Cult Heroes: Where Are They Now?

Cameron Ramsey 8th March 2018

Some players make Fulham history on the pitch, and others in a different manner. Our man Cameron Ramsey takes a look at the current whereabouts of those whose FFC history was written not in football, but etched forever in the hearts of the Fulham faithful.

Over the years at Craven Cottage, and indeed Loftus Road in some instances, Fulham have been graced with some true talent. Servants who’s sentimental value towers above the norm, characters which make their own destiny in a Whites’ shirt, unparalleled enigmas which steal the hearts and minds of awe-struck spectators on the terraces to sling their once unfamiliar names into stardom amongst the club’s famous faithful.

Yes, the south-west Londoners are certainly blessed to have an illustrious array of model professionals within its rich history, but, however, sometimes a player gains recognition not through his raw, untamed talent, but more through his personality, quirks and even weaknesses on the pitch.

Nevertheless, these marvellous fellows are still just as loved and idolised by the masses, and with the sensational Sean Kavanagh, our sweet, sweet prince, leaving London’s Originals to join Shamrock Rovers recently, it’s about time we held a glass of whatever’s available in their memory. So without further ado, here’s a mere handful of men lauded for their sheer cult hero status, opposed to a ready-made worldwide prestige, and what they’re up to now in the dizzying world of football, or beyond.

John Paintsil | 2008 – 2011

A beaming smile with the moves to match, John Paintsil joined Fulham from West Ham United in the summer of 2008 and little was known by many of the charismatic Ghanaian right-back, although his post-match antics and athleticism in his department soon made him a firm fan favourite down by the river.

Before kick-off, it was ritual that Paintsil would stand with his back to the Hammersmith End, arms aloft, to soak up the crowd’s raucous raw as the ball was rolled off the centre spot. Paintsil’s services were widely disregarded at the Hammers, but with the Cottagers’ badge on his heart the full-back found a new, reinvigorating lease of life.

The exuberant defender never left the field without paying homage to the fans which sang his name, and his greatest moment came against Hamburg in the Europa League semi-final triumph, a 2-1 second-leg victory over the Bundesliga outfit where Paintsil made not 1, not 2, but 3 laps of honour, an outre impulse which is vivid and distinct in my own recollection, even to this very day.

Now 36-year-old, Paintsil may not be playing on a weekly basis anymore, although he is still very much involved with the professional game. Paintsil’s upbeat attitude in the dressing room would spur any team towards success, and the retired full-back is now currently assistant manager of South Africa’s preeminent Kaizer Chiefs.

Gabor Kiraly | 2014 – 2015

Lasting only 1 season at Fulham, Gabor Kiraly may not have stuck around long between the sticks, however the Hungarian goalkeeper, complete with his trademark tracksuit bottoms, undoubtedly made his mark upon the supporters at the Cottage.

A proud professional, Kiraly was signed by the Whites in 2014 by Felix Magath as part of the kooky German boss’s futile revolution at the club, however the stocky keeper, despite his experience on English soil after spells at Crystal Palace, West Ham, Aston Villa and Burnley, only mustered 5 appearances in all competitions.

Kiraly’s a travelled stopper having plied his trade in a number of countries throughout the decades, however there’s one collective where he’s been present since 1998, and that’s the Hungarian national set-up. With 108 caps under the elastic band of his trackies, the keeper’s showing no sign of hanging up his international gloves.

After 1 season at Fulham, the 41-year-old returned home to where he made his professional debut. A well-versed, capable veteran, Szombathelyi Haladás are his newest employers and his iconic, grass stained, scuffed pantaloons ultimately live to see another day in the 18-yard box.

Adil Chihi | 2014 – 2015

Another one season wonder in Adil Chihi is readily forgotten about by the fans due to his utter lack of game time at the club, although there’s certainly cause to admit that the adaptable attacker deserves a mention, even if he only endeavoured to gain one solitary outing for the Whites, which lasted a measly 30 minutes against Cardiff City.

Snagged from German outfit 1. FC Koln, Chihi was snapped up to fundamentally fill the squad, a bench warmer at most, although it’s safe to say that the Moroccan failed to make an impact upon Magath’s disjointed squad, but hey, at least he was exercising at Motspur Park on a regular basis, right?

Magath must have fed the winger a troth of lies and falsehoods during contractual negotiations and for that we can be sympathetic; Magath promised a brighter future at CC under his wacky command and all we received was a damp, underwhelming excuse of a fold with little or no fight and desire, however Chihi slotted into the mix seamlessly, it seems.

Chihi is a free agent searching for his new club after being let go by Ittihad Tanger, a sorry spiral indeed, but if he finds spirit in his shortcomings of late, he’ll surely return on an established platform before long – maybe a second spell at the Whites? We could do with another winger.

Ahmad Elrich | 2005 – 2007

Signed on a 3-year deal from South Korean side Busan IPark FC in 2005 after a prolonged contractual dispute which saw him side-lined for 5 months, Ahmad Elrich, an Australian international of Lebanese descent, appeared to have a vibrant, fulfilling career at Fulham in the Premier League, however the term ‘colourful’ is probably a more appropriate way of describing his broken stint on English soil.

Elrich made his first-team debut for Fulham against Liverpool in the top-flight and all was well in the Aussie’s world, but a successful spell at the Whites would somewhat elude the midfielder, after only collecting 7 appearances for the club, an agonisingly shallow tally indeed.

A loan switch came his way in April 2006 and FK Lyn Oslo were willing to take him under their wing for a period which spanned 1 month, a career venture which was basically a Nordic vacation given the length of the temporary switch. At the start of the 2007-08 campaign, Elrich was denied a squad number and was subsequently ushered out of the club shortly after in September 2007.

But nothing was to smash Elrich’s dogged spirit and the stubborn flanker – who auspiciously attained 17 caps for the ‘Socceroos’ – now exquisitely mans the touchline for Rydalmere Lions FC following brief stretches at Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast down under. What a trooper.

Luis Boa Morte | 2000 – 2007

A Premier League champion with Arsenal in 1998, Luis Boa Morte jumped to Southampton in the summer of 1999 and after a solitary season on the south coast the enigmatic Portuguese midfielder moved to Fulham on loan in 2000, a year’s move to the Thames which would become permanent in 2001 after a sublime provisional season below Jean Tigana’s instrumental authority.

Luis Bo’ was mesmerising on the ball and always wore his heart on his sleeve in black and white, although his fierce temperament occasionally got the better of his rationality, an erratic streak which spoiled his tenacity to thrive in the limelight.

But, essentially, the adept, direct winger was a vital component of a deadly, prolific offensive trio, an intimidating prong consisting of Louis Saha and Barry Hayles which catapulted us into the Premier League.

Casual inconsistencies in-front of the target plagued his game at the beginning of his time at the Whites, although Boa Morte inspired a generation of aspiring footballers with his flare and guile, a dynamic continental style which opposed the traditional, conservative approach homegrown players were accustom to.

Cartwheels in celebration and the odd gnaw of David Weir’s leg were all factors of the enthralling offensive threat’s compelling qualities, and though at times he was indeed perceived to be a burdening villain, the robust wide-man – who last played his final game for Chesterfield in 2013 – is now the esteemed manager of Campeonato de Portugal side SU Sintrense.

Moritz Volz | 2003 – 2008

‘220 Volz’, ‘The Hoff’, ‘The Electrician’, ‘Mr Resistor’, ‘The Lightbulb’, or simply, ‘Volzy’, were endearing nicknames fashioned by Fulham’s faithful for the one and only Moritz Volz, the scintillating German right-back who travelled to home games by bicycle, the exalted defender who efficiently clocked up 140 appearances for Fulham.

Volz joined Fulham on loan from Arsenal in August 2003 having made just 1 senior appearance for the Gunners in the League Cup, and in January 2004 the loan was made permanent and the club’s avid supporters would never have anticipated how significant he would become on Stevenage Road.

The sturdy full-back has an unusual infatuation with David Hasslehoff and against Aston Villa in 2006 he had ‘The Hoffs’ etched on his boots for good luck, and as a welcome result, he revealingly notched his first goal in three years.

In December 2006 he penned a 3-year extension on his current deal and just weeks after pledging hid immediate future to the Cottagers he resoundingly netted the Premier League’s 15,000 goal against local rivals Chelsea, a record-breaking strike which earned him a brand new moniker, ‘15,000 Volz’.

To commemorate the goal scoring feat, Volz donated £15,000 to three noteworthy charities in Kick 4 Life, The Prince’s Trust and Fulham Football Club’s Community Trust, a noble gesture that was felt by those in need and those who marvelled in adoration of his humanitarianism and generosity.

Now, the swashbuckling ex-‘Die Mannschaft’ international is a pundit, a scout, and sporadically makes appearances on English television to convey his articulate thoughts on match proceedings, especially if the Whites are involved, of course.

Facundo Sava | 2002 – 2006

Strapping, steadfast and more importantly, humorous, Facundo Sava linked up with Fulham in 2002 from Argentinian outfit Gimnasia for a fee in the £2m bracket, and during his eventful period in the Capital, which was chopped apart by a loan spell at La Liga’s Celta de Vigo in 2004, the striker forged an ever-lasting impression on Fulham’s avid following.

Anyone who was fortunate enough to witness Fulham’s famous 3-2 victory over Liverpool in November 2002 at Loftus Road should recall ‘El Colorado’s’ Superman-styled lunge into the crowd after netting his second of the momentous encounter, and Sava would always strive to put on a show for the supporters, at home as well as away, to treasure and applaud.

Sava exhibited unbridled joy after every goal he bagged for Fulham. In 33 matches for the Whites, the eccentric attacker may have only registered 6 goals, but that didn’t matter, he just loved to beat the keeper.

Against Charlton Athletic in 2002, Sava, after netting the tie’s only goal, brandished a Zorro mask which he had tucked away in his sock and paraded facetiously around the pitch, a moment of lunacy which brought vast amusement to the relatively dull affair in Shepherd’s Bush.

To the dismay of those still revelling in the past, Sava, 43, is now long retired, however the whimsical gent is now in charge of Gimnasia’s dugout and is practising his unique, madcap strategics on the training field day in, day out with his former employers who nurtured him in his formative years, and by all accounts, he and his squad are doing fairly well domestically.

They may be 18th in the standings, but considering the Argentinian league is made up of 28 teams, moderate mid-table consolidation is certainly sufficient enough.

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