From When Skies Are Grey:
Fulham FC: historically a yo-yo team acquainted with all four English professional divisions, this west London club currently play above that status thanks, largely, to the munificence of multi-millionaire foreign ownership.
Being a rich man’s plaything is hardly going to generate good will towards a football club though.
Nor is any sympathy vote coming from the fact Fulham’s top-flight attendances are massively inflated by Premier League tourists from Australia, South Africa, the United States and Asia, as well as by home-grown soccer browsers from across the metropolis.
However, what softens the focus where Fulham are concerned, in the eyes of many neutrals at least, is their stadium. Craven Cottage makes them, at first glance, a good old-fashioned football club. It affords Fulham a worthiness they don’t necessarily merit as a Mohamed Al-Fayed sporting project.
Where this relates to Everton is in the benefit of having a stadium that appeals to the soul of the football fan. Because any ‘ah’ factor that Craven Cottage imparts can be multiplied several times over in the case of Goodison Park. And in the modern context of so many identikit new arenas, to call home a ground that breathes history, tradition and atmosphere can be a major advantage.
A bit harsh, I think.
The only thing that has inflated Fulham’s home attendances of late has been the hard work of Fulham’s marketing staff and a fairly progressive ticketing policy. I haven’t spotted loads of Aussies (and being half-Kiwi I’ve got a good ear for an Antipodean accent) around the ground lately, but if there are thousands of them coming now it might be prompted partly in the arrival of Mark Schwarzer. Fulham do have a South African as well as a couple of other first-teamers from Africa and their American fanbase has been growing ever since the arrival of the American David Beckham.
There are a couple of remarks about Fulham’s largesse under MAF, whose millions fuelled our rise from the old Second Division to the Premier League. It bugs me that people conveniently forget that he bought a club on the way up as Fulham had secured the future of the Cottage and gained promotion the season before he bought them off the Muddymans. Nobody remembers that he got his first major decision, dumping Micky Adams in favour of Ray Wilkins, wrong. Yes, Al Fayed’s has been a key factor in Fulham’s revival, but it isn’t the only one. Money doesn’t guarantee success – and he hasn’t been pumping it in with regularity in terms of player acqusitions since he fell out with Jean Tigana.
Fulham’s heritage is often mentioned in the same breath of Craven Cottage, which is understandable, given that the ground features one of Archibald Leitch’s creations in the Stevenage Road stand (now named after the club’s finest player Johnny Haynes). But Fulham’s history is not just limited to our ground. There’s Haynes and a host of other fine players from the 60s and earlier, the fact that we’re the oldest surviving side in London and remain the humble club by the Thames: not pretentious and always friendly to the visitor, though not too welcoming on the pitch given our much improved home form.
The thing the writer omits in his haste to talk about how Goodison Park might be the English enquivalent of Fenway Park is Fulham’s recent business tie-up with the Fenway Sports Group, of which we’ve heard very little of late. Still very interesting to see how others see us though.