Fulham legend signs off

Posted by Phil Mison

'Diddy' David Hamilton will leave a lasting legacy at FulhamGettyImages'Diddy' David Hamilton will leave a lasting legacy at Fulham

It comes to all of us at some point. The trick is not to outstay your welcome, but to bow out at the top. Consummate showbiz professional that he is, Fulham's matchday compere 'Diddy' David Hamilton feels it's time for him to hang up his microphone come the end of the season.

Next Wednesday's derby with Chelsea provides David with a fixture he relishes more than most, as his final few appearances before the dug outs herald the end of the road. This particular matchday tradition however was inaugurated with an altogether more humble backdrop in December 1996. And I was there to see it.

"I grew up in very modest surroundings, a damp shabby block of flats by Putney Bridge tube station. As a small boy I was conscious of the matchday buzz in the late 1940's as huge crowds swarmed over the bridge and through Bishop's Park on their way to the Cottage. In 1949 Fulham had gained promotion to the first division. Trouble was, the first game I was taken to by my father was actually at Chelsea! But they had a greyhound track around the pitch, I didn't much care for the atmosphere or the view.

My parent's marriage was breaking up and my Chelsea following father moved out to Wimbledon. The man my mother then took up with, though from Liverpool, used to take me to Fulham (I was then 9) and I just fell in love with the place. Standing on the old open riverside terrace staring at the gable end atop the main stand above halfway, well, it to me remains just such a magical vision to this day. I'd had a very narrow escape, but Fulham was the team for me."

I quote the above from David's must-read book, A Fulhamish Tale, 165 pages of unadulterated joy for followers of our club. In the book, David mentions, as if there were already latent forces suggesting the teenage Hamilton's future career path, "some intangible showbiz aura" surrounding the club. On the pitch of course, though top flight status had been lost in 1952, Fulham were a growing force with a reputation for style, panache, characters and goals as the 50's progressed.

What youngster's enthusiasm would not have been fired by the presence of Haynes, Robson, Jezzard, Leggat, Langley, Macedo and Cohen?

David's career in the limelight has made him a household name, having hosted some 12,000 hours of radio and appearances on countless television shows. He was of course one of the regular DJ's on Top of the Pops at the very height of his game, and also heavily involved in organising the Showbiz XI celebrity football team, being no mean little right-winger himself. Get hold of the book and you will see for yourself how Diddy's love for all things Fulham has never diminished in more than 60 years devotion to the badge (he even served for a while on the board of directors).

"Show business allows you a wonderful lifestyle and affords you splendid opportunities to meet people. I don't run the Roller anymore, nor bump into Miss World that often or get to broadcast on Radio One, but of all the things I have achieved, matchday announcer at the Cottage in the al Fayed era has given me as much joy and satisfaction as anything. And I certainly don't do it for the money!"

So how did it come to pass?

"In hindsight, although we dared not quite believe it at the time, 1996 was the turning point in the club's fortunes under Mickey Adams. With zero expectations, major concerns over security of the ground and no money to build, we actually had the makings of a decent side, the one that would see us gain promotion from the bottom tier. Prior to that, there was little effort really being put into anything done either before kick-off or at half-time over the P.A. – the mood of the place was just too depressing.

Announcements were still traditionally made from a disembodied voice stuck up on the Cottage balcony. Calling a 'goal' from that distance if scored at the Hammersmith End could be problematic! The directors approached me and asked if I would put myself out onto the pitch at the interval, supervise some kick-in competitions, and give the crowd a bit more of the 'big match atmosphere'. Why not, I thought – at least thanks to Mickey we actually started having something positive to shout about again!"

When I asked him, David could not quite recall when he first began using the "It's Showtime" shout-out in the build-up to kick off, but do buy his book and gain all the inside knowledge yourself.

"Will I miss it?" He gives me that twinkling smile that belies his 74 years. "It is my decision to go now, and I made that decision a year ago. Yes, of course I will miss it initially, as you do whenever a radio station lets you go or something comes to an end. But I'll still get my Fulham fix and be down at the games whenever I can, don't worry about that."

I query the lack of scandal or juicy gossip within the book. For a very short period while the club were playing at Loftus Road an overzealous marketing 'initiative' inside the club's commercial department unceremoniously dumped David for someone with a 'younger image'. An error the club chairman quickly corrected when he was alerted to the howls of protest.

From an industry notorious for back-biting and scurrilous talk, Hamilton knows to keep his guard up. "Well, there have been people along the way I didn't always see eye to eye with – inside the club too, of course. Maybe you'll have to wait for volume II for more on that!"

The Chelsea game on Wednesday 17th will be David's final match in charge of proceedings with the 'old enemy', his very last Fulham game as club announcer and matchday host is v Liverpool on Sunday May 12th.

He will be a tough act to follow.

Twitter@fulhamphil

David Hamilton – “A Fulhamish Tale”

Ashwater Press £15.95 and post free within UK

http://home.btconnect.com/ASHWATERPRESS/davidhamiltonbook.htm

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