Milly Burnham was a lifelong Fulham fan who died in September after bravely battling multiple sclerosis. She wrote this piece just before her passing and we publish it today with the kind permission of her family.

Living in Stockport for more than a decade, it is always interesting when people ask me who I support. Even having held onto a distinct London accent, strangers are surprised when I reveal my lifelong allegiance to Fulham Football Club. ‘Why?,’ they ask – perhaps with some justification since the Whites have been a source of almost weekly aggravation since my first visit to Craven Cottage in 1990. The answer is both simple and complicated.

I usually explain that it is a family thing. ‘Oh,’ my conversational partner usually replies, ‘did your parents take you, then’? That would be a no. My Dad died in a car accident when I was a young child and my mum, as she put it, was far too busy for football. The family I refer to is my Fulham family. Growing up in Hammersmith, there was always only going to be one team for me: even if the top flight seemed further away than Australia when I first started following a Fulham team that seemed to struggle to string three passes together. My neighbours took me, introduced me to their kids, and soon a little clan of youngsters were kicking a ball around in the Crabtree beer garden before and after home games.

It was in the Crabtree – which has morphed into a yuppie monstrosity far removed from the community pub it used to be – where I met the editor of this website. Dan might have been writing about Fulham for nearly two decades, but he’s been annoying me for far longer. We’d talk about Fulham, football, schools (we went to different ones since he grew up in Acton) and lost touch for a while before bumping into each other again on otherwise miserable trip to Chesterfield as teenagers. He has cerebral palsy, I have multiple sclerosis so we make quite a pair celebrating Fulham goals, but the bizarre bond has brought as close as any of my remaining family.

The Fulham faithful are like that. Four or five of mates, dotted around the globe as they forge careers and families of their own, only have one passion in common. One is an investment banker, another a laywer and a third an accomplished artist. We don’t share each other’s politics – which is a touchy subject with Dan, as most of you will already know – but continue to marvel at Marco Silva’s mighty Whites. Every away trip also offers the chance to meet more Fulham followers, with our number in the northwest augmented by the arrival of several Craven Cottage regulars to Media City in Salford after the BBC moved north. My pints after work in Duffy’s with various members of the Fulham family helped me through the sudden break up of my marriage and dealing with the darker times during my illness.

Fulham fans are erudite and, mostly, well-balanced with an interest in the wider world. That’s what makes following the Whites a special experience. My group of friends insist on visiting an art gallery – or some site of historical importance – ahead of an away game, even if they draw the line at scoffing a Victoria Sponge. I have to concede that the commemorative cheeseboards produced by the club following our extraordinary Championship success last season were very popular. The European tours were legendary. I still have no recollection of getting home after that brilliant night in Basel, but we made it and continued celebrating all the way through a marvellous win against Manchester United over the weekend.

My Fulham heroes will always be an eclectic bunch. I bow to no-one in my love for Lea Barkus and I was utterly convinced that Duncan Jupp would be Scotland’s right back for years to come. Then I was entranced by the tricky feet of Paul Brooker before always being reassured by the calming presence of Steve Finnan. Sean Davis broke my heart when he left because I thought he’d become one of us and, somewhat strangely, I don’t think I’ve felt the love I have for Brian McBride for anybody else. If anyone ever epitomised fair play and an unstinting commitment to excellence, it was our American attacker who got absolutely everything out of his ability and left it all on the field. Then there are all the wonderful women who have worn the black and white: when Mohamed Al-Fayed returned from the 1999 World Cup and invested in a professional women’s side, I had heroes who convinced me that I could play the game. Thank you Kim Jerray-Silver, Rachel Unitt, Katie Chapman, Rachel Yankey, Marianne Spacey and so many others. I was crying when Mary Southgate, who grew up watching the Whites from the Hammersmith End like me, handed the Championship trophy to Tom Cairney last April – and I know I wasn’t the only one. It is brilliant to see Mary and her team-mates inspiring a new generation of young girls and I hope they’ll get to play at our historic home themselves soon.

Perhaps the biggest thing of all is Craven Cottage itself. Whichever way you walk, from Putney through Bishop’s Park, or along the river from Hammersmith, it is a magical approach to a unique ground. History surrounds you, whether in Archibald Leitch’s astonishing architecture along Stevenage Road, the Cottage itself, the wooden seats in the Johnny Haynes Stand or the ambiance of a place that remains as a throwback to how everybody used to experience football. Under the lights and by the river, the romance is something else. The brilliance of Fulham surviving for so long and Shahid Khan’s commitment to renovating the Riverside Stand, is that London’s oldest professional football club won’t ever play anywhere else. That also means that thousands more kids will share in their own wonderful Fulham experience like I did. How lucky we all are.

Milly received superb support from the Multiple Sclerosis Society throughout her life. We would love to encourage donations either to the Society or the Fulham Foundation in her memory.