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There’s a lot more than just longevity to recommend a visit to Craven Cottage, the riverside home of Fulham Football Club since 1896.
Although I lived a long way from London, Fulham were the first team from the higher divisions I ‘supported’. They had some fine players then – even though they seemed to yoyo between the top two divisions. Johnny Haynes, Tony Macedo, Tosh Chamberlain, George Cohen – all great players; Haynes one of the greatest ever. Since then, some wonderful players also turned out for the Cottagers at various stages of their careers – Alan Mullery, Bobby Moore, Rodney Marsh, – even George Best. The finest goal I ever saw was scored by Best in a League Cup tie against Peterborough United in September, 1976. He stepped on the ball, flicked it into the air and then volleyed it past the current Manchester United goalkeeper coach, Eric Steele, from 25 yards. Unbelievable.
I also remember seeing Fulham play in February, 1992 – in the ‘old’ third division. There was no Best, Marsh or such like on that day, as they lost 1 – 0 at home to my side, Peterborough, in front of just over 5,000 people, Even then, though, Craven Cottage was a great place to watch a match. The fans there are always passionate about their team and you’re close enough to the pitch to be able to feel part of the action. When Fulham received Mohamed Al-Fayed’s backing and began to move through the leagues, the club had to upgrade the stadium to meet Premier League standards, but the atmosphere is still better than at most of the ‘big’ clubs.
I must admit, though, that I sometimes wonder if older Fulham fans sometimes look back a little nostalgically to the days when they could arrive at the ground ten minutes before the kick off, have a reasonably priced pie and then stand wherever they wanted to cheer on players they often met out in town and who didn’t earn more in a week than the fans themselves would make in a year or two.
To an outsider, it does always seem as if Fulham has been able to hang on to some of that traditional atmosphere, however. The Cottage is still idiosyncratically there – an absurdity in a modern stadium but an integral part of this one. The recently unveiled statue of Johnny Haynes blends in as people come into the ground, rather than being elevated to god-like status the way so many others have been.
No, despite their wealthy backing, Fulham seem to have stayed as a people’s club much more than any of the other London Premier League clubs – even West Ham. Their fans probably still think of Brentford and QPR as their most hated rivals – apart from Gillingham – just as much as Chelsea. And, with an astute, honest and likeable manager in Roy Hodgson, they also have a team that plays attractive yet committed https://itcscore.com/. If you’re looking to go to a game in London, then give Craven Cottage a try – it’s well worth it.