Today marks 35 years since the news broke of a dastardly plan to merge west London rivals Fulham and Queens Park Rangers creating a new club to be known as Fulham Park Rangers. David Bulstrode, who had bought Fulham from Ernie Clay as the owner of Marler Estates, had concluded a secret deal – now splashed across the national newspapers – to buy Rangers and Loftus Road from Jim Gregory, have English football’s first merged outfit play at QPR’s ground and develop Craven Cottage.

‘Bulldozer’ Bulstrode’s plan to make Loftus Road the home of football in the capital, with Chelsea set to groundshare there should Marler’s plan to redevelop Stamford Bridge come to fruition as well, was certainly ambitious. He dismissed the furious outcry from Third Division Fulham’s fanbase, asserting: “They will appreciate it is not economical in the long run for the club to continue on it’s own”. It wasn’t the first west London wheeze of its kind – only a few years earlier, Gregory, who was ready to retire after ploughing his money into QPR, tried to bring together Fulham, Chelsea and Rangers to play at Wembley without success.

The supporters were outraged. Rebel Rangers fans set up their own independent supporters’ association to led the protests when it emerged that the official supporters’ organisation backed the proposals, whilst Fulham’s fanbase made clear where their feelings lay. Their home game surged by nearly 3,500 for the first match at Craven Cottage after the Fulham Park Rangers plans became public – a draw with Walsall, whose chairman Terry Ramsden, held a significant shareholding in Marler Estates. A half-time interruption from the fans made the television news. Banners, pitch invasions and public meetings became far important than the football as Fulham’s very future was in the balance.

Jimmy Hill headed up a consortium that looked to wrestle control of his old club from Bulstrode’s grasp. He was supported by accountant David Shrimpton, whose family had supplied four brothers in the same Fulham starting eleven, and the intervention of local businessman and lifelong supporter, Bill Muddyman, who pledged a personal donation of £150,000 during a hastily-organised campaign meeting at the Whig and Pen.

Hill’s celebrity helped generate column inches as well as cash and the consortium purchased the club from Marler and not the Cottage. He took over as chairman with Muddyman, Cyril Swain and David Gardner all part of the new regime. There was an uneasy truce between the property speculators and the football fans. The listed status of both the Cottage and the Stevenage Road stand made Marler’s next move particularly difficult and the 1989 recession saw the company collapse. Cabra estates – who purchased Marler – also went under and Fulham were able to conclude a deal with Royal Bank of Scotland, their new landlords.

This wasn’t, of course, Fulham’s last link with a groundshare at Queens Park Rangers. The fans had to mount another campaign, beginning in 2002, when Mohamed Al-Fayed sought to move them out of Craven Cottage for a new home in White City. ‘Back to the Cottage’ proved successful when local sites for a new stadium were shown to be thin on the ground and Fulham fans made plain their preference to return to the club’s historic home. After two years in exile at Loftus Road, the Whites returned to a revamped Craven Cottage and the final piece in a particularly problematic jigsaw should be the completion of the Riverside Stand this summer.