This is my interview with Glenn Cockerill about the incredibly successful 1996/97 season. It was published in the matchday programme against Derby on Saturday.
Glenn Cockerill may have made only 36 competitive appearances for Fulham, but he played an important role in guiding the club to the Premier League.
After saving the Whites from relegation in his first season as a manager, Micky Adams set about putting together a strong squad on a relative shoestring.
He needed someone with a strong character and knew Cockerill well having played alongside him at Southampton. The partnership proved fruitful, as Fulham gained promotion from Division Three in 1996/97.
“I know Micky was my manager,” the midfielder said, “but he was probably my best mate at the club. My nickname for him was ‘Tarzan’, I don’t know why.
“We both lived in the same village and drank together. My deal to join Fulham was done in half an hour down the local pub, The Jolly Farmer in Warsash.
“He just wanted somebody to socialise up the dressing room and I think by the end of pre-season, my job was accomplished.”
However, that strong team spirit was not just forged in happy times. Cockerill feels the turning point for the campaign took place after a match the players would have wanted to forget.
“The game that stood out for me was our first away trip of the season, to Hartlepool. On the way home, me and Morgs [Simon Morgan] had a chat at the back of the bus. I said ‘come on, I’m here to dig in with you lot’.
“It was a long, long trip home because we’d been beaten, but from that day, I had a feeling that the team would go on and achieve something. We won the next five games.”
Cockerill had been a regular in the Southampton side for the best part of ten years. However, he started to fall out of favour.
“I was in and out of the team in my ninth year and was offered another year to get my testimonial, but I knew I wasn’t going to play every week because the Premier League was getting quicker.
“I was playing against people like David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Giggsy and I didn’t want to stick around just to pick up a testimonial game.”
A few seasons with Leyton Orient followed before the move to SW6, where he became Fulham’s oldest-ever debutant, a record that still stands.
Although having a spread of goalscorers was vital for promotion, Cockerill notes the meticulous work done on the training ground to ensure they had the tightest defence in the division.
“We did so well because there were probably four of us who couldn’t move! But no, we were well-drilled. Micky and Corky [Alan Cork] did a good job with us all and did a lot of work on shape, especially with the back four. We also had a top-class keeper [Mark Walton].”
The arrival of Mohamed Al-Fayed ushered in a new era on the Thames, as the arrival of more high-profile names meant that Cockerill was no longer in the frame.
His love affair with the club was rekindled however when he became U19 coach in 1998/99. During this time he met his current wife Angela, who was working at Motspur Park as the academy director’s PA. The couple have three children.
It is not so easy for Glenn to go to Craven Cottage anymore, but despite this he has not forgotten the role the fans played in the on-field success.
“My nine-year-old boy Brody plays football on a Saturday, so I tend to watch him and see the results on TV.
“We were very close to the fans. They were terrific all season, home and away. I believe they saw something different for the first time in many years at Fulham.”
Little did anyone know the adventures that lay ahead in the coming years.