Last on MOTD: Neutral venue

THERE is a terrific article in the latest issue of When Saturday Comes about Super 8 films of classic football matches.

I would recommend you buy the magazine to read Marcus Davies’ piece in full, but it contains the following sentence:

“The films are generally 50ft, 100ft or 200ft, which in terms of modern time equates to either the main feature on Match of the Day (200ft) or the Middlesbrough v Fulham game at the end (50ft).”

He’s right, you know. That’ll be about seven minutes.

Last night’s final match: Fulham 3 Middlesbrough 0
Commentator: Simon Brotherton

While I’m on the twin subjects of When Saturday Comes and Fulham, there was a letter in the March 2008 issue about Roy Hodgson.

“I’ve been enjoying Roy Hodgson’s TV interviews after Fulham games because he has such an old-fashioned voice, one that I find quite soothing,” wrote Nathan Clifford, via e-mail (which is almost a town in its own right, this days).

“He sounds like a dapper cockney gent in a newsreel discussing how sad he will be to see the old street knocked down but that’s progress, isn’t it guvnor, and these plans for a high-rise block look right nice.

“I assume that he sounds the way he does because of his globe-trotting career – people still talked like that when he was last in the UK for any length of time, which must be as far back as the late 1960s.

“If Roy hasn’t yet said that he’s delighted to be back in ‘dear old Blighty’ then it’s only a matter of time. I also wonder if his coaching staff are able to concur with their manager’s view that they team are lacking a ‘tip-top right-half’.”

As with those Super 8 films, there is something about Hodgson that harks back to another age. Then again, Craven Cottage itself feels like a football ground which mixes the best of the 1960s with modern fan requirements – and that is even reflected in their ticketing policy.

Fulham are, to my knowledge, the only club in English professional football who reserve a section of their ground for neutral fans. There, in the Putney End, between the home and away sections, is the neutral section.

I’m not talking Family Stands here. You don’t need to drag along a son, daughter, nephew or niece to sit in this section. You just need to be neutral – or, at least, be willing to engage with fans of the opposition.

The FA granted Fulham permission for a neutral section in 2004, when the club returned to a redeveloped Craven Cottage after two years at Loftus Road. Fans can wear whatever shirt they like and support whoever they like.

And it seems to work. Fans of one side can take along friends who support the other, and they can all sit together without one set having to keep schtum if their team score.

Sadly, the neutral section isn’t in use for games against the Premier League’s bigger sides, for which the entire Putney End is given over to visiting supporters. But it is, perhaps, the closest you will get to utopia in the Premier League.

The neutral fans would have enjoyed Fulham’s performance (unless they were supporting Middlesbrough). Hodgson’s side earned a deserved victory thanks to goals from Jimmy Bullard and Clint Dempsey, either side of a Danny Murphy penalty.

They wouldn’t have enjoyed Julio Arca’s horrific challenge on Andy Johnson, which only earned the Argentinian a booking, even though it could easily have snapped the Fulham striker’s shinbone in two.

But any neutral would appreciate the remarkable progress Fulham have made in just under a year since Hodgson took over from Lawrie Sanchez. When Hodgson arrived, they were second from bottom. Now they are eighth.

In addition to their 3-0 win, Fulham also achieved the first hat-trick since I started the Gubbometer in August 2007. Having appeared last on Match of the Daythree weeks running, they will top the Gubbometer on Christmas morning.

And the team that topped the Gubbometer on Christmas morning last year – Derby County – went on to finish the season at the top, too. This could just be Fulham’s season.

Gubbometer

1.Fulham: 5      (GD: +1; CD: +1)
2.Middlesbrough: 5      (GD: 0; CD: +1)
3.Capello: 4      (GD: +1; CD: +4)
4.Wigan: 4      (GD: 0; CD: +2)
5=. Blackburn: 4      (GD: 0; CD: 0)
5=.West Brom: 4      (GD: 0; CD: 0)
7. Stoke:      (GD: 0; CD: 0)
8. West Ham: 2      (GD: 0; CD: +2)
9=. Bolton: 2      (GD: 0; CD: 0)
9=. Newcastle: 2      (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11=.Gubba:      (GD: +1; CD: +1)
11=. Manchester City: 1      (GD: +1; CD +1)
13. Portsmouth: 1      (GD: 0; CD: +1)
14=.Everton: 1      (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Hull: 1      (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=.Sunderland: 1      (GD: 0; CD: 0)
17=. Arsenal: 0
17=. Aston Villa: 0
17=.
Chelsea: 0
17=.
Liverpool: 0
17=. Manchester United: 0
17=.Tottenham: 0

GD=Gubba difference
CD=Capello difference

(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)

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3 Responses to Last on MOTD: Neutral venue

  1. Chopper says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this. Roy’s been brilliant ever since he arrived, there’s something about him that exhudes calm. I’ve never been so relaxed about the ups and downs of a season before.

  2. FB says:

    Great article. Another thing about Roy is that he’s honest in post-match interviews. If FFC were outclassed, he’ll be up front and say so. If there’s a dodgy decision, he might allude to it, but he won’t whinge like Ferg or Kinn’ell. He”s always magnanimous in defeat as well as victory. In short, a proper gent and articulate and erudite to boot. A rare gem in today’s Prem and I for one am glad he’s at FFC.

  3. LBNo11 says:

    …I now expect to hear from the lads around me in the Hammersmith End singing “We won it one time, we won it one ti-ime, the Gubb – o – meter, we won it one time”…

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