Saturday morning. All lamp-posts and signs on Tooting High Street have yellow, green and white balloons attached, which is odd and perhaps, I think, a bad omen. We’re car-less at present so I put two big bags of Fulham Reviews on my back and cycle to the ground. I get there not long after 12, covered in sweat and thirsty as a desert.
One of the nicest things about doing the Fulham Reviews is selling them. Not the actual selling part – I don’t really do that, not proactively at least, and certainly not well (there’s an inherent bashfulness about selling something you’ve made yourself, I find) – but it’s always really nice to meet people, say hello, and see what people think will happen in the game ahead.
I get to the ground at just after 12, lock my bike to a road sign down a side-street, and head for Stevenage Road. David Lloyd and co are already here to shift the fine new edition of TOOFIF, but hardly anyone else is about.
But the first sale comes soon. Then I have to wait about an hour for another: clearly I’m far too early.
I bump into a portly gentleman who’s come over from Texas to watch Clint Dempsey. He’s not impressed by the heat. Says it’s refreshing to him. He wants to know when they open the gates to the ground. It’s 130 and I’m surprised they’re not open yet. So I can’t really help him. He hadn’t heard of the latest Dempsey developments and in retrospect I may have been a little callous in crushing his hopes so ruthlessly: “Oh no, he’s had a big falling out with the club. I doubt he’ll play for us again!”.
Things start to happen. A coach of Norwich fans have arrived, and soon the road is full of people wearing yellow. People stop to ask for help. They are looking for a) a cash-point, b) a pub, or c) both. It is disappointing for them to learn that their options are quite limited so close to the ground. I send them towards the Crabtree, or Tesco Express on Fulham Palace Road, depending on exactly what they need.
At around now there’s a nice gentle buzz, the programme sellers are just getting set-up, the players’ taxis (silver people carrier type things) come and go, the away team turns up in its coach and people get excited about that. There are generally more people milling around. The club shop (over the road from where I’m standing) starts to get busy.
HammyEnd’s Dan Crawford pops up down the road, sporting a well chosen “BAIRD 6” home jersey. He disappears into the club shop, emerging a few minutes later with a nifty white baseball cap (wise man – the sun was turned up to 11 by then). Dan is here or hereabouts all afternoon, handing out leaflets for the Fulham Supporters Trust. The excellent Neil Springate, also of the FST, drops by to say hello a little later, too.
Alex Locatelli is here to help me with some selling. It’s always good to have someone else to stand with at times like these, especially someone like Alex who has interesting angles on things. We talk about Clint Dempsey and agree that Martin Jol’s done quite well with his press conference. Our old friend Jamie (former CCN Northern Correspondent during his university days) passes by carrying a box of TOOFIFs, “MJG” from Friends of Fulham says hello (we didn’t talk about Dickson Etuhu though) and by now the Fulham Review sales are rolling on nicely. Dan drops by again and sells some Fulham Reviews to three young Canadians who are over for the game. (This is the sort of sale I simply don’t pull off. I let people come to me; Dan goes to the crowds and *sells*. Good work, Mr Crawford. Hopefully they’ll enjoy their souvenirs as much as they enjoyed the game.)
John Cummins, all-round Friends of Fulham good guy and the man who should be designing Fulham’s kits, and the man who’s made a big difference to the Fulham Review cover designs, stops by to say hello on his way in, as does long-time Fulham Review buyer Adrian Parker, another pleasing face-to-a-name encounter. Adrian is wearing a Def Leppard t-shirt for the day, which is very much a good thing.
At about now Alex is passed in the street by the current England manager, but doesn’t manage to sell him a Fulham Review.
The great Ken Coton wandered over for a chat and outlines Ashwater Press’s exciting new developments. Ken is Fulham royalty so it is a pleasure to see him and to talk about making football books. I must subscribe to the new Tales from the Riverbank, and so must you.
At 230 or so Toby arrives with young Isla, signifying that the time is right to get into the ground. I pause a little longer, shifting a few more copies of the Review, downing half a litre of lemonade, then duck inside (evading the security checks! Go, me).
Inside there’s a new big screen and a new roof upon the Johnny Haynes Stand. It’s shimmering in the sunshine.
Then we win 5-0.