Is the close season leaving you cold? Are you yearning to watch the boys in black and white once again? Well, never fear, help is at hand. You could shut yourself away in a darkened room in a doomed attempt to go cold turkey or you could catch the third Masters football heat of the summer, the London Masters, tonight at Wembley Arena. Failing that, it’s live on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm.
Fulham don’t have a particularly strong record in these tournaments – I seem to remember the last time we entered one we failed to progress from the group stage without winning a game or even scoring a goal. Spirits should be lifted by the fact that we seem to have got a stronger squad this time round, though.
Even though we might have lost Bjarne Goldbaek (he’s playing for them) and Geoff Horsfield, the team should still be competitive.
Lee Harrison: Then a young goalkeeper who we signed on loan from Charlton in 1991. After completing a free transfer, he went on to make a total of 38 appearances in four years as back-up to big Jim Stannard before moving on a free transfer to Barnet. He’s now in his second spell at Underhill. You get the feeling it was either him or Andre Arendse in goal.
Andy Melville: Much maligned by some but mighty effective in the centre of defence. Signed on a free transfer by Paul Bracewell and benefiting from Jean Tigana’s scientific approach to the game, Melville made 178 appearances in five years at Fulham, scoring four goals. He also amassed 65 caps for his country, scoring three goals.
Kit Symons: A classy and thoughtful defender who always looked as time was on his side. Symons was a shrewd purchase, joining a free after an unhappy end to his time at Manchester City. He spent three years at Fulham, including our first back in the top flight, making 117 appearances and scoring 14 goals – a statistic that demonstrates just how good he was in the air.
Richard Carpenter: A clever purchase by Micky Adams to bolster his threadbare squad, Chippy played a crucial part in our promotion from the Third Division. Bought for £15,000 from Gillingham, he was one of the few Adams signings that actually cost the club some money that year. A tireless worker and tough tackler in midfield, Carpenter made 66 appearances for the Whites in two seasons, scoring nine goals. He went on to Cardiff and then Brighton, where he spent seven happy seasons.
Robbie Herrera: The left-back was something of a cult figure at the club for both his shaggy hair and the fact that he hardly seemed to cross the halfway line. The more worldly members of our fanbase suggested he looked like a Colombian drug baron. He spent five years at Craven Cottage and left us just as Fulham were becoming upwardly mobile. A stalwart of the dark days in the basement at the back, Herrera made 180 appearances – scoring twice – and is still involved in the game as a development coach at Torquay.
Sylvain Legwinski: Monica, as he quickly became known, was something of a fixture in the Jean Tigana midfield. He didn’t shirk a tackle, covered plenty of ground and could pick out a teammate with a precise pass. More than once he proved me wrong by rattling in a screamer from long range (I had once famously doubted his shooting credentials just before he smashed in a stunning winner against Newcastle in Chris Coleman’s first game as manager). He made 162 appearances over five years after signing from Bordeaux and scored 12 goals. Legwinski had a genuine appreciation for the fans – his post-match laps around the stadium long pre-dated John Pantsil – and it was a real shame when a falling out with Coleman led to his departure. A real gentleman, happy to discuss any number of subjects, Monica is still playing with St. Neot’s Town.
Barry Hayles: What can you say about Barry Hayles? He was given plenty of stick during a slow start after his arrival from Bristol Rovers for £2m and people always doubted whether he could it at the next level as Fulham kept progressing up the leagues, but he answered his critics in the best way possible: by scoring goals. He scored 19 goals as we romped to the Division 1 title under Jean Tigana, earning international recognition with Jamaica, and was just as prolific in the Premiership, finishing our first season back in the big time as top scorer with 12. Perhaps most memorably of all, Hayles scored twice at White Hart Lane as we beat his boyhood team, Spurs, 3-0 in August 2003.
Ronnie Mauge: Ronnie’s playing career probably dates back the longest of all our participants this afternoon. He spent two entertaining seasons in our midfield in the late 80s, having joined on a free transfer after being released by Charlton. Mauge made 57 appearances for the Whites, scoring two goals, before going on to play for Bury, where he spent five years, Manchester City, Plymouth (a four year spell) and Bristol Rovers.
Alan Neilson: The Welsh international, who could play at centre back or in midfield, had begun his professional career as a trainee at Newcastle and moved on to Southampton when his former manager Kevin Keegan paid £225,000 for his servies. Neilson’s time at Craven Cottage was badly disrupted by a string of injuries, meaning that he only managed 25 league appearances for the club, scoring four goals. His playing career went on until 2007 with Salisbury City and was recently back at one of his former clubs, Luton Town, as a youth development coach and then, briefly, assistant manager.
The event has a definite Fulham feel to it with former Fulham players turning out for other London sides. As well as Goldbaek, you could catch Ian Selley, who suffered a horrible injury early in his Fulham career, playing for Arsenal. Ian Pearce and Rufus Brevett, such a Fulham favourite, will be representing West Ham. And Tony Thorpe, of whom much was expected when we splashed the cash on him, is in the QPR team.
It should be a lot of fun.