And if you were at the Cottage that autumnal October afternoon you will understand why. An encounter between two of the big guns for promotion had enticed down the Sky cameras for what promised to be a tasty affair. Fulham had made a perfect 100% start to the season under Tigana with nine wins from nine, while Blackburn managed by Graeme Souness also saw themselves as an ambitious side with the budget and pedigree to be back in the Premiership, which of course they had won in 1995.
The two managers offered the tv audience a compelling contrast along the touchline. Our magnificent Frenchman oozed style and panache, with Souness at any given moment looking ready to chin the next guy who stared at him a moment too long.
Never an easy man to interview, though I had managed it once in Monaco when Tigana was lifting the French title, our toothpick-chewing genius felt the game as intensely as any fan, but was a modicum of self-restraint and loath to show any emotion. Not so his adversary that day. It’s little wonder that the excitable Scot actually flew across the Atlantic right after the game to undergo corrective heart surgery.
The match itself was exciting enough, though not a classic. Rovers gave us a real test, taking the lead inside four minutes through Matt Jansen. We’d been sweeping all before us to this point, but it took a rather dodgy penalty from King Louis in the second half to maintain our unbeaten start and head the table.
What made the day memorable for me was that I escorted Miss Great Britain to the game and we were guests of honour of the chairman and his party. It was champagne all the way and best seats in the house. Well it was for the delectable lady. She was gently detached from your blogger by Max Clifford (then enjoying a short period in the sun as Mo’s PR retainer) and ensconced in the ‘royal box’ alongside al Fayed and his brother. Yours truly was two rows below. The real reason we were there was for Miss GB to make the half-time draw with David down on the pitch. I’d set the whole thing up knowing the game was on Sky. Miss GB (I shall refrain from naming her) I had actually spotted in my local shopping precinct with her mum. Of course, I had to approach her with the ‘hey baby, I can make you are a star,’ routine and found out she lived 15 minutes from my house. Actually, she didn’t need any help from me, was a really sweet and genuine girl, and we actually became friends. On occasion I was fortunate enough to accompany her to events when she needed an escort.
Anyway, both TV and the tabloids gave us plenty of exposure out on the pitch, after which David suggested on the mike the fans might like to see Miss GB close up and ‘would you like her to make a lap of the ground?’ You can guess the response to that. She looked at me in a moment of panic and said would I escort her? Chivalry took over. I turned up the collar of my long black overcoat, slipped on my Ray-bans and with an appropriate (I hope) Pacino-esque scowl marched round the touchline behind the blond bombshell. The abuse heaped upon the ‘minder’ was in direct proportion to the wolf whistles and appreciation showered on our radiant guest. What a laugh. And I still have the pictures from the Sun to prove it all really happened…
It didn’t end there. After the game Mo whisked the little lady off to meet the players while I was left to make small talk with the sponsors and finish off the canapés. We departed with an open invitation to ‘attend any future games as we wished and the Chairman promised our local beauty a role as ‘Fulham’s new lucky mascot with promotional work at Harrods.
None of this came to pass of course. Four weeks later after a couple of phone rebuttals it was evident the Chairman had moved on to other targets. Michael Jackson perhaps was back on the line? Our moment had come and gone. But it had been a day to remember.
I’d be amused to hear from anyone in the crowd who remembers that day. Due to the shades a number of my buddies failed to recognize me out there…
I will be at the game Sunday, and not in disguise, nor sadly with the lovely lady herself. She married a local estate agent and now has three kids, her beauty pageant days a thing of the past. As to the game, Fulham at full strength, the new signings raring to go, Bobby hopefully back to his best, and Rovers everybody’s hot tip for relegation. Well, there can only be one result surely…can’t there???
THREE POINTS for the Whites to get us away from the foot of the table please. I will settle for 1-0 with a scruffy goal in the last ten minutes, but I fancy us to win by two or three. Blackburn are without Dunn, Pedersen and – crucially – Ryan Nelsen. They were on the slide when we last saw them in March and only a last minute pen (contentious too) from BZ got us the 3-2 win. We may need a strong ref Sunday too, it’s early in the season maybe but I already sense a hint of desperation in the Rovers camp.
Yes, footie is back. Hope you enjoy the game.
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