Sunday, 1 November 2015

Fulham-ish Footie Moments… a retrospective.

29 years ago TODAY! Gordon ‘Ivor-the-Engine’ Davis made his glorious, triumphant, historic, epic return to Fulham FootballClub! 29. Freaking-years! To. Day! No way!

Okay, this is probably only mind-blowing to a handful of people on this planet, but I am one of them.  This day marks the occasion of my very first “footie” game: Craven Cottage. Fulham. Hard to believe—for me anyway—but it all seems so meaningful, especially knowing what a non-sports person I am, and then to understand what a larger-than-life role the game would come to play in my life. And this is where it all started!  
And oooh, I remember everything about it—standing (yes, standing, no seats, in those cold, somewhat empty stands), a Styrofoam cup of tea warming my hands (the only sustenance on sale), Cyndi Lauper piped in singing “True Colors” before the game began. The other team was from the North of England where the miner’s strike was in full swing in Thatcher’s Britain and things were grim to say the least. And I remember being stunned (and scared, really scared) when our side pulled “fivers” from their pockets and began waving their money around, chanting “We’ve got a job, we’ve got a job and you’ve not. You’ve not!” If British hooliganism was ever a mystery to you… mystery solved. 

There was no violence this day, but that was basically cause there just weren’t enough of us. This was back in the day when Fulham was bottom of the bottom division (where I believe they’re currently headed, but that’s another blog-post). But even if they’d been up there in the heady premiere league, going to a footie game wouldn’t’ve been top of my top 20 bucket list of things to do—again, really not a sports-gal. But being Chris’s girlfriend (and soon-to-be wife) apparently meant my presence was required.  And so was the presence of his best friend, John “Mahai” Mullins (my soon-to-be-bestie as well) despite the fact John supported Chelsea (his presence there that day, I see in retrospect, the very definition of ‘best friend’).

So there we three were, Craven Cottage. And as it happens this was a ‘big one’…the return of Ivor-the-Engine, aka Gordon Davies. ‘Ivar’ (and why he was called Ivar I have no idea) was an older athlete; he’d started his career at Fulham, then was snagged up to play for Man City for a few years, and now, in the twilight of his career, he was coming back to his roots at Fulham. 
“But,” I said, trying to work out why this was cause for celebration, “but, if Ivor has been at Man City all this time, which is like, what you said, really good—”
“The Premiere League” Chris corrected me, barely contained impatience.
“Right,” I said, looking around at the scraggly, down-market crowd. “The Premiere. What I’m saying is, it’s kinda like, well, coming back here, it’s like Ivor’s been demoted back down to playing for Fulham… I mean, I bet he’s feeling kind of…depressed right now, don’t you think? To be here…?” 
Too late, I saw John shaking his head: No, no, save yourself, don’t go there!
But then Chris was whirling on me, appalled, no doubt questioning our whole future, no trace of humor: “No! NO! This is a proud, proud day, and Ivor’s thrilled to be back at Fulham. Thrilled!”
I caught John’s eye.  The rest of the day was spent desperately reining in the repressed laughter. 

Look, non-sports-person aside, Footie is not part of my culture or background—not even in a white noise way, like say, baseball, where you end up knowing more than you think you know (three strikes you’re out! See?). About Footie, I knew nothing.  But Chris was jumping out of his skin with nerves-- in no state to explain anything to me.  So it was left to John, who, with the patience of a martyred Saint, walked me through the basics and back again, from offside, to throw-ins, to hand-balls and penalties.  And, when Ivor-the-Engine took that game-changing penalty kick in the 92nd minute of play, and a hush fell over the crowd, and into that expectant silence I said in my most un-hushed American voice: “Oh come on, pul-eeze.  He can’t miss from there!” it was John who body shielded me from the angry mob, and got me out of harms way.

John made his transition last year—and God, we miss him so much. Miss not being about to talk to him about things; ask him things—I loved his perspective. Send him things—I loved his viewpoint and his humor. And I especially miss him at times like this. I can’t send him this picture and link to the article about Gordon ‘Ivor-the-Engine’ Davies. Nor can I ask him why they even called him Ivor in the first place; I’m sure John would’ve known.

Then again, I can’t ask Chris either. The defeat that day.  It’s just…too soon.   


  1. Great story! I was sure Chris took you to a cricket match with only a Pimm's cup for sustenance!

    1. Why am I only seeing your reply now!! No, no Pimms. No Cricket. Start as you mean to go on, I guess!!