Robbie Herrera on Mohamed Al-Fayed's big-money Fulham takeover from the inside


Fulham were on the brink of extinction in 1987.

The club were in financial ruin and there was talk of a merger with rivals Queens Park Rangers in a bid to keep a remnant of London’s oldest team afloat.

An intervention led by chairman Jimmy Hill ensured Fulham staved off bankruptcy and all talk of a merger fell by the wayside.

Hill paved the way for Mohamed Al-Fayed – a flamboyant millionaire who promised to turn lowly Fulham into ‘the Manchester United of the south’ – to purchase the club in 1997.

Overnight the Whites were suddenly worthy of newspaper back pages and there was money, ambition and a sense of hope that Fulham could leave the dark days behind them.

Al-Fayed’s impact was instant.



Robbie Herrera joined Fulham from Queens Park Rangers in 1993
Robbie Herrera joined Fulham from Queens Park Rangers in 1993

Out went manager Mickey Adams and in came Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan.

Fulham splashed cash the banks of the Thames hadn’t seen before; £2.1million on Chris Coleman, who dropped two divisions to make the move, and £1.1million on Canadian sensation Paul Peschisolido.

From the outside, there was much excitement from Fulham fans who watched their club being transformed before their eyes.

And according to a man who was at Fulham at the time, left-back Robbie Herrera, who signed for the club in 1993, there was also a buzz inside the dressing room, albeit one coupled with apprehension.

Herrera has recalled the period of change at Craven Cottage in an interview with Mirror Football, admitting he has both good and bad memories from the time.

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Mohamed Al-Fayed promised to turn lowly Fulham into 'the Manchester United of the south'
Mohamed Al-Fayed promised to turn lowly Fulham into ‘the Manchester United of the south’

“Once money started to come in, and we started to get new players, we had lads wondering whether they were going to still be there or not, it was a case that a few of us stayed – some longer than others. A few obviously went straight away,” said Herrera.

“Unfortunately Mickey Adams was one of those who went straight away, which was a shame.

“It was a strange time. You’re looking forward to it but all you can do when you’re in and around it is do your best to make an impression and try and stay in that squad.

“I remember the first game when Kevin and Ray took over we were away at Wigan and we’d been travelling previously on – well don’t get me wrong, the coach was decent, but nothing compared to what Mohamed Al-Fayed had brought in.

“We were sitting in leather seats with individual TV screens, We started the season wearing Le Coq Sportif gear and match kit and then all of a sudden we’d gone Adidas, it was unbelievable.



Al-Fayed brought in Kevin Keegan and Ray Wilkins at Fulham
Al-Fayed brought in Kevin Keegan and Ray Wilkins at Fulham

“Then we signed Pesch and Cookie, made big signings, and it continued.”

Initially, things were looking up for Herrera as wholesale changes were implicated at Craven Cottage.

But an injury and the 1998 arrival of Rufus Brevett – a man the left-back knew well from their time together at QPR – saw Herrera slip down the pecking order in south west London.

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The defender would leave Fulham in the same year, moving home to Devon, where he signed for Torquay.

A short stint at Leyton Orient followed three years later before Herrera finally hung up his boots and entered the world of football management.

“It was a strange one when Kevin and Ray took over. I stayed in the side and I was doing quite well. I’d had conversations with Kevin and he was really happy with me,” Herrera continued.



Chris Coleman dropped two divisions to sign for Fulham
Chris Coleman dropped two divisions to sign for Fulham

“I was thinking, ‘The future is looking quite good here.’ But unfortunately for me, I got injured, and that’s when Rufus [Brevett] came in.

“We got on really well, we had a good-natured rivalry at QPR, and I was actually the first person he saw when he came up to the ground, funnily enough.

“He said to me, ‘I wasn’t sure whether to come because you were here.’ And I’m sure he meant that.

“He said, ‘I didn’t know if I would be playing as the regular left-back or you would be ahead of me, so I wasn’t sure about the move.’ But he had to make it because I don’t think he was playing where he was.

“When I left Fulham I came back down to Torquay.

“I thought I’d try and get myself into a bit of coaching. Luckily for me, it’s happened. I had five or six seasons coaching the youth team at Torquay and then I had a couple of years as assistant manager at Torquay, which I really enjoyed.

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Herrera moved into coaching after his playing career ended and is today manager of Dorchester Town
Herrera moved into coaching after his playing career ended and is today manager of Dorchester Town

“Since then I have had the Under-18s and Under-23s at Plymouth, so that’s been great. Now I’m at Dorchester. I went in originally as an assistant but the manager stepped down and now I’ve taken over the reins. It’s great.

“It’s nice to be able to stamp my authority and philosophies onto the team, how I’d like them to play. But you’d get this from everybody, budgets do help! But, I’m really enjoying it.”

Herrera doesn’t spend much time in the capital these days, but Fulham remain the club he made the most appearances for during his playing career and he continues to keep an eye on their progress.

“I always watch the games, as much as I can. It’s the first result I look for is the Fulham one – second is obviously QPR,” said Herrera. “I’m always looking out to see how they’re doing and with a bit of luck, they will claw themselves out of this relegation battle.”





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