into a 4-2 win over Mansfield in January 1995, during a 10-match unbeaten run - the best of Branfoot's tenure - while a stunner against Gillingham in the FA Cup during the same season was another memorable moment. But the goals dried up and after Micky Adams took over he seemed to fall out of favour. Returning to Northern Ireland, he played for Glentoran, Coleraine, Ballymena Utd and currently Dungannon Swifts, where his old Fulham team-mate Rodney McAree is Youth Development Officer.
Fulham supporters have had to develop a sense of humour over the years and as Malcolm Macdonald's promising side of the early 1980s fell apart we began the sorry slide to the lower leagues. When one of the key players of that side, Ray Houghton, left for Oxford United early in the 1985-86 season we received a paltry sum of around £150,000 plus Gary Barnett and Jim Hicks.
The latter was a central defender who was perhaps not blessed with a huge amount of natural talent. Jim struggled in a struggling side but is remembered fondly by Fulham fans as a genuine player who committed gamely to the cause. The fact that he sometimes did so with more than a hint of Bambi on ice merely reflected the terrace mood of the time, and he did score a single goal to remember against Notts County in February 1987. A hearty volley if memory serves me right.
He was obviously someone who loved the game and this was recognised by the home crowd with whom he enjoyed a healthy rapport and mutual respect - even if they did snigger a little! Jim Hicks went on to play football in the USA and returned to this country in a pioneering role with Millwall, where he was the architect of their football in the community scheme including the management of their successful Lionesses team. He's still involved with the club.
Dirk was quickly nicknamed 'The Porn Star' by the Fulham faithful and looked like a dream capture upon joining the Club from German side Energie Cottbus in the summer of 1998. Three goals in a sizzling August week, including a stunner in the League Cup against Cardiff plus a double against Man City in a televised game had us all in a hot sweat. Dirk never kept up the breathless pace of that brief late summer love affair.
With two earrings, a neat moustache and tinted hair his nickname was irresistible and typical of our supporters' sense of humour. Due to an injury crisis he enjoyed a start against Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup in January 1999, but the writing was on the wall as new signing Geoff Horsfield began to complement the existing goals of Barry Hayles and Paul Peschisolido. And after being replaced by hat-trick hero Paul Moody in the final celebratory game of the season against Preston North End, Dirk tried his luck north of the border in the SPL where he had spells with Motherwell and Hibernian. His journeyman career also included a spell at Japanese club Yokohama FC.
To my knowledge Ronnie is the only player to have his Fulham career interrupted by a spell at Her Majesty's Pleasure, but that’s what befell this young midfielder after he joined the Club following his release from Charlton Athletic in 1988. He was banged up after a full-blooded altercation with a London bus driver but must have stayed fit inside because when he did return he played a major role in the push for the Third Division Play-Offs under Ray Lewington in the Spring of 1989. He was deservedly made Player of the Year for the 1989-90 season, but it was a telling sign of the Club's perilous finances that we sold him to Bury for a decent fee soon after.
Having made over 100 appearances and 18 goals for The Shakers, Ronnie became a hero at Plymouth Argyle for his winning goal in the 1996 Third Division Play-Off Final against Darlington and now manages Suffolk side Whitton United in the First Division of the Ridgeons League. One of his two Fulham goals came in a memorable 5-2 win over Notts County in February 1990, a game also remembered for a pitch demonstration against then-Chairman Jimmy Hill's decision to cut a deal with then-landlord Cabra Estates to vacate Craven Cottage. Ronnie was a tough tackling, athletic midfielder who also gained international honours for Trinidad and Tobago. With more players like him in our side the seemingly inexorable slide down the leagues could have been stemmed.
No player made more appearances for Fulham during the 1990s than Simon Morgan and no-one showed a greater will to win during a decade that saw Fulham Football Club look into the abyss and survive. Morgs always seemed to understand what Fulham was all about and even wrote a book to commemorate the season that started the revival under Micky Adams in 1996. The fact that it was well written, funny and poignant underlined the suspicion that he may have tackled an O Level or two and could undertake joined-up writing better than the average footballer.
Yet it has to be said that no other player in the history of football whinged to the extent that Simon did, and his penalty-box dive at home to Bournemouth in February 1993 had to be seen to be believed! But it won us a spot-kick and a point, one of a number of significant contributions made by Simon Morgan to the cause in the darkest of times. Bought with the money that may have seen us vacate Craven Cottage, Morgan initially formed a promising partnership with the talented Stacey North - a similarly handy defender whose stay was frustratingly fleeting - and finished his Fulham career with a cameo appearance in the side that romped to the First Division title.
In the interim years, his swashbuckling style peaked in the Third Division promotion season and his gleeful expression that graces the cover of his On Song For Promotion book, as he scored one of two goals in the final home game of the 1996-97 season against Hull City, just about sums up his story. A player, like Boa and Ivor, who veers into Fulham legend territory.
Another striker and real a battering ram of a player in contrast to the more subtle appeal of Mr Brazil, who played in the same Fulham side. Fulham were one of over a dozen professional clubs Stant represented during his career.
His time at the Cottage was brief but hugely significant. Phil was a Notts County player who had been on-loan at Blackpool, Lincoln and Huddersfield before we snapped him up for £60,000 in the bleak mid-winter of 1990-91. Fulham had mustered just nine goals in 13 increasingly turgid games (during a longer run of just five wins from the opening 26 games) when Stant scored on his debut against Preston on a sub-zero night in February 1991.
A heavily tattooed ex-soldier, Stant was just the kind of player we needed to complement Gary Brazil and Gordon Davies, with the latter on his last legs as a Fulham player. Leroy Rosenior had been on loan briefly at the start of a season but lasted a mere seven games in a campaign that brought a paltry haul of just 41 goals, the joint-third worst total recorded by the club that century. Stant's five goals during the latter part of a wretched season played a major part in us avoiding relegation by the skin of our teeth.
A second goal away at Brentford in late April, when Fulham played in all yellow, remains vivid in the memory bank. In the end we went down four years later, but a drop down to the League basement before that time may have brought about a swifter and more damaging demise.
Phil cheated death during the Falklands War. Taken to the South Atlantic aboard the QE2 he was in San Carlos Bay when the Sir Gallahad was attacked by Argentine aircraft resulting in 50 deaths and many injuries.