Fulham Football Club
Fulham Football Club, also known as ‘The Cottagers’, is considered to be the oldest professional team in London. The club play in a black-and-white strip when home at their Thames-side ground, Craven Cottage, which has undergone dramatic expansion since Fulham’s purchase by tycoon Mohammad Al-Fayed.
The owner of Harrods and father of Princess Diana’s boyfriend Dodi, has helped bankroll the club from Fourth-Division shame into the Premiership by aggressive expansionist tactics. Despite its less than glorious history, Fulham has a tradition of glamorous players like George Best, Bobby Moore and Johnny Haynes, and famous fans including Hugh Grant, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Jackson and Lily Allen. The appeal of the club is probably its fashionable South-West London location, as Fulham has not traditionally drawn large crowds for a club of its size. However, in recent years, and partly due to Al Fayed’s investment, Fulham has finally delivered on its promise and has put in some impressive performances in matches played in England’s highest league.
Fulham started life as a Sunday School team in 1879, with worshippers from St Andrew’s Church in West Kensington playing to win the West London Amateur Cup in 1889, after taking on the name, ‘Fulham FC’, in 1888.
They went on to win the West London League in 1893, the first time they played it, and in 1896 they moved into their new ground, Craven Cottage, playing their first game against Minerva FC.
In 1898 the club went professional when they joined the Second Division of the Southern League. Fulham played well and in 1902 they won promotion for the First Division. Until now, the club had been playing in red and white shirts and white shorts, but the first permutation of the white and black kit they play in today, arrived in 1903. In their new colours Fulham went from strength to strength, winning the Southern League in 1906 and 1907.
After these two consecutive Southern League wins, Fulham were admitted to the national Football League for the 1907-8 season, going in to the Second Division. They lost their first match, 1-0 against Hull City on September 3rd, 1907, but went on to perform impressively and narrowly missed out on promotion by finishing fourth in the league, three points short of rising. That year they also put in an impressive performance at the FA Cup, making it through to the semi-finals, where they were knocked reeling out of the Cup by a crushing 6-0 defeat by Newcastle United. In 1910, however, Fulham continued to consolidate their solid early performances by winning the London Challenge Cup.
However, this early success looked like beginners’ luck, as Fulham were not to better their 1908 league position for many years, and after a spectacularly bad season, they were relegated to 3rd Division South in 1928. At the time, London football was a small world. Fulham’s then chairman, Henry Norris, also moonlighted as a chairman at Arsenal. and when he turned down an offer from local businessman, Gus Mears, to move Fulham to a plot owned by Mears, Mears decided to create his own club – Chelsea FC. In this way, Fulham’s chairman had a hand in the creation of both present-day London ‘superclubs’, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Fulham were promoted back after three years in the Third Division after an impressive season from 1931-32. The next season they narrowly missed being promoted again, and in 1936 they reached the FA Cup Semi-finals again. In 1938 Craven Cottage recorded its highest attendance of all time with a crowd of 49,335 arriving to watch a match against Millwall FC.
World War II affected normal play for some years, and when the traditional leagues were re-instated after the war, Fulham managed to surpass their previous successes by finishing top of the Second Division in 1949.
From 1949 until 1969, Fulham managed to keep coming back to their place in the First Division. However, during the immediate post-war years they were not used to the standard and finished very low in the league, year after year, culminating in a series of defeats that left them at the very bottom of the league in 1952.
1950 was an important year for Fulham, though they did not know it yet, because in 1950 the club signed Johnny Haynes, then still a schoolboy. Haynes would go on to become perhaps the most famous player in the club’s history, a national legend who would be known as ‘The Maestro’ to fans, or, ‘Mr Fulham’, as he put in 20 years with the club until his retirement in 1970. He gained 52 caps for England and remains Fulham’s greatest ever goal-scorer; a stand at Craven Cottage was named after him after his death in 2005.
Fulham made it to their now-traditional FA Cup Semi-final defeat in 1958, but made it back into the First Division the next season, after finishing second in Division 2. In 1960 they finished a respectable 10th in the 1st Division which was to remain their crowning achievement for some years -and in 1962, once more, made it to the Semi-finals of the FA Cup – but no further.
Over the next few years, the club struggled to avoid relegation, and in 1968, having won less than a quarter of their games, they were sent back down to Division 2. Then followed a series of embarrassing defeats that resulted in Fulham being relegated for a second consecutive year. However, two seasons later they were runners-up in the league and back again in Division 2. In the mid 1970s, the club began what was to become a tradition of expensive, high-profile signings to boost their squad, with new players including Bobby Moore. The revitalised team finally made it to the FA Cup final in 1975, only to lose there against West Ham, a pattern that was repeated in the Anglo-Scottish cup final against Middlesbrough.
George Best and Rodney Marsh joined the club for a high-profile 1976-77 season. However, by the end of the decade Fulham were in the relegation zone again, and manager Bobby Campbell was replaced by Malcolm Macdonald when Fulham were relegated in 1980.
Under Macdonald, the young squad managed to fight their way back into Division 2 in 1982, and only just failed to repeat the trick in 1983, when they lost 1-0 to Derby in the 88-minute-long last match of the season.
Financial problems soon curtailed this promise, however, with the club having to sell off many of their best players. In 1986 they were again relegated to Division 3. The next year was so bad that it looked as if the club might go into receivership, and it was only the intervention of ex-player, Jimmy Hill, that prevented the club from merging with QPR, or collapsing altogether. The new, seriously unimproved club set few records: perhaps the only footballing achievement of these years was a particularly long penalty shoot-out against Aldershot in 1987 – it took 28 penalties to break the tie.
Sinking to the bottom
The 1992-3 season saw the renaming of the leagues – so Fulham rose from ‘Division 3’ to ‘Division 2’, without moving. However, unfortunately, the club were relegated down to the new Division 3 in 1994, and Hill appointed Ian Branfoot as the club’s new manager.
Under Branfoot, the club reached its lowest ebb, losing to Torquay United and staring relegation in the face for much of the 1995-6 season. Branfoot was sacked. Micky Adams, a former player, was contracted to replace him, and under his control, the club soon rose out of the relegation zone. This was to be the turning point for Fulham. That season, they finished second in the league, losing by the number of goals scored to Wigan Athletic – though they bettered them in goal difference.
Mohammad Al Fayed famously arrived at this point, buying the club during the summer break and quickly firing Adams and hiring Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan as a managing team, with the headline-grabbing announcement that Fulham would be in the Premiership within five years. However, Wilkins soon quit the unorthodox managerial set-up, leaving Keegan to take the team to promotion – which he did with aplomb.
Chris Coleman captained his team in his last full season, before an accident took him out of the game. Fulham shot up to the second-highest division with 101 points out of a possible 138, before Keegan left the team to manage England. Paul Bracewell took over from him but was sacked in March 2000 after a disappointing start to the season. Jean Tigana replaced him and started to fill the team with young international stars, and once more, Fulham easily took promotion, arriving in England’s top league for the first time since the 1960s – and one year earlier than Al Fayed had predicted. However, it was not all good news: Chris Coleman was in a car crash that was to end his career on the pitch. But it would not belong before he returned to Fulham, this time controlling matches from the dugout.
Fulham’s meteoric rise meant the world was watching them during the 2001-2 season, to see if they would soar straight to the top of the highest league or fall on their faces. Unfortunately, it seemed closer to the latter. They finished the season in a respectable, though, by the standards, fairly pedestrian ranking, at 13. Like the players, Craven Cottage was not entirely ready for its new circumstances, and Fulham moved to Loftus road that season while the standing areas were demolished and replaced with a new, expanded stadium.
The 2002-3 season was even worse, with Fulham languishing around the relegation zone for much of the year. Al Fayed sacked Tigana, but not before he had made the club’s most expensive ever purchase, Steve Marlet from Olympique Marseille, for £11.5 million. Marlet failed to deliver on this whopping price-tag, and his contract was not renewed under Chris Coleman.
On Tigana’s sacking, Chris Coleman, former player, assumed control as provisional manager, a position which was made permanent in the summer of 2003 after his success in the next few games, which kept Fulham hanging in the Premiership. Despite being an inexperienced manager, and despite having to sell star player Louis Saha (to Manchester United for a record £13 million), they finished a respectable ninth that season. The next season they managed to maintain a similar quality of play, finishing 13th. During the 2005-6 season, in spite of a spectacular 6-1 win over West Bromwich Albion, and a win over arch-rivals Chelsea, relegation seemed imminent. However, they managed to pull back in the last few games of the season and finished 12th in the league.
The Club Today
The 2006-07 season started badly for Fulham, with early league predictions having them finishing the bottom of the table. However, by December of 2006 they had reached 8th at one point. Despite a number of new signings including Simon Davies and Vincenzo Montella, they were sent out of the FA Cup and lost match after match. In April 2007, the club terminated its contracts with Chris Coleman and Steve Kean, who were quickly replaced with Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez and Les Reed as caretakers.
Sanchez’ team made an unimpressive debut, sinking to 1 point above the relegation zone after their first match, but they soon pulled back into the safety zone, and Sanchez resigned from Ireland to become permanent manager of Fulham in May 2007. Sanchez has announced he is now focused on bringing new players in to the flagging team, and he has invested in a number of new men during his as-yet brief time in office, including arranging a £6 million transfer for Diomansy Kamara from West Bromwich.
Traditionally, Fulham’s greatest rivals have been fellow South-West Londoners, Chelsea – the rivalry between the two clubs has become known as ‘The SW6 Derby’ – SW6 being the two clubs’ shared postcode. In March 2006 Fulham finally won a match against Chelsea for the first time in years, which has helped raise tensions between the two clubs to a pitch, especially as the match was particularly controversial, with pitch invasions and dramatic altercations between players. Fulham also have rivalries with QPR and Brentford, other West London clubs, although the fortunes of Brentford and Fulham have diverged as Fulham have risen to the Premiership while Brentford remain languishing in the lower leagues.
- Football League First Division Champions (2001)
- Football League Second Division Champions (1949, 1999)
- Football League Second Division Runners-Up (1959)
- Football League Third Division Champions (1932)
- Football League Third Division Runners-Up (1971, 1997)
- Southern League First Division Champions (1905-6) (1906-7)
- Southern League Second Division Champions (1902, 1903)
- FA Cup Runners Up (1975)
- FA Cup Semi Finals (1908, 1936, 1958, 1962, 2002)
- League Cup Best Performance Quarter Finals (1968, 2004)
- Anglo-Scottish Cup Runners Up (1975)
- Intertoto Cup Runners Up (2002)
- Winners, West London Cup (1886)
- Winners, West London Observer Cup (1891)
- Winners, London Challenge Cup (1910)
- Record Victory: 10-1 vs. Ipswich Town, Division 1, December 26, 1963
- Record Defeat: 0-10 vs. Liverpool, League Cup Round 2, September 23, 1986
- Record Attendance: 49, 335 at Craven Cottage against Millwall, Division 2, 8th October 1938
- Most Appearances for club: Johnny Haynes (658 between 1952 and 1970)
- Most League Goals for club: Gordon Davies (178) (Second is Johnny Haynes with 158)
- Most League Goals in a season: Frank Newton (43, Division 3, 1931-32)
- Transfer Record (Received): Louis Saha to Manchester United for £12.825 million
- Transfer Record (Paid): Steve Marlet from Olympique Lyon for £11.5 million